28th March 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

I am sorry that I didn’t reply to your letter dated Thursday before as I haven’t had much time to write letters lately. Saturday we were on ‘galley duty’ that is to wash up dishes and plates of about a thousand men, peel potatoes, cut the cabbage up and put the dinners up. Sunday we were duty class and had to wake the camp up, sweep up all the dining halls and main roads in the camp, put up the black out at night (the black out still applies here) and sweep out the cinema last thing at night.

By the time we had done this the effects of the inoculation had well worn off.

As we are not going to Malvern we have to do our No 1 training here and so we started on the course yesterday. We do squad drill, P.T. and seamanship here.

I had my first game of football yesterday when I was picked for Q.D. division against Top division. I played right half, and we won by six goals to nil.

I received the money and the two parcels safely. The money came first followed by the big parcel then the little parcel last.

Many thanks for same, we certainly knocked a hole in the cake. I received a cake from Barmouth today, a prewar affair, all chocolate covered, also a bag of sweets.

I also received a letter from Aunty Em and ten shillings, will you thank her for same.

I have just received your second letter dated 25-3-45. Will you tell Mr B. to thank Frank R. if he sees him and tell him I will write later.

I have just come back from a football match, the Dutch played Top Division, the division we played last night, and beat them by five goals to nil.

I have had a note from Frank R. at work telling me about the present, also one from Roy telling me all the local ‘scandal’. Did you hear about John D., he has started courting.

Roy says he is going out with a N.A.A.F.I. girl, I bet she must be a ‘smasher’. Talking of girls I still manage to see Jane every morning. They pin up about a dozen of the leading morning papers in the mess each morning so I don’t miss her.

I have posted a photograph of the class with the same post as this, I enclose an enlargement of my naval identity card photograph. Sorry it has not shown me with cap on but they do not take them like that.

The photographs I had took in Skegness in full uniform did not come out so I have got to have them taken again. I will send them on as soon as I get them. Well I cannot think of anything more for the moment so I will sign off. Let me know the nights you are likely to be home so I can catch you in when I ring.

Bye bye for now
Lots of love
Graham
x  x  x  x

P.S. We are on firewatch again Thursday night worse luck.



Historical Note

The N.A.A.F.I. (Naval, Army and Air Force Institutes) was a government organisation set up in 1921 to provide support for military personnel, which ran cafes, clubs, bars, supermarkets, laundry facilities and restaurants on military bases worldwide. By 1944 it had 7,000 establishments and employed nearly 100,000 people. Today, the N.A.A.F.I. continues to provide both the Naval Canteen Service and a number of other facilities, including services in Brunei, Germany, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland and the Falklands.

 

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25th March 1945

Dear Jean,

Many thanks for your letter it was very welcome. I except when I come on leave I shall listen to Forces Favourites. I am collecting my photographs this afternoon so I will send them on when I get them. I have met the boy James from the Met and also one of my mates from school who was sent down here the week after I came. Tell mom I received the two parcels, the big one yesterday and the small one this morning. We knocked a hole in the cake in bed last night, it was a treat to have some home made cake.

We had some bad news this morning, our draft to Malvern has been cancelled and I have to do my squad drill and P.T. course here. The course lasts for six weeks and at the end we get forty eight hours leave. Then we go to Portsmouth and at the end of the course I think we get seven days leave. We had our first inoculation Thursday, it nearly killed us. We could not move our arms on Friday, there is a great swelling in the back of my arm and it is now dinnertime Saturday and we can just about move it now. It was a bit different from the one we had at Dr Honigs-Bergers. We have two more inoculations to have yet. The first was 25 c.c. the next is 50 c.c. and the third is 100 c.c. Then we have to have a vaccination so we shall be mighty sore for a week or so.

Tell mom that I am sending my washing home in a day or two. There is one pair of socks, pants, one vest, one shirt, one collar and my three handkerchiefs. Well I will sign off now as I am going to catch the ‘liberty boat’ in ten minutes time.

Lots of love
Graham.

P.S. Excuse writing as I am doing it balanced on my knee.


