Dear Mom & Dad & Jean,
I am writing this about a day out of Capetown which we left yesterday morning at ten thirty. I suppose you heard over the wireless how we all took “French leave” when leave was refused, and went ashore. It really was a sight for sore eyes, I don’t suppose I shall ever see anything like it again. Well in case you didn’t hear about it I will start from the beginning and tell you what caused all the trouble. We had been told that we should get leave when we got into Capetown and so when we got there we were all looking forward to going ashore. Owing to heavy seas at the time though we had to lie outside the harbour in Table Bay, but they told us that we would be going in the next morning, Monday. Well we lay outside all day Sunday and one of the small boats that came out to us had some Capetown papers on which told us that the people of Capetown had got everything ready to give us a good time when we went ashore. Well that fairly did it for about half the Australians on board decided to break off the ship and go ashore and so they climbed down ropes and ladders onto the tugs that were around the “Aquitania” and refused to get off. There were so many of them that nothing could be done about it and so the tugs had to take them ashore. Then the Commandant broadcast that there would be no shore leave and that all the men ashore would be punished. Still next morning as soon as the tugs came alongside the Navy started going ashore and by dinnertime there were only 1000 men left on board out of about five thousand. I went ashore about nine in the morning. As soon as I got on the jetty I walked out on to the main road which was through the dockyard and almost immediately a car pulled up and gave us a lift into the town of Capetown. There were three of us altogether. When we got into Capetown we had a walk around and had a look at the shops and the town itself. It really is the cleanest town that I have been in yet even in Britain, the streets were spotless, the shops and cinemas were all very modern and most of them were much bigger than the average British shop. There were Woolworth’s shops, Dolcis shoes and quite a lot of other well known British firms. You should have seen the stuff that was on sale as well. Suits, mens underwear, womens clothes without coupons but pretty expensive, jewellery which was very cheap. I bought myself a smashing watch for 16 shillings and so far it has kept excellent time. We made a check up in our mess after the men had come and well over three quarters of them have got at least one watch. Some of the Australians were buying them a dozen at a time. Then the sweets and chocolate, when we walked in the first sweet shop we nearly fell down, it was like prewar days! “Black Magic” – Cadbury’s “Milk Tray” – Cadbury 1lb blocks of Milk Chocolate – “Smarties” – chocolate caramels Fox’s Glacier Mints and all the old prewar brands. There is one thing, Britain certainly looks after her export trade well. I only wish that I had had £30 when I went ashore instead of £3.Then of course we had tons of fruit, oranges, apples, bananas, coconuts, pineapples and even those boxes of fruit that were cut up and soaked in sugar Chrystalised pineapple wasn’t it?
For dinner we had three fried eggs, two rashers of bacon, fried tomatoes, two sausages, pears and custard, a plate of bread and butter and a cup of coffee. I bet you’ll never guess the price, it was the terrific sum of 1/-. Does it make your mouth water.
The letter continues a few days later.