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.

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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 theĀ 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.