15th March 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

So sorry that I haven’t written for such a long again but I think I mentioned in my last letter that we were going out to Saigon in French Indo China. We arrived back here yesterday so we were gone for just over a week.

IMG_20170311_114158044
Caption reads: H.M.S. ‘Trafalgar’ alongside jetty at Saigon in French Indo-China (later re-named Vietnam) in March 1946. Ship had taken Japanese General back to Saigon to face war crimes court martial.

The main reason that we went to Saigon was to collect mail that has been held up owing to heavy storms that have prevented the mail planes taking off. We also took a Japanese war criminal, General Okado, who is wanted for trial for atrocities on the Indonese. He was a tough looking devil but I can’t say that he looked very perturbed at the fact that he was going to his death.

 

IMG_20170311_114214757.jpg
Caption reads: Japanese General Okado, wanted for war time atrocities in French Indo China, allowed out for exercise on board H.M.S. ‘Trafalgar’ en route to Saigon.

 

 

Saigon is the place where they have had a lot of trouble lately between the French and the Indonese. There was a bit of sniping going on while we were there. The town is about fifty miles up the Saigon River so you can guess it was quite a nice view going up river. We had plenty of fresh fruits while we were there, pineapples, bananas and coconuts. The town is roughly divided into two halfs, one where the French live and the other where the Annamites live in very primitive huts. The French quarter is very modern and is just like a British city. On the Sunday I went ashore and went to church in Saigon cathedral which is a very beautiful building. The service was conducted in French and I was just about able to gather a smattering about what the service was.

The climate there is terribly hot as it is in the tropical areas and it is quite a jungle just outside the city. We had to have anti malaria pills while we were there just in case.

Also while we were there we had two games of football. The first was against a Navy hospital ship which we won easily by seven goals to none. The second was against the R.A.F. and was a very tough match which we just managed to win by four goals to three.

I think we are going out again early next week though I don’t know where to yet. It may be only a “buzz” though. At the end of the month we are going to Shanghai which I don’t fancy very much. I don’t expect we shall stay there very long as we are the “senior” ship out here in the China Fleet now that the “Duke of York” has left home for Sydney so we shan’t be able stay away from the main base, which is here, for long.

I got two letters from you yesterday and also one from Jean so I will start with your No 15 first, dated Feb. 24th. I certainly was surprised to hear that Dad had sold out to the Coop, I thought it would probably be Wrensons or else some private trader. I bet Wrensons over the road don’t think such a lot of it. What price did they pay? Did they argue over the goodwill like the others that have been interested.

It sounds quite like a chain circle when you get a letter from me, I hope Uncle Fred got that last letter of mine safely and that it didn’t miss him when he left for home.

Bill H. certainly seems to be doing well for himself doesn’t he. I am surprised at him taking the Petty Officer rank though as it will make it harder for him to get demobbed. I see in the Pacific Fleet Notices that have just come out that the “Taurus” is en route from Fremantle so it looks as though he is heading for home.

Fancy Stan A. getting demobbed, the jammy devil, he has only been in about two years or so hasn’t he.

I would be glad if you could send me a bit of money I want to buy a new suit and I can never afford it out of my navy pay. I should think it would be safe sending it in an ordinary letter as so far there hasn’t any been lost.

Am glad to hear Dad beat C. in the snooker, I bet he was upset for a day or two as he always fancied his chance. Roy got knocked out by “Pop” C. though he said that he was glad that he lost to him in preference to some of the others.

Micky seems to have been having quite a game since arriving at his new home. I bet he will have quite a lot of fun chasing the strays that usually hang around the drive.

Have you still got the car by the way or did that go in with the shop.

I am afraid that I have forgotten what fish and chips taste like, the last time that I had any decent ones was when I was home when I pinched that weekend if I remember right that’s what I had for supper. I am still doing very well with my cakes and puddings, I made a cake this morning and when I went to fetch it from the galley the cook recommended me on it. I mixed it up until it tasted like “scraping out the dish” and I thought “that’ll do” and sure enough it did. Yesterday I made a steamed duff which was also very tasty. I shall certainly make someone a very good wife.

