31st October 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

So sorry I haven’t written for a week but there have been so many drafts going out to ships in the last ten days that I thought I would delay writing until I knew whether I should get a draft or not. Six out of the original ten that came off the “Trafalgar” have already gone so I don’t suppose it will be all that long before I shall be on my way once again. Still there is one consolation of being in barracks, it at least gives you a chance to get your kit up to date again and to get your boots mended etc.

By the time you get this letter I expect the “Trafalgar” will be nearly home. She reaches Portsmouth on November 15th so if you see anything in the paper to that effect will you cut it out for me.

I had a surprise on Sunday, I was standing on the balcony of our block watching a draft march by that had just come in off the cruiser “Adamant” when I thought I recognised one of them so I nipped across to them and who do you think it was – “Taffy” Jones you remember the boy I joined up with, you saw him at Malvern once I think didn’t you? He is going home for demob, I certainly joined the wrong branch for getting out early didn’t I. He has let here now for England on the aircraft carrier “Indefatigable” so he should be home for Xmas, lucky devil. I suppose Jack S. will also be getting his demob pretty soon.

We have had a couple of old films here this week, but I hadn’t seen either of them as luck would have it. Judy Garland in “Wizard of Oz” and James Mason & Phyllis Calvert in “They were Sisters”. The first one was really a kids film but it caused a good laugh, but the second one I thought was very good with James Mason as the unpleasable husband who eventually drives his wife to suicide with his cruelty. We also saw the “Victory Parade” film in Technicolour.

I don’t know how long it will be before I get any mail, it will be at least another month or so as all my mail addressed to “Trafalgar” will be held in the U.K. until November 15th and it is sure to take a couple of days to readdress it and post it out here plus twelve days to get here so it will be at least December 1st before it gets to “Sultan”. By then I am pretty certain to have moved on so eventually I shall get it about December 7th.

Have you seen any more football matches lately? The football season seems to have settled down a bit now although there are still plenty of surprise results. My tip for the league is still Wolves and Preston for the cup!!!

Have you heard how the village are doing this season, I have only heard one result so far when they drew against Shirley Stadium on Rovers.

Well I can’t think of anything else to say just now so I think I will sign off until next time
All my love
Your loving son
Graham
x  x  x  x  x  x  x

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22nd September 1946

Dear Mom, Dad and Jean,

I expect you have all been wondering where I have been for the past month and why you haven’t heard from me. Well I think I told you we were going on a cruise of Northern China in my last letter so really I expect you had at least a rough idea where I was.

Well to start from when we left Hong Kong towards the end of last month. We had a five day trip up to a place called Chin-won-tao which is right up in the north of China, almost in Manchuria. It is not a very big place and as here were no British Naval Bases within a few hundred miles we were unable to dispatch or receive any mail. We reached there on Sept 1st and stayed there until the 16th.

It was quite cold there, typical English November weather with wet mists in the morning and cold winds most of the day. Of course you can bet we didn’t mind that having been at Hong Kong for two months in the middle of summer.

There was a small detachment of American troops there stationed in case the Communists attacked the town and that was about the only signs of any military in the town. There wasn’t much to spend money on except at the Yankee camp canteen where you could get a few bottles of beer which of course satisfied most of the chaps on board.

We were also able to get plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables which is the best I have seen out here including Australia. The apples, peaches, cabbage, onions, potatoes and other veg were all in perfect condition which is a change out here. The apples tasted something like a Worcester Pearmain and you can bet your boots we all filled our lockers with them. Peaches cost about  1000 C.N.C. dollars for ten which is about 1’/8d – about 2d each. I bet you would have liked a few boxes at that price wouldn’t you.

