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

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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.