 

Historical Note

The inoculations mentioned may have included typhus and tetanus.

20th March 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

I have a moment to spare so I thought I would drop you a few lines. I have my full address now, the P stands for Portsmouth which is the port division to which I have to report when I have finished my training. There are four port divisions – Portsmouth, Chatham, Lowestofte and Devenport.

I have been put in the starboard watch and was allowed out yesterday. We have to catch the ‘liberty boat’, that is a fleet of buses which runs down to Skegness. I went down with Norman and we thought the war was over. You can buy ice cream with MILK in and any amount of food. It was a treat to have a drink of tea with sugar in. We had a game of snooker and visited all the fairs and side shows in the town.

We had a plane crash here on Friday, I believe the crew were all killed. Saturday night the sirens went and we all had to go down the shelters. Luckily “Jerry” didn’t come near so we went back to bed again.

We tested our lifebelts today, it was a lovely feeling jumping into a tank full of water and having to rely on a lifebelt to keep you afloat. Still it worked so we didn’t mind so much.

Well I have got to sign off now as I am mess orderly and have to be in the mess in five minutes time.

Bye bye for now
Lots of love
Graham

p.s. Remember me to the gang and Mr A. x x x x x

20th March 1945

Dear Mom & Dad, and Jean,

I received your letter about two hours ago in the morning mail. I really expected it yesterday in the afternoon post as I posted the letter in the camp on Friday night so I guess it must have been delayed somewhere.

I saw Cliff A. on last Tuesday and Wednesday but I have not seen him since. It is easy to miss each other here as the camp is a terrific size, it is well over a mile from end to end. I agree with him that there is not much to eat, boy do we we “stuff” ourselves when we get shore leave into Skegness. We are going ashore again tonight so we shall not be too hungry tonight.

Is that boy from the Met called JAMES or JONES as Mr B. told me there was a chap named JONES coming to Skegness but the chap named JAMES used to be my mate for the last six months in ‘civvy’ street.

I am afraid I have not heard or even seen a wireless since I have been down here. The only broadcasts we have here are bugles to get us up in the morning etc. Bugles for breakfast, bugles for dinner, bugles for tea, bugles for supper, bugles for going to bed, bugles for turning the lights out, bugles to tell you when the tuck shop is open and bugles to tell you when you can ever smoke.

I have had my photograph taken, it is costing me a small fortune in fact. It costs 6/- for 5 postcard size in most of the photographers in Skegness. We are also having a class photograph taken which will cost us another three or four shillings.

IMG_20160321_230150474.jpg

My training will take ten months to complete providing everything goes according to plan.

Remember me to Jess O. if you go in there again and tell her I can get ice cream in Skegness but do they make us pay for it. Fourpence for a wafer, in about four licks it is all gone.

Don’t talk to me about fairs there is one in every other street in Skegness, every street you go down has arrows pointing to “Butlins fair ground” or “Amusement Arcade – Admission Free”.

We sleep in double bunks like in the shelter only made of iron. Norman sleeps on bottom deck while I sleep on top. We have eight double bunks and there is three other Birmingham boys in the dormitory and also one from Tipton.

We each have two hammocks, two mattress covers, one mattress (not very thick) three blankets and one pillow. I was frozen for the first night or two but I must have got used to it by now as I don’t get cold now.

Do you know what my present from the Met is yet? If you think it will be of any use to me then send it on but otherwise you had better keep it at home till I get back. I don’t know about being poverty stricken when I come home on leave I think I shall be broke before then.

I am getting used to uniform now but the only trouble is – my feet are killing me. We have stiff white collars on our shirts and our instructor has suggested that we send them home to be washed as we cannot do the ironing here, so don’t be surprised if you get a collar or two in a day or so. I haven’t packed my civvy parcel to come home except a pair of shoes and three handkerchiefs. I don’t expect they will get there before Friday or Saturday as it is Tuesday now.

I am on firewatch duty tomorrow luckily I am one of the lucky ones, I am on from 9-30 till 11-0 while Norman has to go on from 5-0 till 6-30.

