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The year was 1943. The SS Dorchester was docked in the New York Harbor and would soon set sail. On board were hundreds of soldiers. Their destination was classified. It was during the height of the Second World War, so all that was known was that they would probably meet enemy ships out in the open sea.

The Dorchester was used by the army for military purposes. It was originally a luxury liner, meant for rich vacationers who could afford to pay to travel on the ship in luxury. However, because of the war, the Dorchester had a new use. The Germans were sinking ships rapidly. The Allied forces that were fighting the Germans were left with no choice but to make use of the luxury liners for their military purposes.

Apart from the soldiers, there were also four priests on board the Dorchester for that fateful journey. Lieutenants Fox, Goode, Poling and Washing ton had each joined the Corps of Chaplains. They would help the soldiers by trying to keep up their spirits.

The Dorchester set sail in a convoy. A group of ships moved off together and there were also armed ships from the Navy that would escort them to their destinations. Midway through the voyage, the men became seasick. The sea was not very choppy. The ship was small, and it became hot and stuffy inside. Judging from the direction in which they were sailing, the men soon guessed that they were heading towards Greenland. On the way there, they had to pass Newfoundland. This was definitely a dangerous journey because the waters off Newfoundland were notorious. This area was nicknamed Torpedo Junction because many ships had been torpedoed by the Germans at this spot, so that there were dozens of sunken ships on the seabed. To prepare for the possibility of being hit by an enemy torpedo, drills were held on the Dorchester. This way, everyone would know what to do in case of an emergency. All the soldiers were aware of the danger of their situation. Many were anxious and scared, so they turned to the four priests for comfort.

Efforts were made to try to raise the morale of the men. There were music and card games to entertain them. Some men sang songs. For a While at least, the men began to feel better. Then the news came. A ship accompanying them had detected a submarine close by. In spite of efforts made to get the specific location of the submarine, it remained elusive. The captain of the Dorchester prepared his men. They were ordered to sleep fully dressed, with life jackets nearby, so that they could make a quick escape should anything happen. Many men found it difficult to sleep, given the situation.

Suddenly, it happened; the Dorchester was hit and began to sink. The men rushed out onto the deck in panic. Everyone was moving about madly, unsure of what to do. Amid all the chaos, the four priests appeared. They saw at once what they had to do. Each of them guided the men to their stations, so that they could be evacuated. Seeing that some men had forgotten their life jackets in the panic, the four priests gave them theirs. As the ship sank, the priests stood together, praying. They perished with the ship.

When the Dorchester sunk, it took the lives of more than six hundred men, including the four priests. The latter were real heroes.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. 'Their destination was classified.' (paragraph 1) What does the writer mean by this according to the passage ?
  2. Why was the Dorchester called 'a luxury liner' (paragraph 2 ) ?
  3. Explain clearly why the Dorchester was turned into a military vessel.
  4. Describe how the Dorchester set sail.
  5. What made the men seasick ?
  6. Why were the waters of Newfoundland notorious ?
  7. How do you think music, card games and songs helped to raise the morale of the men ?
  8. What does 'elusive' (paragraph 5) mean, according to the passage ?
  9. What do you think had 'hit' the Dorchester ?
  10. How did the priests become 'heroes' (last paragraph) ?
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Answers
 

1.

The soldiers on board the Dorchester were not told about where they were going as it was kept a secret by the army.
 

2.

It was a ship meant for the rich (wealthy) to travel as only they could afford it.
 

3.

The Allied forces were losing many military ships as the Germans were sinking them very fast. / The Germans wee sinking many of the ships belonging to the Allied forces and so they did not have enough ships.
 

4.

The Dorchester and a group of other ships set sail together escorted by armed ships from the Navy.
 

5.

The heat and stuffiness inside the small ship made the men seasick.
  6. It was where many ships were torpedoed and sunk by the Germans.
  7. All these kept them entertained and helped them not to think of the danger they were in. / Getting involved in them made the soldiers happy and kept their spirits high.
  8. It means hard to find (mysterious/difficult to spot).
  9. A torpedo fired by an enemy (German) submarine had hit the Dorchester.
  10. They gave up their lives by giving their life jackets to four of the crew who had forgotten to take theirs. / They gave their life jackets to four of the crew to save themselves before they drowned.
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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