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

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.