3rd July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad and Jean,

I received your very welcome letter dated 14-6-46 this morning. It certainly took longer to get to me than usually, but perhaps it was held back in Hong Kong until we returned here.

We arrived in at five thirty this morning, and we certainly got a promising welcome as it was drizzling with rain. Still I must say that it is quite an event here especially at this time of the year as it is just about at its hottest now. We are going into the dockyard tomorrow to start the refit so we shall be shutting down which will give us a break from watchkeeping for a while. It will certainly be a treat to go to sleep at night knowing you won’t get shaken at twelve or four. I am on watch at the moment by the way, it is just after one o’clock and I am on until four. I never thought I’d see the day when I should be able to stay awake from twelve until four in the morning without even dozing. I am getting to be as bad as Mr A. now aren’t I!

There is not much to go ashore for in Hong Kong now as in Hong Kong there is a cholera epidemic and two thirds of Hong Kong is out of bounds while at Kowloon, the other side of the harbour there is a smallpox epidemic. I expect we shall have to have another injection tomorrow as a protection against smallpox. That is the worst of it out here anywhere you go where there is an epidemic or disease onshore well you must be vaccinated whether you are going ashore or not. Still I suppose I shan’t always be a sailor.

I am pleased to say I wasn’t troubled with sea-sickness coming across from Shanghai to here this time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sea so calm since I’ve been out here. It really looked uncanny, looking in all directions and seeing nothing but sea not even a ripple, except those caused by the ship. It’s funny every time I go to sea, I always remember the song “I joined the Navy, to see the World, and what did I see – I saw the sea”.

I don’t know if I mentioned in my last letter or not, that I had managed to get a set of woman’s underwear. Silk, four piece set with nightdress slip, brassiers and “scanties”. I don’t know exactly what colour you would say it was, it’s a cross between yellow and pink really. Do you want me to save it until I come home or do you think it is worth taking the risk of sending it through the post? Personally I’d rather save it, but please yourself, if you think it will help your coupons out then I’ll take the risk.

On the films on board tonight I saw George Formby in “I didn’t do it” and last weekend I saw Laurel and Hardy in “The Bullfighters”. They were both very fair and I can’t say that I’d recommend either film to anyone.

I hope Jean passes the exam OK again. I suppose she will be taking the practical exam today according to the dates you gave in your letter. I suppose Colin is sitting for them as well isn’t he?

The “Wave King” that you mentioned, the one that the woman from Wimbushes’ son was on was here last time we were in Hong Kong but I couldn’t say for certain whether it is still here. I will have a look in the shipping lists in the papers tomorrow and find out. I don’t suppose I should be likely to meet him as I believe she is a merchant ship so we don’t come into contact with them often.

Glad to hear Will A. had called round and that you had quite a chat with him. He is pretty well a neighbour really as he lives by the “Yew Tree”. I wrote to him about a week ago so he will probably bring the letter round to show you.

If I remember rightly the one that you describe as the man with the nice voice in the Ink Spots Quartette died not long back and they have got a girl singing with them now. I haven’t heard them singing “Your feets too big”.

I have already mentioned in one of my letters that I received all the £3 safely, I should have thought you would have heard by now, but perhaps you haven’t had the letter yet.

I am pleased to hear Dad s still gong strong at work and also at sport. I think I ought to know Bob H. but I can’t seem to place him at the moment. Talking of tennis I see Britain’s remaining hope at Wimbledon, Mottram, got beat the other day. I still say Dinny Pails is my forecast.

I had a letter from Granny C. last week and she told me about the two rabbits that Dad shot. She also said that after Jean had described the intestines of it that nobody seemed too keen to eat it after that.

I see in this morning’s paper that the Atom bomb experiment on the American “scrap” fleet didn’t turn out the success they expected it to be. Personally I think it’s a good job really.

Well Mum I think I have just about answered all your questions in your letters and I can’t think of anything more at the moment so will close until next time.

