Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,
I expect you have all been wondering why you haven’t heard from me for such a long time and wondering where I was. Well for a start off you can see that I have left Hong Kong and that I am writing from Japan. Well I may as well start from the beginning, to put it short, during the last month we have been on a cruise of Japan, we left Hong Kong and first of all came here to Yokohama. There is nothing particularly brilliant about Yokohama, the weather is typical Manchester weather it has rained pretty well every day that we have been here. We were supposed to play football one of the days but when we got ashore we found the pitch was in a hollow and was covered with six inches of water which soon put an end to all our ideas of sport. The place is one of the bases of the American occupation forces and are they not too friendly with our chaps. There is a very strict non-fraternisation ban on which is surprising considering the Yanks are in control.
Well we stayed here for about four days and then sailed to the Northern Island of Japan, Hakkoddai island, where we put in at the main port of the island, Hakodate. Here we got a much different welcome. There were not so many Yanks and they were definitely “all for us” because as soon as we went ashore, they had lorries waiting for us and drove us out to their camp about six miles out of Hakodate. And did they give us a time, plenty of food, sweets, ices, coca-colas and for those that drank, as much beer as they wanted. But the main thing that nearly everyone bought were cigars, we pretty well all bought a box full of 50, two or three different brands, “White Owl – Corona – coronas” which cost us the ridiculously cheap price of 60 yen which is worth £1-0-0. You should see our ship at night now, talk about Rothschild, everyone on the ship is smoking them down from the Captain to the Chinese mess boys.
Besides all this there was table tennis, darts, billiards (American version with no pockets on the table which I didn’t get the hang of) cards dominoes and literally hundreds of the latest records with all the stars from Sinatra singing “The Hose I Live In” and the Ink Spots singing “Address Unknown” to Bing Crosby singing “The Lord’s Prayer”. Have you heard the singing that number by the way, I think it is one of their best. They also gave us about half a dozen books each, you know the small Forces editions of nearly every book and author you could think of. They certainly do things in a big way for their Forces.
When we went back to the ship that night it was quite funny, nearly everyone had the same thought as ourselves “Try and get a couple of bottles of beer on board for the chaps who are duty”. Well we are not allowed to take beer on board so the way we work it is ti leave the bottles in the motor boat, go on board, pass the officer on duty and then nip down the rope ladder to the boat, get the beer and then take it on board. Well I say everyone had the same thought and there were about fifty of us all with two or three bottles in the boat, well we passed the officer and everyone nipped down to the rope ladder very quietly at first but there were so many that it was soon more like a roughhouse and everyone was shouting for everyone else to be quiet. Well the officer on duty soon heard the rumpus and came along to investigate but luckily for us he was a decent chap and realising what was happening he turned away and went to the other side of the ship. Still after all that we got it on board safely so that was all that mattered to us.
From Hakodate we went further north to Otaru on the western side of Hakkoddai island where once again we got a marvellous welcome. We went alongside the wall there which made it much more convenient. All the time that we were there the Yanks were coming aboard, having a look over the ship, taking photos, stopping to dinner, tea and even supper. It’s a good job we had plenty of stores on board or else we should have starved for the rest of the trip.
When we went ashore we again had the time of our lives, the only difference being instead of all living in one camp they had taken over all the big buildings in the centre of the town and were using them as barracks. They still had their own cafes, clubs, picture houses and bars only they were in Jap buildings. I saw two pictures while I was there. Betty Grable in “The Dolly Sisters” and Dick Haymes in “State Fair” they were both musicals and were quite decent.
By the way we were very surprised when we first came ashore to see real snow, it had pretty well cleared in the town but they told us that even a month ago there was five feet in the town itself so you can see it is not all warm winds and sunshine out here. I’ll admit it wasn’t as bad as all that, it was quite mild during the day but at night and in the morning we certainly felt the cold. Its a good job that we didn’t get there about December or January as they were snowbound for six weeks so you can see the climate is much more severe than in England although Japan and England are more or less on the same latitude.
