18th December 1946

Dear Mom, Dad & Jean,

I expect you will be very surprised to hear that I am not going on board the “Euryalus” after all. We had a wireless message come on board saying that the “Euryalus” draft was cancelled and the draft was transferred to “Glory” as ships company. As we had already left Singapore it was too late to let you know before.

We left Singapore about twelve days ago and since then we have certainly had plenty of excitement. The first day out from Singapore we cruised up and down all day doing flying manoeuvres. I think I told you the “Glory” was an aircraft carrier didn’t I in a previous letter. It was really quite exciting. All the same I wouldn’t go up for a flight off a carrier for a pension. The taking off isn’t really all that bad but landing looks a bit too risky for me. I suppose familiarity breeds contempt but I think I would rather stay as an interested spectator.

Actually the system of landing is really quite simple. On the after end of the flight deck to say roughly a third of the way up the flight deck, eight steel hawsers are evenly spaced apart stretching across the width of the flight deck, each one independently loaded on a powerful spring. The plane has a adjustable hook fastened to the tail which should catch on to the “trip wires” as they are called. If the plane misses the trip wires then it will run into the first of two steel cable barriers which are erected approximately half way up the flight deck. The barriers are the last means of stopping the plane if she misses but it is a sure way to stop it  but usually makes quite a mess of the plane. I am enclosing a small sketch which will probably make it a little clearer to you.

Still it was a perfect day for flying and there were no accidents.

On the second day we proceeded for Hong Kong but after three days steaming we developed a bad leak in one of the engine room compartments and so we turned back to Singapore to undergo repairs. They turned all of us to on the job and we were working until ten thirty at night before we completed the job.

Next morning we again set sail for H.K. and reached here yesterday but didn’t go into the harbour but lay outside in Junk Bay. This morning we were joined by H.M.S. “Venerable” another aircraft carrier of the same class and all day the two ships have been doing flying manoeuvres. This afternoon came our first real spot of excitement. The sea was fairly choppy and consequently made landing more difficult as the ship was rolling pretty badly. The first plane to land came in too low and had to rise up at the last minute to avoid running into the stern of the ship. Unfortunately he didn’t rise quite enough and his wheels just caught the edge of the deck and he catapulted right over the eight trip wires. He touched down just past the last wire and crashed into the barrier at full speed turning onto its nose and ending up on its back. Everyone rushed forward to see if the pilot was O.K. and I for one was surprised to see him get out unaided and calmly walk away. His plane was very badly damaged and they dragged it away into the hangar. Luckily there were no more crashes on board us although there were two on board the “Venerable” one of them crashing into the stern of the ship and falling into the sea. Both pilots also were unhurt very luckily.

Tonight we have again anchored out in Junk Bay as they are doing more flying tomorrow. The ship is going in on Friday morning to H.K.

Tonight another accident occurred of a different sort. While they were lowering one of the boats, a cable broke and one end of the boat fell into the sea. The Marine coxswain of the boat got his legs trapped between the remaining pulley chains and the side of the boat and left him swinging in mid air. They had to hack part of the boat away to free him and get him onboard. He was pretty badly hurt and has suffered compound fractures of both his legs. They have took him ashore to Queen Mary’s Hospital.

To get back to a more cheerful note – I have been told by authoritive circles that all up to group 66 are going off the “Glory” in Trincomalee in early March to return to U.K. for service in the Home and Mediterranean fleets. If the report is true you can expect to see me early April. Still even if it is untrue or is altered the ship is returning to U.K. itself in July so that won’t be so long will it. Another good omen which shows I can’t possibly be out here much longer. There are approximately a hundred conscript stokers on here, and there are six to eight with lower group numbers than myself and some of those are going off when we arrive in Hong Kong on Friday.

I am afraid that it will be some time before I get any mail, it has been almost two months since my last lot except for those I managed to collect at “Sultan” before they were forwarded on to “Euryalus”. They won’t have the slightest idea on board the “Euryalus” who I am or where I am so it will be some time before they give me up for a bad job and return my mail to the mail office in Hong Kong. Then it will take them a little longer to find out where I am so by the time I get any it will probably be well past Xmas. Still as long as I eventually get it that is the main thing.

I hear that England have already had considerable falls of snow so it look as though it will be a hard winter doesn’t it. Are you going anywhere this year? Talking of Xmas I hope you got my Xmas cards safely, also the birthday cards.