Well that seems about all for that letter so I’ll have a look at the other one which is the smallest. Sorry to hear that you hadn’t heard for such a long time. I expect the mail had been held up as there has been quite a lot of stoppages recently.

What sort of job is Dad getting at the Met factory, it will be pretty handy to get to even if he doesn’t go in the car, you can get a Midland Red pretty often past there. I wonder what job I shall get when I get “outside”. I am afraid that by then I shall have forgotten most of the electricity that I ever knew. Still I have always got a knowledge of a drawing office as a second choice.

Glad to hear that Mary was pleased that I remembered here, is she still working at the shop.

Roy told me about Frank P., I bet he is pretty “choka” fancy doing a trick like that and even having the cheek to take his money.

I will just answer a few of Jean’s questions and I think I shall have to call it a day as it is getting pretty late.

That Bill that wrote to you is a Leading Stoker on here. He came on about the same time as me although he has been out here about eighteen months. He is going home for demobbing any day as his relief came on board yesterday so he shouldn’t be long.

Eric that chap on the motor bike is on board H.M.S. “Avenger” which I think is an aircraft carrier and is still at Sydney.

I have lost most of my sunburn since I have been here as it gets really cold at times though I would rather have it like that in preference to the heat of Saigon.

I am enclosing an Indonesian “piastine” which is valued at eightpence halfpenny at the moment although it alters from time to time.

Did you get my last photo O.K. that one where I am standing with another boy. I am glad you liked the one in the frame of the ship. I have got one of the football team also in a frame and will send it on tomorrow or as soon as I cam get an envelope big enough for it.

What do you think of Birmingham in the cup now, I hope they win it don’t you. They certainly did well to knock six up against Bradford. I heard the commentaries of both matches over the wireless and it certainly sounded very exciting. Has Dad got any “long odds” on any teams this year? Even if he has he won’t win such a lot as Bolton are the best odds and they are only about 33-1 aren’t they?

Well I think I shall have to close now as it is twenty to twelve so until next time,
All my love,
Graham
x x x

P.S. I am posting a Saigon newspaper in another envelope. It is written in foreign “twang” but it will be alright as a souvenir
x x x x x


Notes

French Indo China is, of course, now called Vietnam.

Major General Okado Tasuku was tried as part of the Yokohama War Crimes Trials, which lasted over two years (from 1946 to 1948). Okado was found guilty of ordering the execution of a number of captured American pilots shortly before the end of the war, and he was hanged on the 17th of September 1949. He accepted responsibility for the killings, and his trial and execution were made into a film, Best Wishes for Tomorrow, in 2007.

 

4th March 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I am sorry that I haven’t written for such a long time but we have been to sea again at the end of last week. We were out three days on gunnery and torpedo drill. We are going out again tomorrow to Saigon the capital of French Indo China, we shall be there for about three days so it will be over a week before we get back.

I have got the photo of the ships football team in my case, I am having one framed like the last ships photo that I sent and I will send one on then. It is a pretty good photo, I think you will like it. I also had a photo taken with another of the lads off here but I have not seen that one yet.

I played football again last Wednesday against the Stokers of H.M.S. “Barfleur”. I was centre forward for our side as we were trying to strengthen the forward line a bit more. Playing for the “Barfleur’s” stokers also at centre forward was Charlie H. out of the R.’s. He is nearly due to go home as he has been out here about two years. We won by two goals to nil, I got one of them with a header.

Also the same day I played in goal at hockey for the ships team against H.M.S. “Barfleurs” team. We drew that match 3-3 so altogether I had quite a sporting day.

I haven’t had any mail for over a week now, they reckon it is being held up at Singapore owing to a heavy storm which has prevented any mail planes from taking off.

I heard the account of the Birmingham-Bradford match at Bradford over the wireless, it was certainly exciting especially as I knew the players. I think the Blues will get through to the next round now don’t you. I notice Bolton are doing very well again this year. I should think the odds for the semi-final team will be Birmingham Bolton Derby and Charlton although I hope Villa beat Derby so I have been telling everyone on the mess that they will walk it.

