26th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a few more lines to let you know that I am still feeling quite O.K. and in good health. I am back on board again now after my fourteen days leave and I might tell you it took a bit of getting used to the heat again after being ore or less out in the open for so long. Still it is not really all that bad as there is only half the Ship’s Company at the moment so we are not crowded as much as usual.

We are going on well with the refit, the boilers have been cleaned now and nearly all the messes have been painted out. We are staying in the “Basin” which is in the dockyard for about another ten days, we shall probably be busy painting out the Boiler Rooms and Engine Room. Then about August 7th we go into dry dock and have the ships’ “props” and bottom scraped.

After that I am not sure where we shall be going to but the two rumours that are circulating at the moment are either going to Yokohama for trials and naval manoeuvres, or Shanghai Peking and Nanking on a “showing the flag”. The better rumour is that at Peking we are getting four days and are to be taken on an organised sight seeing tour of the city and surrounding country. Peking is supposed to be one of the most picturesque cities in China.

Still myself I wouldn’t mind which rumour is correct. Then there is another rumour that the ship then goes down to Sydney to load up with “food for Britain” and leaves for the U.K. in October but I think that is just a little too much to bank on just yet.

We have had two films on here since I came back. Vic Olwen and Margaret Lockwood in “I’ll Be Your Sweetheart” which was an old time musical and was quite funny. The other, which I thought was a very good film indeed, was Bette Davis in “The Corn is Green” and was the story of a typical uneducated Welsh Village in the heart of the mining country. The acting was very good and the people in the film were the same type as “How Green Was My Valley”.

It is definitely worth seeing if you get the chance and I know you would like it.

What do you think of the trouble in Palestine lately? Terrible thing at the St George Hotel wasn’t it. It’s a good job Uncle Fred is away from there now isn’t it.

How is Dad going on at work lately, has he got his leg up yet? I suppose Norman W. has left now hasn’t he?

How are you managing now with the bread rationing, it sounds pretty grim to me. They are cutting ours down on Monday bit I don’t think it will be quite so bad as yours even then.

By the way will you ask Dad to get my driving licence renewed please, I think it is due towards the end of August sometime.

Has Jean heard the results of her exams yet? I hope she manages to get through it will certainly be a good start won’t it.

Well Mom it is getting pretty late so I think I had better close until next time

So all my love
Graham
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Notes

The King David Hotel (not St George) in Jerusalem was the British administrative headquarters in Palestine. On the 22nd of July 1946, it was bombed by a right-wing group called Irgun, killing 91 people and injuring a further 46.

20th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still in the best of health and feeling pretty fit. I am still on my leave which expires on Monday, I can’t say that I am really looking forward to gong back on board although I suppose I shall have to if I want to get back to the UK.

We have just been recovering from the effects of a typhoon which hit Hong Kong on Thursday evening. I’ve never seen winds like it before in my life and I don’t particularly want to be in them again. Early Thursday morning a strong wind blew up and by dinner time it was blowing at gale force. Well then it started raining in torrents so we decided the best place was in bed. So nearly all of us snuggled down and listened to the storm. We were soon rudely awakened as the gale actually blew the verandah door off and left us with no protection from the wind which blew in at the door. For the next three hours or so we spent our time shivering and hanging onto our blankets and gear which threatened to blow away.

Well when supper time came we decided to risk our gear and go for something to eat so we pushed all our beds into a corner and hoped for the best. It took us about five minutes to get the couple of hundred yards to the galley as the wind was that strong it literally stopped us dead. When we eventually reached there we found nearly all the windows had been smashed so we ate our meal in a rainstorm. For the next hour the typhoon was at its height and all the windows were smashing and doors were being blown off their hinges. The football posts were lifted clean out of the ground and ended up on the bank by the side of the pitch. All the netting around the tennis court was blown away. In Hong Kong itself all road traffic was stopped and what people there were about had to go on foot. Seven Chinese ships mostly ferry steamers were smashed up when they broke away and finished up on the rocks.

About ten however the wind dropped but the rain kept pouring down and when we woke in the morning the football pitch was ankle deep in water and most of the roads were half flooded at least. The papers say that in some streets in the city the streets were waist deep. Still it is much better this morning and the sun is already out fairly strong so probably by the end of the day it will be quite normal again.

I haven’t had any mail this week so I expect by the time I get back on board there will be quite a few letters to answer. There will probably be one from you I should think as it ten days since I received the last one so I shall be writing again in a few days.

I haven’t heard for certain what we are doing for certain after we have finished the refit but I will let you know if I hear any “official” rumours when I get back on board.