There was a football pitch ashore and the P.T.I. took advantage of it to run an interdepartment football knock out competition. There were 16 teams took part and in the first two games we won fairly easily and we were all quite confident that we would at least get into the final but we came unstuck. First of all to start the bad luck two days before we played the semi-final I had to go into the sick bay. You remember I told you I was nearly gong barmy with sweat rash, well coming up from Hong Kong to Chin-won-tao I broke out with tropical ring worms which made matters worse and I was attending sick bay for treatment with penicillin ointment. Well I had four ring worms on my left ankle and what with the rubbing of my shoes they rubbed raw and evidently the dye out of my socks worked in and the next thing I knew my ankle was up twice the normal size. Well I thought the best thing to do is to turn in early and perhaps it will go down by the morning. I thought perhaps the footballing had done it. Well when I woke up next morning I couldn’t move my leg, and I had a headache and sore throat and I felt like a piece of wet rag. So I  went down to the sick bay and showed them my leg. They took my temperature and found it was 101 so of course I was shoved straight into bed. The medical officers examined me and told me I had blood poisoning through the dye out of my socks. Well for three days I felt terrible, couldn’t eat and everything I drank I brought straight up again. I had to take 36 anti serum tablets a day, I think that is what he called them, I was in for a week altogether and was light duties for another three days so that finished me as far as football was concerned there at any rate.

The Engine Room Department team played the Quarter Deck in the semi final with a reserve in my place and as an extra bit of bad luck the centre forward got hurt pretty badly after about twenty minutes play and they played the rest of the match with ten men and from what I hear they put up a good fight but cracked in the last ten minutes or so and eventually lost 4-1. Still Quarter Deck won the competition so we had the consolation that we were knocked out by the winners.

The ships team also played the Chin-won-tao team and fielded four reserves and surprised everyone by winning 7-0 so I don’t think the Chinese team can have been very strong.

We left Chin-won-tao on Sept 16th for Wosung, where we picked up the cruiser “Belfast” with the C. in C.B.P.F. [Commander in Chief of the British Pacific Fleet] on board, Admiral Sir William Boyd, the man who relieved Bruce Fraser. That was the 18th. Wosung is just an oiling base and nobody went ashore as we only stayed six hours or so. The “Belfast” had a bag of mail on board for us as she had come from Hong Kong since us so she brought it along with her. I got letter 33 dated Aug 22nd so there should be another couple waiting for me at Shanghai. There is one bag of mail at last as we have had a signal to that effect.

From Wosung we travelled up the Yangtze for two days, steaming by day and anchoring by night. It was very interesting seeing all the towns and villages on the way up. We arrived here at Nanking on Friday. Nanking is 500 miles up the river inland so you can guess it quite a fair sized “stream”. At our present position it is about a mile and a half wide, and I believe you can go up about 1000 miles or more with a destroyer so we haven’t done so bad.

There was quite a bit of excitement about two months back when the “Newfoundland” which is a cruiser went up about 600 miles to some small town and got stuck on a sandbank. It took two destroyers and two tugs to get her off. The C in C was on board her then so I expect he thinks he has come far enough this time.

There is plenty of variety ashore, food and quite a few shops but most of it is a bit too much for an average sailor’s pocket especially at this end of the month so I think I’ll be satisfied with the one “run ashore”.

Today we had another game of football, this time it was a challenge match, the “Belfast” Engine Room Dept. challenged our Engine Room Dept. and we managed to get our full side out including the Engineer who has been making quite a name for himself as a centre forward while playing for the officers in the knock-out. They were the other losing semi-finalists by the way. Everyone expected us to lose by four or five goals as they have about four times as many men to choose from on the “Belfast”, but we surprised everyone including ourselves by holding them to a draw 2-2. Every man in our team seemed to have found his form and at times the combination was lovely to watch. They had a strong side out and after the match the spectators said it was one of the best games they have seen for ages. The Engineer got one and the Inside Right, an Engine Room Mechanic got the other. Their Inside Left got both their goals, he was like a streak of wind and once  he got past our backs there was no-one in our defence could catch him. Still with two men pretty well marking him up most of the time we managed to keep him quiet or else he would have certainly put it “in the bag” for “Belfast”. I played centre half again and I kept the centre forward pretty quiet all through the match. He was quite good with his head but I was a couple of inches taller than him and I kept pretty close to him while the ball was in the air and didn’t give him much chance to “use his nodder”.

We leave here on Tuesday for Shanghai where there is quite an extensive sports programme been arranged between us, the “Belfast”, Yanks and Chinese – Boxing, football, cricket, water polo and tennis so we should have quite a good time. I don’t know whether our department will get a game but I hope so as we have quite a decent team now and all we need is a few games together.

