19th July 1946

Dear Mom Dad & Jean,

I was very pleased to get your letter number 26 this morning and to hear that you had heard from me at last. I should think that my letter must have got held up somewhere as I know it wasn’t all that long between the times that I wrote. Still you heard eventually which is the main thing.

Glad to hear that Dad is settling down nicely at work now. I know all the men that you mention that he works with, Mr P. and Mr K. and Norman, tell Dad to ask Mr K. if he remembers the day when I set the sprinkler installation off on myself in the saw mill cellar. I am glad that quite a few of the chaps remember me, especially Will A. I had a letter from one of my old mates, Frank R., about a fortnight ago. I haven’t replied yet but probably shall write tonight or tomorrow.

I am afraid it isn’t quite as simple as all that about going home when you have done twelve months abroad. You used to stand a good chance some time ago but now as so many are going home for demob, well every ship that goes home is made use of and all high group numbers are drafted off the ship, usually at Colombo, to make way for lower groups. In any case the way I look at it, why go home, have leave, and then probably, almost certainly get drafted out foreign again when if I waited out here another three months when I did come home it would be for good.

Dad also seems to have been doing very well at sports at the Met. You ask whether I have ever been up the Sports Club, if you remember I used to play for the works Reserve football team before I joined up, well for about three months or so anyway. Billy B. used to run the football, has Dad met him yet?

Well we have been at Shanghai for over a fortnight now and are quite getting used to being moored in a river instead of right out in a harbour hundreds of yards from land. I went ashore the other night, Saturday, and had quite a good time ashore. I spent quite a lot of time in the Union Jack Club playing darts billiards snooker etc. It is the first time that I’ve picked up a snooker cue since I left England so I felt quite strange for a bit.

I am enclosing a few photos of Shanghai which should give you some idea of the place. No 1. shows you one of the biggest buildings the Park Hotel which is a wonderful sight. 2. shows you a close-up view of a typical section of a Chinese street. Notice the trams and rickshaws and how slim the average Chinese are. 3 is an aerial photo showing Soochow creek and the bridge across it. 4 shows a section of the continental quarter of the city. 5 shows some more big buildings overlooking Shanghai racecourse. 8 same as 2 showing more human taxis. Notice all the banners on the right denoting the tradesmen’s names and what they are selling. 6 and 7 two views of the main street and 9 and 10 show another big building the French Consulate.

Am also enclosing a couple of photos of the ship which I hope you like.

Well it is getting a bit late now so I am afraid I shall have to sign off until next time.

So all my love
Graham
x x x x x x x x

14th May 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I expect you have all been wondering why you haven’t heard from me for such a long time and wondering where I was. Well for a start off you can see that I have left Hong Kong and that I am writing from Japan. Well I may as well start from the beginning, to put it short, during the last month we have been on a cruise of Japan, we left Hong Kong and first of all came here to Yokohama. There is nothing particularly brilliant about Yokohama, the weather is typical Manchester weather it has rained pretty well every day that we have been here. We were supposed to play football one of the days but when we got ashore we found the pitch was in a hollow and was covered with six inches of water which soon put an end to all our ideas of sport. The place is one of the bases of the American occupation forces and are they not too friendly with our chaps. There is a very strict non-fraternisation ban on which is surprising considering the Yanks are in control.

Well we stayed here for about four days and then sailed to the Northern Island of Japan, Hakkoddai island, where we put in at the main port of the island, Hakodate. Here we got a much different welcome. There were not so many Yanks and they were definitely “all for us” because as soon as we went ashore, they had lorries waiting for us and drove us out to their camp about six miles out of Hakodate. And did they give us a time, plenty of food, sweets, ices, coca-colas and for those that drank, as much beer as they wanted. But the main thing that nearly everyone bought were cigars, we pretty well all bought a box full of 50, two or three different brands, “White Owl – Corona – coronas” which cost us the ridiculously cheap price of 60 yen which is worth £1-0-0. You should see our ship at night now, talk about Rothschild, everyone on the ship is smoking them down from the Captain to the Chinese mess boys.

