1st February 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I am so sorry that I haven’t written to you for over a fortnight but I expect you can guess I don’t get much time when we are at sea. Still here goes.

I left Sydney on Wednesday 16th January and went to Port Darwin right round the East coast of Australia through the Great Barrier Reef across the Gulf of Carpentaria and so to Port Darwin. It wasn’t a very interesting place as it is only small. We stayed there overnight and left the next morning at seven thirty. Then we headed north between the Money Isles and Goulbarn Isles up with Melville Isles on our left, through the Timor Sea and Banda Sea, between the Burn & Serang Isles, through the Celebes Group, across the Malucca Sea, Mindanoa on our right Luzon on our right across the China Sea and finally to Hong Kong. I think you should be able to follow that if you want to look it up.

The first two days I was seasick but the rest of the trip I didn’t do too badly. All the way we were watchkeeping, that is three watches Red, White & Blue, I was in Blue taking it in turns during the seven watches per day. The seven watches are afternoon watch (12 midday to 4), First dog (4 to 6), Last Dog (6 to 8), First Watch (8 to 12), Middle Watch (12 midnight to 4), Morning watch (4 to 8), Forenoon watch (8 to 12 midday) so you do every third watch which shares it out evenly. The only trouble is you never get a full night’s sleep and so during the day when you are off duty you usually spend sleeping. Then you have all your washing to do so you can see why I haven’t written before.

I am certainly getting handy now on board here, I am the mess tailor and do all the mending for my mates (got to get some money somehow, I haven’t been paid since I left “Golden Hind”) mending suits, putting patches in overalls, darning socks and although I say it myself they are definitely passable. Also I am the “duff maker” on the mess and have to make the pudding for dinner, you should taste some of my “jam turnovers” they are definitely the favourite of the lot.

Tonight I made a “toad in the hole” for nineteen though I don’t know how that will come out yet. I shall have to send you a recipe or two.

I have heard that we are only stopping here a week and that we move on next Friday to Shanghai and then to Tokio but of course I shall have to wait and see. Pity I missed Bill wasn’t it, to think the time he has been here and then I miss him by a fortnight. Still it is about time he got his “ticket” isn’t it!

I got your letter number 8 and Jean’s number 1 also one from Byron at Port Darwin so I didn’t miss them after all. I was surprised about selling the shop and moving. Who are the new people? I read Jean’s letter first, I couldn’t think where she was on about, she said “what do you think about us leaving?” and also I should have the back bedroom but no mention of where you were moving to – I had to open yours to find that out.

I think Nelly did very well to get £6 for my suit, I have had it three years haven’t I? Still I think I shall get a “civvy suit” of the Navy when I get demobbed.

Talking of toast I might tell you that’s all I ate for two days, toast and Oxo that’s about the only thing I could manage to keep down.

I am playing football for the Stokers XI tomorrow as right back against the Seamen. I don’t expect we shall win as they have got much more men to choose from than us but all the same it will be a game. It is much cooler here by the way, just about September weather at home so it is not so bad.

Well I shall have to close once again so for the time being,

all my love,
Graham
x x x x x x x x

P.S. That air mail that you sent cost sixpence! Ask for a “Forces Letter” next time as they are only 1 1/2 d.
P.P.S. They are also quicker

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18th December 1945

Dear Mom & Dad & Jean,

Just a line or two to thank you for your very welcome letter which I received this morning. It was number five dated December 3rd so it must have been held up somewhere as it doesn’t usually take fifteen days for letters to get out here. I had one from Norman R. last week that was posted on December 2nd and I received it on the 10th which is pretty good isn’t it? We have had two hold ups of mail from England since i arrived here, they said it was because of the fog in Britain and so the mail planes couldn’t get off.

In regard to all the fruit that I have been having lately I very rarely eat any now as I have had so much that I am sick of it. I have had three pineapples peaches and cherries during the last week but have definitely gone off them now! We don’t get such a selection of sweets and chocolate out here, there is a shortage of certain brands owing to the strike and the Xmas shoppers. My favourite is full cream Fudge. Do you remember Dad used to sell it once?

