22nd August 1946

Dear Mom Dad & Jean,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still O.K. and feeling pretty fit. I am sorry I haven’t written before but I haven’t heard from you for ten days and I have kept putting off writing expecting to get a letter. Still I had better drop you a short note and then I will probably write tomorrow or Saturday as I should think I am almost certain to get a letter then.

We have finished our refit now and we are just staying in Hong Kong for another week before we proceed to Shanghai to pick up the “Belfast” then we go on the North China cruise. Today we have been out on trials and I was watchkeeping in the Gear Room which means that I have now been watchkeeping in every part of the ship, boiler rooms, engine rooms and now gear room. Also during the last fortnight I have been on Diesel generators and Evaporators, that is making water, so that makes every type of machinery on  board, Turbo generators, diesel generators, steam compressors, C.O.2 machinery and evaporators. The Chief Stoker says that he is trying to put me through for my A.W.K. certificate (auxiliary watchkeeping certificate) which means to be capable of handling any type of machinery and every department in the ship. It is the final step before picking up the “hook”. It usually is about two years before you pick up the A.W.K. and after that it is up to yourself as to how long you wait before being made Leading Stoker. Personally I hope I am “outside” before I get a chance of leading stoker as you stand less chance of being demobbed. It would be much different if I was regular navy or if the war was on but when I have only got twelve months to do, it is hardly worth it is it?

We had a good picture on board here last night although I don’t suppose you would like as it was a real creepy murder. Dorothy McGuire and George Brent in “Spiral Staircase”. George Brent is a professor who takes it into his head to kill all girls who have a deformity such as a limp, a scar, a lisp or a stutter. Dorothy McGuire is his maid who was struck dumb at an early age, so he eventually takes it that she should be put out of her misery. He is foiled at the last minute by his invalid mother who shoots him. Dorothy McGuire was so panic stricken by her experience that the shock gives her back her voice and she marries the doctor who was trying to cure her.

Well I think I will close now as there is not much to tell you until I have heard from you so Bye-bye for the present.
All my love
Graham
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26th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a few more lines to let you know that I am still feeling quite O.K. and in good health. I am back on board again now after my fourteen days leave and I might tell you it took a bit of getting used to the heat again after being ore or less out in the open for so long. Still it is not really all that bad as there is only half the Ship’s Company at the moment so we are not crowded as much as usual.

We are going on well with the refit, the boilers have been cleaned now and nearly all the messes have been painted out. We are staying in the “Basin” which is in the dockyard for about another ten days, we shall probably be busy painting out the Boiler Rooms and Engine Room. Then about August 7th we go into dry dock and have the ships’ “props” and bottom scraped.

After that I am not sure where we shall be going to but the two rumours that are circulating at the moment are either going to Yokohama for trials and naval manoeuvres, or Shanghai Peking and Nanking on a “showing the flag”. The better rumour is that at Peking we are getting four days and are to be taken on an organised sight seeing tour of the city and surrounding country. Peking is supposed to be one of the most picturesque cities in China.

Still myself I wouldn’t mind which rumour is correct. Then there is another rumour that the ship then goes down to Sydney to load up with “food for Britain” and leaves for the U.K. in October but I think that is just a little too much to bank on just yet.

We have had two films on here since I came back. Vic Olwen and Margaret Lockwood in “I’ll Be Your Sweetheart” which was an old time musical and was quite funny. The other, which I thought was a very good film indeed, was Bette Davis in “The Corn is Green” and was the story of a typical uneducated Welsh Village in the heart of the mining country. The acting was very good and the people in the film were the same type as “How Green Was My Valley”.

It is definitely worth seeing if you get the chance and I know you would like it.

What do you think of the trouble in Palestine lately? Terrible thing at the St George Hotel wasn’t it. It’s a good job Uncle Fred is away from there now isn’t it.

How is Dad going on at work lately, has he got his leg up yet? I suppose Norman W. has left now hasn’t he?

How are you managing now with the bread rationing, it sounds pretty grim to me. They are cutting ours down on Monday bit I don’t think it will be quite so bad as yours even then.

By the way will you ask Dad to get my driving licence renewed please, I think it is due towards the end of August sometime.

Has Jean heard the results of her exams yet? I hope she manages to get through it will certainly be a good start won’t it.

Well Mom it is getting pretty late so I think I had better close until next time

So all my love
Graham
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Notes

The King David Hotel (not St George) in Jerusalem was the British administrative headquarters in Palestine. On the 22nd of July 1946, it was bombed by a right-wing group called Irgun, killing 91 people and injuring a further 46.

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
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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.

