Emigration to Australia (1)

January 19, 2015 at 11:51 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, England, Family History, Migration | 7 Comments
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Dad had first applied to migrate to Australia in 1947, a year after he left the R.A.F. He had joined up in mid-1941, and had trained as a fighter pilot in Canada. He served in the Defence of Britain, in fighters and fighter-bombers around the coastal seas. The only time he was on duty overseas was when he joined a special operation just before D-Day, dropping spies into France. Whilst in the RAF, Dad met many Australian pilots, and liked their carefree approach to life. He learned a lot about the country from them, and decided that Australia was where he wanted to raise the family he knew he and Mum would have.


Mum & Dad with eldest son Peter, about Oct. 1946.

Mum & Dad with eldest son Peter, about Oct. 1946.


From that first application, it took almost seven years before he was accepted. At first, Australia was only taking single men for particular industries, like coal mining. Dad talked with a friend of his younger sister, Mary, about the opportunities available to anyone who was willing to work. The friend applied, and emigrated soon after.

Then the conditions were relaxed to allow married men with no children. That’s when, sponsored by the friend who was now living and working there, Mary and her husband, Eric, also applied to emigrate. By the time they left England in 1952, Mary was pregnant with their first child, though they didn’t tell Australian Immigration that.

It seemed that everyone Dad spoke to went off to the “Land of Opportunity”. However, with four children, he was still ineligible.

Linda,Peter, Pauline,Sheelagh 1952


Then in 1953, the conditions were relaxed even more, and families were at last allowed to emigrate, as long as they had a sponsor or a job to go to. Dad re-applied with Mary and Eric as sponsors. As an ex-RAF fighter pilot, Dad was eligible for free passage, so we were not the “ten pound Poms”  that many people talk about.

In January 1954, Dad received a telegram advising him that our family had been successful in our application and that there was a six-berth cabin available to us if we could be in Southampton the following week.

Dad ‘sold’ our house to Mum’s brother, lock, stock and barrel (my uncle just took over the payments and Dad put the house in his name). Dad gave notice at his place of work and he and Mum packed up whatever they could take with us. We caught the train from home in Oswaldtwistle on a cold and snowy January day in 1954. After staying the night in London we caught another train to Southampton, where we boarded the steam liner the S.S. New Australia.

S.S. New Australia

S.S. New Australia


We were off on a voyage half way around the world to a country we kids knew little about, and leaving everything and everyone we did know behind us.


© Linda Visman



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  1. I don’t know that I’d be too excited about leaving it all behind to go to some far off land, but if I would go anywhere foreign to me Australia would be high on my list. To folks from the U.S. like me I guess Down Under seems like such an exotic interesting place. I’m thinking now of the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where at the end of the film they plan to go to Australia after Bolivia. “They speak English there”. That’s the way I see it too.

    Tossing It Out

    • Good to see you here, Arlee!
      Yes, it’s a big thing to leave all you know and head off into the unknown. We kids had to go along of course, but I know my brother hated leaving all he knew and was comfortable with.
      Dad always had a spirit of adventure, so to him it was an enjoyable challenge, and he was still only 32 years old.
      Mum was much less adventurous, so it was a huge thing for her, especially leaving her mother whom she was very close to.
      I guess Mum knew and loved Dad enough to go along with his dream.

  2. It was an extremely visionary and brave thing to do with a wife and four children. I wonder whether the reality of such a huge step met their expectations of what lay ahead when they left their established social network. Great post Linda, looking forward to next Monday 🙂

  3. I read Arlee’s comment before yours, Linda, so I’ve addressed part of this in my response to him.
    However, going further, to the outcome of their decision to emigrate, Dad told me that on reflection, he would not have done it differently. He said we had a much better life and many more opportunities than we would have had if we had stayed.
    Mum may not have been so positive, as we had many difficulties to overcome in the years that followed our arrival. But I think she too was glad, in the end, that we had made the move to Australia.

  4. It just sounds so exciting, Linda! An adventure…

  5. I can just imagine how it felt to be so young and on the start-line of such a huge voyage! January in the North is enough to make anyone dream of warmer climes, though. I am only 68 – I wonder, is it not too late?

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