At Boxing, McMurdie, that ex London Junior amateur champion has left the ship now so that is one less boxer on board, but we have got a chap on board named Richards who has done some professional boxing in Liverpool. He also fought some Australian top notchers when he was down there so I should say he is a dead cert for a win.

Talking of boxing did you hear the recordings of the Woodcock-Leanevitch and Louis-Maurrelli fights. We got them and you should have heard the cheering when Woodcock was given the verdict. I hear Louis has offered to fight him in February. Personally I think it is a bit too early to tackle Louis yet as he needs more experience especially at American Boxing but all the same I hope he puts up a good show.

We shall stay at Shanghai for five days and then we go to a place called T’Singtao which is roughly halfway between Shanghai and Chin-won-tao where we stop for another two days. We leave the “Belfast” there as she goes on to Chin-won-tao and then she is going on a cruise around Japan. We return to Hong Kong about the 5th of October and leave on the 10th for Singapore and then home. From the signals that have been floating around during the last month I don’t fancy my chance of coming home with the ship at all now. It gives you a feeling like having sat for an exam and waiting for the result when you know you haven’t done very well. The last official signal said that all ratings over 60 group would be drafted off the ship so you can see my chances are almost nil now, as my group is 66 which is a big difference. Still I don’t think it will be long now. My estimate for my demob is just about the time when I am due for “the key of the door”. They reckon on demobbing up to group 60 by the end of the year and if they keep up the present rate of demobbing it will just about be my 21st, they are doing about a group a month now.

It certainly looks at the moment as though I shall be spending my second Xmas foreign, I bet we don’t get a 25 lb turkey this time especially if I am in Singapore Barracks. I have been out here 11 months in exactly 6 more days so I am getting quite an old “salt” now aren’t I.

You seem to have been doing quite a lot of travelling as well, what with trips to Sheffield, Malvern and Droitwich. Its funny you mentioning that you went to Malvern and didn’t see a sailor as I had a letter from one of my old mates from Suffolk Street who said that he came home on seven days leave and went to Skegness on a bus trip and he said the same thing about there.

That Arthur Hunt that you mentioned, the one that sang in the motor coach, I don’t know if you remember it but I came home from work once and told you that he sang “Old Father Thames” and ” When xxxx is Done” in a works concert and I said that he was as good as some of the singers I have heard on the B.B.C.

Do you see much of Wilf A. now? I expect Dad does at work. Ask him to remember me to all my old mates, Bob E. and Frank R. and ask him if Janet still works there. He’ll know who I mean. Tell him that I wrote to her about a couple of months back but never got a reply so I wondered whether she got the letter.

Have you been to many football matches lately? The Villa seem to have gone to seed don’t they. I have only heard of one match that they have won and that was against Derby. In fact the only Midland team that seems to be doing moderately well is Wolverhampton. I see Arsenal seems to be getting into stride again. I suppose she is getting her players back again.

Is the village running a team again this year? I still haven’t heard from Roy, I should think he must be courting strong or something.

Jean seems to be “going steady” doesn’t she. I can see if I stop out here much longer I shall be the only single member of the family.

How is the bread situation now. We are pretty short now, at least during the last fortnight. We are allowed five loaves a day for our mess and it works out 1 piece a man for tea and supper and 1 1/2 pieces for breakfast so you can guess we call the “chef” a few names. Of course its no fault of his really as he just hasn’t got the ingredients for making larger quantities but all the same he gets the blame.

Well I think that is just about all the news for now so I am afraid I shall have to close down once again, so until next time,
All my love,
Graham
x x x x x x x x x

22nd August 1946

Dear Mom Dad & Jean,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still O.K. and feeling pretty fit. I am sorry I haven’t written before but I haven’t heard from you for ten days and I have kept putting off writing expecting to get a letter. Still I had better drop you a short note and then I will probably write tomorrow or Saturday as I should think I am almost certain to get a letter then.

