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

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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!!

16th October 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line or two to let you know all the ‘latest news’. I am afraid it looks as though I shall be unlucky for more leave as I had a draft chit the day after I rang you up for “Golden Hind” and as the draft was supposed to go today they wouldn’t grant me any more leave. I don’t know where the draft is going to as it is a “mystery” draft and nobody knows where it is going to officially until they get into Barracks. It usually goes to Germany or Australia and more often than not to the latter. Still if I haven’t gone on draft by the weekend then I will “pinch” one.

I tried to get home last weekend but the train from Portsmouth to London was late and I missed the Birmingham train. Well there wasn’t another for two hours so I didn’t think it was worth going home then so instead I went to the Paramount in Tottenham Court Rd. I saw Fred McMurray and Lloyd Nolan in “Captain Eddie” and Joel McCrea in “Banjo on my Knee”. They were both very good pictures especially the first one which was about Eddie Rickenbacker the American motorist and flying ace of the first war. It isn’t a war picture though as it more or less deals with his private life.

What do you think of the football last Saturday, the Midland clubs got a thrashing or two didn’t they. The Villa have been doing well with their gates lately as well. Three 50000 gates in a row, a nice bit of income tax, or entertainment tax whatever they take off them, I expect.

How has the village been going on over the weekend, did they manage to win again.

What has the weather been like lately round Birmingham, it has been like summer down here for a week now, there has been no rain for sixteen days now.

Well I can’t think of anything more to say at the moment so I will sign off until next time.

All my love
Graham
x  x  x  x  x  x  x

10th October 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a few lines to thank you for the papers which I received today and the letter which I received yesterday. As you can see by my address I still haven’t moved from Havant, I should have left over the weekend but it was cancelled the night before.

Since I arrived back here I have been to the pictures three times, twice in Portsmouth and once in the camp. The pictures I have seen are “Diamond Horseshoe” with Betty Grable and Dick Haymes, “Tampico” with Edward G. Robinson, Lynn Bari, Victor McGlagen, and “Mr Skeffington” with Bette Davis. I didn’t think much of the first one but the other two were very good indeed especially “Mr Skeffington” it is one of the best that I have seen Bette Davis. It is definitely worth seeing and I think you’d enjoy it.

On Saturday I saw Portsmouth play Leicester City, it was a very good game but I don’t think that Leicester deserved to lose by two goals to nil Frank Soo was captain for Leicester and he played a smashing game. Septimus Smith, the left half, was also very good. The two best players on the field though were the goalkeepers, Walker of Portsmouth and Graham of Leicester, they both saved certain goals time and time again.

How did the village team get on Saturday, Johnny Harris and Constable didn’t play did they? They seem to be bucking up a bit lately now, I expect they have got used to playing with each other by now.

Well I can’t think of anything more to say at the moment so I will sign off until next time

All my love
Graham
P.T.O. x x x x x x x x

P.S. Do you know what time that Forces train leaves Birmingham on Saturday night for London? Is it 10.30 or 11.30?