Delamont had planned his next tour to England for the summer of 1939 but as the departure date neared ominous tones of war were looming in the distance. He was assured by the war department through Garfield White, his PR Manager that they could get him out quickly if anything occurred so he decided to go. They were in Great Yarmouth about one month into the tour when Hitler invaded Poland. The war department told them, “GET OUT OF ENGLAND.”
Under the cover of darkness and balloon barrages, they were supposed to travel by bus to Liverpool to catch the Athenia back home, the ship they had arrived on. Arthur did some calculations and figured out that the Empress of Britain which was docked in Southampton was faster and could probably out run a U-Boat if they encountered one lurking nearby. So he rerouted the bus to Southampton. In those days you could use your ticket on any CP liner available. You didn’t have to go to a specific ship (the golden age of travel).
Back home a couple of days later, newspapers announced the Athenia was sunk by a U-Boat off the coast of Ireland. All the parents thought the band was lost because they were supposed to be on the Athenia. Instead, they were somewhere off the coast of France making their way back across the Atlantic to the eastern seaboard to avoid U-Boat U-30, commanded by Oberleutnant Fritz Julius Lemp, the one that torpedoed the Athenia and was apparently waiting in hiding for the Empress. No one had heard from the boys back home because they couldn’t use the radio in fear of giving their position away to the U-Boat. When they finally reached the eastern seaboard and were able to wire home it was only a matter of
*To read the entire story go to 1939 New York and Britain! It is an amazing first hand account by one of the boys on the trip who was hired by Stuart Keates, editor of The Vancouver Sun, to write and send back stories of the exploits of the band on the trip. Carson Manzer was the boy and he wrote a vivid memoir of escaping England after Hitler declared war on Poland on September 1, 1939.