We have finished our refit now and we are just staying in Hong Kong for another week before we proceed to Shanghai to pick up the “Belfast” then we go on the North China cruise. Today we have been out on trials and I was watchkeeping in the Gear Room which means that I have now been watchkeeping in every part of the ship, boiler rooms, engine rooms and now gear room. Also during the last fortnight I have been on Diesel generators and Evaporators, that is making water, so that makes every type of machinery on  board, Turbo generators, diesel generators, steam compressors, C.O.2 machinery and evaporators. The Chief Stoker says that he is trying to put me through for my A.W.K. certificate (auxiliary watchkeeping certificate) which means to be capable of handling any type of machinery and every department in the ship. It is the final step before picking up the “hook”. It usually is about two years before you pick up the A.W.K. and after that it is up to yourself as to how long you wait before being made Leading Stoker. Personally I hope I am “outside” before I get a chance of leading stoker as you stand less chance of being demobbed. It would be much different if I was regular navy or if the war was on but when I have only got twelve months to do, it is hardly worth it is it?

We had a good picture on board here last night although I don’t suppose you would like as it was a real creepy murder. Dorothy McGuire and George Brent in “Spiral Staircase”. George Brent is a professor who takes it into his head to kill all girls who have a deformity such as a limp, a scar, a lisp or a stutter. Dorothy McGuire is his maid who was struck dumb at an early age, so he eventually takes it that she should be put out of her misery. He is foiled at the last minute by his invalid mother who shoots him. Dorothy McGuire was so panic stricken by her experience that the shock gives her back her voice and she marries the doctor who was trying to cure her.

Well I think I will close now as there is not much to tell you until I have heard from you so Bye-bye for the present.
All my love
Graham
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26th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a few more lines to let you know that I am still feeling quite O.K. and in good health. I am back on board again now after my fourteen days leave and I might tell you it took a bit of getting used to the heat again after being ore or less out in the open for so long. Still it is not really all that bad as there is only half the Ship’s Company at the moment so we are not crowded as much as usual.

We are going on well with the refit, the boilers have been cleaned now and nearly all the messes have been painted out. We are staying in the “Basin” which is in the dockyard for about another ten days, we shall probably be busy painting out the Boiler Rooms and Engine Room. Then about August 7th we go into dry dock and have the ships’ “props” and bottom scraped.

After that I am not sure where we shall be going to but the two rumours that are circulating at the moment are either going to Yokohama for trials and naval manoeuvres, or Shanghai Peking and Nanking on a “showing the flag”. The better rumour is that at Peking we are getting four days and are to be taken on an organised sight seeing tour of the city and surrounding country. Peking is supposed to be one of the most picturesque cities in China.

Still myself I wouldn’t mind which rumour is correct. Then there is another rumour that the ship then goes down to Sydney to load up with “food for Britain” and leaves for the U.K. in October but I think that is just a little too much to bank on just yet.

We have had two films on here since I came back. Vic Olwen and Margaret Lockwood in “I’ll Be Your Sweetheart” which was an old time musical and was quite funny. The other, which I thought was a very good film indeed, was Bette Davis in “The Corn is Green” and was the story of a typical uneducated Welsh Village in the heart of the mining country. The acting was very good and the people in the film were the same type as “How Green Was My Valley”.

It is definitely worth seeing if you get the chance and I know you would like it.

What do you think of the trouble in Palestine lately? Terrible thing at the St George Hotel wasn’t it. It’s a good job Uncle Fred is away from there now isn’t it.

How is Dad going on at work lately, has he got his leg up yet? I suppose Norman W. has left now hasn’t he?

How are you managing now with the bread rationing, it sounds pretty grim to me. They are cutting ours down on Monday bit I don’t think it will be quite so bad as yours even then.

By the way will you ask Dad to get my driving licence renewed please, I think it is due towards the end of August sometime.

Has Jean heard the results of her exams yet? I hope she manages to get through it will certainly be a good start won’t it.

Well Mom it is getting pretty late so I think I had better close until next time

So all my love
Graham
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Notes

The King David Hotel (not St George) in Jerusalem was the British administrative headquarters in Palestine. On the 22nd of July 1946, it was bombed by a right-wing group called Irgun, killing 91 people and injuring a further 46.

20th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still in the best of health and feeling pretty fit. I am still on my leave which expires on Monday, I can’t say that I am really looking forward to gong back on board although I suppose I shall have to if I want to get back to the UK.