Oh, I forgot, I am enclosing a couple of cuttings from the Shanghai papers about the boxing there. The headlines are wrong by the way as his name is McMundie. Still I think they are worth keeping as they are not many ships do as well as we did there.

Well until next time
All my love
Graham
xxxxxxx


Notes

Two nuclear tests were carried out at Bikini Atoll in July 1946. The first bomb was dropped from an aircraft, but dropped well off target and only sank five of the target ships. The second was an underwater explosion which ended up contaminating the target ships with radioactive seawater; although they were not all destroyed by the explosion, most were subsequently sunk as a result of the contamination.

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19th June 1946

Dear Mom Dad & Jean,

I was very pleased to get your letter number 26 this morning and to hear that you had heard from me at last. I should think that my letter must have got held up somewhere as I know it wasn’t all that long between the times that I wrote. Still you heard eventually which is the main thing.

Glad to hear that Dad is settling down nicely at work now. I know all the men that you mention that he works with, Mr P. and Mr K. and Norman, tell Dad to ask Mr K. if he remembers the day when I set the sprinkler installation off on myself in the saw mill cellar. I am glad that quite a few of the chaps remember me, especially Will A. I had a letter from one of my old mates, Frank R., about a fortnight ago. I haven’t replied yet but probably shall write tonight or tomorrow.

I am afraid it isn’t quite as simple as all that about going home when you have done twelve months abroad. You used to stand a good chance some time ago but now as so many are going home for demob, well every ship that goes home is made use of and all high group numbers are drafted off the ship, usually at Colombo, to make way for lower groups. In any case the way I look at it, why go home, have leave, and then probably, almost certainly get drafted out foreign again when if I waited out here another three months when I did come home it would be for good.

Dad also seems to have been doing very well at sports at the Met. You ask whether I have ever been up the Sports Club, if you remember I used to play for the works Reserve football team before I joined up, well for about three months or so anyway. Billy B. used to run the football, has Dad met him yet?

Well we have been at Shanghai for over a fortnight now and are quite getting used to being moored in a river instead of right out in a harbour hundreds of yards from land. I went ashore the other night, Saturday, and had quite a good time ashore. I spent quite a lot of time in the Union Jack Club playing darts billiards snooker etc. It is the first time that I’ve picked up a snooker cue since I left England so I felt quite strange for a bit.

I am enclosing a few photos of Shanghai which should give you some idea of the place. No 1. shows you one of the biggest buildings the Park Hotel which is a wonderful sight. 2. shows you a close-up view of a typical section of a Chinese street. Notice the trams and rickshaws and how slim the average Chinese are. 3 is an aerial photo showing Soochow creek and the bridge across it. 4 shows a section of the continental quarter of the city. 5 shows some more big buildings overlooking Shanghai racecourse. 8 same as 2 showing more human taxis. Notice all the banners on the right denoting the tradesmen’s names and what they are selling. 6 and 7 two views of the main street and 9 and 10 show another big building the French Consulate.

Am also enclosing a couple of photos of the ship which I hope you like.

Well it is getting a bit late now so I am afraid I shall have to sign off until next time.

So all my love
Graham
x x x x x x x x

1st June 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

So sorry that I haven’t written for nearly a fortnight but we have been “mooning” around and nobody seemed to know exactly where we were going to next. We left Yokohama with the intention of going to Shanghai but when we were only a day’s steaming from there we received a wireless message telling us to proceed to Hong Kong. Since we arrived there have been quite a few rumours. Some said that we were going to Saigon, Shanghai, Sydney, Auckland but as you can see by my address we are still pegging along here. I think we shall stop here until the refit and then probably go down to Sydney or Auckland for a visit. The latest rumour about going home is that we leave here in August and take our time visiting quite a few places eventually arriving in Portsmouth on December 1st. Still that is a bit too far ahead to consider yet.

The weather here is terribly clammy at the moment, it seems to take all life out of you, talk about sweat, it comes off in torrents. The trouble is it is not clean sweat but always leaves you terribly sticky. Still another month and it should be getting a little cooler here.