Besides all this there was table tennis, darts, billiards (American version with no pockets on the table which I didn’t get the hang of) cards dominoes and literally hundreds of the latest records with all the stars from Sinatra singing “The Hose I Live In”  and the Ink Spots singing “Address Unknown” to Bing Crosby singing “The Lord’s Prayer”. Have you heard the singing that number by the way, I think it is one of their best. They also gave us about half a dozen books each, you know the small Forces editions of nearly every book and author you could think of. They certainly do things in a big way for their Forces.

When we went back to the ship that night it was quite funny, nearly everyone had the same thought as ourselves “Try and get a couple of bottles of beer on board for the chaps who are duty”. Well we are not allowed to take beer on board so the way we work it is ti leave the bottles in the motor boat, go on board, pass the officer on duty and then nip down the rope ladder to the boat, get the beer and then take it on board. Well I say everyone had the same thought and there were about fifty of us all with two or three bottles in the boat, well we passed the officer and everyone nipped down to the rope ladder very quietly at first but there were so many that it was soon more like a roughhouse and everyone was shouting for everyone else to be quiet. Well the officer on duty soon heard the rumpus and came along to investigate but luckily for us he was a decent chap and realising what was happening he turned away and went to the other side of the ship. Still after all that we got it on board safely so that was all that mattered to us.

From Hakodate we went further north to Otaru on the western side of Hakkoddai island where once again we got a marvellous welcome. We went alongside the wall there which made it much more convenient. All the time that we were there the Yanks were coming aboard, having a look over the ship, taking photos, stopping to dinner, tea and even supper. It’s a good job we had plenty of stores on board or else we should have starved for the rest of the trip.

When we went ashore we again had the time of our lives, the only difference being instead of all living in one camp they had taken over all the big buildings in the centre of the town and were using them as barracks. They still had their own cafes, clubs, picture houses and bars only they were in Jap buildings. I saw two pictures while I was there. Betty Grable in “The Dolly Sisters” and Dick Haymes in “State Fair” they were both musicals and were quite decent.

By the way we were very surprised when we first came ashore to see real snow, it had pretty well cleared in the town but they told us that even a month ago there was five feet in the town itself so you can see it is not all warm winds and sunshine out here. I’ll admit it wasn’t as bad as all that, it was quite mild during the day but at night and in the morning we certainly felt the cold. Its a good job that we didn’t get there about December or January as they were snowbound for six weeks so you can see the climate is much more severe than in England although Japan and England are more or less on the same latitude.

While we were there we went to Mass by an American padre in the Yankee cinema then went to the R.C. missionary church and went to the service there. We found out that it was run by a priest and German sisters. They seemed frightened to tell us that they were Germans when they knew we were British but after a while they began to talk a bit more. They all spoke perfect English in fact they teach English at the school that they run. The priest came from the Koln while all the three sisters came from the Rhus. The priest said he hadn’t heard from his family since just before the war and he doesn’t know whether they are dead or alive.

We also visited a Buddhist temple which was quite an experience. It was more like an antique shop, idols, gods, vases, flowers stuck everywhere. There are no seats just straw mats on the floor on which they get down and do their “daily dozen”. We had to take our shoes off when we went in or else we were insulting their gods.

We got more gifts than at Hakodate when we left Otaru, they heaped literally thousands of books on us, games of all descriptions, hundreds of records, footballs, baseball gear, rugby gear, ice skates and even thirty sets of skis. If Roosevelt had still been alive I bet he would have been pleased, there was certainly plenty of Allied comradeship here. Oh, by the way, an item which probably interests Uncle Harry, I bought a bottle of Japanese whisky for twenty yen – 6s/8d. for my mates who were duty which was by all accounts a “drop of good”.

