17th December 1945

Dear Mom & Dad & Jean,

I am writing this in a pool of sweat although it is only just seven oclock. For most of yesterday we had a temperature of over ninety degrees. I bet it is a bit different at home now.

We heard the other day that the Port watch, that is the watch that I am in, is having four days leave at Xmas so I am homing that I don’t get a draft before then. I don’t know where I am going yet, I expect I shall end up at the British Centre in Hyde Park.

Have you read about the general strike in Sydney in the papers, it is a nuisance to us and we can’t have such a good time ashore now. It is practically impossible to get a cooked meal and we are just about sick of the sight of salads now. Still in this mornings paper it says that some of the strikers are going back to work this morning so perhaps it will be back to normal before long.

Last week I went over Sydney suspension bridge by train. It really is a marvellous sight, there is a first class three traffic line road, two sets of railway lines, two sets of tramway lines and two pedestrian footpaths so you can guess the width of it. It takes about five minutes to cross it on the train.

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We can go anywhere on a Sydney tram for 1d and also can get a fortnightly railway ticket for 3/- which takes us on any railway within a thirty mile radius of Sydney.

I am posting a photograph taken last week in Hyde Park, at the same time as this letter so you should get them at the same time. Also a cutting that should interest Dad.

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By the way did you ever send the ‘local mags’ out to me? They say it takes them two months to reach here so if I go up the ‘Islands’ I shall get them about the end of January. Still as long as I know if there are any on the way.

Well I shall have to close down once again so
All my love
Your own son
Graham
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

9th December 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just to thank you for your very welcome letter which I received yesterday, No 4. I can’t understand that you hadn’t had a letter from me from Capetown by the twenty sixth of November as that was two days off Sydney which means that my Capetown mail would have been on the way for a fortnight. Still I should think that you would probably get it in the beginning of the week. If I remember right it was a pretty heavy letter so probably it would be sent by sea mail instead of by air. Talking of mail and letters, I think you will find that you can send my letters for 1 1/2 d instead of putting a 2 1/2 d stamp on them. Have you sent any newspapers on to me yet? I think a parcel of newspapers costs threepence to send!

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Newtown rolling skating rink in Sydney with three other boys. We were there for three hours or so and had a pretty good time. I was a bit shaky at first but soon picked it up again. Sometime next week we are going to have a try at ice skating and see how we get on at that. I expect we shall end up with a few broken bones.

Thank you for the Christmas cards. You needn’t have worried about them getting here in time, they did it with a fortnight to spare. A letter from England takes roughly a fortnight to get here which will give you a bit of a guide. How long does it take them to get from here?

I have got a special duty job here now, I am in the Main Engine Room Regulating Office as a messenger. There are eight of us altogether and we work it in shifts. We all work in the mornings and knock off at dinnertime except for duty watch, two of them. Non duty watches can go ashore at dinner time. I do that for three days. On the fourth day I work until four thirty and can go ashore at night. Then another three half days and on the eighth day I work until dinner and then knock off until seven at night when I come on again and work until seven in the morning. So you can see I get plenty of time off.

There is a general strike of the electricity and gas workers on in Sydney and the rest of N.S.W. at the moment. All the ships are operating with candles and very few cinemas are working, only those that produce their own current. As long as the electric railway into Sydney keeps running it won’t be too bad.

Well I am getting to the end of this letter so I shall have to close again. I hope you all have a very happy time at Christmas and plenty of ‘big eats’. There is a rumour going round that we are all having five days leave at Christmas so I shall probably spend mine at the British Centre where they are having a big “bust up”. So for the time being I will have to say “Cheerio”

All my love
xxxxxxx Graham xxxxxx

1st December 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just to let you know that I received three letters from you this morning safely. The last one was dated 14.11.45 so I expect there will probably be some more on Monday as the mail from Britain has been delayed. Altogether I had twenty three letters so you can guess I shall be pretty busy for a day or two.

Tomorrow I am playing for the ship’s cricket team against a local Marine team. They broadcast anyone interested to play for the team to report and we had a trial. As they wanted a wicketkeeper I managed to get selected so I hope I manage to do O.K. Not bad considering there are 10000 men here.

You will be pleased to know that the washing facilities here are very good and this afternoon I did all my dirty washing. This morning they told us that we shall get paid next Wednesday so I shan’t have to wait all that long. I expect it will be about £4 or £5, we get tropical pay out here, another 6d a day I think it is.

