MEET MY FAMILY

    My mother's maternal grandparents.  

     My mother's parents Sarah and Lewis Adler April 23, 1944
   My father's parents, Henry and   Rebecca Brilliant, Nov. 14, 1942.
     My parents, Amelia and Victor Brilliant, August 28 1957
   (their 25th wedding anniversary).              
    My sister, Myrna Brilliant, (my only sibling). 1959 (?)
 
 Here I'm with my mother, sister, and my mother's brother Marsh Adler. Toronto 1940

   Ashleigh          Amelia               Victor                 Myrna      London, 1949 


                     

The following was written by my father to his family in England:

EXTRACTS FROM LETTER DATED 24TH JUNE, 1941

…………………….
              The first five days out were like a pleasure cruise and worth £50 in itself, and by that time we had only got as far as Cape Wrath. It was a "Cargo-passenger" boat, and the accommodation for the four of us was marvelous; the food was also perfect, likewise the weather. I can't go into details about convoys, etc., but at 7 p.m. on the 20th of May we were torpedoed without warning. Now everything might have been alright if we hadn't had a native crew (five Malays and 30 odd Indians) with white officers, of course. I went on deck after the explosion (with much confusion in the ship) and could see it wouldn't sink in five minutes. I went back to my cabin twice to gather a few things, but all the lights had gone and the glass smashed, and everything thrown about, with the fire extinguishers burst and the stuff all over the place and water and oil all about. - We weren't far from the engine room where the torpedo had gone clean through, -- and I brought my suitcase and attaché case up on the boat deck leaving everything I had out in the cabin, and, of course, two large trunks nearby. I had put on my overcoat and a cap, realizing that we might be all night in the open boat and I also put on a lifebelt, but when I got on deck there was confusion. The native crew had panicked and were hacking at the boat ropes and scrambling down ropes over the boat's sides; one boat was nearly lost by being dropped straight into the water, but was recovered. There was a high sea running, and my boat was on the weatherside of the ship. I was the only one of the four passengers to get into the right boat, but only by good fortune was I saved at all. There were no ropes available, for the boat and rope ladders were not in the right place; the position was as under:

 

       "A" marks the position where I got down the rope ladder; I was almost the last to leave the ship which was already sinking by the stern. Horowitz had gone down by the rope ladder "A", and I followed. The boats were tossing about like corks, and couldn't get near the ladders. After Horowitz had gone, I looked round, and found I couldn't reach the boat "X", and they didn't seem to bother about me. They had their work cut out to keep the boat itself safe, i.e. the few white officers. If you've never hung on to a rope ladder, you won't know what I experienced; your feet go forward, and you hang on your hands! Well, when I could hang on for very little longer, I was already saying "goodbye" because even had they been able to pick me up in the boat, I should never have survived it. I shouted in desperation for a rope and the 3rd officer managed to get one near which I hooked with one arm, and had to cling to the rope ladder again for "dear life". You can imagine me hanging on the end of this ladder, swaying in a strong wind being buffeted against the side of the sinking ship with nothing near me and 1000 fathoms of ice-cold water beneath me. I shouted for them to hang on to the end of the rope and I quickly made the "plunge", i.e. I slid somehow along this rope and landed somehow or other in the boat, being wet only up to my calves. I had to abandon my two cases on the boat deck as I considered I'd be lucky to get away with my life. Well, then our troubles started. First of all I looked for Horowitz and found he was in the water and trying to get into the boat. I found out afterwards what had happened; he had made a leap for the boat in one of its "surges" towards us, had missed, and gone into the water, but had managed to get hold of the painter rope or whatever it was, and had pulled himself round, but they couldn't pull him in. His overcoat being soaked with water weighted him. I hung on to him but had no strength in my arms at all after my ordeal - it was surprising to me how weak my hands and arms were; however, I called to one of the engineers with us and together we all managed to get him in. He was going to let go as he couldn't hang on any longer but I did my best. Then my two fears were that the boat would get smashed against the jagged edge of the ship made by the torpedo; against this hole and edge we were being dashed and couldn't manoeuvre; I was also afraid of not getting away in time before the ship sank and drew us down with it. I managed to grab an oar and help to keep the boat away. The oars were all tied up and couldn't be got at and the crew were immobile and we couldn't shift; there was no rudder fixed on the boat and we weren't sure whether the bung was even in. Well, at last we got away and did it toss and pitch like a cork, in a high sea; we were down in a trough one minute and up again the next. Horowitz was nearly frozen, the weather wasn't cold but the water was icy - I got drenched on one side and became almost numb. I gave H. a swig of spirits. (When on deck, before leaving, I unlocked my case, took out my passport and a few papers, and a small bottle of spirits which I'd kept for such a purpose, believe it or not). An officer gave him his life jacket to keep covered with and he was better and emptying himself of water. (Even with his lifebelt he'd swallowed and enormous amount). And then the Malay sitting facing me (I was in the stern) was sick as a dog - partly over me, and then I started for the first time in my life; and I was ill! The four lifeboats had got separated and we took out the compass, tho' how the dickens they could do anything by that I don't know. However, even before we were in the boats we could see a destroyer in the distance, which had been convoying, and which convoy we'd passed only that morning, so we knew we had a good chance when we were hit; but it didn't pick us up. No, its job was to go for the submarine, and a depth charge nearly blew us out of the water. Three-quarters of an hour after being hit, we saw the ship go down - about half a mile away; it turned slowly bows up, and with a hiss of steam at the water-line, it dived straight down. At the outset they had to put an officer in each boat to stop the crew getting away with them and leaving the rest of us. The Captain took the fourth passenger into his boat instead of the right one; he was the only one who was armed as the rest of the stuff was locked up. So there were three of us passengers in one boat and the fourth in another. We were picked up by a R.N. Corvette after a struggle in that rough sea; the other two boats (including the fourth passenger) were picked up by a tug. And what a time we had on board! At least I was fairly well after twenty-four hours but the others were ill the whole time. The boat rocked and tossed like a cork, ask anyone what a Corvette is like even in a fairly calm sea. I was ill and sick on board and crawled into a corner and sat on a camp stool, wet as I was. Well, I'll cut out a lot of the details here. The officers were splendid; after a little time I settled down, gave my clothes to dry and wore borrowed clothes. We had the officers' cabins and bunks, and they slept on the floor somewhere; the accommodation on these ships is bad. We spent a day and two nights on board. All the officers, crew and passengers rescued were sick as possible - and we had had no dinner before it happened.
             