From Otaru we went back to the Japanese mainland Honshu and called at Ominato, I didn’t go ashore myself but again our chaps had a good time by the amount of stuff they brought back on board with them. Then from Ominato we eventually headed south and headed back at Yokohama here, yesterday.

We got our first mail for five weeks as well. I got three from you although they are not up to date. I expect there are a couple more recent ones somewhere. I haven’t got your letters with me at the moment so I’m afraid I can’t answer any questions but will do so next time. I am writing this on watch by the way, the time is 2.30A.M. so it helps to keep me awake. I am on until 4A.M. then I turn in until 6.30 just have time to wash, have my breakfast and then I am on watch again from 8 until 12 dinnertime when I get the next twenty four hours off duty. We are working in four watches while we are in harbour. Two watches duty and two stand off, we do four hours on and four hours off for twenty four hours then get twenty four hours off.

We are staying here until next Friday then we are going to Shanghai for six weeks, its very grim down there according to what other ships have told us. From Shanghai we go back to Hong Kong for a refit which will take about eight weeks. I don’t know for certain where we are going from there but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is back home and that they keep me on board. If they don’t though it will just be a bit of bad luck and I shall have to try my luck with another ship.

By the way I expect you noticed the addition to my official number, Sto.1/c (Stoker, first class) I saw the engineer about a month ago and passed out. I don’t get paid the extra money yet as I have to wait until my service papers come before they can increase anyone’s pay. When I do get the increase though I shall put my allotment up a bit more, I might as well save as much as I can while I’m in the Navy.

I heard from Alan W. yesterday, you remember Jean’s favourite, he is still a Marine he is in the Gunnery and Torpedo branch now as a mechanic and seems quite pleased with himself. Do you remember when I parted from Norman and I said I hadn’t heard from him for ages. Well I have discovered the reason. Yesterday I had one of my own letters returned to me which I had written to him on June 20th last year giving him my then latest address which was Malvern. The letter had been cut open and my address taken off it and returned to me quite intact. Eleven months it had been in the post altogether.

Did Dad get my birthday card safely, I posted it late April as I knew we were going on the cruise and wouldn’t be able to send any letters so I expect he got it with quite a bit to spare.

How is Jean’s love affair going on nowadays? Has he popped the question yet? It looks as though she will beat me to the altar by a good few lengths yet.

Since I have been made first class I have taken off the boiler and am now the stoker for the turbo-generator which supplies all the electric power for the ship when we are at sea. We work in three watches at sea, so there are three of us altogether run the turbo between us.

By the way it doesn’t worry me two hoots where I sleep at Hobmoor. I’m sure buses going round the corner won’t disturb me. It’s a funny thing, I can go to sleep with a light by my hammock and the wireless on the bulkhead or wall just behind me, and yet any unusual sound during the night such as someone talking or someone coming down the ladder wakes me up. I suppose its just what you get used to.

Well, once again I think that is about all the news for this time so I shall have to close for the present
So until next time
All my love
Graham
x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x

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
xxxxxxxx

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
xxxxxxxxxxx

16th November 1945

A continuation of the previous letter.

We are now three days out of Capetown and the weather is not too brilliant, quite a keen wind blowing My watch is still keeping good time, it hasn’t lost a second yet, touch wood. Since we left Capetown we have had to put our watches on three hours which is three hours sleep that we have lost. Yesterday I finished off my box of Milk Tray so I have only got about 1/2 lb of caramels and two bars of chocolate left now.

I am enclosing some cuttings out of the “Cape Argus” which I think you will find interesting. It will give you a better description of our “day out” than I can give. Don’t destroy them though will you as I want to keep them. One of them also has a paragraph or two on the British soccer. I see the Blues beat Chelsea with three internationals paying for Wales and Lawton playing for his new club. What price did they pay for him by the way. Fancy Scotland beating Wales, I see Dearson was playing at back. Birmingham certainly have got quite a few backs haven’t they. Also the Villa are still hanging on behind them, 21 points apiece.

