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,
x x x x x x x x x