4th June 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a few lines to let you know that I think I can say I shall definitely be home next weekend on five days leave. I am entitled to Interim leave which is three days plus two days Ve leave which makes five. I shall leave here on Friday dinner time so I should get home on Friday night but what time I don’t know as I don’t know what times the trains are. Coming back I have to get the first train from Birmingham to Skegness which is the 10.23 which gets me here about ten past five on Wednesday. It’s not a bad leave is it and in any case in five weeks time I get my periodical leave which is nine days I believe. Still I shall find out about that later, in any case I don’t expect I shall be here then.

I tried to give you a ring last Thursday but I couldn’t get a reply so the phone must have been switched off. So don’t forget to switch it on this Thursday as I am almost sure to give you a ring to let you know definitely the time of my train.

I have managed to get in the same chalet as Norman again, they did split us up at first. We got in the front of the class expecting to be put in the first chalet but we were unlucky as there was one chalet with only two in and he up me in there. Norman was then put in the second chalet with two other chaps, so we both moved out and joined on the back of the class again. Eventually we ended up in a chalet to ourselves but since then we have had another chap put in with us.

By the way that boy I told you about, the one I used to be at night school with, who had yellow jaundice, is still here. I met him in Skegness Saturday afternoon, it was a surprise seeing him as it was a fortnight since I had a letter from him so I thought he had gone on draft.

On Saturday we watched the Skegness Cricket Club play Boston Cricket Club, Skegness won by eight wickets. Boston went in first and got 126 for 9 wickets declared. I thought it was a pretty good score but when we had come back from having tea, Skegness had got 43 for 1 wicket. They finished up with 130 for 2 wickets which certainly gave Boston a thrashing. They have got a cricket team here but I don’t think it is worth putting my name down as by the time I have finished my leave it will be a fortnight gone and we are only expecting to be here three weeks or so. By the way don’t forget to tell Eddie M. about next Sunday if it can be arranged.

Yesterday we didn’t have to fall in until nine so we went without our breakfast and stayed in bed until half past eight. Quite like civvy street isn’t it?

The food here is so much better than when we were here before, well at any rate better cooked although we still feel hungry. By the way, what has happened to my washing? If yo haven’t sent it yet could you pop two or three jars of fish paste in, we find that it is the best thing to carry around with us, as a jar of jam is likely to arouse suspicion.

Well I think that is all for now so I will say cheerio until Friday.
All my love,
Graham
x x x x x

P.S. How is the ‘fag’ rolling going on?

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1st June 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line to let you know that I came unstuck on my course. I didn’t pass on the final theoretical paper, so I go back to Skegness tomorrow. I have a good mind to try for Royal Marine Driver as it is about the only mechanical job left open at the moment. There is no fear of going in the army as all transfers have been stopped. I don’t know exactly how I go on for leave now but I will let you know more tomorrow night if I can manage to ring up. Well I must close now as Jeff is going to post this in Birmingham for me and he is waiting to go.
Bye bye for now
Lots of love
Graham
P.S. I am still with Norman as he also failed.

26th May 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line or two to let you know that I received the washing safely. Sorry I didn’t reply before but I thought I might as well hang on till today so that I could get my new address. I had a bit of an accident with the clean collars, I put them in my case and my bottle of ink leaked and pretty well smothered them. I have tried to wash them but have not made much of a job of it.

I have tried to ring you up the last three nights but couldn’t get an answer, I could hear the phone ringing but I suppose it must have been switched off or something.

We had our first exam last Wednesday and there were fifteen out of fifty nine who didn’t pass, including Norman. Still as we have lost such a lot of time on the course and owing to the fact that he was only just under the pass mark they allowed him to continue with the course. I don’t think he will pass next time however as he has to get 70% instead of the usual 60% pass mark. I don’t know what %age I got as they don’t tell unless you fail.

We moved on to the battleship on Friday afternoon and after what I have seen of it so far I am not particularly enthralled with it. It is just like living on a floating greenhouse what with the heat. The sanitary conditions are also pretty foul, there is no chance of a bath. We have to live eat and sleep in the same space, there is about thirty of us in a space of about the size of the recreation ground hut. (By the way I am writing this in Portsmouth as all letters posted on board have to be censored) (sshh)

However, the food is pretty good, and the canteen is excellent, we can get duty free cigarettes, Players – Craven A at 20 for 6d. We are allowed twenty a day so I will see what I can do. Still we should be home in a fortnight I hope, providing we pass the exam of course, so it won’t  be so bad.

I haven’t sent any photos off yet as I haven’t had much time with first swotting for the last exam and now changing over to the ship. Still I’ll see what I can do in the next week. In any case I shall be home next weekend so I can give them to Aunty Em, Aunty Edna etc.

Well I will sign off now as Norman an dGeoff are getting a little impatient so bye bye for now
Lots of love
Graham
x x x x x x

P.S. Could you let me have some money for train fare next week as I don’t want to use a travel warrant just for a weekend?
Did you find where Lyndhurst?

