24th April 1947

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a few more lines to let you know I am still O.K. and in the best of health. At the moment of writing we are at sea on five days exercise with the East Indies Fleet but we return to Trincomalee tonight about six. There are seven ships out altogether, the cruisers “Jamaica” and “Glasgow”, carriers “Glory” and “Theseus”, destroyers “Contest” and “Constance” and the oiler “Green Ranger”. We have had quite a lot of flying, making attacks on the cruisers and “Theseus” and on the airfield ashore which has been defended by the R.A.F. We haven’t had any crashes yet this trip but yesterday one of the flight deck hands got killed by the wing of a plane which caught him as the plane was landing. He was killed instantaneously so at least he didn’t suffer. Last night they had his funeral service and he was given a sailor’s burial. He was only eighteen and only joined the ship a couple of months ago. It shook the pilot up pretty badly but of course he couldn’t be blamed as of by rights the lad shouldn’t have been on the flight deck when planes are landing on.

I received two papers and your letter dated 11.4.47 on Monday, we had our own mail brought out to us, which was quite a surprise as we had all resigned ourselves to the thought that tomorrow would be the first chance we would have of getting any.

Glad to hear you have been having a decent drop of weather at last. I see the Navy has started wearing summer dress in U.K. which is an omen. I hope it is at least a little milder when I get home.

I haven’t seen “Frenchman’s Creek”, as a matter of fact I have only seen one film worth mention in the last week or so. That was “Night and Day” with Gary Grant as Cole Porter and Alexis Smith as his wife. It is the story of the life of Cole Porter and I really enjoyed it. Have you seen it? On board tonight is “A Matter of Life and Death” which I shall probably see tomorrow.

I haven’t played cricket since I last wrote as the weather hasn’t been too good lately. Last Friday I played hockey for the ship against “Jamaica” and we beat them 3-1. They have started an inter fleet knock out competition at hockey and football. The “Glory” won their first round of the hockey against R.N. ashore, that is the Dockyard, by 5 goals to 4. I didn’t play in that as I was duty watch and couldn’t get a sub.

Sorry to hear about Jean missing the biology practical exam again. Still as you say she is still young so perhaps next time she’ll manage it O.K.

What did you think of Bruce Woodcock the other night, I bet he was in agony the last six rounds. Still he’s proved that he can ‘take it!’ I expect he will be out of the ring for a few months now won’t he? Still apart from that I think Baski was too good for him. I bet the Baski-Louis fight will be a thriller.

Well Mom I think that once again that is about the lot so until next time
All my love
Graham
x  x  x  x  x  x

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7th April 1947

Dear Mom Dad & Jean,

Here I am once again with a few more lines in reply to your very welcome letter dated 29.3.47 that I received on Saturday. I was beginning to wonder when we were going to get any mail again as the ship hasn’t had any for a week. I suppose it is the bad weather that has been delaying it as usual. Talking of mail we have got to start paying for our mail again starting from May 1st which will be a bit of a nuisance especially getting near pay day. Still I shan’t have to put up with it much longer at any rate, I hope.

I still haven’t heard anything really definite about when the ship is going home but the dates we have got up to now are
May 10th leave Trincomalee
” 16th arrive Singapore
June 7th complete refit
” 20th leave Singapore
” 26th arrive Hong Kong
after that we are still doubtful but I think it is safe to say that another two or three weeks on top of that and the ship should be on its way home. While we are here in Trincomalee two or three days every week will be used up in flying exercises so it will all help to pass the time more quickly.

I have started another sport now, sailing. We have had a cutter out a couple of times during the last week finishing up with a dip in the sea. It is surprising really how fast you can travel when there is a good breeze blowing. I am also getting along fine with my swimming. The other day I learnt how to float on my back and am getting quite used to the idea now. I have only had one hockey match since I last wrote, versus H.M.S. “Glasgow”, who we managed to beat 3-1. I have had another couple of games of cricket for the ships team, one against H.M.S. “Highflyer”, the shore base who previously hadn’t lost a match this year. Luckily we had our full side out and rattled up 140 for 9 decl. against them. I scored 24 run out, we then dismissed them fairly easily for 51. The other match vs 16th Carrier Air Group (maintenance parties attached to the carriers out here), we ran up 91 of which I got 11 again run out, and dismissed them for 36. Today I am playing football versus the Supply in the “Glory” football league. Stokers “A” at the moment stand in the fourth place with a match in hand so if we win today it should bring us up into second place.

Glad to hear Mickey is getting over his “raw” deal over the winter. I expect he is a little happier now that the snow has gone isn’t he?