I am afraid I can’t think of anything more at the moment so I will close until next time. I am hoping that I shall get some letters in the morning and I shall be able to write a bit more then. So for the time being
All my love
Graham   xxx

P.S. Excuse writing as am on watch in half an hours time and I have got to have a wash I shall have to step on it
xxxxx x x

14th February 1946

-This is a continuation of yesterday’s letter.-

Here I am again, sorry I couldn’t finish the letter last night but we had an emergency call and had to “flash up” the borders. The match was also cancelled because of the emergency. Still nothing came of it as it was just an alarm. Today we are duty destroyer again instead of going to sea. We were again supposed to be playing football this afternoon against H.M.S. “Contest” but that match has also been cancelled. Still I expect we shall probably play one of them tomorrow, I hope so at any rate.

I had quite a few letters again this morning, two from you, one from Jean and an addressed envelope from Jean with nothing inside it. I wonder how that happened? Your two letters were numbered 12 and 13 the last one dated Feb 5th.

Dealing with number 12 first – I was surprised to hear about Margaret L. getting married, it seems that all my ‘old flames’ are getting ‘hitched’ doesn’t it.

Fancy Paul S. being at Capetown when I was there, its a pity that I missed him. Did you give him my address by the way?

I don’t expect that I shall have any chance of bumping into Aunt Pollie or your cousin at New Zealand. I should think that we shall gradually get nearer home now. The chaps on board here that have been to New Zealand say that it is the best place for hospitality that they have been to.

I shall keep an eye out for the “Newfoundland” when it comes in but I shall have a bit of a job finding Brian T. as I don’t even know whether he is a seaman or a stoker or what! Still I can try and find him!

Well that seems to be about all for letter 12 so here goes for No 13. Thank Granny K. for the £1 will you please. I will have to write to her again soon. At the moment I am absolutely “snowed under” with mail I have got about twelve people to reply to after this letter so I shall be pretty busy. I shall probably knock most of them off tonight.

I think I had better close for now or else I shan’t be able to send the letter by air mail. I shall probably be writing to Jean tomorrow or Saturday. I am enclosing a ten cent Hong Kong note that Jean might like.

So for the time being I shall have to say “cheerio”

All my love
Graham
xxxxxxxxxx

13th February 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a few lines to thank you very much for your letter which I received yesterday morning. I also got six “Birmingham Mails” this morning all of them dated November. They all had the Sydney address on so I suppose that is why they took such a long time to get here.

Since I last wrote to you I have been making quite a name for myself in the way of sport. Last Thursday I played cricket for the ship’s cricket team against a Command office’s XI. We made eighty eight runs which they easily got for the loss of only four wickets. I played wicket keeper and got eight runs.

On Saturday I played for the Stokers XI against the Torpedomen at football. I played right back in the first half and at half time the score was 0-0. In the second half I went centre half as he got hurt in a tackle. We scored twice then and won by 2-0. This is the first time that the Stokers have won a match. The ship’s selection committee was at the match and they picked me to play for the ship’s team as centre-half. I played again on Sunday for the ship against an unbeaten ship H.M.S. “Redpole”, the result was a 3-3 draw so we did pretty well. I think they deserved to win as they had most of the play during the second half.

Yesterday I played goalkeeper for the ship’s hockey team against an officer’s team. It was a very good game and was quite a thriller in the closing stages but we managed to keep them out and we won by 4 goals to 3.

Today I have again been picked for the ship’s side again as centre half. We are playing the Royal Engineers who are another of the “crack” sides around here. There will  be a navy selection committee in attendance to look out for men for a combined Navy side to play the Chinese 1st team who are unbeaten. They even beat the “Duke of York” side the other day and they are very food, so I shall have to be on my best behaviour. Not bad is it, representing the ship at three sports, all m mates are very envious as it gets me out of a lot of work.

Last week we went out twice, on Sunday we got called out to the aid of a flotilla of L.S.T.s who were in difficulties owing to a heavy gale that was blowing. We went out and after six hours sailing were wirelessed that they had reached harbour in Luzon so we headed back for Sydney. It was a very rough trip and I was sea sick most of the time. We got back in about midnight. Tuesday we went out on torpedo and gunnery trials but it was very calm so I wasn’t at all bad.

Tomorrow we are going out again on A.S.D.I.C. trials, that is Anti Submarine Detecting trials, I expect we shall be back in again about suppertime.