Isn’t Jack S. lucky to get straight back so quickly after going abroad.

I think there is a good chance that I may bump into Bill H. as there is a good percentage of chaps go from here to Hong Kong.

Those two chaps who I met on the “Aquitania” are both on the photo. I forget their whereabouts on the photo. There is also one here who comes from Birmingham, Edwards is his name, I believe he is sitting down in the front line, a blonde chap who looks a proper “weed”.

Pleased to hear about the fowl, there is certainly no shortage of eggs here. We always have two at least when we have eggs and sometimes we get three. Last night we had steaks, tomatoes and two eggs and yesterday we had peaches and ice cream. I don’t know what the Navy is coming to. Tonight for supper we had liver, mash and sausages.

Tell Jean I think the poly photo is very good, quite a lot of my mates wanted to know if I had any “gash” (naval term for tit bits that a person doesn’t want).

How is the car running lately, has the petrol ration been increased yet. I don’t expect you use it so much now with all the foggy weather.

Did you both have a good birthday, I bet you had a sponge sandwich cake and tons of little cakes. Boy what would I give to dig my teeth into one of them now.

I am enclosing some more cuttings out of the Sydney “Daily Mirror” this time giving a bit more news of the “Aquitania”. Seems as though we were quite a rough crowd doesn’t it what with breaking ashore at Capetown and Sydney and throwing “good” shoes at M.P.S. It is a bit of an exgatteration (is that spelt right?) about the shoe actually it was taken out of the rubbish tins. By the way I had my photo taken by a newspaper reporter in Wednesday. When we pulled in alongside the dock I was standing at a big steel door in the side of the ship with a lot of Aussies and he took a snap of the “returning Aussies”. I bought two papers but it wasn’t in either and as I wasn’t particularly ‘flush’ I couldn’t afford to go around buying copies of all the Sydney newspapers.

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The caption in Graham’s photo album reads: H.M.T. Aquitania, the last 4 funnelled liner arriving at Woolloomooloo, Sydney on November 28th 1945. The 45,000 ton ship carried some 2000 Australian servicemen returning from war time service in England. The ship left Southampton on October 28th, and travelled to Australia by way of Freetown – Sierra Leone, Capetown – South Africa, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and then to Sydney. Photograph reproduced from picture in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’.

By the way you should see their papers, thirty odd pages and the “News of the World” has nothing on it. Talk about freedom of the press, they certainly have it out here. Did you read about that French swimsuit case (it reported it was in the British papers) a girl was hired to walk in a fashion parade  with a swim suit on (french model) Well evidently the higher class of people thought it was shocking. The case was splashed across the headlines in two inch letters, while atom bomb discussions, fighting in Java and Palestine was on page 2. To give you an idea of how “shocking” it was she was fined – 10/-.

Well I think that is about all I can think of at the moment as I wrote to you yesterday so – all my love
Graham
P.S. Tell Uncle Harry that I had celery for tea. Very tasty – very sweet.


Notes

Apart from the above photograph, the newspaper clippings appear to be missing. Sadly, I can’t find any reference to the intriguing shoe-throwing incident.

27th November 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a short note to let you know that I am still O.K. and in the best of health. We reach Sydney tomorrow morning and I believe we disembark on Thursday. I will write as soon as I get settled down and let you know all the ‘latest’ and what I am likely to do. I hope that I stop in Australia until after Christmas at any rate as I shall probably be able to get in with an Australian family. I am enclosing a copy of the ship’s newspapers which is published on board, all the poems are made up by chaps on board, some of them are quite good. Well I think that’s all or me so all my love
Graham
xxxxxxxxxxx

16th November 1945

A continuation of the previous letter.

We are now three days out of Capetown and the weather is not too brilliant, quite a keen wind blowing My watch is still keeping good time, it hasn’t lost a second yet, touch wood. Since we left Capetown we have had to put our watches on three hours which is three hours sleep that we have lost. Yesterday I finished off my box of Milk Tray so I have only got about 1/2 lb of caramels and two bars of chocolate left now.