We have to buy our own soap, gloves, handkerchiefs, scarfs and a lot of other nick nacks. It is a bit expensive at the moment but I suppose we only have to buy them once.

Tell dad we can get any amount of Brylcreem here so if he ever wants any just give me a tip and I’ll get him one.

I think I must have spent pounds on stamps, I have written to W-, B-, H- Rd, Aunty Edna, Roy twice, two mates from work and one from nightschool as well as four letters from me. Have you received them all safely, I wrote on Tuesday and Friday, one short letter Monday and this one. I have just seen the post van go so I don’t suppose you will receive this till Thursday.

Something must have gone wrong with the village F.C. to score 7 goals. Do you know who scored them all? I think there is an interclass match between us and a class from another division sometime this week so I might get a game.

I don’t need my football kit as all sports kit can be obtained from the stores. The Belgians are the ‘crack’ team down here. They recently played the rest of the camp and won by four goals to one.

I expect the betting is 10-1 on Ken Martin in the snooker handicap, I have heard he is a ‘good thing’ for the competition.

Well I had better sign off now as it is time to smarten myself up for ‘shore leave’ and that is something I don’t want to miss.

Lots of love for now
Graham
x x x x

p.s.
Remember me to all my ‘fans’ in the village and also the gang.

Excuse writing as it is a ticklish job writing on a bed across your knees.

 

18th March 1945

Dear Mum and Dad,

I am just settling down and have been posted to a class. The address above is not my full address as I have not yet got my number but that address will reach me.

I have passed my preliminary exams as an electrical mechanic, that is what the letters after my name stand for – Junior Probationary Electrical Mechanic.

I was kitted out today, I need a camel to carry it all around. Two uniforms, two tropical uniforms, two pairs pants, four vests, one Swallow raincoat, one overcoat, two pairs boots, three white shirts, six collars, two caps and a lifebelt, to mention just a part of my kit.

I have been transferred from the chalets where we used to live to dormitories and have managed to keep with the chap I have been with all along, Norman R. from Weston Super Mare. He is getting married in a months time if he can get leave. Next Tuesday we have to go to have our lifebelts tested. You put them on and jump into a big tank of water. If it fails then they fish you out with a boat hook.

I receive twenty four shillings a week and have alloted seven and sixpence per week to be sent home. It is collected from the village P.O.

I have had to fill in an electoral form in case there is a general election while I am abroad and have nominated Dad to vote for me by proxy.

That is if I am over twenty one when the election comes off.

I am sending my clothes home Monday so I expect them to be there Wednesday or Thursday.

The course I am on is a ten month course so maybe the war will be over by then.

I leave here on Mar 28th to start on my course properly. I believe it is to H.M.S. “Duke” at Malvern. I might be able to get a bit of leave then.

We have to get up at 5.30 each morning for breakfast.

We get lectures and exams then till 5.0, at night we usually go to the campus picture house. It is a big place about the size of the Sheldon the only difference being you can get in for threepence. This week we have seen Eddie Cantor and George Murphy in “Show Business”, Susan Peters in “Song of Russia” and Frank Sinatra in “Higher and Higher”. I have seen two football matches while I have been here in the “Stadium” that is the campus sports ground. About the size of the Durex ground with stands all along the one side.

We can get library books, pop, beer, chocolate, anything you want all at reduced prices, almost like prewar days.

Has Dad played his handicap yet, I’ll give him twenty one start when I come home.

Could you send me my swimming costume as I think there is a chance of getting some swimming lessons down here.

We had a plane crash just near here on Friday night on the beach at Skegness. It blew all the doors open here.

I must sign off now as I am going to another lecture.

Remember me to the “gang“.

All the best
Lots of love
Graham
xxxxxxxxx


 

Historical Notes

The Navy training camp at Skegness was called the HMS Royal Arthur. Formerly a Butlins holiday camp, it was commissioned as a training camp in September 1939 and remained so until August 1946.

According to the RAF Incident Logs for the 16th March 1945, the plane that crashed near Skegness was a Lancaster I, which crashed 18 minutes after takeoff, killing seven.