I see England are having to fight hard again in the test match. I see Edrich is doing very well for himself, top score first innings, most wickets and now eighty six not out. I am glad really as in previous tests he has never quite made the grade. What did you think of Bradman and Barnes innings. They’re both certainly wonderful batsmen, aren’t they. In my opinion Barnes threw his wicket away when Bradman was out especially after playing an innings with hardly a chance out being out suddenly to scoop a high catch to Hain at the same score as Bradman. Seems too much of a coincidence to me.

I see Wolverhampton (my tip for the league) are still pegging away at the top of the league. They must certainly be playing well to put five past the previous leaders, Liverpool on Liverpool’s ground.

Well once again I am afraid that is all the news so I think I will sign off until next time
All my love and have a good time at Xmas
Graham
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22nd August 1946

Dear Mom Dad & Jean,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still O.K. and feeling pretty fit. I am sorry I haven’t written before but I haven’t heard from you for ten days and I have kept putting off writing expecting to get a letter. Still I had better drop you a short note and then I will probably write tomorrow or Saturday as I should think I am almost certain to get a letter then.

We have finished our refit now and we are just staying in Hong Kong for another week before we proceed to Shanghai to pick up the “Belfast” then we go on the North China cruise. Today we have been out on trials and I was watchkeeping in the Gear Room which means that I have now been watchkeeping in every part of the ship, boiler rooms, engine rooms and now gear room. Also during the last fortnight I have been on Diesel generators and Evaporators, that is making water, so that makes every type of machinery on  board, Turbo generators, diesel generators, steam compressors, C.O.2 machinery and evaporators. The Chief Stoker says that he is trying to put me through for my A.W.K. certificate (auxiliary watchkeeping certificate) which means to be capable of handling any type of machinery and every department in the ship. It is the final step before picking up the “hook”. It usually is about two years before you pick up the A.W.K. and after that it is up to yourself as to how long you wait before being made Leading Stoker. Personally I hope I am “outside” before I get a chance of leading stoker as you stand less chance of being demobbed. It would be much different if I was regular navy or if the war was on but when I have only got twelve months to do, it is hardly worth it is it?

We had a good picture on board here last night although I don’t suppose you would like as it was a real creepy murder. Dorothy McGuire and George Brent in “Spiral Staircase”. George Brent is a professor who takes it into his head to kill all girls who have a deformity such as a limp, a scar, a lisp or a stutter. Dorothy McGuire is his maid who was struck dumb at an early age, so he eventually takes it that she should be put out of her misery. He is foiled at the last minute by his invalid mother who shoots him. Dorothy McGuire was so panic stricken by her experience that the shock gives her back her voice and she marries the doctor who was trying to cure her.

Well I think I will close now as there is not much to tell you until I have heard from you so Bye-bye for the present.
All my love
Graham
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September 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still O.K. and am now longing to get home again. The time seems to go terribly slow when leave gets near. As far as I know the routine at Havant is, we arrive Tuesday night and get our draft routine over the same night. Wednesday we send settling down having kit musters and medical inspections. That far I know definitely, but after that nobody seems quite sure what happens. The general idea is that we go on leave on Thursday dinnertime but I am afraid that I can’t take that as definite yet. I will give you a ring or send you a telegram as soon as I know anything more definite. That is if I come home this week otherwise I will send you a letter.

I don’t even know whether I am likely to go abroad or not, if I do then I shall get 14 days leave plus 2 days V.J. leave plus 2 days travelling plus 3 days special leave as the barracks are so crowded.. Otherwise I may only get nine days leave if I am to stop in the country.

I had to see the Divisional officer yesterday and he said that as I had done so well on the course he was going to put a special recommendation on my service papers so that I can get my transfer to Stoker (E). There are three Stokers (S) in our division, that is men who are training for officers. In the exam they got 91, 84, and 79 marks so you can see I did pretty well as they are supposed to be exceptional ratings who are specially picked out for officers.

Yesterday I went and saw Plymouth Argyle play Derby County on Home Park. It was a very poor match and if it hadn’t been for Bobby Brown, Scotland’s goalkeeper who was playing for Plymouth it would have been 10-0. He is a P.T. instructor at Devonport Naval Barracks and when you get near to him he looks just like a schoolboy and he certainly doesn’t look like an international goalkeeper. Latham of Aston Villa and Gardner the ex-Villa player also play for Plymouth.

Midland teams certainly seem to be doing well this year so far, three of them in the top four.

Well it is time to turn in now so I had better close down for the time being. Hoping to see you some time after Thursday.

All my love,

Graham
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Date unknown. In an envelope marked 5th October, together with another letter.