They intended transferring us to a rescue vessel and taking us back to Scotland or Iceland; in fact, all the officers and crew were dispatched to Scotland. I, however, made representations to the Captain and asked for a transfer to a westward bound ship of the convoy; he got in touch with the Commodore of the escort vessels, and after a signal palaver and various questions, the transfer was arranged. With me came the other two passengers, but they had to signal to the tug for the 4th passenger (who was part of a "team" with the 3rd) for his transfer, too! (Incidentally, after being rescued, it took them about 15 hours to pick up the convoy again). Well, about 9 a.m., all was set, when we had warning of an air attack imminent. Fortunately it turned misty and began to rain as well, and in this they manned a boat (we got in first this time) and lowered us. But in that sea it was no joke; the previous evening we had the choice of going then or waiting till the morning. As the sea was very rough the others wanted to wait, though I'd have gone then in order to get away from that ship; but one of them was ill and couldn't move. Well, on lowering the boat with a bang, I got hit on the head with an oar, and the other passenger got hit with the iron end of a rope, but we managed to be taken aboard; we had lifelines thrown to us; one man it slipped, the second got caught and nearly pulled into the sea (this was H. and he got a wetting in part again) and I managed O.K.
            
We were on board this cargo-passenger ship for 9 days before we reached Halifax, and you can imagine it was no picnic without a brush or a razor or anything at all between us. There happened to be a very small lounge which they converted into a dormitory for us; we slept on trestle beds almost touching each other, and no ventilation owing to the black-out. Nevertheless, the catering was good, and we stuck it out well. Even so, we had plenty of scares, and we slept in our clothes for about a fortnight altogether. There are quite a number of things I can't mention in this letter, but you can be sure we were more than glad when we reached Halifax, where I landed for a few hours, cabled you, phoned Washington, and phoned Amel who wrote to you the same night. We had the Commodore of Convoy on board and we had to land him at Halifax. Here they had to make special arrangements for me to continue with the boat to New York, the others had gone by plane. I had the Commodore's cabin, but you'll see that I never slept there. On the way to New York, early the first night, we had foggy weather…………………………………………but I was bad the following night. In fact, I didn't sleep for 3 nights and didn't eat or drink at all for 36 hours. Naturally, when I landed at Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, I was worn out, although I'd had easier spells. We had to remain in New York Harbour 24 hours before landing. I had been through all sorts of climates since embarking in England, from icy cold to heat wave, and through gales - one exceptionally bad. We'd been traveling all directions and zig-zagging, etc.; I spent only a few hours in New York, and I was anxious to get to Toronto (I had made arrangements by 'phone with Washington to spend a week there), so I didn't make any family calls, etc., especially the way I felt and looked - being a survivor. I traveled overnight to Toronto, which meant another almost sleepless night, and arrived in the morning almost utterly exhausted though relieved to be there at last. Marsh had got on the train at Sunnyside (the station before) and found me on the train. ……………………………………………………………………………..
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