|Town/City||Modbury SA 5092|
|Country of Origin||Berlin Germany|
|Date of Birth||10.3.1940|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1958|
|Submitted by||Jurgen Lehmann|
My Story – Part Two
Somehow a little Italian child was placed on my lap and off we went, trying to get away from the burning ship as fast as we could . Because of the overload the life boat was very low in the water. The sea was very calm and it was a dark night with the burning Skaubryn in the back ground lighting up the sky. Then at about 10.30pm we saw on the horizon lit like a Christmas tree the British Tanker City of Sydney coming towards us. What a pleasing sight and we greeted it with a big hurray. It did not take long and we all climbed up on a rope ladder on board the tanker. Once on board I looked anxiously for my other family members knowing they left the burning ship before I did. After about an hour the life boat with my family arrived too. It was drifting in the sea and had no rudder. When my father climbed on board we realized he still had his clown face on from the entertainment evening at the Skaubryn, what a sight. We could not help but embrace each other and had a good laugh. I was told off by my mother for not putting on a shirt. The tanker was overloaded with 1200 people on board and we all went to one side of the tanker to watch the Skaubryn burning. When the urgent call was made not to go on one side because the tanker started leaning to one side. It was only a small tanker of about 10,000 tons and 8 crew. There was not much food or water on board and the 2 toilets were in high demand. We stayed at that spot for about another day. The only person who died – from a heart attack in the life boat, was buried at sea wrapped in a British flag. When the Italian Ship Roma appeared, we all were transferred to the Roma. Boarding the Roma we had to give our name and they gave us a huge sandwich and it was well received. The Roma took us to Aden. The fire took place in the Indian Ocean between Aden and Colombo and it took a few days to get to Aden. On the Roma a kind American passenger gave me a nice shirt. I treasured that shirt for many years. In Aden we were well received by the British Military because at that time Aden was still under British ruling. It was well organized and all the single men were put in Army barracks outside Aden.
On all of our beds we found some shaving gear and clothing. To me it became a big adventure. The hot desert sun, a lovely beach, good food and no worries because we had nothing to worry about. We had a servant who made our beds and cleaned our rooms. We were close to the beach and went for a swim every day. After about 3 weeks our lovely holiday was interrupted by the arrival of the ship Johann v. Oldenbarnevelt which did not have many passengers and plenty of room for us survivors. The rest of the trip was good fun and without interruptions. On the 5th of May 1958 we reached Fremantle and for the first time I put my feet on Australian soil. The customs checked our little belongings went real quick.
My first impression? Strange old buildings. Cars driving on the wrong side, pubs had tiles on the wall, the beer seemed stronger then the German beer, people friendly but I did not know enough English to really getting to know them. The ship took us then to Melbourne from where we were unloaded to a train which took us to Bonegilla. The train felt like in the wild west, with water bottles and very old carriages.
Arriving in Bonegilla it was cold and we did not have much clothing. Very boring not much to do, so I went to English classes. My Mother started to realize the huge change in our life. She needed her friends and relatives around her after losing all of our posessions again after the war. The first signs of homesickness appeared. I hiked from Bonegilla to Albury looking for work without success. After a few weeks they send us to Sydney. My father with us 3 sons to Villawood. My mother and my two sisters to Port Kembla Hostel. It was a difficult time. No work, no money not many clothes and the family divided. My mother got very homesick. Some charity organisations including the Lutheran Church gave us some warm clothing. Finally after many months my Mother and two sister came to live with us in Villawood. All my Mother could think and talk about was going back to Germany. She missed her friends and relatives in these difficult times. We asked and tried to get compensation for our losses on the Skaubryn but all we got was an apology. Eventually I found work in a printery and after 6 months moved out of the Hostel. Gradually we all
found work including my father and mother. My two youngest sisters had to go to school. Because I was18 years old I had to register for military service much to the dislike of my father. He never liked any kind of military and he thought he left all that behind in Europe. But I was never selected to serve in the Army.