3rd January 1946

Dear Mom, Dad and Jean,

Just a line or two to let you know that I am still keeping very fit and out of trouble. I am still on leave at the moment but I have to return tomorrow at four in the afternoon. I am writing this in the Forces Quiet Room and have had to use Y.M.C.A. paper as I have run out of airgraphs. I have had a very quiet leave at the Nortons’ house with Reg, that is the Northampton fellow. We have spent the time rowing on the river, hiking in the mountains, going out in the car with the Nortons and when it was a bit cooler playing tennis on their own private course. Most of the people have them out here, hard courts that is so they are very cheap to make here as they usually make them out of the actual ground itself which rolls like concrete after a drop of rain, I bet you would have liked to spend a holiday at their home at any rate, no shortage of tennis balls, “Slazenger” rackets!!! Well we returned from there yesterday morning and since then we have been stopping at the British Centre and spending most of our time in the pictures. We have seen Lloyd Nolan and William Eythe in “The House on 92nd Street”, Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in “Anchors Aweigh” and Gail Russell and Diana Llyn in “Our Hearts were Young and Gay” that is the film of the best seller. They were all very good films the last two being comedies and the first being an unusual spy plot which is supposed to be the truth about the espionage attempts of the Germans to get the atom bomb secrets. And whoever says that Sinatra can sing should go and see “Anchors Aweigh”, they might change their mind.

Tonight we are going roller skating at Newtown, just outside Sydney, we are both getting pretty hot now! No falls at all lately, I am even beginning to teach other people.

I still don’t know where we are going to definitely yet still I suppose by the time I get back to ship tomorrow I shall probably find out something more definite than the “buzzes” that have been floating around lately.

I hope that there is some mail for me tomorrow when I get back, it is over a fortnight since I got any from U.K. I expect it has been held up at “Golden Hind”. The strike is over now although the electricity and gas restrictions are still on.

I  have read in the papers that there is a record cold spell coming over England now, there has been a nationwide fog over Xmas and the New Year as well hasn’t there? There has been a bit of a breeze blowing up today which has made it a bit cooler, though at the moment it really looks like rain.

Well Reg is waiting for me now so I will have to sign off for the moment.
So all my love
Graham
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P.S. Am not sure of number of letters but the last one I wrote was dated 29/12/45.

 


Note

The airgraph service was a way of saving weight and space on mail flights, in use from 1941 to July 1945 (by which time sending letters by air mail had become much easier and cheaper). Letters were photographed and the negatives flown to the destination country, where the letter was reprinted. Graham’s letters aren’t really airgraphs – most of them are written on air mail cards.

29th December 1945

Dear Mom & Dad & Jean,

At the moment of writing I am on leave and am writing this in the house of a Mr & Mrs Norton of Roseville, near Sydney. He is in the Australian Army and they seem decent people. I am spending my leave with another chap off the Trafalgar, Reg F. from Northampton. I have got leave until next Friday, January 4th and I started it yesterday. I came ashore intending to stay at the British Centre for my leave but last night after I came out of the pictures seeing Danny Kaye in “Wonder Man” and Tom Conway in “The Falcon in Hollywood”, I bumped into Reg and he suggested that we should go into the Methodist Hospitality Centre and see if we could get an address where to spend our leave. Well they said that everywhere was packed out but if we came back at two in the afternoon they would see if they could get us an address. So we messed around and at two they managed to get this address after ringing up about a dozen people.

Roseville, what I have seen of it, is not a very big place and seems pretty quiet so it will be a change from Sydney.

Yesterday H.M.S. “Formidable” and “Implacable” left Sydney for England with ex P.O.W.s and men from demobbing. You should have seen the crowds waiting to see them off, brass bands and such like. Most of the big ships out here are returning home shortly as there is a big naval review in March back home and they are fetching all the big ships for it. I hope that they send me back with them.

I received two Birmingham Mails during last week and also the local ‘rag’, it was good to see a decent paper again. Apart from that though I haven’t had any letters for just over a week. I suppose they have been delayed somewhere over Xmas. I shall have to wait another week until I go back to the ship so I hope there is some for me when I get back.

How is the weather back home now, have you had any snow yet? Some of the people here have never seen snow and very few of them have got overcoats. Business men walk around in shirt sleeves so you can tell it is pretty warm.

How is the football going on lately are the Midland clubs still going strong? Who is top scorer of the league by the way? I saw an article in the Pacific Poet that said that Edwards of the Villa was likely to be England’s centre forward in place of Lawton or Stubbins. Is it right? How is the village going on lately, are they top of the league yet? I expect the cup matches will start soon won’t they? What price Villa this year again? Favourites aren’t they?

Don Bradman the Australian batsman made a come back this week. He played for his old club South Australia for the first time since the war and made 68 and 52 not out in the second innings. Syd Barnes of New South Wales has also been getting plenty of runs lately. He has got over 500 runs in three innings, 193 167 and 152 not out. Not bad eh!

Well I think that is about all for this time once again so I shall have to close.

All my love
Your loving son and brother
Graham
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P.S. My signature tune now is “I’ll be home for Xmas” have you heard it?

23rd December 1945

Dear Mom & Dad & Jean,

I expect you have had my other short note telling you that I have got a ship at last. She is a pretty new ship, built during the war and is a battle class destroyer. That is a destroyer, slightly bigger than usual, built with a heavier armament on the lines of a battleship. She is also the flotilla leader of the destroyer squadron.

