Delightful Surprise

In Week 4 of Writing the Family Saga I wrote under the theme of ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’. I wrote about my great grandparents, Stanley Gordon Snowdon and Lilian Muriel Witt and their journey to Australia after WW1.  They met while Gordon was stationed in Salisbury, England (Lilian’s home town) towards the end of the war.  It is a piece of fiction.

Delightful Surprise

Belinda Payne posted 08 July, 2017 09:38

“Come on Duckie. You can do this!” murmured Lilian sadly as she took her first step onto the gangway of HMAT Wahehe towards the unknown.

Her handsome soldier fiancé , Gordon, told her not to expect too much of the ship they were taking ‘home’, obviously remembering his voyage to Egypt in 1915.  It was therefore a great surprise when they entered the steamer to find it quite luxurious.

The steamer had been specifically built for the Kaiser to take his family around the world after the Germans had won the war.  Instead it was on its second trip returning ANZAC soldiers home after having been surrendered as a war repatriation.

During the voyage, Lilian and Gordon marveled at the size of the music hall which was made entirely of marble.  The walls were covered with beautiful pictures and specially lit so that wonderful effects were obtained. The hall contained both an electric and grand concert piano which were well used in a benefit concert they attended a week before they arrived in Melbourne.

Many of the ships’ features were electronically controlled including fans and radiators and if the water in the bathing pool was too cold with the flick of a switch, steam would work its magic. They both had a turn of a special automatic massage machine.

“Come on Duckie. We can do this!” murmured Lilian excitedly as she step off the gangway and towards her future having a pretty good idea why her sea-sickness never went away!


  • Ashburton Guardian (New Zealand)
  • Camperdown Chronicle (Victoria)
  • Australian War Memorial (Program from benefit concert)

 Reflective Statement

Lilian was the only great grandparent I ever knew as Gordon died before I was born.  I remember having a great chat to her, who called everyone Duckie, in my teens about how she met Gordon but unfortunately I don’t recall any of it.  She died several years before I became addicted to researching family history.

I was going in a different direction with this narrative but after finding two articles on why Wahehe was built, decided to focus on their voyage.  For Lilian it was a new adventure and for Gordon coming home after five years of war.

SS Wahehe (1916)

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I have been researching my family history since 2009. I am interested it the family names Shingles, McEwan, Snowdon & Witt around Gippsland and Wodonga areas of Victoria, Australia

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