|Town/City||Modbury SA 5092|
|Country of Origin||Germany|
|Date of Birth||10.3.1940|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1958|
|Submitted by||Jurgen Lehmann|
Because of the difficult times in Berlin 1957 after the war and lack of employment opportunities for his 5
children, my father decided to migrate to Australia. My mother and I were not happy with that decision. As a
teenager I did not want to leave my friends.
Our family of 7 (parents and 5 children) left Berlin on the 10.3.1958. It was my 18th birthday. We all marched
behind my father who was heavily laden with luggage to the Steglitz railway station. A group of friends accompanied us. My mother and my 2 sisters with some friends were all crying. It was a dark cool evening
like a funeral procession. My fathers motto was ” Do not look back, march forward, schnell, schnell.
By interzonen Zug( Train between east and West Germany) our journey began at night from Berlin to Bremer Hafen. For a few days we stayed at the Hostel before boarding our ship the Ms. SKAUBRYN. To us the ship looked large and we had trouble finding our way around. We all had different cabins in different parts of the ship. One day I ran into my mother looking for my cabin. She asked “And where is your cabin?” to which I said “I do not know.” My eldest brother and I were in a large quarter with about 40 other single men. We slept in bunk beds and had a lot of fun with singing, playing cards or just sleeping. Some had an instrument like a harmonica or guitar and played German folk or wandering songs. When we reached the Bay of Biscay most people including our family became seasick. Passing through Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea the weather was beautiful and the sea a lot calmer.
Every morning I checked the position of our ship on the office door to the radio room. I saw my first dolphins leading the way of the Skaubryn. For the first time I felt a sense of adventure and the feeling of a new unknown future with mixed feelings.
We picked up some more migrants from Malta but we were not allowed to go ashore. We were about 800
Germans and 300 Maltese & Italians by now. We did not mix with the other nationalities very much, mainly
because we could not understand them.But I thought the Italian girls looked very nice and I think I got a few friendly smiles from one particular girl. Little did we know that in Australia we would live, work and play with all nationalities together.
At Port Said some passengers including my parents left the ship and travelled the length of the Suez canal by land to see Cairo and the Pyramids. At Suez the passengers came back on board while the ship was moving. We could not stop because other ships were behind us in the Suez Canal. I was intrigued how the dealers came up to the ship in there little boats throwing a rope up to us on the ship and we had to pull up the goods in little baskets. If we liked the products we haggled a lot then put the money in the basket and threw it back to the dealer in their little boats. A lot of very noisy heckling went on between the dealers and passengers. Some of the baskets with the money or goods fell into the water, much to the despair of the traders and a very loud verbal abuse in Arabic. Lucky we did not understand a word of it.
After leaving Suez the Red Sea was calm and lovely blue with the weather getting warmer every day and
we finally could enjoy the lovely food on board the ship, served to us 3 times a day. On board the people started talking about crossing the Equator and we all would feel a big bump. As it was near the end of March some people would perform a little item on a entertainment evening at the crossing of the Equator. My father was planning a little part in that show as a clown.
On the evening of the 31st of March 1958 our ship was between Aden and Colombo in the Indian Ocean when the fire alarm was raised. I was in the lower part of the ship developing negatives for other passengers when the alarm was raised and did not hear the fire alarm. Only when The lights would not work I went up the stairs to investigate. To my surprise I found people running around calling there is a fire there is a fire in the engine room. My first reaction was “it must be a April fools day joke” But after smoke was filling the corridors of the ship I realized it was for real. On the same morning that day, we had a fire drill so we all new what to do.There was no real panic and most of the German people went orderly to their life boat station. I helped some mothers with children to get into the first boat on my station and when the second life boat was lowered with some space I climbed in. My other members of the family had gone from another life boat station earlier on another life boat. When my mother saw me standing on the deck while her life boat was lowered into the sea she called out to me to put a shirt on. But I thought in case I have to swim for it it would be easier