Did you read that about the demobbing announced by the New Government White Paper. According to that I shan’t get demobbed until about July 1948. At the demobbing rate they are going at the moment I should be out by about May 1947 so if they are going by the new rate it means that demobbing in the Navy will stop for a few months.

Am glad Dad got my birthday card O.K. I posted it before I went up to Japan as I didn’t know how long we would be there and I thought it might be late so I posted it early to make sure. Did you get my last letter safely, I posted that at Yokohama and is about the cruise of Northern Japan.

I hope your neck is better by now it certainly is a nuisance when you have to hold it in one position. I have had “vaccine fever” for the last four days, we had vaccinations against smallpox and I suppose it was the heat that caused us to feel a bit groggy but quite a few have had headaches sore throats and colds. Still mine is wearing off a bit now and I have just got a “tickly” cough and a stuffy nose.

By what you say about Dad’s job at the Midland it sounds as though he is on bus building or something to do with buses. Brunton was in charge of that when I was there and Potter was the Foreman. Ask Dad to remember me to the electrical dept chaps, especially Will Andrews and Frank Radford.

I think I shall need all my own coupons when I get home as don’t forget I haven’t got a suit now.

Oh by the way did you get those two envelopes I sent one with the “Nippon Times” in and the other with views of Hong Kong? I am getting quite a few decent souvenirs out here now although there is nothing really in the way of womens clothing that I’ve bought as-well can you imagine yourself wearing a Kimono and wooden clogs?

By the way an R.C. chaplain came on board yesterday and asked us to make a “confession” and to have a chat with him. Well I went and saw him and told him I’d never made a confession and that I didn’t know all that much about the “whys and the wherefores” of R.C. religion so he is going to give me some books to read. He was a very nice man and told me that he was pleased that I had the courage to go and see him and tell him as he said that nine times out of ten the people like myself are afraid to approach him. I bought a Rosary in Japan which is quite nice. The beads are green and there is quite a smart little cross on. It only cost me 30 Yen (10/-) which shows how cheap stuff like that is in Japan.

I have got another job now, I am watchkeeping on the Evaporator which makes all the ships drinking water. It is usually a leading stoker’s job but as being as such a lot of men have been drafted off they are looking to the future and training three of the higher group members.

I am also “caterer” of the mess now and have to buy all the mess’s food and provisions and decide what the meals will be so I am kept busy now making pudding every day and pastry. Last night I made “Toad in the Hole” for supper, today for tea we had a cake which was just right. I should think that you’ll be able to lie back and leave the cooking to me when I get home!!!!

Well I think that is all once again so I will close until next time. Please excuse writing as really it is quite a job to hold a fountain pen what with all the sweat and the heat.

All my love
Graham
p.s. I got the papers this morning telling about Dad selling the shop.

14th May 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I expect you have all been wondering why you haven’t heard from me for such a long time and wondering where I was. Well for a start off you can see that I have left Hong Kong and that I am writing from Japan. Well I may as well start from the beginning, to put it short, during the last month we have been on a cruise of Japan, we left Hong Kong and first of all came here to Yokohama. There is nothing particularly brilliant about Yokohama, the weather is typical Manchester weather it has rained pretty well every day that we have been here. We were supposed to play football one of the days but when we got ashore we found the pitch was in a hollow and was covered with six inches of water which soon put an end to all our ideas of sport. The place is one of the bases of the American occupation forces and are they not too friendly with our chaps. There is a very strict non-fraternisation ban on which is surprising considering the Yanks are in control.

Well we stayed here for about four days and then sailed to the Northern Island of Japan, Hakkoddai island, where we put in at the main port of the island, Hakodate. Here we got a much different welcome. There were not so many Yanks and they were definitely “all for us” because as soon as we went ashore, they had lorries waiting for us and drove us out to their camp about six miles out of Hakodate. And did they give us a time, plenty of food, sweets, ices, coca-colas and for those that drank, as much beer as they wanted. But the main thing that nearly everyone bought were cigars, we pretty well all bought a box full of 50, two or three different brands, “White Owl – Corona – coronas” which cost us the ridiculously cheap price of 60 yen which is worth £1-0-0. You should see our ship at night now, talk about Rothschild, everyone on the ship is smoking them down from the Captain to the Chinese mess boys.