I am glad to hear that Dad’s finger is getting better, I hope that he doesn’t get any more trouble with it. It would spoil Christmas if he has to keep it in a sling all the time. I still don’t know definitely where I shall spend my Christmas yet, Eric and myself made friends with a couple of girls from North Sydney and we have been around to their house two or three times. We are hoping that we shall get an invitation from them but if we don’t, well I suppose it will have to be the British Centre. There is nothing serious with them, it is just “purely platonic”, they are both much older than us.

I had a letter from Geoff P. this morning, he is down at Devonport now, still on the same course and has got a hook up now. Gets thirty shillings a week which is nearly double my wages. He says that only himself and “Ginger” B. are left out of the old Skegness class and only ten of them still on the course out of the original sixty odd. He was going to get engaged for Xmas but has decided to wait until he gets demobbed. Talking of demobbing Norman says that he is expecting his “ticket” in April or May. He certainly is jammy isn’t he. He is stationed about six miles from his wife’s home as well so he certainly hasn’t got anything to grumble about.

This afternoon we had a surprising change in the weather, after a record temperature of 115° yesterday it certainly came as a surprise to have a thunderstorm which has only just stopped after being on for five hours. There has been eleven people die in Sydney and suburbs during yesterday through the terrific heat. Most of them were old people over sixty or so. In one place about fifty miles from here the temperature has exceeded 100° for the last twelve days, I reckon they must be getting a trifle sunburnt.

You say that Britain had most of the war, well you should hear them out here. Anyone would think Australia had won the war. They say they won the Libyan campaign, Crete, Greece, Italy, Burma, most of the islands in the Pacific just to mention a few of their campaigns. Then they tun the British fleet down and say “Why didn’t the British fleet come out to the Pacific until 1941 and 1942.” They forget that we were fighting a war on our own doorsteps since 1939. Then they say “Why can’t our servicemen get home for Xmas?” All the British ships are fetching them back while their own ships are lying in the Australian harbours “on exhibition”. They say Australia is the finest country – a “land fit for heroes”, yet they have had three general strikes in two months, it just shows how satisfied they are.

Tell Jean I think the photograph is very good, there are quite a lot of chaps in my hut who want to write to her. The only way I could keep them away is by telling them she is courting strongly and is ‘as good as engaged’.

This weekend I am going down to Manly Beach to do a spot of sunbathing and attempting to learn to swim. There are plenty of instructors there. Manly Beach is a famous surfing beach and people come from all parts of N.S.W. to surf there. It is pretty well a national sport out here. The cricket season is in full swing at the moment, N.S.W. seems to be the top dogs at the moment. W. J. O’Reilly the test bowler is captain of the team but he is going off now. The other day I saw Stan McCabe, the Australian vice captain, he owns a sports shop down George Street, tat is the main street like Corporation Street. He hasn’t been playing during the war.

I am sorry that the letters I have been writing recently haven’t been very long but as there wasn’t much to write about especially when I haven’t got one of your letters in front of me. Still I know that you would rather have a short letter than none at all.

Have you received my photos yet taken in tropical rig, I think the one taken by myself was the best. I have got two more taken with a couple of girls. Again nothing sentimental!!!

I am on duty again while I am writing this letter, I have to stop in the Regulating Office all night until seven thirty in the morning when I get relieved. We have changed our leave system now. There are only six of us so we have split up into two watches and take it in turns one watch every day while the other watch is ashore. We start the day at dinner so we are allowed to go ashore at twelve thirty and don’t have to report back until eleven thirty the next morning. It is a much better way as it means we get a lie in in bed, that is when I stop out at night and sleep at the British Centre.

Did you get the Xmas card O.K. You’d be surprised the trouble I had trying to get them. You see the strike was on and most of the stationers shops were shut. I eventually got them on an underground railway station bookstall. I hope you get it in time for Xmas. I sent them to Hobmoor, Byron, Whiteacre and Roy besides yourself.

Have you heard any news of the local lads lately, Brian J., Bill, Boyd K., Jack S. Do you know Brian T. from Mackadown, I believe he is at Tokio, he was on the “Duke of York” I think when she entered the harbour. Could you find out for me if he is on “Duke of York”? Mr H. would probably know.

By the way I hear Roy Statham has got himself ‘hooked’ up. Who was the girl, was it his old flame? I expect he will be getting demobbed soon won’t he?

Well I really think that is about all I can think of at the moment so I will close down again until next time.

All my love
Graham
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