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Today's quote:

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Aboard T/V FLAVIA in July 1965



No one ever emigrates because of the success they've enjoyed at home. No one ever says, "Well, I have a happy home life, I'm rich and I have many friends - so I'm off." The only reason anyone has for going to live in another country is because they've cocked everything up in their own.

Being just nineteen years old, my opportunities for cocking things up had been rather limited by the time I left; in fact, my only - and certainly biggest - cock-up until then had been that I allowed myself to be born to parents who were so dirt-poor that they packed me off to work as soon as I had reached the minimum school-leaving age of fourteen.

If I had become what I was intended to be, I would probably have been desperate, because I would have had regrets. You know, like you work in an office and you say, "One day I will go to see the world." Instead, I went to see the world and I said, "Maybe one day I will be obliged to work in an office."

Some people see and some people don't see; much the same way they hear music or they hear noise, they only use their vision so as not to bump into trees or fall into a ditch. My vision was more than that and it led me to emigrate to Australia of which I wrote in this article.


Just above my name is listed a Gerhard David, born 27/12/1942, with the occasion 'Butcher'. Is he the same butcher of whom I wrote in my website: "I will always remember one of my cabin-mates, a young butcher from Berlin, who was constantly dressed in a fishnet-shirt (to solve his laundry problem, as he put it, and which left an interesting tanning pattern on his upper torso). Nothing seemed to bother him much; not our uncertain future nor the English lessons which he had dispensed with in favour of the bar. As far as he was concerned, if things didn't work out he could always commit suicide! An interesting outlook on life, to say the least, and the solving of one's problems. I have sometimes wondered how he ended up?" He must be the same young butcher who shared my cabin! I mean, how many young German butchers boarded the FLAVIA on 30 June 1965?

Gerhard David, the butcher, and all those other single German men - Wilfried Bassler, born 2/7/1941; Klaus-Dieter Hanel, born 7/9/1944; Erwin Hess, born 31/12/1943; Gunnar Korths, born 11/6/42; Bernd Kress, born 2/2/1942; Erwin Lange, born 7/7/1942; Karl-Heinz Meisel, born 26/9/1937; Wilfried Bassler, born 2/7/1941 - appear on the database of the National Archives of Australia but not one of them has ever applied for his records to be made public. Are they even still in Australia or, for that matter, still alive? They were just eight of the 134 German migrants who boarded the FLAVIA with me and five of them could well have been with me in the same six-berth cabin (with no private facilities!) If you know the whereabouts of any of them, please email me at riverbendnelligen@mail.com


Altogether some 229 "Auswanderer" boarded the ship FLAVIA on that fateful day, and I have sometimes wondered how their lives turned out. When, some five weeks later, we reached Sydney in early August 1965, one other young German and I ventured just far enough from the FLAVIA which was tied up at Pyrmont, to explore the Rocks and to sit on the steps leading up to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We still had some distance to go before we would finally disembark in Melbourne and be processed through the Bonegilla Migrant Centre, but we had already decided to come back to this spot every Sunday and wait for the other one to turn up. I never did, as I moved from Bonegilla to Melbourne and from Melbourne to Canberra, and I've often wondered how many Sundays my mate may've sat on those stairs waiting for me to turn up.

I never heard from him or any of the others again, However, one person, now residing on the Gold Coast, read my article and sent me this email:

"Hello Peter,

I haven't finished reading your webpage yet as I'm too emotional. My parents and I were on the Flavia with you. I was only 4 but still have many memories of that voyage. Mum is sitting here with me, also quite teary. I came across your webpage when I googled 'Flavia'. Thank you for the memories. Yes, we are still in Australia, living on the Gold Coast. Mum sends her regards, unfortunately dad has dementia.

I do have photos, including a group photo the day King Neptune came on board. I'll scan them and email them to you, perhaps there's one with you.

Regards Anja"

Thank you for the photos, Anja! Unfortunately, I am in none of them - I was probably sitting in my cabin below the waterline, trying to learn English ☺ - but I publish them anyway as some people may recognise themselves in the photos and email me at riverbendnelligen@mail.com.