14 April 2009

Aboard the Yasukuni Maru to London, March 1939

From Orwell’s Diaries (On Board SS. Yasukunimaru (NYK) Crossing Bay of Biscay, 28.3.39):
Yasukuni is 11,950 tons. Do not yet know, but from the vibrations judge that she is a motor-ship. Apart from the bridge, only 3 decks above water-level. Cabins and other appointments pretty good, but certain difficulties in that [the] entire crew and personnel are Japanese and apart from the officers the majority do not speak much English. Second-class fare Casablanca-London £6.10. As the boat normally goes straight to London from Gibraltar & on this occasion went out of her way to deliver a load of tea, fare from Gilbraltar would probably be the same. P. & O. tourist class is £6.10 London-Gibraltar. Food on this ship slightly better than on the P. & O. & service distinctly better, but the stewards here have the advantage that the ship is almost empty. Facilities for drinking not so good, or for deck games, owing to comparatively restricted space.

Do not know what the accomodation° for passengers would be, but presumably at least 500. At present there are only 15 in the second class, about 12 in the third, & evidently not many in the 1st, though I don’t know how many. One or two of the 2nd & 3rd classes are Danes or other Scandinavians, one or two Dutch, the rest English, including some private soldiers who got on at Gibraltar. It appears that for its whole voyage the ship has been as empty as this. Since the Chino-Japanese war English people from the far east will not travel on the Japanese boats. All the P. & O. boast said to be crowded out in consequence.

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