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

2nd September 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line or two to let you know that I arrived back safely. The train got in about five thirty so we had plenty of time to spare and managed to get a cup of tea at the Y.M.C.A. I had to stand all the way to Bristol and also from Bristol to Torquay when I managed to get a seat.

We started on our course at ten and as we had to get our kit unpacked you can guess we didn’t waste much time. By the way we have had a good bit of news about the course. They have cut it down to five weeks from eight so perhaps I shall be having another long leave shortly. I hope so at any rate.

My parcel has not arrived today, its certainly taking a long time to get here. I hope it arrives by the morning post as we are working in the boiler house tomorrow afternoon so I shall need them. I shan’t be able to send them home to wash as we have to change them twice a week.

By the way there was no mail for me this morning so it looks as though those four or five that have gone to Portsmouth have really got lost.

By the way I think that any money that is coming to me for my birthday had better be put in the N.S.C.s so if you know anyone who is sending me money you had better have it off them and put it in for me.

Don’t forget the license by the way as I shall probably be needing it again shortly

By the way there was a cricket meeting this morning on board as the team has been split up what with men on leave and others going on draft. We had a practice match tonight and I was “stumping”, I made twenty three runs and caught two men out so I think I did O.K. There is a final practice match on Wednesday night and I have been picked. The ship team needs a wicket-keeper as the usual one is on leave so perhaps I shall get a game for the ship’s eleven.

Well I think that is about all for now so I will close.

Lots of love
Graham
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30th August 1945

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just a line or two in reply to your letter which I received on Friday. I see you posted it last Monday, I suppose it got held up over V.J. days. I received a letter from Jean this morning which I have already replied to. Did you receive my money safely that week? I have still got £1 in loose cash and £8 in my bank book and it is pay day on Thursday so I should do O.K.

There is still no further developments in my transfer yet, it usually takes three weeks before you finally see the captain. It is a terrible affair as far as red tape is concerned. First of all you put in a request to see the Divisional Officer. If he thinks your case is genuine he refers you to the Training Commander who in turn looks into your case and if he is satisfied then you eventually see the Captain, three weeks in all. Still once that is over it is only two or three days before you get the trade test.

Today we have been on a ship fire fighting course. You should have seen us when we came back. The Ink Spots had nothing on us we were just like coalmen. We had to put oil fires out with two or three different types of extinguishers. Then we had to walk through a burning house filled with smoke with a special heat. In the afternoon we had training on different types of pumps so we are now quite handy as firemen. We have to pass out in a written exam on fire fighting when we get our final exam. I think it is almost certain that I shall be home in mid September now. We pass out here about the twenty eighth of this month and go on draft within a week so that makes it about the thirteenth of September. The football season will have started by then, I hope that I can manage to get a game while I am home. We have finished cricket by the way now though football is not starting for a fortnight or so.Back of the envelope

Well I think that is about all the news for now
so I will close until next time.

All my love,
Graham
x x x x x x

 


Historical Note

Japan surrendered unconditionally on the 14th of August 1945, known as V.J. (Victory over Japan) Day. This ended the Second World War.

8th August 1945

Dear Mom and Dad,

Just a few lines to let you know the result of my trade test. I think I told you that they failed me as an electrician but recommended me for wireman. Well today I had to see the electrical officer and he told me that they couldn’t put me through for it as wiremen were mainly used for mine sweepers and landing craft but as the war had now ended they no longer required them.

To compensate me for this they have put a note on my service papers to the effect that I am capable of doing a wireman’s job so that when I get to a sea going ship I have got to see the captain and ask for transfer to Stoker (E) which means Stoker, electrical section. This job is to do all the electrical repairs connected with the electrical apparatus in the engine room and boiler rooms which will be a pretty good job. So it seems as though I shall have to wait until I get to sea before I can do anything else.

We had  school test today, spelling and arithmetic, it was very easy and I got 100%. You see the majority of the boys are elementary school boys so the exam is elementary school standard. This trade test has properly mucked me up for the final exam on Monday as so far I have not been to a single class this week as I have been catching up on kit inspections, school test, damage control inspection and mucking about seeing divisional officer and Training Commander and Electrical Lieutenant.

We leave here on September 11th and go to Havant Royal Naval Barracks which is about ten miles out of Portsmouth. Going by what the chaps who have gone before us have done I shall be home by about the Saturday following, that is the 15th of September so if everything goes “according to plan” I shall be seeing you then. By the way Stan A. was down at Havant a month or so ago, its a pity he has left isn’t it as it would have been alright with someone that I know.

Well I can’t think of anything more to say at the moment so I will say “cheerio” for the time being.

Bye bye and all the best
Lots of love
Graham
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