I got granny C’s pound quite safely last Wednesday, it will certainly come in handy. I shall probably write to her tomorrow or Friday though I shall have to send it to you as I am not sure of the address.

Glad to hear you got the photos O.K. I posted another photo of the ship this morning, it shows the ship just passing under Sydney bridge and I have had it frames and coloured so it should look nice on the mantlepiece. It cost 5 dollars, that is 6/3. It should have cost 8/- but I talked him down. If you see a silk scarf or something like that you say “how much?” and he will probably say “ten dollars” which is obviously too much. So you just turn up your nose and say “Too much” and start walking away. As soon as you walk away he shouts after you “Alright you can have it for eight dollars.” Everything you buy is like that, you can always knock them down a dollar or two. Cigarettes are the most valuable possession out here, you can get seven or eight dollars for fifty cigs. That is 8/- to 10/-. I suppose the people we sell them to go inland and sell them at a higher price still.

That song I told you about “I’ll be home for Xmas” is a real tune and was all the rage when I was in Australia.

Well I shall have to sign off for now as I want to get a shower before the match.

-To be continued-


Historical Notes

An L.S.T., or Landing Ship, Tank, was a ship designed to carry vehicles, cargo and troops to shore. They were used throughput World War II, with over a thousand being built from 1940 onwards by the US alone. The UK and Canada subsequently developed a new design and built around eighty, used from 1945.

A.S.D.I.C.s (the A.S.D. indeed standing for Anti-Submarine Division; I.C. came from the word ‘supersonics’, which was removed from the name for secrecy) was the forerunner to SONAR. A.S.D.I.C. was in development by the British from 1912 onwards. During World War II, the now widely-used technology was shared with the U.S.

1st February 1946

Dear Jean,

So sorry that I haven’t replied to your letter that I received at Port Darwin before but honestly this is the first opportunity that I have had.

The reason that letters are getting to you quicker than yours are getting to me is because mail to England should only take five days from Australia whereas it takes ten to get out to Australia. I don’t know what the service is like from here, I don’t expect I shall get much though as we shall be moving about quite a lot in the near future. Still I don’t mind that, it will certainly be better than staying here too long.

The weather here is not so hot as it was in Sydney, well not at the moment at any rate you can’t really tell by one day can you? As I have mentioned in my letter to Mom we are playing football tomorrow (I think it is tomorrow) so if it is like it was today it won’t be too bad. Still I reckon I am getting used to heat by now. In the boiler room there is an average heat of 110 to 120 or more degrees so you can guess it is pretty warm.

I expect it is getting a bit warmer at home now isn’t it? I should imagine it has been a pretty severe winter this year hasn’t it?

I will be handy for you for school when you move won’t it, the bus that passes by the door goes across, I think. Also handy for the pictures with your boy friend. It is funny that I was born just a few doors away and now after seventeen years I should pretty well return to my birthplace. Well I presume I shall return there, at least I hope I am not in that ling that you leave before I get demobbed.

It is a pity that I missed Bill H. just by a fortnight I should have liked to have seen him before he went home. Don’t forget if you hear of any other village boys that are out here just let me have their addresses and I will keep my eyes open for them.

Well I shall have to close for the time being so until next time
All my love
Your brother Graham
x x x x x x

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

15th January 1946

Dear Mom Dad and Jean,

Just a short note to let you know that I am still O.K. before leaving Sydney. I expect it will be a fortnight or a month before you hear from me again so if you don’t hear from me don’t worry as I shall be O.U.

As far as I know now, we are sailing from here at 0730 on Thursday morning and are going to Hong Kong via Port Darwin which is about four days journey from here. We are refueling there and then continue to Hong Kong and Shanghai. Apart from that there is nothing else definite at all so it will have to be another time before I can tell you anything else.

Have you got the photo of the ship yet? By the way the photo for the papers didn’t come out so can’t send you one on. Still I believe they are going to retake it tomorrow so I will see what can do then. I don’t expect we shall be able to post them until Hong Kong as they will have to be developed on board which will sure to take a day or two.

I hear young Denis S. has got his “crawling up” papers. I don’t know whether I mentioned it last time.

Well I really have nothing else to say so I will close this short letter. I will write again at the first opportunity.

All my love
Graham
x x x x x x x