Besides all this there was table tennis, darts, billiards (American version with no pockets on the table which I didn’t get the hang of) cards dominoes and literally hundreds of the latest records with all the stars from Sinatra singing “The Hose I Live In”  and the Ink Spots singing “Address Unknown” to Bing Crosby singing “The Lord’s Prayer”. Have you heard the singing that number by the way, I think it is one of their best. They also gave us about half a dozen books each, you know the small Forces editions of nearly every book and author you could think of. They certainly do things in a big way for their Forces.

When we went back to the ship that night it was quite funny, nearly everyone had the same thought as ourselves “Try and get a couple of bottles of beer on board for the chaps who are duty”. Well we are not allowed to take beer on board so the way we work it is ti leave the bottles in the motor boat, go on board, pass the officer on duty and then nip down the rope ladder to the boat, get the beer and then take it on board. Well I say everyone had the same thought and there were about fifty of us all with two or three bottles in the boat, well we passed the officer and everyone nipped down to the rope ladder very quietly at first but there were so many that it was soon more like a roughhouse and everyone was shouting for everyone else to be quiet. Well the officer on duty soon heard the rumpus and came along to investigate but luckily for us he was a decent chap and realising what was happening he turned away and went to the other side of the ship. Still after all that we got it on board safely so that was all that mattered to us.

From Hakodate we went further north to Otaru on the western side of Hakkoddai island where once again we got a marvellous welcome. We went alongside the wall there which made it much more convenient. All the time that we were there the Yanks were coming aboard, having a look over the ship, taking photos, stopping to dinner, tea and even supper. It’s a good job we had plenty of stores on board or else we should have starved for the rest of the trip.

When we went ashore we again had the time of our lives, the only difference being instead of all living in one camp they had taken over all the big buildings in the centre of the town and were using them as barracks. They still had their own cafes, clubs, picture houses and bars only they were in Jap buildings. I saw two pictures while I was there. Betty Grable in “The Dolly Sisters” and Dick Haymes in “State Fair” they were both musicals and were quite decent.

By the way we were very surprised when we first came ashore to see real snow, it had pretty well cleared in the town but they told us that even a month ago there was five feet in the town itself so you can see it is not all warm winds and sunshine out here. I’ll admit it wasn’t as bad as all that, it was quite mild during the day but at night and in the morning we certainly felt the cold. Its a good job that we didn’t get there about December or January as they were snowbound for six weeks so you can see the climate is much more severe than in England although Japan and England are more or less on the same latitude.

While we were there we went to Mass by an American padre in the Yankee cinema then went to the R.C. missionary church and went to the service there. We found out that it was run by a priest and German sisters. They seemed frightened to tell us that they were Germans when they knew we were British but after a while they began to talk a bit more. They all spoke perfect English in fact they teach English at the school that they run. The priest came from the Koln while all the three sisters came from the Rhus. The priest said he hadn’t heard from his family since just before the war and he doesn’t know whether they are dead or alive.

We also visited a Buddhist temple which was quite an experience. It was more like an antique shop, idols, gods, vases, flowers stuck everywhere. There are no seats just straw mats on the floor on which they get down and do their “daily dozen”. We had to take our shoes off when we went in or else we were insulting their gods.

We got more gifts than at Hakodate when we left Otaru, they heaped literally thousands of books on us, games of all descriptions, hundreds of records, footballs, baseball gear, rugby gear, ice skates and even thirty sets of skis. If Roosevelt had still been alive I bet he would have been pleased, there was certainly plenty of Allied comradeship here. Oh, by the way, an item which probably interests Uncle Harry, I bought a bottle of Japanese whisky for twenty yen – 6s/8d. for my mates who were duty which was by all accounts a “drop of good”.

