Westleigh,  History

Westleigh: Part XIII

On Board the RMS Berengaria

August 28, 1924

When the clocks struck noon throughout the ship, the RMS Berengaria was 587 miles from New York City. The Statue of Liberty was not yet visible, but those making the voyage for the first time could picture her torch burning bright across the water, lighting the way home or to freedom. The vessel traveled across the Atlantic Ocean at a steady 23 knots, a voyage from England to America that would take five and half days. The following afternoon, passengers would arrive in quarantine, as was the protocol. Until then, the only contact with land was morse code. 

David Windsor held Captain Irvine’s sextant, the Prince’s Naval experience and knowledge vast, which was a surprise. The Prince of Wales had spent time inspecting the ship, including the ship’s surgeon, even though no operations had taken place on board for months. 

“Well, let’s hope it will be a long time before there is another,” he said, tapping the doorframe with his fingers to avert bad luck. 

The heir to the British throne made his way down to 3rd class, reserved for students unable to afford high fares.

“That is a splendid idea,” the Prince said, admiring their accommodations. “They can make the trip without spending much more than it would cost to keep them at home. I think it excellent to give young people a chance to see all there is to be seen in this world and other countries outside their own.”

He would play tug of war with the young men from Harvard and Yale, young men making their voyage back home to America in time for the fall semester. The Prince, weighing a trim 150 pounds, would be ousted from the potato sack race for, according to one reporter, “placing the spud in the wrong spot.” 

There were pillow fights and time spent in the gymnasium boxing with the coach. There were three-mile walks on deck, taking luncheons and tea. Besides the dashing young college men, dowagers, and debutants, there was Miss Leonora Cahill, a dark-haired cutie with a broad grin. She was the luckiest girl on board, dancing with the Prince one glorious evening, the only girl with that memory, which would last a lifetime.

On this, the final night of the Prince’s voyage, he would carry a portable phonograph up to C deck after dinner. He and four friends relaxed in deck chairs, singing along to American jazz records, the Prince’s repertoire inexhaustible. Songs were followed by conversations in lowered voices before retiring at midnight. 

From the ship, Edward would write. “These New York pressmen are bastards. One does resent their damned spying, so they get so tight!”

The New York pressmen would omit from their coverage one important guest: Louis F. Swift, an oversight or a slight, a slight, the pressmen too obsessed with heir to care.

An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Foster Place.
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