I am enclosing some cuttings out of the “Cape Argus” which I think you will find interesting. It will give you a better description of our “day out” than I can give. Don’t destroy them though will you as I want to keep them. One of them also has a paragraph or two on the British soccer. I see the Blues beat Chelsea with three internationals paying for Wales and Lawton playing for his new club. What price did they pay for him by the way. Fancy Scotland beating Wales, I see Dearson was playing at back. Birmingham certainly have got quite a few backs haven’t they. Also the Villa are still hanging on behind them, 21 points apiece.

In one of the pictures it shows you the South Africans going ashore in a tug. Well it was boats like that that we climbed down onto and you can see the height of the “Aquitania” from one of the other photos so you can guess it was a ticklish job especially with a rough sea at the time. I wish I could have had a camera with me while we were in Table Bay, it was a marvellous sight to see the range of hills and Table Mountain and nestling around the foot of them the town itself. Half way up the mountains was a forest of palm trees which made a lovely contrast to the grey of the mountains and red and white of the buildings and the bright blue sea. It would have made a beautiful painting. Still when I am in Australia I shall definitely get a camera and if I come back to England this way then I shall make sure of getting some snaps. It was really worth taking.

Yesterday we heard on the wireless that 21 of the troops were missing in Capetown. Three of those were killed I know, two of them fell in the water trying to get ashore and were drowned and one of them collapsed while he was ashore and died. There were dozens of chaps got beat up while they were ashore in fights with the locals. We were told that it isn’t safe for us to walk around by ourselves at night. One chap, an Australian had a pick axe right through his shoulder but I think he will be alright as it didn’t hit the bone and they say he has been stitched up quite O.K. All the others who are missing are deserters I expect. Two Australians took their full kit ashore with them and intend staying there for a few months. They had both been in prison camps in Germany for three years and said they were barbed wire happy.

Well I think that is about all the news for the time being so I will sign off until next time,
So all my love,
Graham
x x x x x x x

P.S. Many happy returns of the day Mom & Jean. I am afraid I am a bit late but when I get to Australia I will see what I can buy for you and will send it on to you.

Remember me to all of the gang.
x x x x x x x

14th November 1945

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.

8th November 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line or two to let you know that I am still O.K. and in the best of health. We are now two days off Capetown which we reach some time on Saturday morning. We are stopping there for four days and I believe that we are going ashore. I hope so as most of us are browned off with being on board and seeing nothing but sea for nearly a fortnight.

We had a good time while we were at Freetown with the natives. They came out in their native boats and brought bunches of bananas, oranges, coconuts, pineapples, silks, native slippers, native wicker baskets and pet monkeys and parrots and tried to sell them to us. I ought a bit bunch of bananas roughly about a hundred all told which cost me 2’/6d and about twenty to thirty about twenty to thirty oranges and half a dozen coconuts which cost me 3/-. I have still got plenty left but I don’t expect there will be all that many by the time I {illegible} Capetown.

We crossed the Equator two days ago so you can guess it is pretty hot around here. I am quite sunburnt already, that “schoolgirl complexion”. There are quite a few chaps who are in sickbay with sunburn but it is their own fault really as they spent all their time in the sun so they really asked for it.

The sea for the last week has been lovely and calm but at the moment it is getting rough again now that we are nearing the Cape so I expect I shall be spending my time on my bunk again before long/

We have pretty good entertainments on board now, pictures, concerts, plays, band concerts and gramophone records programmes including our own “Forces Favourites”. The picture that is on at the moment is “2000 Women” and is about the Women of Occupied France. I haven’t seen it yet but my mates say is is quite good. I spend most of my time playing draughts with my mate as we are all fed up with reading and it helps to pass the time away.

By the way did you get that bit photo of the ship O.K. I hope you did as I thought it was very good don’t you?

How has the village football club been going on lately? It seems ages since I had any news about them or the Villa and the Blues. Still I expect I shall get all the news when I get to Australia.

Have you been over to Droitwich lately? Has Teresa got herself “fixed up” yet? I expect it is a bit too wintry to go over there every weekend now though isn’t it? Have you been doing any good on the football pools lately or was it only beginners luck at the start of the season?

The food here is still pretty good, we usually get tinned fruit for pudding and tonight we had an ice cream as an extra.

Well I think that is about all I can manage to get on this letter so I am afraid I shall have to sign off until next time so
All my love
Your own son
Graham
x x x x x x x x
P.S. Remember me to all the gang!