From Otaru we went back to the Japanese mainland Honshu and called at Ominato, I didn’t go ashore myself but again our chaps had a good time by the amount of stuff they brought back on board with them. Then from Ominato we eventually headed south and headed back at Yokohama here, yesterday.

We got our first mail for five weeks as well. I got three from you although they are not up to date. I expect there are a couple more recent ones somewhere. I haven’t got your letters with me at the moment so I’m afraid I can’t answer any questions but will do so next time. I am writing this on watch by the way, the time is 2.30A.M. so it helps to keep me awake. I am on until 4A.M. then I turn in until 6.30 just have time to wash, have my breakfast and then I am on watch again from 8 until 12 dinnertime when I get the next twenty four hours off duty. We are working in four watches while we are in harbour. Two watches duty and two stand off, we do four hours on and four hours off for twenty four hours then get twenty four hours off.

We are staying here until next Friday then we are going to Shanghai for six weeks, its very grim down there according to what other ships have told us. From Shanghai we go back to Hong Kong for a refit which will take about eight weeks. I don’t know for certain where we are going from there but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is back home and that they keep me on board. If they don’t though it will just be a bit of bad luck and I shall have to try my luck with another ship.

By the way I expect you noticed the addition to my official number, Sto.1/c (Stoker, first class) I saw the engineer about a month ago and passed out. I don’t get paid the extra money yet as I have to wait until my service papers come before they can increase anyone’s pay. When I do get the increase though I shall put my allotment up a bit more, I might as well save as much as I can while I’m in the Navy.

I heard from Alan W. yesterday, you remember Jean’s favourite, he is still a Marine he is in the Gunnery and Torpedo branch now as a mechanic and seems quite pleased with himself. Do you remember when I parted from Norman and I said I hadn’t heard from him for ages. Well I have discovered the reason. Yesterday I had one of my own letters returned to me which I had written to him on June 20th last year giving him my then latest address which was Malvern. The letter had been cut open and my address taken off it and returned to me quite intact. Eleven months it had been in the post altogether.

Did Dad get my birthday card safely, I posted it late April as I knew we were going on the cruise and wouldn’t be able to send any letters so I expect he got it with quite a bit to spare.

How is Jean’s love affair going on nowadays? Has he popped the question yet? It looks as though she will beat me to the altar by a good few lengths yet.

Since I have been made first class I have taken off the boiler and am now the stoker for the turbo-generator which supplies all the electric power for the ship when we are at sea. We work in three watches at sea, so there are three of us altogether run the turbo between us.

By the way it doesn’t worry me two hoots where I sleep at Hobmoor. I’m sure buses going round the corner won’t disturb me. It’s a funny thing, I can go to sleep with a light by my hammock and the wireless on the bulkhead or wall just behind me, and yet any unusual sound during the night such as someone talking or someone coming down the ladder wakes me up. I suppose its just what you get used to.

Well, once again I think that is about all the news for this time so I shall have to close for the present
So until next time
All my love
Graham
x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x

3rd April 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a short letter to let you know I received your number 17 quite safely yesterday. I don’t expect I shall be able to write more than a couple of pages as I wrote to you last Saturday and to Jean on Monday and there hasn’t been anything fresh happened since then.

I had a letter from Barmouth yesterday as well as yours also one from Jess O. She said that she liked my photo very much and took it in to show Mr C. who said that he didn’t even know that I was in the Navy. Evidently I wasn’t as notorious in the village as I thought or else he would sure to have missed me. Do you realise I have been in over a year now?

Aunty Win spent most of her letter telling me about Uncle Fred and how the kids were looking forward to seeing him. It was a bit of bad luck for Aunty Edna wasn’t it! This is the tenth letter I have written today, don’t think I have nothing to do but it is always a half day on a Wednesday. The other nine were to Gilberstone Avenue, Mr. A., Barmouth, Whitehouse (youth club leader), Gilbert (night school mate), a flame from Sheldon, Jess, Norman R. and Dorothy H. Pretty busy aren’t I?