I have been seeing plenty of pictures as usual recently though none really outstanding. Last Monday we had Olivia de Havilland in “Dark Mirror”, Thursday we had Mickey Rooney in “Love Laughs at Andy Hardy” and yesterday when I was ashore with Ken R. I saw James Cagney in “13, Rue Madeleine” which was a story of American Secret Service during the war. Being American it was naturally a bit far fetched. Tonight on board we have a good film, “The Killers” I can’t remember who is in it at the moment but according to the lads who have seen it, it is very thrilling and exciting. So i don’t suppose I shall be able to recommend it to you!

Well Mom I think that is about all I shall be able to manage at the moment as our boat for football teams leaves in half an hour & I want to get a swill before I leave,
So for the time being,
All my love,
Graham
x x x x x
x x x x x

18th March 1947

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I expect you have all been wondering what has happened to me and why I  haven’t written for a week. Well I am still at Bombay but I haven’t felt much like writing what with one thing and another. At the moment we are out on the combined exercises with the Army and R.A.F. It is quite a ‘large do’, just like the real thing, the “Jamaica” and “Couvery” put up a naval bombardment about five this morning followed by an air attack on the “enemy” positions, which are held by the 16th Leicestershire Regiment. Then at dawn the landing craft went in and put the Koops ashore under air cover by the “Glory”‘s squadron. Later on this morning our squadrons will be attacking various ‘military objectives’ ashore and the whole area ashore should be ‘captured’ by D+13 hrs tonight (6p.m.). In charge of defensive operations ashore is the S.E.A.C. Civil, General Claude Auchinleck, Monty’s predecessor in North Africa. We shan’t be staying out all day as after noon there is no need for aircraft so we shall return to Bombay just after dinner.

I have only had one run ashore in Bombay yet, but I have been ashore three or four times playing hockey. It is quite a decent place, plenty of good pictures ashore, some quite new such as “Great Expectations” and “London Town”, two or three swimming baths, big eats and plenty of sports fields. There is hardly anything to give you any idea that the Indians were fighting each other a few weeks ago. When I went ashore I spent the afternoon swimming at the Breach Candy swimming baths, which is European only. At night we had a walk around doing a bit of shopping. I was quite laden when I got back on board.

At hockey we haven’t been doing too well. I have had three games for the ship’s teams during the last week. Last Sunday we played against an Indian Navy XI and lost by two goals to one. On Wednesday I played for the ships second XI against the same team and they really went to town and thrashed us five-one. Friday I played again for the 1st XI against the Leicestershire Regiment and they also beat us 3-0, finally Saturday I played goalkeeper for the Engine Room XI versus Communications in the ships knockout competition and we won this 2-0. I think we stand a very good chance of winning this as besides myself seven other members of the team play for either the 1st or 2nd XIs, so we have quite a good side.

We are staying here at Bombay until Thursday night when we go out again, back to Trincomalee I should think that we should be able to find out something more about the ships movements then.

By the way, I was listening to a radio programme from Radio S.E.A.C. Ceylon two or three nights ago and they broadcast a special notice to all “Brummies”. Mr George Blackmore, the “Gammont” cinema organist has offered to play requests for forces in the Far East for their relatives back home. He also offers to notify the people back home of the time of playing the request and the message. There were about a dozen times to pick from and I chose “Constantly” so probably you will be hearing something from him in a day or two. It was about Tuesday when I wrote to him.

I bet Colin was pleased that the doctors wouldn’t allow him to go back to camp when he came home. Still all the same he wouldn’t get so much of enjoyment out of it being on the sick list would he.

I was surprised to hear of Uncle Fred dying. I didn’t know he was all that ill. It is a good job for Aunty Nan that her children are all working and can look after her, isn’t it.

As you say, Ceylon is certainly a beautiful place but I’m afraid that we don’t look for beautiful countryside scenery when we are ashore. Ninety nine sailors out of a hundred when they go ashore look round for the nearest cafe for ‘big eats’. After that they usually have a look around for a picture house or a dance hall I usually choose the ‘flicks’.

Talking of pictures we have a good one on board tonight. Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in “Spellbound” which I shall probably see. The other two pictures we have had during the last week haven’t been particularly good, Googie Withers in “Rink String and Sealing Wax” and Mickey Rooney in “National Velvet”. Have you seen any of them?

I have just been told that I am playing hockey again for the ship’s team vs the “Small Ships” in the harbour. There are about eight ships in here so they should be able to get a fair side out.

Well Mom, I am afraid I can’t think of anything more to say at the mometn so I will sign off once more until next time
All my love as usual
Graham
x  x  x  x  x
x  x  x  x

10th February 1947

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Here I am once again to thank you for the very welcome letter that I received on Saturday. We are back in harbour once more after three days at sea, last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and at the moment are alongside the wall which certainly makes it better for going ashore with no liberty boats to catch. I don’t think we are doing any more manoeuvres now until the 18th when we leave for Trincomalee and Bombay.