In one of the pictures it shows you the South Africans going ashore in a tug. Well it was boats like that that we climbed down onto and you can see the height of the “Aquitania” from one of the other photos so you can guess it was a ticklish job especially with a rough sea at the time. I wish I could have had a camera with me while we were in Table Bay, it was a marvellous sight to see the range of hills and Table Mountain and nestling around the foot of them the town itself. Half way up the mountains was a forest of palm trees which made a lovely contrast to the grey of the mountains and red and white of the buildings and the bright blue sea. It would have made a beautiful painting. Still when I am in Australia I shall definitely get a camera and if I come back to England this way then I shall make sure of getting some snaps. It was really worth taking.

Yesterday we heard on the wireless that 21 of the troops were missing in Capetown. Three of those were killed I know, two of them fell in the water trying to get ashore and were drowned and one of them collapsed while he was ashore and died. There were dozens of chaps got beat up while they were ashore in fights with the locals. We were told that it isn’t safe for us to walk around by ourselves at night. One chap, an Australian had a pick axe right through his shoulder but I think he will be alright as it didn’t hit the bone and they say he has been stitched up quite O.K. All the others who are missing are deserters I expect. Two Australians took their full kit ashore with them and intend staying there for a few months. They had both been in prison camps in Germany for three years and said they were barbed wire happy.

Well I think that is about all the news for the time being so I will sign off until next time,
So all my love,
Graham
x x x x x x x

P.S. Many happy returns of the day Mom & Jean. I am afraid I am a bit late but when I get to Australia I will see what I can buy for you and will send it on to you.

Remember me to all of the gang.
x x x x x x x

14th November 1945

Dear Mom & Dad & Jean,

I am writing this about a day out of Capetown which we left yesterday morning at ten thirty. I suppose you heard over the wireless how we all took “French leave” when leave was refused, and went ashore. It really was a sight for sore eyes, I don’t suppose I shall ever see anything like it again. Well in case you didn’t hear about it I will start from the beginning and tell you what caused all the trouble. We had been told that we should get leave when we got into Capetown and so when we got there we were all looking forward to going ashore. Owing to heavy seas at the time though we had to lie outside the harbour in Table Bay, but they told us that we would be going in the next morning, Monday. Well we lay outside all day Sunday and one of the small boats that came out to us had some Capetown papers on which told us that the people of Capetown had got everything ready to give us a good time when we went ashore. Well that fairly did it for about half the Australians on board decided to break off the ship and go ashore and so they climbed down ropes and ladders onto the tugs that were around the “Aquitania” and refused to get off. There were so many of them that nothing could be done about it and so the tugs had to take them ashore. Then the Commandant broadcast that there would be no shore leave and that all the men ashore would be punished. Still next morning as soon as the tugs came alongside the Navy started going ashore and by dinnertime there were only 1000 men left on board out of about five thousand. I went ashore about nine in the morning. As soon as I got on the jetty I walked out on to the main road which was through the dockyard and almost immediately a car pulled up and gave us a lift into the town of Capetown. There were three of us altogether. When we got into Capetown we had a walk around and had a look at the shops and the town itself. It really is the cleanest town that I have been in yet even in Britain, the streets were spotless, the shops and cinemas were all very modern and most of them were much bigger than the average British shop. There were Woolworth’s shops, Dolcis shoes and quite a lot of other well known British firms. You should have seen the stuff that was on sale as well. Suits, mens underwear, womens clothes without coupons but pretty expensive, jewellery which was very cheap. I bought myself a smashing watch for 16 shillings and so far it has kept excellent time. We made a check up in our mess after the men had come and well over three quarters of them have got at least one watch. Some of the Australians were buying them a dozen at a time. Then the sweets and chocolate, when we walked in the first sweet shop we nearly fell down, it was like prewar days! “Black Magic” – Cadbury’s “Milk Tray” – Cadbury 1lb blocks of Milk Chocolate – “Smarties” – chocolate caramels Fox’s Glacier Mints and all the old prewar brands. There is one thing, Britain certainly looks after her export trade well. I only wish that I had had £30 when I went ashore instead of £3.Then of course we had tons of fruit, oranges, apples, bananas, coconuts, pineapples and even those boxes of fruit that were cut up and soaked in sugar Chrystalised pineapple wasn’t it?