Am glad you liked the photo everyone said what a lot like Randolph Scott I looked. Cliff A, by the way is supposed to have contracted T.B. so wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get his ticket.

Don’t forget that it is not the first time that I have ‘followed in my father’s footsteps’ in the back bedroom. Do you remember when I used to go over to Granny C’s at the weekend about nine or ten years ago. Well I used to sleep there with Uncle Fred and I remember it used to be the bright spot of the weekend when he used to bring me a cup of Horlick’s and “tuppence” worth of chips in a piece of dirty old newspaper about midnight. Very tasty, very sweet.

Well I can’t think of anything more at the moment so I will close down until next time.

All my love
Graham

P.S. Did you get my last letter O.K. as there has been a plane crash and a lot of mail has been lost. I see there was also a crash with mail coming out here. I hope none of mine was on board.

1st April 1946

Dear Jean,

I am sorry that I haven’t written a reply to your last letter before but I don’t seem to have so much time for writing letters as I did when I was at Sydney. Still here goes!

You will probably know by now, through Bill B., that I hadn’t fractured my arm after all. The doctor on board said that he thought I had fractured it and he sent me ashore to the Chinese civilian hospital to have it X-rayed. They took three shots of it and found that there were no broken bones at all so I was lucky wasn’t I? Still the bone is very badly bruised and I can’t do my usual work. The last couple of days I have been Engineer’s messenger so I have had a pretty easy life. It has gone down a lot now though and I don’t have to wear a sling now, I think another week and it should be quite O.K. again.

I think it is pretty definite about us going to Japan on April 20th now. I hope we don’t stay there too long, you have to have a little respect for your neck in places like that.

Yesterday I saw the United Services play the Combined Chinese at football. It was a very exciting game and ended in a 2-2 draw. The Chinese centre half and goalkeeper were both brilliant and would easily get their place in any English team. All the same though the Services should have won because they were leading 2-1 when the goalkeeper went to punch the ball and didn’t connect properly and the Chinese centre forward only had to tap it into the net.

I see Villa and Birmingham re having a fight to win the league though Birmingham has the best chance as they are matches in hand. They have both done very well this year haven’t they!

I had a letter from Roy on Saturday and he said that Harry G. is going out with Dorrie T. of all people! and John D. is going out with Joan F., she certainly gets around a bit. That’s about the sixth or seventh isn’t it? What did you think about Margaret H.’s baby dying? A shame wasn’t it, I believe she died of haemorraghe (is that spelt right?)

Have you been to the pictures lately with your lover? I have seen three in the last fortnight, Fred McMurray Edward G. Robinson in “Double Indemnity”, Claudette Colbert, Joseph Colten and Shirley Temple in “Since You Went Away” and Edward G. Robinson, Margaret O’Brien in “Our Vines have Tender Grapes”. They were all very good pictures and I quite enjoyed them, especially the last one which is the best film that I have seen since I left Sydney.

Well I think that is about all for now Jean so I will close once again until next time.

I am enclosing a couple of combs, I hope you get them O.K. Did you get my last photo by the way?

So all my love
Your loving brother
Graham
xxxxx
P.S. Tell dad that Docker is favourite for the snooker handicap. He beat Alf Deeler and Alf Austin the same night!!

27th March 1946

Dear Mom Dad and Jean,

I expect you are wondering why I have written to you twice in one day but since I last wrote this afternoon I have had an accident so I thought I’d let you know in case you don’t hear from me for a while and begin to worry.

While I was coming off watch out of the boiler, the steel hatch fell on my arm and I have fractured my left arm. I have got to go to hospital tomorrow to have an X ray taken. If it is very bad I suppose they will keep me in so I thought it best to let you know now just in case. There is nothing really to worry about as it is not very painful as he has put something on to numb it so I don’t feel much.

So don’t worry if you don’t hear for a day or two, I shall be quite O.K.

All my love
Graham
x x x x x x x