While we were there we went to Mass by an American padre in the Yankee cinema then went to the R.C. missionary church and went to the service there. We found out that it was run by a priest and German sisters. They seemed frightened to tell us that they were Germans when they knew we were British but after a while they began to talk a bit more. They all spoke perfect English in fact they teach English at the school that they run. The priest came from the Koln while all the three sisters came from the Rhus. The priest said he hadn’t heard from his family since just before the war and he doesn’t know whether they are dead or alive.
We also visited a Buddhist temple which was quite an experience. It was more like an antique shop, idols, gods, vases, flowers stuck everywhere. There are no seats just straw mats on the floor on which they get down and do their “daily dozen”. We had to take our shoes off when we went in or else we were insulting their gods.
We got more gifts than at Hakodate when we left Otaru, they heaped literally thousands of books on us, games of all descriptions, hundreds of records, footballs, baseball gear, rugby gear, ice skates and even thirty sets of skis. If Roosevelt had still been alive I bet he would have been pleased, there was certainly plenty of Allied comradeship here. Oh, by the way, an item which probably interests Uncle Harry, I bought a bottle of Japanese whisky for twenty yen – 6s/8d. for my mates who were duty which was by all accounts a “drop of good”.
From Otaru we went back to the Japanese mainland Honshu and called at Ominato, I didn’t go ashore myself but again our chaps had a good time by the amount of stuff they brought back on board with them. Then from Ominato we eventually headed south and headed back at Yokohama here, yesterday.
We got our first mail for five weeks as well. I got three from you although they are not up to date. I expect there are a couple more recent ones somewhere. I haven’t got your letters with me at the moment so I’m afraid I can’t answer any questions but will do so next time. I am writing this on watch by the way, the time is 2.30A.M. so it helps to keep me awake. I am on until 4A.M. then I turn in until 6.30 just have time to wash, have my breakfast and then I am on watch again from 8 until 12 dinnertime when I get the next twenty four hours off duty. We are working in four watches while we are in harbour. Two watches duty and two stand off, we do four hours on and four hours off for twenty four hours then get twenty four hours off.
We are staying here until next Friday then we are going to Shanghai for six weeks, its very grim down there according to what other ships have told us. From Shanghai we go back to Hong Kong for a refit which will take about eight weeks. I don’t know for certain where we are going from there but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is back home and that they keep me on board. If they don’t though it will just be a bit of bad luck and I shall have to try my luck with another ship.
By the way I expect you noticed the addition to my official number, Sto.1/c (Stoker, first class) I saw the engineer about a month ago and passed out. I don’t get paid the extra money yet as I have to wait until my service papers come before they can increase anyone’s pay. When I do get the increase though I shall put my allotment up a bit more, I might as well save as much as I can while I’m in the Navy.
I heard from Alan W. yesterday, you remember Jean’s favourite, he is still a Marine he is in the Gunnery and Torpedo branch now as a mechanic and seems quite pleased with himself. Do you remember when I parted from Norman and I said I hadn’t heard from him for ages. Well I have discovered the reason. Yesterday I had one of my own letters returned to me which I had written to him on June 20th last year giving him my then latest address which was Malvern. The letter had been cut open and my address taken off it and returned to me quite intact. Eleven months it had been in the post altogether.
Did Dad get my birthday card safely, I posted it late April as I knew we were going on the cruise and wouldn’t be able to send any letters so I expect he got it with quite a bit to spare.
How is Jean’s love affair going on nowadays? Has he popped the question yet? It looks as though she will beat me to the altar by a good few lengths yet.
Since I have been made first class I have taken off the boiler and am now the stoker for the turbo-generator which supplies all the electric power for the ship when we are at sea. We work in three watches at sea, so there are three of us altogether run the turbo between us.
By the way it doesn’t worry me two hoots where I sleep at Hobmoor. I’m sure buses going round the corner won’t disturb me. It’s a funny thing, I can go to sleep with a light by my hammock and the wireless on the bulkhead or wall just behind me, and yet any unusual sound during the night such as someone talking or someone coming down the ladder wakes me up. I suppose its just what you get used to.
Well, once again I think that is about all the news for this time so I shall have to close for the present
So until next time
All my love
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