1940s– Reaching America


Lydia Jacoby, Writer

1940s — Reaching America

The day was October 3rd, 1940. Our scene is set on the royal mail ship (RMS) Samaria. The Samaria had served mainly as a cruise and cargo ship since its maiden voyage in 1920, but the Children’s Overseas Reception Boards were now using it for the evacuation of children from the UK to the US to escape the war. 

The children who signed up to travel to America had been chosen for this voyage over a year before its alleged departure. Thinking that Maria was already well on her way to safety, her family left for Northern Wales almost a year ago. For the last twelve months, Maria had been living with her friend Elizabeth until the voyage. Ten days ago, the Samaria had finally set sail with Maria, Elizabeth, and 2,063 other children. Instructions had been given to stay below deck. Little did the children know, the Statue of Liberty loomed out of the fog ahead of them.

All of a sudden, the deep baritone voice of the captain came over the loudspeaker. “The upper deck is now accessible. We are beginning our approach into New York harbor. It will be approximately an hour before we pull into port. Please remain calm as you make your way outside.” 

The voice soon went silent. Maria and Elizabeth exchanged a glance before clambering to their feet and joining the mass of children quickly filing upstairs. 

Rays of sunlight streamed into the passageway as a sailor swung open the massive iron doors from the deck above. Kids placed hands over their faces and squinted; no one had seen the sun for almost a fortnight. As her eyes adjusted, Maria could make out the blue sky and the yellow sun warming the deck of the ship. A blanket of morning fog floated above the foaming sea, dissipating with the break of dawn. 

A wave of oohs and ahhs emanated from the mass of children as they took in the city revealing itself ahead of them. Sunlight gleamed off the tall buildings which stretched out in every direction as far as the eye could see. Maria felt a tear trickle down her cheek. Despite the distance, New York reminded her of the streets back in London. Every smiling face waving to the children from shore caused her head to swim with thoughts of her family in Northern Wales and her father at war in Germany. When would she see them again? Were they even alive?