I am glad you liked the photos that I sent you, also my mates, “Blue” F. was my mate then, and I used to always go ashore with him, but I think I told you in an earlier letter that he has since gone on draft to England. He went on the “Empress of Scotland” and I believe was due to reach Liverpool today, so I bet he is doing a “little” shivering. Ken R. who is my latest mate comes from Tyseley and is quite a decent chap. Neither of them drink which is rare to find out here. Most “matelots” have a “couple of wets” when they go ashore which is not too bad, but there are always quite a few don’t know when to stop.

I am glad I never started in England because taking it all round, none chaps out of teen who get in to trouble in the Navy owe it to being drunk. My mess is not too bad though, so I am really lucky. Mind you I am not exactly strict T.T. as I now draw my tot of rum every day, it can’t do me any harm as it is well watered down to 2 parts of water to 1 of run. In any case you’d be surprised the number of favours you can get done by the promise of “half a tot”, so it comes in handy at times.

You certainly are having a stiff winter this time aren’t you. In this morning paper it says that 10″ of snow fell yesterday, Sunday, in some parts of England and Wales, also that in the Midlands and North West, a 100% cut in industrial fuel starts from today. Shinwell is certainly taking a battering from the Press. Talk about the biter bit, he was always one of the leading lights against the Tories and their lack of power and ideas. Now he’s at the receiving end.

Weren’t there a lot of cancellations in the football. Still I see Birmingham really “went to town” against Manchester City, it’s a good job they did as there are three Manchester chaps on my mess and I should never have heard the last of it if Manchester had won, especially as all the week I had been saying – “What a shame, poor Manchester getting knocked out at this stage” and each time I said it I got howled down. Still I’ve got the last laugh.

Talking of sport, I am at last beginning to make a name for myself on board here. Apart from playing football for the “Stokers” I now play hockey and cricket for the “Engine Room Department” teams. Engine Room includes all the Petty Officers, Chiefs and Antificers, and Engineers so it is quite an achievement. At Cricket I play Wicket Keeper, yesterday we played against the “Bermuda” Engine Room Department. They beat us but it was very close, we scored 115 runs of which my share was twelve, and they got 127 runs. Behind the stumps I only managed to stump one and there were five extras. Incidentally the one I got out was second highest score for them with 35. At hockey I am the only stoker in the team, the rest being Petty Officers and Officers with one Leading Stoker. I play goal as usual, I have only had one game so far which was against the “Venerable” which we won 3-1. We are playing again on Wednesday, I believe, against the Bermuda. By the way I forgot to say that I received an “Argus” and “Blue Nail” yesterday which is the first football papers I’ve had addressed to the “Glory”.

You asks if the “Glory” is one of the new carriers, well she is not exactly new, but then again it was only April ’45 when she was first commissioned which is only two months longer than the “Trafalgar”. Our sister ship the “Venerable” is leaving for U.K. on February 18th, so you might see her on the news at the pictures when she arrives as she is sure to get a big welcome. When we arrive home we shall probably get a bigger one as we are senior carrier out here so when we arrive it will certainly be ‘quite a do’. By the way did I even tell you, the Jap surrender in New Guinea and all the Southern Islands was signed on board us.

Have you been to the pictures lately? I notice the Yanks are sitting up and taking notice at a few of our films lately aren’t they. I have seen a couple of good ones over the weekend. On board on Saturday I saw Stewart Granger, Jean Kent and Ann Crawford in “Caravan”. It was definitely a well acted film and had a good story to it but all the same it wasn’t my choice of type. The one that I saw last night though, I really did enjoy, I expect you have at least heard about it. John Garfield and Lana Turner in “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. There has been quite a few arguments in the British press about it, and the Yanks have been criticising “The Wicked Lady”. Both with the argument that they were suggestive.Well I have seen both of them now, and I admit the “Wicked Lady” was rather close, but as for “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, well I think it was well ‘within limits’ and the story is definitely plausible and could take place in everyday life. Still your ideas may be different to mine. Last Thursday I saw Joan Leslie, my heart throb, in “Rhapsody in Blue” the story of the life of George Gershwin. Despite Joan Leslie, though, I didn’t think it was much to talk about.

I had a letter from Mr W. of the Youth Club, about last Wednesday. He told me that the village is pretty well deserted now of young lands. I get Roy is lost for want of mates. I bet you can’t guess who is the new chairman, or rather chairwoman, of the Youth Club – Dorrie T., of all people. What a change from the last three – Ken D., Roy and John D. Can you imagine her conducting a monthly meeting?

Well Mom I think I have finished with all the news once more so for the present
Bye bye, and all my love
Graham
x  x  x  x  x  x
P.S. I liked the photo of Jean that you sent me!

