Page One

The Second Torpedo

To discover late in life that you should have gone to a watery grave before your eighth birthday is a strange experience.

It began like this…

On one of our annual visits to England, my husband and I watched from the balcony of our condominium as a ketch navigated the lock in Brighton Marina. Fascinated, we saw it rise to meet the incoming tide. In the marina below us, the yachts’ rigging jingled in the breeze that whipped the sea beyond the seawall into an uneven chop.

When the phone rang, I checked the caller ID. Puzzled, I wondered what salesman was working this late on a Friday evening.

“Hello, this is John Roberts. Are you Ilene Birkwood?” The voice cultured and charming.

“Yes.” I still suspected a sales ploy.

“You won’t remember me, but I traveled with you on the Volendam in 1940.”

“Really?” My interest quickened. I hadn’t met anyone from the Volendam in decades. I moved indoors. The breeze, seagulls, and rigging made listening difficult.

“Could we get together? I’ve some information for you. I’d be curious to know if you remember any more than I do.”

“I doubt it. I remember being seasick in the lifeboat though.”

“Me too!” We both laughed.

He continued to talk and as I listened, telephone cradled between shoulder and ear, my mind wandered. I felt again the spines of the lifeboat sticking in my back and the spray from the black mountainous waves in my face. I was brought abruptly back to the present as he asked for directions to the marina.

After he said good-bye, I put down the phone and sat looking at it for several minutes. My husband came in from the balcony, looked at my face, and said, “What’s the matter?”

Oh, nothing,” I said nonchalantly. “Just an old friend. I’ve invited him over on Sunday.”

“That’s good, but what did he say?”

“He told me about something that happened on the Volendam.”

Note: This book is a combination of personal memories, recollections gleaned from conversations with other survivors, and research material supplied by fellow travelers and ever-helpful archivists.

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