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
xxxxxxx


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 May 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line to let you know that I am O.K. before I go to Portsmouth. I am sorry I didn’t write before but I had my second inoculation on Tuesday and I have not been feeling too grand. Apart from stiffness now though I feel quite alright.

Tell Jess O. that I have received the letter but am not bothering to reply to it until I get my address at H.M.S. “Vernon”.

We have passed out at seamanship and shooting. I scored nineteen out of twenty on the range which was pretty good shooting considering I haven’t done any before.

I haven’t received the washing yet, I expect I shall get that today, though.

I saw the Nazi atrocity film in Malvern on Tuesday, it is a lot worse than the pictures in the papers. Quite a lot of the civilians refused to look at it and turned their heads away.

Well I can’t write any more at the moment as I have got to fall in for medical examinations.

Bye bye till I get to Portsmouth.
Lots of love
Graham.

P.S. Am expecting to be home in a month on a decent leave according to what we have been told.


Historical Notes

The Nazi atrocity film may have been Behind the Swastika. This highly distressing film includes video of severely injured, dead and dying men, many of whom were starving. It was filmed mostly at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which had been liberated by the British on the 15th of April.

The HMS Vernon was another onshore training establishment, which in early 1945 had a number of sites along the south coast of England. It specialised in mine removal.

17th April 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line to let you know that I arrived safely back at camp on Sunday. At the moment I am not feeling so well as I have got a touch of vaccine fever. “Taffy” is in sick bay where he is under observation for two or three days. Most of the class have the same complaint and there are quite a few in beside ‘Taffy’. I didn’t bother to go in myself and have felt pretty rotten all day. I had a shower after tea and it bucked me up a bit.

We are on Drake fire party tonight and have to report at nine. I shall try and get out of it and get to bed early.

This morning we were on work ship duty and I had to do a spot of gardening. We planted about an acre of runner beans, I shall certainly be versatile when I come on leave.

Norman came back last night from his short leave, he didn’t seem very pleased with his return to Navy life.

All leave has been stopped in Frobisher division as one of the men was three hours adrift. Luckily it doesn’t apply to us so I am still living in hopes that I shall be home Saturday. I have put my application in, I think I shall get it alright.

I had my cap ‘pinched’ this morning while I was having a wash and so far I have not got it back yet.

We have knocked a hole in the sandwich and have had one slice off the big cake. The sandwich went down very well. It was a change from the cake we get here.

Don’t forget to send Aunty Win one of the photographs if you get them from Skegness. When you get the others developed send them along so that I can see them.

I am posting my washing tonight. I expect you will get it on Thursday or Friday.

How is the snooker handicap going on now?

Well I will sign off for now.
Hoping to see you Saturday
Lots of love
Graham
xxxxx

8th April 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

I hope by this time that you have received my washing safely. I am enclosing one of my latest photographs, I think this is a good one. I hope you like it.

I have bought a hair comb here in camp, it is a good one, you know the big type. I will forward it on when I send my pants home. I nearly dropped when they told me the price.

I had my first naval haircut yesterday, I felt as though I had been scalped, I used to think Dick I. was bad enough.

We had our first vaccination reading yesterday, there were only twelve out of forty of us who had taken. I am one of the lucky ones, because all those that had not taken have got to have another one.

Norman has not taken so far but he says he does not mind as he is getting married next week, the vaccination does not hurt until ten days which is his wedding day. We have got well into our course now last Wednesday we started on rifle drill. I thought squad drill was bad enough, but this certainly has it beat for making you ache.

Did you listen to “Music of the Footlights” on the wireless last night from nine fifteen until ten. It was played by the B.B.C. Theatre Orchestra and sung by the B.B.C. Theatre Chorus with Irene Eisinger and Roderick Jones as soloists. Stanford Robinson was the producer of the show and also conducted the Orchestra.

He gave a concert from eight fifteen until ten here last night and the programme I have mentioned was broadcast from here. He played the Overture “The Bartered Bride” – the Intermezzo “Cavalleria Rusticana” – the Aria “Voi de sapete” and “In uomini in Soldati” then the suite from the Opera “Carmen”. The rest of the programme was the B.B.C. feature “Music of the Footlights”.

The orchestra has sixty players in it and the chorus has five men and five women as well as the two soloists. All this lot was on the stage in the cinema so you can guess the size of the cinema. We got in for the usual price, threepence, we were lucky (Norman & I) as we had just come back on shore leave from Skegness and as the ratings seats were all occupied we were allowed to sit in the officers seats. Did we feel good, best seats in the house for threepence.

We have got to get up at four on Wednesday and catch the six thirty train from Skegness. The route we are taking is Lincoln, Doncaster, Leeds, Manchester, Burton, Worcester, Malvern, quite a nice little journey. All the men on draft on Wednesday go on this train and leave the train at the various stations mentioned from where they catch their connections for their campus. We arrive at Malvern at four so we shall be a bit browned off by the time we get there.

There are some chaps in the next dormitory who have come from Malvern and they say that from Malvern it is possible to get a sleeping out pass if you live in Birmingham so I may be able to get home.

I had a letter from Harold W. last Wednesday telling me about the football team. They certainly have started back to their old form lately. Talking of football I heard the Cup Final on Saturday in a cafe in Skegness. I got there about ten minutes before Chelsea’s first goal just before half time and heard all the rest of it. It is about the first time I have heard the wireless since I have been here. Well I will sign off for now as it is nearly teatime so I will say
Bye bye for now
Lots of love
Graham
xxxxxxx

P.S. Remember me to the gang and tell them I hope to see them soon.

P.P.S. Have you any envelopes that will take post cards?


Historical Notes

Music of the Footlights was broadcast on General Forces Programme on Saturday nights (and, later, Wednesday afternoons) from November 1944 to April 1945. It was produced by ENSA (the Entertainments National Service Association, set up to provide entertainment for the Armed Forces during the Second World War).

The Football League War Cup replaced the FA Cup during the Second World War. The match to which Graham listened was the South Final, in which Chelsea beat Millwall 2-0. The Cup Final (Chelsea 1-2 Bolton Wanderers) took place on the 2nd of June 1945.

 

25th March 1945

Dear Jean,

Many thanks for your letter it was very welcome. I except when I come on leave I shall listen to Forces Favourites. I am collecting my photographs this afternoon so I will send them on when I get them. I have met the boy James from the Met and also one of my mates from school who was sent down here the week after I came. Tell mom I received the two parcels, the big one yesterday and the small one this morning. We knocked a hole in the cake in bed last night, it was a treat to have some home made cake.

We had some bad news this morning, our draft to Malvern has been cancelled and I have to do my squad drill and P.T. course here. The course lasts for six weeks and at the end we get forty eight hours leave. Then we go to Portsmouth and at the end of the course I think we get seven days leave. We had our first inoculation Thursday, it nearly killed us. We could not move our arms on Friday, there is a great swelling in the back of my arm and it is now dinnertime Saturday and we can just about move it now. It was a bit different from the one we had at Dr Honigs-Bergers. We have two more inoculations to have yet. The first was 25 c.c. the next is 50 c.c. and the third is 100 c.c. Then we have to have a vaccination so we shall be mighty sore for a week or so.

Tell mom that I am sending my washing home in a day or two. There is one pair of socks, pants, one vest, one shirt, one collar and my three handkerchiefs. Well I will sign off now as I am going to catch the ‘liberty boat’ in ten minutes time.

Lots of love
Graham.

P.S. Excuse writing as I am doing it balanced on my knee.


 

Historical Note

The inoculations mentioned may have included typhus and tetanus.