P.P.S. So did the lads!!
x  x  x  x

27th March 1946

Dear Mom, Dad and Jean,

So sorry that I haven’t written for a week but we have been pretty busy cleaning and repairing the boilers just now so have not had much time for letter writing.

We are still at Hong Kong as you can see by the address but I don’t think we shall be here much longer. There are certainly plenty of rumours going around, some say we are going to Shanghai, some to Tokyo and today there is a rumour that it is back to Sydney which I hope is correct. Still we can’t really believe any of them so I shall have to wait and see what does happen. I certainly think we shall leave here though.

I am still doing very well at sport, this week I was elected captain of the Stokers’ football team, there were 40 votes altogether and I got 34 of them so it was pretty unanimous. We play our first match in the new Ships League tomorrow against Chief and Petty officers who won the last league only dropping one point. Last Monday week we played H.M.S. “Finistere” who have not lost a match coming out from England to here. They were certainly a good side, the best ships’ side that we have played so far but we managed to beat them by three goals to one. Last Wednesday we played the pick of the Navy team who are called H.M.S. “Nabcatcher”. They had eight of the usual side out and we expected to get the thrashing of our lives. After five minutes play our captain had his head cut open and was taken to hospital, that left us with ten men. They scored five goals in the next quarter of an hour so you can guess we were pretty “choka”. However we packed our goal and at half time the score was still five-nil. Directly after half time our centre forward reduced the arrears with a smashing solo dribble which certainly inspired our forwards for the next ten minutes they overwhelmed their defence and two more goals were netted by the centre forward who thus got his hat trick. From then on it was a terrific struggle with fast end to end play. However the loss of our skipper was too much and the increased their lead with ten minutes to go. I don’t know how we managed to keep them out after that as we were heading the ball out, kicking it out, kneeing it out but somehow we did and that was the final score 6-3. The Navy selection committee was at the match and their chairman said that it was the best Navy game that he had seen and considering the fact that we had only ten men it certainly was a good performance. Still we are having a replay shortly so we are hoping for better luck.

The day after we played H.M.S. “Hague” with five reserves in the side and lost by the only goal of the match. The last time we played them with a full side we got seven without reply.

By the way at the “Nabcatcher” match I meat Reasoon, one of the boys on the Skegness photo who I joined up with, also a leading hand who was in my mess on the “Aquitania”.

At hockey on Sunday we also came unstuck against the “Finisterre” losing by two goals to nil. Still our hockey team is mucked about too much by officers playing so we don’t worry so much about that.

I heard the commentaries of the semi finals over the wireless last weekend, they certainly sounded very exciting. Did you go the Villa Park match? I bet the Birmingham-Derby match was a real thriller. I notice Dearson hasn’t got his place in the team now. They certainly have plenty of players to choose from, I wonder whether Billy Hughes will get his place back in the team. I see Frank O’Donnell has left the Villa and has gone to Notts Forest. To think the Villa paid £1000 for him in 1938, they certainly didn’t get their money’s worth out of him.

I got your letter number 17 last Saturday which was very welcome. Bill B. also got Jean’s letter on Monday. Glad to hear that you have started getting tinned fruit through again. I bet you’ll enjoy it when you do open it won’t you? You don’t seem to be doing too badly with your shopping either.

I don’t expect the bells would worry me at night even if I slept in the front room. You’d be surprised what you can sleep through in this mob after you’ve been in a while (it’s over a year now by the way) it’s funny after doing a week or two of watchkeeping you drop off to sleep pretty well straight away and always wake up about ten minutes before you are due to go on watch, I can always reckon to wake up at ten to twelve or ten to four now if I know I have got to go on duty though when I am off duty I never wake up.

I heard from Norman the other day, he says he has got a “Golden Hind” draft so maybe I shall see him out here one of these fine days. He is a Petty Officer now by the way, he’s certainly had luck smiling in his direction.

What do you think of Margaret H’s baby dying after nine days. I bet it was a shock to them. She weighed 9 1/4 lbs at birth so she must have been quite a “bouncing” baby. He’s got home just too late to see her alive. Margaret nearly lost her life as she had to have a blood transfusion.

Did you get my last photo safely? Dorothy H. said she got hers O.K. so I should think you will have got yours O.K. by now.

I am glad to hear that the Russians have started to clear out of Persia. I thought there was going to be trouble over that lot and I am a bit too near to Russia for my liking if any trouble does start.

The weather is getting much warmer here now, we are dressed in tropical rig most of the day now, it is only during early morning and late at night that we put our “blues” on.

Well I don’t think there is much more to say now, I am enclosing a photo of the Japanese general who we took to Saigon by the way, he certainly looks a deadly piece of work doesn’t he!

So until next time all my love,
Bye bye,
Graham
x x x x x x

IMG_20170328_213435775

4th March 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th February 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-To be continued-


Historical Notes

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

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