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.

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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.

1st February 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I am so sorry that I haven’t written to you for over a fortnight but I expect you can guess I don’t get much time when we are at sea. Still here goes.

I left Sydney on Wednesday 16th January and went to Port Darwin right round the East coast of Australia through the Great Barrier Reef across the Gulf of Carpentaria and so to Port Darwin. It wasn’t a very interesting place as it is only small. We stayed there overnight and left the next morning at seven thirty. Then we headed north between the Money Isles and Goulbarn Isles up with Melville Isles on our left, through the Timor Sea and Banda Sea, between the Burn & Serang Isles, through the Celebes Group, across the Malucca Sea, Mindanoa on our right Luzon on our right across the China Sea and finally to Hong Kong. I think you should be able to follow that if you want to look it up.

The first two days I was seasick but the rest of the trip I didn’t do too badly. All the way we were watchkeeping, that is three watches Red, White & Blue, I was in Blue taking it in turns during the seven watches per day. The seven watches are afternoon watch (12 midday to 4), First dog (4 to 6), Last Dog (6 to 8), First Watch (8 to 12), Middle Watch (12 midnight to 4), Morning watch (4 to 8), Forenoon watch (8 to 12 midday) so you do every third watch which shares it out evenly. The only trouble is you never get a full night’s sleep and so during the day when you are off duty you usually spend sleeping. Then you have all your washing to do so you can see why I haven’t written before.

I am certainly getting handy now on board here, I am the mess tailor and do all the mending for my mates (got to get some money somehow, I haven’t been paid since I left “Golden Hind”) mending suits, putting patches in overalls, darning socks and although I say it myself they are definitely passable. Also I am the “duff maker” on the mess and have to make the pudding for dinner, you should taste some of my “jam turnovers” they are definitely the favourite of the lot.

Tonight I made a “toad in the hole” for nineteen though I don’t know how that will come out yet. I shall have to send you a recipe or two.

I have heard that we are only stopping here a week and that we move on next Friday to Shanghai and then to Tokio but of course I shall have to wait and see. Pity I missed Bill wasn’t it, to think the time he has been here and then I miss him by a fortnight. Still it is about time he got his “ticket” isn’t it!

I got your letter number 8 and Jean’s number 1 also one from Byron at Port Darwin so I didn’t miss them after all. I was surprised about selling the shop and moving. Who are the new people? I read Jean’s letter first, I couldn’t think where she was on about, she said “what do you think about us leaving?” and also I should have the back bedroom but no mention of where you were moving to – I had to open yours to find that out.

I think Nelly did very well to get £6 for my suit, I have had it three years haven’t I? Still I think I shall get a “civvy suit” of the Navy when I get demobbed.

Talking of toast I might tell you that’s all I ate for two days, toast and Oxo that’s about the only thing I could manage to keep down.

I am playing football for the Stokers XI tomorrow as right back against the Seamen. I don’t expect we shall win as they have got much more men to choose from than us but all the same it will be a game. It is much cooler here by the way, just about September weather at home so it is not so bad.

Well I shall have to close once again so for the time being,

all my love,
Graham
x x x x x x x x

P.S. That air mail that you sent cost sixpence! Ask for a “Forces Letter” next time as they are only 1 1/2 d.
P.P.S. They are also quicker

2nd November 1945

Dear Mom and Dad and Jean,

Just a line or two to let you know that I am still quite O.K. and have got over my first attacks of seasickness. At the moment I am sitting on my bunk in just my football shorts, the heat is terrific, in fact it is so hot that they won’t let anyone go on deck without a shirt and a hat in case they get sunstroke. It is about ten at the moment and the heat already is much more than the hottest summer day in England.

There are notices all over ship and they keep broadcasting, Don’t take too much sun, eat more salt, take salt water showers regularly, have you hair cut short and quite a lot of other Do’s and Don’ts. The journey is a little behind time and we don’t get into Freetown until tomorrow instead of today as originally announced so I thought I might as drop you another line as it will be a week or so before we can drop any more mail.