So for the present
All my love
Graham
x x x x x x x

13th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

Many thanks for letter number 27 which I received last night, one of my mates who went down to the ship brought it up for me so it was really quite a surprise. I also had a letter from Aunty Em at Scarborough, I wondered who it was from at first.

I think one of my letters must have gone astray because I know I mentioned once that I had received the £3. It was about the time when I hurt me arm, I wrote two letters on the day I hurt it and another one two days later which I am almost sure was the one I told you. The dates were 27.3.46 and 29.3.46.

Glad to hear Dad has played cricket for the Met. I hope he does O.K. Wilf A. played for them once or twice when I was at work. Does he play now? Talking of cricket the Indians are doing very well on their tour aren’t they. There is also plenty of big scores in the county matches.

The food on board is still very good, the only thing that they are really short of is cooking fat so we don’t get chips very often. I am still caterer of the mess so you can bet I see to it that we don’t starve. Up here at the Rest Camp the food is not too good but as there is a good canteen there is always plenty to fill up with.

I bet it seems strange to see Riley’s house up again doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t seem as long as six years since they were bombed out does it.

I am still having a good time up here. I am trying hard to swim every time I go in the water and if the weather keeps as warm as it has been so far I should hope that I shall be able to by the end of my leave.

This morning we had a football match between the ratings and the Chiefs and Petty Officers. There was nobody in our crowd who played in goal so I had to go in. I had plenty of work to do in the first half as the ball very rarely went out of our half and the Ch & P.O.s held a 1-0 lead at half time however we had more of the play and it was pretty even during the half. Still the result was 2-2 so everyone was satisfied. I expect we shall have a return match. Yesterday the Seamen played them at cricket and gave them quite a thrashing, about seven wickets victory I think it was. I don’t know whether the Stokers can get out a side as there are only sixteen of us up here and I don’t think half of them are too keen.

By the way it is sixteen months today since I joined the Navy, I should hope that I am on the “home” straight now. I know I shall never look at a “JOIN THE NAVY” notice again. I should think the Navy is about the worst example of class distinction that there is. I’ve certainly had my eyes opened since I came out here. Still I suppose when I am a civvy again I shan’t regret my having been abroad.

Well I am just about at the end of the page so I shall have to close until next time.

All my love
Graham
xxxxxxx

11th July 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I hope you will excuse me writing this letter in pencil but I haven’t got any ink in my pen as it has run dry. AT the moment I am on fourteen day leave at the Navy Rest Camp in Stanley R.M. Barracks.

Although the camp is a Barracks there is no discipline for us and we wander around just as we like, dressed as we like and in fact it is almost like being on holiday at home on civvy street. The only thing we have to do with the Marines is eat with them at meal times.

There is a football pitch, tennis courts, hockey pitch so I do O.K. for outdoors sports. If we don’t get enough to eat there is a N.A.A.F.I. canteen where we can get cooked meals, cakes, fresh fruit. Also in the N.A.A.F.I. there is a games room, with ping pong and darts, reading room and recreation room where we can write or play cards etc.

The camp is situated on the other side of the island from the harbour, and faces the open sea so we get a lovely sea breeze all the time which makes the heat quite bearable. You don’t get that sticky sweat and here you feel fresh all the time. The country is just like Barmouth, we are up in the mountains and it is about a couple of miles down to the beach. This morning we climbed straight down the mountainside to the beach instead of going the road way, which took us about a quarter of the time.

When we came back though it was quite the reverse, it took us just over an hour to climb up and it nearly killed us. We all collapsed on our bunks when we got eventually got here. Still apart from that I am really enjoying myself and that is the main thing.

I have been in the water about four times since we came here on Monday and I am getting a real chocolate brown again like I was in Australia.

We shan’t get any mail while we are up here so I shall have to leave replying to your letters which come until I get back.

Just down the road from here is Stanley prison where all the atrocities took place. It has been cleaned up of course now and some of the buildings have been burnt down and built up again. You can still see the walls where any “trouble makers” were shot and the rifle ranges where prisoners were lined up for practice at bayoneting and firing.

There is a field outside the prison which is choc-a-bloc with home made graves where all the casualties were buried. Reports say that 2000 were shot altogether.

Well I think that’s all once again so until next time
All my love
Graham
xxxxxxx


Notes

Stanley Prison was the site of Stanley Internment Camp during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong between 1942 and 1945. 2800 ‘enemy nationals’ were held here, over 2000 of whom were British. The civilians were not provided with enough food or medical care, the buildings were insufficient for the number of people, and the toilet facilities were inadequate and unsanitary. In 1944 the Japanese military took control of the camp, and from then on, violence towards the prisoners increased.

19th June 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?