For dinner we had three fried eggs, two rashers of bacon, fried tomatoes, two sausages, pears and custard, a plate of bread and butter and a cup of coffee. I bet you’ll never guess the price, it was the terrific sum of 1/-. Does it make your mouth water.


The letter continues a few days later.

10th September 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a few lines to let you know that I have just about settled down here now, and have just about got to know my way around the camp. It is not a very big camp and there is only about a thousand men here so it not too bad. It is a good job that I came here and didn’t have to go to Portsmouth Barracks as it is absolutely packed out. I expect you have read in the papers that there are 25000 at the barracks whereas it is only supposed to accommodate 10000. We live in Army “Nissen” huts, twenty of us to each one, and sleep on bunks. There is a table in the centre of the room and also a window so it is quite a palace to what we have had at “Imperieuse”. Still I have only slept in the camp once as we are allowed ashore three nights out of four so I have gone into Portsmouth and slept at the Sailor’s Hostel, the Savoy Cafe. It is only a shilling a night so it is worth it just to sleep in between sheets.

The food here is very good as well so I hope that I stop here a good while. We fall in each morning and get detailed for work, sometimes we go out of the camp to Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, the Docky and on various farms in the district as working parties. If we get a job in we either get farming parties or working parties. Farming parties do all the gardening round the camp as they grow all their own vegetables here. Working parties can do anything, coaling parties, galley squad, wood party, or just cleaning up the camp

We get two weekends off every month, I get a long weekend next week, that is Friday dinner to Monday morning plus VJ makes it Wednesday. A fortnight later I get a short weekend which is Saturday dinner to Monday morning so I should be getting home pretty frequently. Of course I am liable for foreign draft all the while but you can never tell when you are going to get a draft chit. Some chaps get them the same day they get in camp while others hang on two or three months. As long as I don’t get on what they call the “Golden Hind” draft, it is either a draft to Australia on shore base or draft to Germany in occupation army in the German ports.

I have been to the pictures twice this week I have seen Betty Hatton, Charles Ruggles in “Incendiary Blonde” and Yvonne de Carlo in “Salome, where she danced” and Cora Sue Collins, David Reed in “Youth on Trial”, all of them were very good pictures especially the first two.

This afternoon we were given the afternoon off much to our surprise. When we fell in for work, the officer in charge said “All men in F.I. mess fall in on the extreme right” Well we thought we were in for it, we racked our brains and wondered what we had done. Then he said “This morning I was walking round your hut and having a look at the flower beds round it.” We thought he was going to tick us off for something to do with the garden. Then he went on “The garden is an absolute credit to your mess and you can all have the afternoon off in the mess.” We nearly dropped as he is usually a miserable devil. The other blokes were pretty jealous, you should have seen their faces.

By the way I had to ditch those tins as I couldn’t get them in my kit bag, if you send me another cake can you pack it without putting it in a tin then I shouldn’t have to worry about getting the tin back.

I received the papers O.K. before I left Plymouth, it was a surprise to get the football final. Could you send t on for me every week as it is a treat to be able to read all the local football reports. The Villa are doing well again, aren’t they, they did well to beat West Ham in London on Monday. I see George Cumming is the new skipper now that Alex Massie has finished, and that Jackie Martin is playing for them again. The Midland teams are still doing very well, it should be interesting to see who finishes the highest out of them.

Well I think that is about all for now so I will close down for the time being
All my love
Be seeing you soon
Graham
x  x  x  x  x  x
x  x  x  x  x  x

P.S. Excuse writing as I am in a hurry as I have to fall in at five for duty watch.