20th May 1945

4.30 Sunday morning

Dear Mum + Dad,

Many thanks for our letter which I received safely on Friday afternoon. Also will you thank Uncle Harry for ten shillings, it will come in very handy.

At the time of writing I am on duty at the main gate, I am on until eight in the morning. I was on from eleven to twelve thirty yesterday dinner, six till eight last night and four until eight this morning. I am on messenger duty and have to take phone messages and deliver them to whoever they are for.

We are going to the Isle of Wight today. I don’t know what the place is like but I have heard it is pretty good.

I will drop Granny K, Edna, Aunty Em a line when I have time but I don’t know when it will be as I don’t get much time to write letters now what with the notes I have to copy up and the homework. We get our first school exam on Wednesday, it is the only thing I am a bit windy about. The practical side is pretty easy, we have had three tests which I passed all three, two of them I was given a star for.

I see Manchester United has gone through to the final then, I still think they will win it. Did you hear the recording of the game, they said that Chesterfield had been attacking three quarters of the game and yet they couldn’t score so I think Manchester’s defence will pull them through.

By the way Lyndhurst is so near Southampton so I shan’t be far away from here then. I shall certainly know how to catch the trains as it is on the same line to Portsmouth.

I had to go to sick bay yesterday morning as I had a terrible headache and felt sick. I felt pretty bad yesterday evening but I don’t feel so bad this morning. I haven’t had anything to eat since Friday night as I haven’t felt like it but I will go to Breakfast this morning.

I have looked up the times of trains to Birmingham and there is one gets to Birmingham at two minutes past five I think. The book I looked it up in is June 1944 however, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they have been altered since then.

Did you get my shirt safely, I will send the rest tomorrow night if I can get to the Post Office in time.

I expect the cricket season has started now, there is a cricket team here but I don’t have enough time to play as I have to go to school at night at same time a practices are on. They say that Lyndhurst is red hot at cricket and there is compulsory cricket I hope so anyway. Remember me to Eddie M. if he comes in the shop.

You should see the ships in the harbour now, there are dozens of them, I expect they have come in for refueling before going out to the Jap. It seems a bit silly but in the harbour it is like a city centre at night with lights on all over the place, while here in camp the Black Out restrictions are still on.

I see in yesterdays paper that the first eleven groups are being demobbed on June 18th. My groups number is 66 so it looks as though it will be a good time before I get out. Still by the time I pass my course (if I do) it will be another twelve months gone so I suppose it will be getting near then.

I had a letter from Wilf A. the shop steward at the “Midland”, he sent me my Trades Union Forces card which will enable me to get a job after the war. I only have to report to my trades union branch and they will get me a job.

3-30 Sunday afternoon

At the moment we are at Cowes sitting on the promenade doing a spot of sunbathing. We came across from Portsmouth on the eleven o’clock ferry to Ryde, then we had dinner at Ryde, walked around a bit and caught a bus to Newport. Not much doing there so we caught another bus to Cowes. It is a very nice place, very quiet, but has a nice sea frontage. The ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde took thirty five minutes so I am getting some practice in for next week.

I am enclosing a photo giving a scale of the country round Portsmouth, the camp, approximately, is marked by a cross so you will have a better idea of where I am stationed. As you can see we have sea on three sides pretty well so you can imagine it is pretty fresh here.

How is the weather in Birmingham I expect you have got a heat wave like we have here, it was terrible trying to sleep last night. I had only got the blanket but I needn’t have had that, it was so hot.

By the way, I think I remember a little pillow that used to be in Jean’s room. I wonder if I could have it as I have nothing to lie my head on at night. If you haven’t got a small one don’t bother as a big one wouldn’t lash up in my hammock.

Well I think that is about all for now as we have to catch the bus so cheerio for now.

Lots of love,

Graham
xxxxxxx


Historical Notes

Manchester United played a football match against Chesterfield on the 12th of May 1945. Manchester eventually lost the Football League War Cup North Final to Bolton Wanderers 3-2 in a game played in two legs.

11th May 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line to let you know that I received the photographs safely. Is there anyone that you have given one to just in case I send them another. I have sent one off to Barmouth so that has got them cleared. Did you get my shirt safely. I posted it on Monday but I expect it got delayed by V day. They gave the camps a days holiday but I was one of the unlucky ones, I was on duty. Still I went out last night so I had a part in the celebrations. The captain said that as it was V night it didn’t matter what time we came in. We joined up with some crowd of people in front of the Guildhall right in the MAIN ROAD, where a terrific bonfire had been built. Somebody brought along a baked potato machine so we had a pretty good time. They sent along about a dozen police to keep the crowd in order but before long they joined in themselves. Somebody had got placards of Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt and they marched round and round the square singing at the top of their voices. Another procession was headed by a prisoner of war with a German steel helmet, Wehrmacht arm band and German battle tunic.

IMG_20160510_211403209

Our camp is right alongside the dockyard and the ships were blowing their hooters and flashing lights all night long, it was like a mad house, you should have heard it. I expect yo heard the recordings from Liverpool, you could hear some of the ships blowing their hooters then, well you can imagine what it was like fifty yards away.

We had our first test yesterday, on electric circuits, they were pretty easy as I had been doing the same sort of thing at school and I got 95% marks. We are making a cable guard in the practical class this morning and I believe they pay a good deal of attention to it and it goes a good way towards passing the exams.

By the way I am due for a week end leave on May 26th but I don’t know whether I shall come yet it all depends on the trains. Could you get me a list of trains for Saturday (and Friday) from Birmingham to London G.W.R. or L.M.S.? Then if there is a good train I will risk it, when I get back I have to sit my final exam on the Monday afternoon so I don’t want to be adrift.

I get my seven days leave on June 1st until the eighth but I think I get two extra days “Victory” leave so I shall probably get nine or ten, I hope so anyhow.

Well I will say cheerio for now as I want to catch the post.

Lots of love
Graham
x  x  x  x  x

P.S. Shan’t bother to ring up as nothing important to tell you.


Historical Note

Germany surrendered on the 8th of May 1945.

5th May 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a short letter to let you know that I am now settling down at my port depot town. It is by far the best place I have been to so far. We can pretty well do what we like, go where we like, eat what we like, go out when we like (except for duty hours, of course).

We are allowed on shore leave three days out of four and out at twelve on Sundays. We do not have to be in until eleven at night, three weeks from now I get a long weekend, Saturday dinnertime until Monday morning. When I get back I sit my final exam here and if I pass then I get seven days leave.

In the town itself we can go to any cafes where we can get decent meals (fish and chips), picture-houses, hippodrome theatre. We can see Nelsons old ship, the “Victory”, we can go to the Isle of Wight, the only place out of bounds near here is London. And then of course there is the Portsmouth football team, we are going there this afternoon, they are playing against Crystal Palace so we shall be there in the ‘Forces Enclosure’ at Fratton Park.

As for the course it has all been altered, we do a fortnight here, then the other fortnight at sea on a training battleship. Talking of battleships you want to see them tearing up and down on the horizon. Of course we have been told the names of most of them but we are also told “security minded”.

Then we go to Birmingham for one weeks leave which I expect I shall just about be longing for by then.

Then we go to Lindhurst, not Inverness for the five month course on turning and fitting.

Another seven days!

Back to Portsmouth not Brighton on a six month course on torpedo and gunnery, during which time we get seven more days. When we have finished another seven days.

And that is the course, by the time I have finished I shall be able to tell you a few of the sights in Portsmouth as we come back here to wait for a ship.

The D.O. has told us that it will be a very difficult course if we don’t stick our backs into it.

We can buy what clothes we like here so maybe I can get a shirt or two if Dad wants them.

I am allowed to spend £2.8.0 a quarter so I should be able to get quite a lot.

By the way when we got here the D.O. said that if we wanted to mate up now was our chance as we should be together for the rest of the course. So Norman, Geoff and myself all got in the same watch, same mess together which means we shall get our leaves at the same time. We are even on cook duty at the same mess at the same time.

I can understand now why Paul liked the navy and didn’t want to return to civvy street. In any case I feel like a sailor now as we have to sleep in hammocks now, and is it comfortable like reclining on a couch. We have only one blanket but by the warmth you would think we’d got three or four.

Well Geoff and Norman are waiting for me to go out so I will have to pen this letter (is that a better finish?)
so cheerio for now
Lots of love
Graham
x x x x x x

 

3rd May 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line to let you know that I am O.K. before I go to Portsmouth. I am sorry I didn’t write before but I had my second inoculation on Tuesday and I have not been feeling too grand. Apart from stiffness now though I feel quite alright.

Tell Jess O. that I have received the letter but am not bothering to reply to it until I get my address at H.M.S. “Vernon”.

We have passed out at seamanship and shooting. I scored nineteen out of twenty on the range which was pretty good shooting considering I haven’t done any before.

I haven’t received the washing yet, I expect I shall get that today, though.

I saw the Nazi atrocity film in Malvern on Tuesday, it is a lot worse than the pictures in the papers. Quite a lot of the civilians refused to look at it and turned their heads away.

Well I can’t write any more at the moment as I have got to fall in for medical examinations.

Bye bye till I get to Portsmouth.
Lots of love
Graham.

P.S. Am expecting to be home in a month on a decent leave according to what we have been told.


Historical Notes

The Nazi atrocity film may have been Behind the Swastika. This highly distressing film includes video of severely injured, dead and dying men, many of whom were starving. It was filmed mostly at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which had been liberated by the British on the 15th of April.

The HMS Vernon was another onshore training establishment, which in early 1945 had a number of sites along the south coast of England. It specialised in mine removal.