Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hello Baby, Goodbye England

When Frank Stevens sailed for England in December, 1949, to report for his post-war duties at RAF station Burtonwood, I was able to find him on passenger lists, but not his wife, Norma, who evidently followed him in April. Two babies later, and with orders to report back to the States, Frank somehow returned without leaving any trace of a passenger record. At least I can’t find any passenger record listing Frank, but I do find evidence of his bride’s passage back to New York City.

Imagine: a young mother with a not-yet-two-year-old and an eight-month infant, making the trip from Southampton, England, without her husband. That’s intrepid.

Oh, and with nine footlockers and twenty-seven other pieces of baggage.

Norma and family sailed on the recently-renamed USNS General Alexander M. Patch, leaving Southampton on December 16, 1952, just eleven days shy of Kelly’s second birthday. They arrived in New York City just in time to be all by themselves in the big city on Christmas Eve.

I have no saved copy of any sweet telegram saying that anyone met Norma and her young children at the port. Having no record (yet) of where Frank was at this time, I don’t know if he was already stationed elsewhere, or stayed behind in England while his wife went ahead to make living arrangements at the next place this military family would be calling home.

I can only imagine what kind of Christmas it might have been for them that year.

Photograph, top left, of the USNS General Alexander M. Patch (formerly the USS Admiral R. E. Coontz), courtesy NavSource Online, via Wikipedia; photograph in the public domain.


  1. Intrepid indeed! She must have been a strong person (male or female) to have run herd on all the luggage while handling two tots.

    I read about the ship - I wonder just how comfortable it was. 4,400 troops in 609 feet of boat sounds really horrible!

  2. I also have recently learned of my connection with the USNS Gen. Alexander M. Patch. One of my younger brothers was doing work on, which works with, and found my name with a notation about a passenger list. The link then revealed that the year was 1952. After finding the alphabetized passenger list, there I was, along with my mother. My father, an Army officer, probably a captain about that time, was not on that list, possibly because military dependents may have been listed separately from active-duty military personnel. We sailed from Bremerhaven, West Germany, on July 28, 1952, to New York, arriving August 5.

    I also agree with the human desire to be remembered. The comments about remembrance, heritage, and legacy are excellent.


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