At the moment we are lying alongside a sister ship, H.M.S. “Camperdown” alongside the wharf in Sydney harbour. There are dozens of wellknown ships pretty near to us, H.M.S. “King George V”, H.M.S. “Berwick”, “Implacable”, “Indomnitable”, “Indefatigable”, “Pioneer”, “Glory”, and many others. The troopship that turned back in the Bay of Biscay due to engine trouble, the S.S. “Orion” came in this afternoon.

Last night I saw an old mate of mine from “Imperieuse” named Jim J. who came in yesterday on H.M.S. “Perseus”. My other mate, Eric D., is on H.M.S. “Glory” as working party so it looks as though we shall be split up.

Next Friday, I am going on six days leave though I don’t know where I shall go yet. I think I shall go to the British Centre and get an address. We sail from here on January 15th with about a dozen other ships and are going to Melbourne. We might go to New Zealand from there but if we don’t we shall go round to Fremantle on the West coast. Then to Singapore, Hong Kong and end up at Tokio. From there we are going on fleet exercises in and around the islands. After we have done that there is a possibility that we shall go to America and from there back to England in July. I hope that they don’t draft me off by then, that would just suit me down to the ground.

The ships company on board at the moment (that is me) are having an easy time as there is a big working party on board doing all the dirty work such as boiler parties and painting. There are only half the crew on board at the moment as the Starboard watch is on Xmas leave. I am duty on Xmas Day but am ashore on boxing day. I don’t expect there will be much doing though.

The food on board is excellent, we had roast potatoes and a lovely piece of pork for dinner Friday. Then we had a tin (large size 1lb 14ozs) of Yellow Cling peaches between two of us. They only cost us 1/3d a tin and so we do ourselves swell. We eat what we like see, we don’t have to eat what is for dinner on daily orders, we just prep our own meal and take it up to the galley to get it cooked.

On Friday I saw Franchot Tone and Susanna Foster in “That night with You” and Gloria Jean in “Fairy Tale Murder” and yesterday afternoon I saw Bing Crosby, Betty Hutton, Paulette Goddard, Alan Ludd, Dorothy Lamour, Eddie Bracken, Sonny Tufts in “Duffy’s Tavern”. They were all pretty good. I thought that the first was the best of the three.

I expect you are looking forward to Xmas now at home aren’t you, where are you going to? I hope you all have a good time, I should love to be with you, still I think I shall be home by next Christmas. I will keep my fingers crossed at any rate.

Well it is the bottom of the page again so I shall have to close until the next time. So all my love
Love and kisses
Graham
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8th November 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line or two to let you know that I am still O.K. and in the best of health. We are now two days off Capetown which we reach some time on Saturday morning. We are stopping there for four days and I believe that we are going ashore. I hope so as most of us are browned off with being on board and seeing nothing but sea for nearly a fortnight.

We had a good time while we were at Freetown with the natives. They came out in their native boats and brought bunches of bananas, oranges, coconuts, pineapples, silks, native slippers, native wicker baskets and pet monkeys and parrots and tried to sell them to us. I ought a bit bunch of bananas roughly about a hundred all told which cost me 2’/6d and about twenty to thirty about twenty to thirty oranges and half a dozen coconuts which cost me 3/-. I have still got plenty left but I don’t expect there will be all that many by the time I {illegible} Capetown.

We crossed the Equator two days ago so you can guess it is pretty hot around here. I am quite sunburnt already, that “schoolgirl complexion”. There are quite a few chaps who are in sickbay with sunburn but it is their own fault really as they spent all their time in the sun so they really asked for it.

The sea for the last week has been lovely and calm but at the moment it is getting rough again now that we are nearing the Cape so I expect I shall be spending my time on my bunk again before long/

We have pretty good entertainments on board now, pictures, concerts, plays, band concerts and gramophone records programmes including our own “Forces Favourites”. The picture that is on at the moment is “2000 Women” and is about the Women of Occupied France. I haven’t seen it yet but my mates say is is quite good. I spend most of my time playing draughts with my mate as we are all fed up with reading and it helps to pass the time away.

By the way did you get that bit photo of the ship O.K. I hope you did as I thought it was very good don’t you?

How has the village football club been going on lately? It seems ages since I had any news about them or the Villa and the Blues. Still I expect I shall get all the news when I get to Australia.

Have you been over to Droitwich lately? Has Teresa got herself “fixed up” yet? I expect it is a bit too wintry to go over there every weekend now though isn’t it? Have you been doing any good on the football pools lately or was it only beginners luck at the start of the season?

The food here is still pretty good, we usually get tinned fruit for pudding and tonight we had an ice cream as an extra.

Well I think that is about all I can manage to get on this letter so I am afraid I shall have to sign off until next time so
All my love
Your own son
Graham
x x x x x x x x
P.S. Remember me to all the gang!