We have just been recovering from the effects of a typhoon which hit Hong Kong on Thursday evening. I’ve never seen winds like it before in my life and I don’t particularly want to be in them again. Early Thursday morning a strong wind blew up and by dinner time it was blowing at gale force. Well then it started raining in torrents so we decided the best place was in bed. So nearly all of us snuggled down and listened to the storm. We were soon rudely awakened as the gale actually blew the verandah door off and left us with no protection from the wind which blew in at the door. For the next three hours or so we spent our time shivering and hanging onto our blankets and gear which threatened to blow away.

Well when supper time came we decided to risk our gear and go for something to eat so we pushed all our beds into a corner and hoped for the best. It took us about five minutes to get the couple of hundred yards to the galley as the wind was that strong it literally stopped us dead. When we eventually reached there we found nearly all the windows had been smashed so we ate our meal in a rainstorm. For the next hour the typhoon was at its height and all the windows were smashing and doors were being blown off their hinges. The football posts were lifted clean out of the ground and ended up on the bank by the side of the pitch. All the netting around the tennis court was blown away. In Hong Kong itself all road traffic was stopped and what people there were about had to go on foot. Seven Chinese ships mostly ferry steamers were smashed up when they broke away and finished up on the rocks.

About ten however the wind dropped but the rain kept pouring down and when we woke in the morning the football pitch was ankle deep in water and most of the roads were half flooded at least. The papers say that in some streets in the city the streets were waist deep. Still it is much better this morning and the sun is already out fairly strong so probably by the end of the day it will be quite normal again.

I haven’t had any mail this week so I expect by the time I get back on board there will be quite a few letters to answer. There will probably be one from you I should think as it ten days since I received the last one so I shall be writing again in a few days.

I haven’t heard for certain what we are doing for certain after we have finished the refit but I will let you know if I hear any “official” rumours when I get back on board.

So for the present
All my love
Graham
x x x x x x x

13th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Many thanks for letter number 27 which I received last night, one of my mates who went down to the ship brought it up for me so it was really quite a surprise. I also had a letter from Aunty Em at Scarborough, I wondered who it was from at first.

I think one of my letters must have gone astray because I know I mentioned once that I had received the £3. It was about the time when I hurt me arm, I wrote two letters on the day I hurt it and another one two days later which I am almost sure was the one I told you. The dates were 27.3.46 and 29.3.46.

Glad to hear Dad has played cricket for the Met. I hope he does O.K. Wilf A. played for them once or twice when I was at work. Does he play now? Talking of cricket the Indians are doing very well on their tour aren’t they. There is also plenty of big scores in the county matches.

The food on board is still very good, the only thing that they are really short of is cooking fat so we don’t get chips very often. I am still caterer of the mess so you can bet I see to it that we don’t starve. Up here at the Rest Camp the food is not too good but as there is a good canteen there is always plenty to fill up with.

I bet it seems strange to see Riley’s house up again doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t seem as long as six years since they were bombed out does it.

I am still having a good time up here. I am trying hard to swim every time I go in the water and if the weather keeps as warm as it has been so far I should hope that I shall be able to by the end of my leave.

This morning we had a football match between the ratings and the Chiefs and Petty Officers. There was nobody in our crowd who played in goal so I had to go in. I had plenty of work to do in the first half as the ball very rarely went out of our half and the Ch & P.O.s held a 1-0 lead at half time however we had more of the play and it was pretty even during the half. Still the result was 2-2 so everyone was satisfied. I expect we shall have a return match. Yesterday the Seamen played them at cricket and gave them quite a thrashing, about seven wickets victory I think it was. I don’t know whether the Stokers can get out a side as there are only sixteen of us up here and I don’t think half of them are too keen.

By the way it is sixteen months today since I joined the Navy, I should hope that I am on the “home” straight now. I know I shall never look at a “JOIN THE NAVY” notice again. I should think the Navy is about the worst example of class distinction that there is. I’ve certainly had my eyes opened since I came out here. Still I suppose when I am a civvy again I shan’t regret my having been abroad.

Well I am just about at the end of the page so I shall have to close until next time.

All my love
Graham
xxxxxxx