Have you received my air mail and the photograph of the ship yet? I have also got a little lifebelt made out of wood which has also got a photograph inscribed in it. I also managed to get two propelling pencils as well out of the canteen so I will see if I can post them on when I get to Sydney.

At the moment we are about 100 miles or so from Freetown and I expect you can see from a map how far down the coast of Africa that is so you can guess how hot it is.

Yesterday we saw a shoal, or whatever they call it, of flying fish. They were a very funny sight, they jump out of the water then glide through the air for a hundred yards or so before they dive into the water again.

The day before we passed through the Canary Islands, it was a treat to see some land again. They were very mountainous and looked a treat catching the morning sun, especially as there was a light haze lying over the mountains.

Yesterday for pudding we had tinned pineapples, boy did they go down well. We wondered what the Navy was coming to. The grub on the whole isn’t too bad, much better than I expected considering the conditions they have to work under. I expect before long though they will be giving us salads and other cold dishes I expect we shall get plenty of fruit as well.

How is the weather at the village now, I expect the winter has set in by now. We heard the attempt on the airspeed record had been put off owing to bad weather so I expect it is pretty general.

My job on board is galley utensil cleaning party and I have to clean all the pans dishes etc that are used to cook the meals. It is not such a bad job as it only comes along during meal times.

Well I will sign off until next time a it is getting near time for dinner,
So all my love
Graham
x x x x x x x x x x

P.S. Excuse writing as the weather is that hot that it is difficult to hold the pen owing to my sweaty hands.

30th October 1945

Tuesday

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line or two just to let you know that I am O.K. and just about getting used to the “life on the ocean wave”. At the moment of writing we are just about opposite Gibraltar (roughly) though of course there is no land to give us a clue. We haven’t seen any land since about ten on Sunday morning so you can guess we haven’t had much change of scenery. I have just had dinner the first meal since Sunday dinnertime as since then I have been violently seasick just lying on my bunk and every now and then making a dash for the bathroom. Not that I was on my own as there were dozens besides myself, crossing the Bay of Biscay was the worst as we came across in a gale, well so they tell me but I was too far gone to worry about that at the time. Still I think that I have just about got over it now, I hope.

Did you get my letter O.K. I posted it late Saturday night so I should think you got it by Monday or early Tuesday. I don’t expect you will get this until next Tuesday or Wednesday as I shan’t be able to post it until Friday and it usually takes air mails about three days to get to England so it should reach you about then. I hope by the time I get to Australia I shall have a nice pile of letters and paper waiting for me. I shall look forward to the “Brum Mail” as I don’t even know how the Villa got on last Saturday. There is a wireless on board but they didn’t start using it until yesterday. Still once I get out there I should think I shall get mail pretty regularly again. By the way I have only sent my address to you and Roy so far so if Granny C., Aunty Em, Edna, Teresa want to know my address will you pass it on to them. I expect Edna will want it for Fred though I should think he will be coming soon pretty soon. How long has he been abroad now, three or four years isn’t it. It certainly will be a long time before I see him, altogether it won’t be so far of six years.

The sea is beginning to get much calmer now and the weather much hotter, I expect tomorrow or Thursday we shall all be wearing tropical kit. It is beginning to make us sweat a bit more now all the same, and we are only two days and two nights sailing from England. Still I reckon I am going at the right time of the year, it will be summer by the time I get to Australia. Just in time for the cricket season.

By the way did you get Bill H.’s address, if he is still out there I can drop him a line or I might even bump into him if he is still at Sydney.

I have met quite a number of my old mates on board, two from when I was at Skegness, P. and F. I don’t think you know them though. P. had just had his teeth out and looked pretty miserable.

It’s a pity that Alan nor Geoff nor Norman are with me, Alan said in his last letter that he would be soon going abroad but he didn’t say where to. Still all the same there are hundreds of Marines on board so perhaps he may end up out at Australia.

How did the village go on last Saturday, I can’t understand why Jean doesn’t go down and see Johnny H., or was it Nobby that caught her eye, as well as Moggy. Still I expect she’s got enough to go on with for the time being at S. St.

Well I think that’s about all I can get on this letter so I will sign off until next time
All my love
Graham
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx