Feb 221942

This is just a note to thank you for your last letter. It arrived at Sick Quarters on Saturday night and I had received your previous one only about two hours earlier. What a gala day for letters. By far the most I have had yet. Two from you and one from Hughie, who is the first outside the family to write.
You will have got over your first big weekend on your own by now. I’ve thought of you a lot, especially when ‘The Brains Trust’ was on, and last night at the time when we might have been doing a jigsaw! What’s more, I thought about the dream you had and believe me, just the way you said it was “very very sweet” and made you sleep until 8.30 gave me a distinct movement in the pubic area. Who said bromide?
When I sent those clothes off I was afraid of that happening to you and, even though you are crying for me, it still hurts to think of you in tears. Chin up, my love, until all this poppycock is over. Perhaps then we will be able to let ourselves go a bit, but not before!
About the ‘Daily Post’, Hughie tells me in his letter there is to be a further cut in the paper ration and that the ’D.P.’ is coming down to half its present size for some days in the week!
I have written to May, by the way, and told her how good you have been about this whole business. You have been brave, pet, and I know you always will be. That helps me more than you know.
I’m trying to answer points in your letters as they arrive, while I’m here.
Time is getting on, by the way, in regard to the allotment. Have you the plan I made? I think you will find it in the Boots diary. Make sure you get it the right way up! In that blue cardboard box in which I kept the seeds – it was on the mantelpiece the last time I saw it – you will find some peas. There is a note in the box saying what type they are. I don’t know what the weather and soil are like, but I should get them in soon. They can be sown in Feb, but the conditions have to be right, of course. They are only tiny, as you will remember, and I may be home in time to put sticks on them! If Reg doesn’t do them for you, take out a trench about 6–9 inches deep, put some manure down (not too much, from a bag in the garage), put some lime on top of the manure, fill in to within two inches of the top and sprinkle the peas in. Before you do that, shake them up in an envelope in which you have put a little red lead. Be careful with it, it’s poisonous! Don’t get it into the smallest cut! Soak the peas a short time if you want to. It will help the red lead to stick to the seeds.
While I remember, can you spare enough coupons to get me a pair of pyjamas? If so, can you send them on for me and I’ll send you the money by return. If we are going into civvy billets I’ll have to have another pair. Let me know as soon as you can, for this pair is getting very dirty.
This is all for now, love. I have been up all day today and will probably be out of here on Wednesday. I’ve had the time of my life this last couple of days. What a change not to have to scramble for every meal. Yesterday I was up for a few hours and today I have been general lackey for everyone in the ward, getting everything except bed pans for them. Three of the lads who are still “strictly bed” are now being bathed in bed by a nurse – behind screens – so you can imagine the general atmosphere in the ward just at the moment! As the nurse went behind the screen to the first fellow, I made the obvious crack “Can I do you now, sir?” and that started it. The poor nurse is having a dog’s life. Well, bye sweetheart. Take care of yourself, for I do love you.
Arthur XXX

Apr 141942

Sorry I couldn’t write last night but I had my first lot of homework to do on what we call naval procedure. Actually, it is learning the use of various letters in certain circumstances to save sending long messages, but it is surprising what combinations can be made. As we have procedure every day I suppose we will get homework each night. Tonight’s batch is not as bad as yesterday’s, but there is still a lot to learn from what we already have. No doubt we will learn most of it in actual practice; that is by sending and receiving actual messages in plain language and code. Still, it will cut down our leisure to some extent.
Your cakes, for which many thanks indeed, arrived by the afternoon delivery, which is good going. We have already scoffed half of the sponge cake and it was lovely. I think we were lucky to get either, however, as the string around the outside was almost completely off. You were perhaps afraid to pull it tighter when you tied it, but with all that wrapping on it, it would have been alright to put a bit more pressure on. Anyway, the main thing is that we got it safely and I’m now looking forward to sampling the fruit cake.
Thanks also for the stamps on your last two letters but, without offence, don’t bother to send any more for a time. I still have some left in stock and when Eric wrote yesterday he enclosed a 5/- book. Actually, I haven’t had to buy a stamp since about ten days after I got to Skegness, so there’s no need for you to worry about that side of things.
Eric in his letter, quite a long chatty affair in which he presumes I’m going to do far more technical stuff than I actually am, says something to the effect that when you come up here the fare “is on us”. I don’t know quite what he means by that, but thought I had better let you know unless, of course, you already know about it. He told me of his visit to you when the children were in the bath and says they both looked very well.
Not exactly chronological, this letter. I should have thanked you for the ‘Statesman’s, too, in case you thought I had thrown them away. There’s not much in ‘The Journalist’ these days, is there, apart from the ‘Mirror’ issue.
So you have become a Marks & Spencer fan? At any rate I shall be glad to hear of the last of that check mac.
Re trains to Aberdeen – after I had written in my last letter to you, I had a marvellous dream! But that is by the way, except that I fell into a coma and as that letter was written in my bedroom I tumbled straight into bed in that mood, so what could I expect? Now, re trains to Aberdeen. I notice you say there are trains from Exchange at 9.35am. What about Lime Street? And wouldn’t it be as well to drop the children, or at any rate Wendy, on Thursday? If Chris, for instance, failed to meet you in time you’d be in an awful stew and 9.35 is early, you know. You could drop Michael on the way to town if Dave is going to run you to town in the car. That would be easy enough. I know you will have it all sorted out but I’m just making a few suggestions.
As an exception to the rule I do know the O’Brien bloke you mention. Jack was my best pal years and years ago. One of the nicest fellows you could wish to meet. I had great hopes when we were kids that, as he was a seafarer he would rise to be captain of a ship. I still think he would have done but I fancy he was a bit lazy, or easygoing, whichever you prefer. Then when he was quite young he did a foolish thing. Know what it was? He put a girl in the family way. Now wasn’t that wicked? As a matter of fact it was in this case for she was a slut of a girl whom I never liked. Jack dropped out of things after that and always seemed a bit shamefaced when we met. One of those invisible barriers grew up and gradually we drifted apart. I was sorry because Jack deserved better than he got, I felt. Now I don’t think Mother knows any of this, so just tell her I’d be glad to hear from Jack or to have his address.
On the subject of friends, tell Peggy I’m sorry to hear Alan is off colour and hope he gets on his feet again. He never has been very strong, has he? He was always being sick when they lived in Bootle. But I’m disappointed in Arthur. I thought he might have written a line – that is if you have ever given them my address for I haven’t written to him yet.
I wrote Dave during the weekend so he will have had my letter by now. Tell him O/Tels are ten-a-penny in this war and the only P.O.s are likely to be either the fellows with fairly long experience in the Navy, or else the young fellows who can romp through the course. Tell Marjorie how sorry I was to hear about HMS Trinidad. I hope she soon hears that Bill is safe. The uncertainty of these things must be terrible for women. So Valerie’s father has gone too? I didn’t know him of course, but it’s hard luck on any married bloke being dragged away and from what I saw at Skegness just before I left the average age of incoming drafts is going up by leaps and bounds.
Coming to your Saturady/Sunday letter, how is Michael? From what you say he seems to have had a real bumping about. Watch him for the next few days, love. And let me know how he is. Tell him I’m sorry he got hurt but glad he didn’t cry very much after you had washed his face. The digging squad have set to in earnest, haven’t they? If I remember rightly, the peas took a long time to show last year. Do you know how to stick them properly? When they are big enough to need support, start on one side of the row and place sticks (there’s a pile of cuttings all ready for the purpose) leaning one way and, working from the other end, make the other side lean the appropriate way. If you start from the end near our garden make the twig slope towards the Littlewoods fence, then coming back lean them from Littlewoods towards the house. Is that clear? I should leave the rhubarb for a time because I think it grows a fair size. As you will want peas for drying, don’t be afraid to grow them quite thickly. You’ll have to buy some more so get some that are a little bigger than those you have. You will get a better yield. I’m not sure about French beans. Better look them up.
I cannot do anything about towels just now but I’ll remember about them. I’m OK for cigarette papers so don’t worry about them. Yes, thanks, that was the cigarette case I had in mind. Don’t send that tobacco up here, keep it until I come home.
We won’t know the result of the Morse test. It was only a simple thing for their own guidance. At school I seem to be holding my own. About the middle of the class I should say. At the top are a fellow who did 12 weeks of the course and then went off sick and so has had to start again; a railway telegraphist; a fellow who some years ago was a Tel in the R.N.V.R.; and a couple of fellows who could do 12 words a minute before they came here. I can’t compete against that crowd, of course, but I’m doing reasonably well against the others. The youngest fellows just lap it up while my poor old brain struggles along, but I hope to get through in the long run. After this five week exam we’ll have a good idea and I have no doubt that the class will be thinned out a bit. This exam should be either May 1 or May 4, but if I can arrange for digs I’d sooner you came up here on May 1 irrespective of the exam. Our instructor, by the way, is quite a young fellow and as we are his first class I rather fancy he will do all he can to push a big proportion of us through. If I find that I’m doubtful about some of the stuff I’ll arrange to go back for voluntary instruction a couple of nights a week. It should be well worth it. If I do it will mean still fewer letters for you, but I hope you will manage to write me, although not at the expense of all your other interests, the radio, your knitting, reading, the garden etc.
To answer your questions. All the seeds there are are in my trousers pocket. Wait a minute. Look in the pockets of my fawn sports jacket. There may be some there. You will probably have to buy some more parsnip seed. I think I used the others. They should be in now. The mossy stuff in the rockery will come on alright. If you look closely you’ll probably see the new growth beginning deep down. Keep an eye open for those unusual little things Sid gave me last back end. They were only tiny. I put some in the rockery and some in the front garden.
Now, sweetheart, I must fly to catch the post and I still have some work to do. I still love you lots and lots, pet. Come to me soon for I need you more than I can say. This weekend I’ll try to get some ideas about digs. All my love, angel girl.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

May 171942

In face of considerable opposition, consisting of several matelots and one young lad belonging to the family who never keeps still for one minute, I’m doing my best to write you. As I had no letter on Saturday – neglecting me already, eh? – I presumed that you had been over to the Rosses or else they had come over to see you. Was I right? If they did, I hope you had a nice time. Tell me what happened about Hughie and Madge during their holidays, especially if you heard how the dance went.
I began this letter just two hours ago and I have had it on my knee ever since. I have determined to go on writing even if I only get an odd sentence in between George’s reminiscences and home worries. Poor George is worried about his youngster who is evidently afflicted with a bad throat.
Today the weather has been smashing. Hot and a clear blue sky after half a day’s rain yesterday. The allotments here are just beginning to show real signs of life and the rain will do them all the good in the world. The potatoes are showing through everywhere and onions and all the other things are showing through beautifully. Every day I inspect your plot by proxy. In other words I look over the Chief’s plot every day during stand-easy so that I almost know it as well as he does! Anyway, I’m drifting from the point. What I was going to say was that I went with Percy and Ralph to Nigg Bay today. The sea was delightfully hot and we spent two fine hours scrambling among the rocks and looking into all the little pools. You should have seen those matelots crawling about helping the local kids to find winkles or, as they call them, “buckies”. We eventually took the cliff path and walked round the next little bay discovering some fine little coves which would have been ideal for picnics. I’m sorry we did not see more of it while you were here. Although the weather was nothing like it has been today. The little rain seems to have brought the real summer weather. I’m thinking that next Sunday I may get some sandwiches and go down there on my own. Percy is going to Arbroath to pay a return visit to a pal of his who came over here yesterday. He is in the Fleet Air Arm and is a nice young fellow. As he is in the supply branch I’m going to see if he can get some towels for you, but don’t bank on it. He tells me, by the way, that they are not as good as they were. Anyway, if I can get them I’ll either post them to you or bring them with me when I come. I’m also trying to get a fellow out of our class to send me a pound of boiled sweets just before I come home. That, also, is something indefinite, but I will get them if I can. Anyway, I’m straying again! Percy is going to Arbroath next Sunday and Ralph’s girl is expected at Aboyne the same weekend so it looks as if I shall be alone on Sunday. If the weather is like this I’ll have a picnic tea and do some writing at Nigg Bay. I called in at Smith’s today and the family there asked after your welfare. They send their regards and hope you enjoyed the holiday. I haven’t been in to see the Grants this weekend. I’ll try to pop round next weekend, perhaps on Saturday.
I did think of going to see Kathleen to ask her to get seats for Henry Hall’s guest night because when Percy went every seat in the house had gone so it doesn’t look as if we will get there now. I’m disappointed because I had been looking forward to that night. Ever since I heard Miff Smiff I have been wanting to see him.
How have the children settled down now? Are they still fit? Sorry to hear about the bike. Have you got it back yet? What was the extent of the damage? Hope it is not too bad. I must write to Mother soon because I haven’t written her a line since before you came up here. She’ll be taking the huff! I did intend to write tonight and would have done so but for all those lads staying in our room. They have just gone out for supper and it is 11 o’clock. They have been here since 7.30 chatting away to beat the band. I still have to wash, shave and clean my boots so it’s goodbye to all hopes of an early night.
Well, darling, I really must be off. I’m dog tired. I’m hoping to have a letter from you tomorrow. Sweetheart, I love you still and July cannot come soon enough for me. I’m longing to see you again and to see the children, too. Somehow, having seen you I miss you more now and I’m wondering what is going to be the reaction of the children when they see me. I wonder if they will recognise me? I doubt it very much, especially as you say my voice has changed. What with a different voice, different clothes and different teeth, they’ll never know me. That would be a real blow, but I couldn’t blame them. I do so want to see them again and I’ll go mad if anything happens to put me back in the course. I just couldn’t bear that. Anyway, we have another S.B.X. [Standard Buzzer Exercise] tomorrow at 11 words a minute and I’ll let you know how I go on. I do hope I do well in it. Not only because I want to evade the compulsory work but because of the extra confidence it will give me. Anyway, I have worked hard this week and feel I have made some progress.
Now I’m off to shave. Bye, my angel, for now. Take care of yourself. If there is any reward for virtue and hard work I should leave here ten weeks on Wednesday. Whoopee!
All my love, precious. Your own,
Arthur X

May 191942

I AM going to hear Henry Hall after all. When the lads found we could not get seats for everyone tonight they decided not to bother with the show at all. However, one of the lads in our class had a spare ticket so I wangled out of going back to school and am going on my own. I shall think of you while I am there, just in case you are listening. It will be like another Aberdeen reunion! At least, just a little echo of our visit. I’m looking forward to seeing just what this Miff Smiff is like. Remember how when we listened to ‘Guest Night’ at home I was always intrigued? So I shall fulfil another little ambition tonight.
This afternoon, on the way back from the dentist, I satisfied another one by watching the salmon fishers bring in their nets, but it was a blank haul and I’m sure I was more disappointed than they were. I had been to the dentist to see about an impression, but he advises me to wait another month. Even then, he says, there will be plenty of time for me to get my false ones before I leave here. One of the P.O.s tells me this fellow is very good and takes a lot of trouble. Apparently this dentist condemned a set the P.O. got at Devonport and fixed him up with a smashing set which have given no trouble at all. I’m in no hurry to get my new set while I’m here.
I rather think I shall have to go to sick bay again tomorrow. I have a raw patch inside my leg at the very top due, I think, to my underpants creasing and rubbing the one spot. In the last few days I have been perspiring a good deal there and as these pants are fairly tight, as you know, I find it very painful when I sit down for very long. So would you look out two pairs of my civvy underpants and send them on to me at once, please? If you can get them here before the weekend I should be grateful, but will you make sure they are pairs with decent elastic in the tops? As they are so much thinner they will probably help to make me a lot more comfortable.
Your horticultural letter was just what I have been waiting for. In the last few days we have had rain and warm sun alternately and every time I stop to look at things shooting through I wonder what you have done in the garden and how it is progressing. Now I have a good idea and I think you have done splendidly. I mean that, love. While you are putting calomel round the caulis, do the cabbage as well. The object, you know, is to frighten away the cabbage fly, which attacks all the brassicas. Are you going to grow any sprouts? Why not set your own seed? Last year, if you remember, we had the best sprouts from our own Woolworths seed. I should get some in at once. About the onions. From your sketch you have evidently found the right position for the row, which is about 18 inches to two feet wide and runs right along to the path. And are the onions you have put in our own sets? Or aren’t you going to bother? If you do put any of them in, let me know how they go. In fact I’ll be glad to hear of the progress all the things are making. By the way, don’t forget that marrows used lashings and lashings of manure. A good place for them would be where the present manure heap is, if you have used most of it – as you apparently have done – by the time you put them in. If you want pieces of slate to put under the fruit as they are growing, to keep them from rotting on the ground, you should find quite a lot of pieces under Russell’s hedge. I threw quite a bit there. Have you heard anything of the tomatoes from Sid? If not, will it be worth getting some from the nursery? I should suggest putting them along one side of Russell’s as the potatoes are in their old place, aren’t they? Just one more suggestion – get all the winter greens in that you can and lots of peas for drying and beans for salting. They might go where the cabbage and caulis were last year, unless you have anything else in view for there. What of the salad greens? And will you be putting more turnip in later? They lasted until quite late into the year last year, if I remember rightly.
Well, sweetheart, as I said before, I think you have done excellently and any suggestions I have made here are only to show just how interested I am and are not in any way criticisms. By the way, keep the tomatoes – if any – well away from wireworm. Do you think you will get any blackcurrants this year? Mason will probably be able to advise you on those. I’m glad you’re finding him easier to understand. He really is a decent fellow. Give him my regards occasionally.
Just before I go. Give Michael a pat on the back for me if you feel he deserves it, although I’m sorry he is making life a burden for Wendy. There’s no news from the school yet, I suppose. What did she think of the brooch, or didn’t she? I’ll keep an eye open for the magnets.
Must be off now, precious. Take care and don’t overtire yourself in the garden. Are you sleeping any better? I do hope so.
All my love, angel. I love you more than ever.
Always yours,
Arthur X
P.S. I’ve scribbled a note to Mother at last.

Dear Wendy & Michael,
I meant to write to you before now but I have been very busy at school and even in the evenings I go back to school, so you will see that I have not much spare time.
Did you have a nice holiday? I hope you did, but I expect you were glad to see Mummy come back home. I was very glad to see her in Aberdeen and I knew you would not mind lending her to me for a few days. You are lucky to have her with you every day. Did you like the postcards we sent you from Aberdeen, and did Grandma and Nanna read them to you? Mummy will have told you about the nice walks we went on and about all the baby lambs we saw. Did she tell you that one day we saw two horses with men on their backs running very fast after a horse which did not have a man on its back? I said to Mummy, “Wouldn’t Michael and Wendy like to see these horses running so fast?”
Mummy has been telling me about all the things she has planted in the allotment this year. I wish I was in Crosby to see them. I sometimes look at gardens here and see all the peas and cabbage growing and wonder if ours are as big as them. Have you a garden each this year? If you have, tell me when you write to me what is growing in them.
I am sending you some sweets which I bought from a man who goes to school with me. He has no children and when he knew I had a little girl and a little boy at home he said I could send them to you so I gave him some pennies for them. I hope you will like them. Will you give Mummy some, because I know she likes them. Now that the warm weather is here I hope you have both lost your colds and that you are out in the sunshine getting nice and brown, because when I come home I want to see you both big and strong.
Love from Daddy

May 211942

I felt on Tuesday, having finally got a ticket for ‘Henry Hall’s Guest Night’, as if I was going to keep a date with you and was only sorry that I couldn’t let you know, after all, that I would be in the theatre. I was one of the people who roared when Miff Smiff came on and was thinking of you, wondering if you were listening in. So when you were writing your letter I was very very close to you. In my imagination I could see you with a pad and pen listening a bit, writing a bit, and perhaps between whiles pulling at that little piece of hair you always play with. That was my mental picture of you and I don’t think I could have been far out, could I? The show was quite good and a real change. Miff Smiff, by the way, is not as funny as you would expect by his introduction, but he continually twists his hands in the best Sydney Howard manner, and feigns utter nervousness very well indeed. The ventriloquist is the best I have ever seen. On the whole a good show somewhat spoiled by the fact that I sat next to a bloke out of our class who never laughed or clapped once all night!
As usual, time is getting on, so I’ll try to answer all the points in your letter at once. Thanks for the snaps. I think they are quite good and I like the one of the Brig o’ Balgownie. What happened to those of the children? Were they complete flops? I’d like a picture of them in their summer things. Can you borrow the camera from Dave again and take a few? By the way, I wrote to Dave the day before the snaps came so will you thank him for developing them? If you see Peggy or Arthur tell them how glad I am Arthur is likely to be out of this business. Tell them I was asking after them.
I’m only sorry to hear about the bike. I can’t for the life of me understand how any man can charge 2/6 for putting a chain on a wheel. Are you sure he has not put a new chain on? If he has not and you should ever need a new chain, I think you will find one which may be the right gauge on the top shelf in the kitchen. It will, of course, have to be cut in about half, but Dave could do that easily with a punch.
As you will know by now from a letter which must have crossed yours, I’m never bored by details of the plot and the garden. In fact I revel in them. To me they represent such a definite aspect of home and even though I’m not there to do the work, I often wonder just what the difference is between the seasons there and here. One plot I pass every day has several rows of greens in and, like you, they have not lost one. We have had a little rain, which has worked wonders with the gardens, but even now all the trees are not in full leaf and the tulips are just about at their best. This year, if I were you, I should leave the potatoes in as late as you possibly can. I’m sure we would have got a better yield by leaving them longer last year. I should get all your peas in as soon as possible now, so as to give them a good long growing season for the rows you are going to dry. Do you remember that last year we decided that the drying peas should be left completely alone and NONE taken for the table? Another thing we learned last year was that the beans should be picked while young, so you had better prepare your jars early and lay in a good stock of salt as soon as you can or everyone will be on the same lay. I did get some permanganate of potash for the fleas but I don’t know where it is. Remember, the crystals are a purplish colour so don’t confuse them with the Vandyke brown! Glad to hear about the rockery. Did you put any of the Aberdeen bulbs in there? They would make a nice show next spring if there is room for them. When you are weeding, if I’m not too late, don’t forget to keep an eye open for some of those little plants of the carnation variety which Sid gave us last year. Remember them? Don’t pull them out! I’m looking forward to seeing all you have done with the garden and the allotment and I’m so glad you are now regarded as an expert! Quite seriously, I’m glad you have taken to it so well for it has the double advantage of keeping you occupied out of doors and paying a handsome dividend. Don’t forget, keep me me posted with the progress of things because I really am interested. The plot represents a sane side of war life.
Don’t forget, if you resent or disagree with any of the suggestions I make from time to time, let me know! I can take it! Well, that’s about all on the garden for the moment but, before I forget, there is one thing I’m very interested in. Why I should remember it now when I have forgotten it in each of my letters I cannot say. The point is, will you let me know when vapours materialise? You know what everyone said about the Aberdeen air! And you know what they did not know, that two of the evidence had already done yeoman service! Don’t forget. I’ll be looking for that V sign.
Well, precious, the light is failing in our room and when I tell you that blackout here is well after 11.30 now, you will realise that time is getting on. I’ll save the news of school for my next letter. I was up soon after six, this being bathing day. I have been going to sick bay twice a day to have my leg painted and it is almost better already, so there is no need to worry.
I believe there was an announcement on the radio tonight about airgraphs to civilians. If I’m not too late, will you see if there is a cutting in the ‘D.P.’ and send me details, just in case I cannot get a paper in the morning? How did the children like the sweets? I think I told you I’m trying to get some boiled sweets from the same source about the time I’m due for leave, but don’t mention them. Let me hear how you are for chocolate and if I can pick up any I will, but only if you are really short.
Now it really is time to say night night. I can scarcely keep my eyes open. Bye bye, my precious. My love to the children and remember me to Mrs Reid and any of the neighbours. I love you dearly, my sweet. Take good care of yourself. Hope you really are feeling fit.
All your own,
Arthur X

May 241942

I think I answered all the points from your letter which I received on Friday in my last letter so now to deal with the one I received on Saturday. Thanks for the note about the airgraphs. I have written one to Jane today and will send it off tomorrow when, by the way, I don’t have to go to school. Whoopee! So there is just a chance that I may be able to get some of my arrears of letters wiped out.
Many thanks for the underpants, which arrived on Friday morning. My leg is very much better now and I hoped that the doctor would discharge me on Friday but he didn’t. About the globe beet. Would you like me to get some for you here and, if so, is there anything else you want in the gardening line? There seems to be no shortage of stuff here and I should imagine the Scotch seed would do very well in our warmer part of the world. Anyway, let me know. There’s plenty of chemical fertiliser here, too. Glad to hear that you are going to be kept well supplied with lettuce. Don’t forget Dick was the donor of those very big ones we had last year. About the tomatoes: would they be alright on the left-hand side of the path, just a little nearer Littlewoods than the blackcurrants? They should get plenty of light there and that is what they need.
By now you will have had the little parcel of sweets and a letter to the children, which shows I received the letter containing insurance cards and elephant. I think Wendy did remarkably well. She did do it all by herself, I take it? I didn’t think she had got anywhere near that stage yet. Yes, I did get two letters last Monday. I’ll let you off this time, but don’t let it happen again!
I do hope you will have a nice day for the visit of the Rosses if they do come – really that should be in the past tense, seeing it is now Sunday afternoon. I’m glad, too, to hear that Bill is back safely. How long is he home for, and what was the ship he came home on and which is, apparently, now sunk? Does that mean they were bombed on the way out and torpedoed on the way back? Can you find out if his base is Devonport – I think it will be – and also if there is any indication as to what size ships we are likely to go to. He might be able to tell you a few things if you ask him.
Last week’s exam – in future known as an S.B.X. – didn’t go too well at all. We had a new fellow marking the papers and he is very very keen which, in one way, is all to the good, but it is tough when you are not expecting it. Everyone in the class dropped down as compared with the previous week. All this preamble is just to introduce the fact that I got only 45%, which is by far the worst I have ever done. I was worried, as you can imagine, but feel better about it now. I’m afraid I will not get anything like 85% for some weeks to come, but think I’ll be able to catch up by the end of the course. I think the great fault is that our instructor has been rushing us along far too fast. A fortnight ago he was sending to us at 14–16 wpm and our official speed this week is only 12. The result is that he has had to come down to earth a bit and send stuff much more slowly in the last day or so. Since he has been doing that I have been much more confident and I think confidence in an S.B.X. is worth quite a few marks. Anyway, we will have to see what I can do on Tuesday. So long as I improve pretty substantially on that 45% I don’t mind. I’m not worried about going back four nights a week so long as I can pick the stuff up. On top of this set back, Jimmy the One – that’s our name for the C.P.O. – came in on Tuesday and gave the whole school a lecture. He said, in effect, that My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty were not satisfied with the standard being attained by telegraphists generally and that trainees would have to get down to it more. Therefore he is going to withdraw the privilege granted the top six men in each class of going home on leave on the Monday. Conditions governing leave are going to be tightened up all round. In future only men getting 90% and over will be allowed to begin their leave on the Wednesday. Those just under 90% go on Friday, and those with a poor mark stay on for an extra week’s instruction and then go straight to Scotia for the rest of the course! As you can imagine, that was a bombshell. So far the new arrangement has not been put into practice because there has not been a class passing out since the new rules came into operation, but there is a crowd going this week so we will see exactly what happens. At first we took the Admiralty criticism as being directed at us at Torry, but apparently this school compares more than favourably with others and the complaints are directed more at places like Glasgow, Manchester and Chatham. From what we can hear, the Aberdeen lads are regarded very favourably at Scotia, for instance, where they meet with fellows from several different schools. Anyway, after all this business I had a chat with Sim, our instructor, and asked him point blank what he thought my prospects were. He said there were three fellows in the class who had no hope and he was going to have them moved. Apart from them he thought we would all get through the course alright, although some might have to go down a class. I told him I wasn’t keen on that idea and he said he thought I would get through with our own class because I was prepared to work. He thinks I have just struck a bad patch which will pass. As a result of that conversation I felt a good deal cheered. Since then the three fellows have left Torry for good and have gone back to their bases. Two of them will get a real tanning when they arrive there for they are given very bad reports from Torry and are likely to get the glasshouse for a few days. The other fellow, you will be sorry to hear, is Edgar Taylor, who was one of our weekend crowd. He never has been very interested in Morse, but has tried and has gone back to his base with quite a good report as to behaviour etc, but is described as being unsuitable for this particular course. I’m sorry he has gone because we used to get quite a lot of fun together. Don Gibson will miss him because they used to go about together a lot and had much in common as they came from the same part of the country. Well that, I think, is just about all the news of school. I’ll let you know how it goes this week. There was a time when I began to get worried about it, but that stage has passed now and I’m glad to say I’m cheerful as ever about it. I’m certainly not worrying now.
Today we have been out at Nigg Bay, this time on official duties. There is an invasion exercise next week and our platoon has been given the doubtful privilege of holding the extreme flank. We were shown our positions today in readiness for next week. I’m sorry for both Percy and Ralph because this business cancelled all leave and, as you know, they were both going away today, Percy just for the day and Ralph for a long weekend. I think Ralph must have managed to get away pretty early this afternoon, but that is not quite the same. Next week we will be tied up all Sunday, which is by no means a happy thought. I only hope it is a decent day; if it is, it may be quite good fun mowing down the “invaders”.
Did the kippers arrive safely? Hope you liked them. I went and picked up Mr Grant last night and we had a couple of drinks with the lads. Mrs Grant, by the way, seemed quite pleased with her funny little animals. They’re quite cute, aren’t they? Mr Grant says if you want a half box of kippers – bigger ones than those I sent – he can get them for 4/6. Will you let me know if you want to split a box with the neighbours? If you do, will you send the “dough”. Sorry to have to ask for the money, but I’m afraid I can’t afford 5/6 (that’s including freightage) out of my week’s wages. Don’t mistake this as a plea for a few bob! It isn’t. When I do need a bit I’ll let you know, but now I’m trying to get down to living on service pay as I’ve got to do now. An interesting experiment!
If I can remember I’ll enclose some snaps Percy took which I would be glad if you will put away for me. One of those of me in the bedroom you might send to Jane by airmail if you have not already written. I’m also returning the insurance cards which I will not need until after the war. By the way, what do you think of the scheme to discharge people from the forces in the order in which they entered? That is going to shock a few people and it is going to mean, incidentally, that I won’t be out until at least two years after the war finishes! Still, once hostilities ARE over that won’t be quite so bad, will it?
I’m going to get this in the post by 8pm and then go for a short stroll as I have been in all afternoon and am feeling a bit “doped”. We have not made any plans for tomorrow as the weather is rather broken just now. I’ll tell you in a later letter where we get to.
Bye for now, darling. If vapours have begun I hope they are not too bad. You will be wise not to do too much heavy work in the garden while they are on. Whatever else you do, don’t get run down again. I’m so glad you are sleeping better. You will do if you try to forget me physically for the next few weeks. I’m TRYING to do that! All my love, angel, for I do love you still.
Ever your
Arthur X

Jun 021942

I’m making a start on this in the very limited time before I dash out to school again tonight, but doubt very much if I shall be able to finish it tonight. Alright, I give you best about nitrates and superphosphates! Yes, that is dried blood to be used on the tomatoes when the fruits form and not before. If you can get it on the ground just before a shower of rain, so much the better, if not, sprinkle it in well. Make a shallow trench some distance from the stem for this purpose.

I was afraid I’d never get this into the post for last night’s collection, but as I have not to go back tonight I have a good chance of answering your letters. I realise only too well that I have not been writing as much as usual, but you should have had a letter from me by Tuesday. I wrote a fairly long one to arrive about Friday, a shorter note to arrive on Saturday and then another short note to arrive Monday or Tuesday. That was posted on Saturday because I had a feeling that with Sunday’s stunt I should have little chance of writing very much and in the evening Ralph wanted me to meet his girl. As for the nights when I have to go back, it’s almost impossible to get anything done for it’s 9.30 when I get home.
I am glad you have been such a brick and sent me all the medical history of the children. A full story like that has stopped me from worrying about them. I don’t like to think of them being ill and, like you, I’ve always distrusted measles for what it might leave behind. The greatest safeguard against that is good nursing and I don’t know of a better nurse than you, sweetheart. I know what an intelligent interest you take in the things the doctors say and I think that is one of the reasons Rees thinks so much of you. But, as I was going to say, all children have measles and I’m content to think ours have such a good nurse! What does worry me is that that same nurse might go and neglect herself. Promise not to do that, darling. Whatever else you do, get good meals and, so far as is humanly possible, plenty of sleep. If you can get out into the garden, do so for the fresh air will do you good. I’m glad you insisted on sleeping in the other morning. Don’t let them bully you.
I’m sorry about baby Perry. Give Dave my salaams and tell him I hope the “brood”, as he always calls them, are getting better. I think Mrs Reid wants putting away, and I can just imagine Mother and her having a real good jaw about things. Don’t forget to give my best regards to Rees when he comes. I’m relying on him to keep you fit until I come back to my old flannels for good. From the ‘B.T.’ I see he has been suggesting using Litherland’s decontamination centre for the treatment of infectious diseases – sounds a good scheme to me. This, I think, is just about all on the subject of measles, but do keep up your “bulletins”. They are the first thing I think of each day. You know how much I miss being at home during these times to lend a helping hand where possible and to amuse the children, as well as to keep them in order when they get a bit out of hand. I gather you have not done the traditional thing and put them both in the same room, although this might have its advantages when they are convalescing. Or will it?
Blancmange seems to have gone off the market here, but I have managed to get you 1lb of cornflour (plain), half a pound assorted flavours cornflour (both Brown & Polson’s), 1lb semolina (C.W.S.) and another co-op cereal called Nutrina. I’ll post them on Friday. I’m afraid I won’t be able to send them before as I’m dead broke apart from bus fares! Now, that is not a hint! You are not to send me anything more than the bare money you owe me for the kippers and for these other things which amount to 3/6. This fortnight has been fairly heavy or I should have managed nicely. I’ve had to pay out for kippers for you and a few for the Rosses (about 5/6), and 5/- for baccy, and 10/- from 36/- is rather a nasty sneak! I’m only telling you this because I said I would do so. If I do need money I’ll write you, but I expect I’ll get some for my birthday which will cover any extras I want. If I do get money, I think I’ll use it to buy a new uniform – I’ll have to buy all my own clothes now, you know – because things are slowly going dearer even in slops. When the question of my birthday is raised will you tell the family quite definitely that I cannot think of anything I really need at the moment and it would be silly of them to buy things I may never use. Even present slops prices are well below shop prices and I’m buying all I can there. I can’t write round telling people that, but they may raise the subject with you. Don’t you bother to send anything. You can give me mine in instalments when I come home! But I rather fancy you’ll be at the receiving, not the distributing end! Seriously, though, there is one thing you might look out and that is the watch I think is still in one of the small drawers in the dressing table. I’m not in a hurry for it.
Now to matters horticultural. The beans in the lid are Masterpiece and on last year’s showing I think they are much more tender than the Canadian Wonder. Had I been at home I should have sown nothing but Masterpiece this year. If you have different varieties of peas and beans for storage, it might be a good thing to note which are which in different jars and boxes and see which give the best results for quality as well as quantity. Have you thought that slugs or an insect pest might be getting your beet? I had the same experience last year. Have you dusted your onion and leek beds with soot? There is some which is well weathered by the hedge in the allotment, not far from the junction of Russell’s garden. The bottom part of the hedge may have grown over it by now. Soot is supposed to keep onion fly away. there is just the possibility that the wireworms are not to blame for the caulis. It may be cabbage fly. Put the trowel under one of the drooping plants and lift it carefully. Look closely near the roots and the stem and you will see little white maggots in the soil and in the stem itself if the fly has got at them. If you do find traces of these, throw the trowel full of soil in the bin – NOT anywhere else unless it be the fire – and then burn the plant. I think it is much more likely to be fly and you may have to look very carefully to see the grub. If you should find a wireworm near the root of one of the caulis, don’t jump to the conclusion they are the cause of the trouble. I nearly made that mistake last year. That, I think, deals with nearly all the garden pests except one – Peter. Why not tell him straight that you will stop him using that bit of garden if the other boys come through any more? Tell him you gave that piece to him and not to all the lads in the road.
So far we have not heard Arthur’s impressions of Scotia, but Wally wrote to say conditions are not as bad as they are painted, but the course there is pretty stiff. Did I tell you the course had been extended there from two to three months? I prefer to wait, really, until we hear from Arthur. I think his judgment is more likely to be sound.
I was glad to have your news of May and of Limedale in general. I suppose it will be some time now before you feel it safe to ask any of them over. I really must write to May as soon as I get a chance. I think I told you I wrote to Harold. Hope he didn’t get leave before receiving my letter.
Ralph’s girl must have been the Jonah on Aberdeen’s weather for since she went back on Monday it has been beautiful. Today is the warmest yet and it is positively stifling in our bedroom as I’m writing this. My hands are all clammy and this despite the fact that I was in the baths this morning, our swimming day having been changed to Wednesday. Ralph, by the way, seems to have “fallen” for Margaret all over again and he has been really fed up since she went back. He is counting the days to leave!
There was a big shock awaiting me when I got in for tea. Guess what it was? A letter from Durham, which must be an all-time record when you think I only wrote him on Easter Monday. His letter is crammed with news of the lads. Elgar is a captain in the Tank Corps and Maxie also has a commission. But I’ll send you his letter on later so you can read it and then store it away for me in my desk.
I have already been to sick bay twice this week about new glasses. On the first day I saw the doctor and told him I wanted glasses I could wear under a respirator. He agreed and told me to go to sick bay the next day. I did do and they calmly told me my appointment was for tomorrow! Anyway, I should have new service glasses – those with the steel rims – by next weekend.
By the time you receive this letter the children will, I hope, be well on the way to recovery although at that stage I can well imagine them being more of a handful than when they are really ill. I have already made several efforts to get small magnets but will keep on trying. I haven’t forgotten them. Give the children my love and tell them I think about them every day. Tell them, too, I hope they will soon be well enough to play out in the street and in the garden.
Oh my darling, my darling, I do love you. I want you to be near me tonight, or rather I want to be near you! I’d dearly love to be at home helping you and loving you between times and probably cursing and swearing heartily about children in general – ours in particular every time one of them shouted down! Just the way I always did. Remember? And I could love you tonight. Not MERELY sexually, but deeply and nicely – nicely, that is, in so many senses slightly different from sex but never completely divorced from it. You know what I mean! I know you do and I know also that I can feel you near me now. Almost I can feel your fingers in my hair, and what a lovely, close-to feeling that is, sweet. From this I hope that you will gather I have something of a soft spot for you in my heart! Darling, I must stop. I can’t afford the luxury of a coma tonight. But for all that I love you very dearly indeed. Look after yourself, my darling, and don’t get run down through looking after the children. Now I must go, angel. Night, night. All my love.
Your own,
Arthur X

Jun 051942

My Darling,
I’m making a start on this while I’m on guard duty, but may not be able to get it finished. Still, it will be a good beginning for my weekend chronicle. Once again I’m sorry letters have been so few this week, but it has been pretty hopeless to try to get a quiet minute or two. I’m glad to hear that Rees says the children can go into the garden now. By Monday, when they are “up” in the real sense of the word, you will feel far less “tired”. I know just how you feel about not being able to get at the garden and plot. I sometimes felt exactly the same way if I was held up by anything. As you say, it’s far worse being chained to the house in the hot weather. How are the children taking to that side of being ill? Now that they are feeling more normal I expect they are a bit of a handful at times, aren’t they? I meant to ask before: what infection period? Does it last through convalescence? In other words, how long do they have to be isolated? Just while they are in bed, or is there a set period like three weeks or a month? I do hope you and they will not be confined to home for too long a stretch. Your “fed up” feeling is quite understandable and I was glad to hear Mother had “released” you for a couple of hours, and also to see the change in your notions due to Rees’s decision to let the children in the garden for a time. When is Jennifer’s birthday? I didn’t realise she is two – or almost two. Chris was very good to postpone the celebration for our youngsters. What a pity young Molly won’t be there, for I presume Margaret is persisting with her “ideal mother” pose?
What is Mrs Smythe’s [??] reaction to the happy(?) event and to Jim’s medical? Am I wronging them, or am I right in placing them in Audrey’s category – all God, King and Country until they are personally affected? Tony is about Michael’s age, isn’t he?
In case I should forget, many thanks for the postal order, which is above schedule, by the way! That’s not playing fair, you know. When I tell you the price of something I expect you to stick to that figure or I shall stop telling the right prices. Then what will you do?
At this point I will have to leave you. See you later with full explanations.
That was just after 10 o’clock on Friday night and I had to leave off at that point because the lads wanted to get the beds ready and one of the beds consists of a stretcher placed on a bench in what is in peacetime a laboratory. This place used to belong to the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries for research into fish diseases. Anyway, I had to stop at that point because there was nowhere where I could write and the lads would keep dragging me into their conversations. There are, incidentally, four of us on guard at once – that is for a 24 hour stretch, 12.30 midday to the following day. Each man does one-and-a-half hours sentry duty at a time (6 hours in all) and a similar time as stand-by guard, which means he is ready to turn out at a second’s notice. While those two are on, the others are off duty, usually away at meals or sleeping. Although I only got four-and-a-half hours sleep – 1am to 5.30 – the time passed fairly quickly and here I am waiting to do my last turn at sentry, 10am to 11.30. After that I stand by for an hour and finish. So there you have the story of “guard” at Torry. The chief’s wife is very decent to the lads on duty. She brought us a cup of tea at 9.30 last night, left tea, sugar and milk for the other lads this morning and, as I was on sentry, brought me a cup to my post at 6.45am! I thought it very considerate of her.
You will be sorry to hear that Ralph has a touch of scabies and is at present in hospital, but it cannot be very bad as he is allowed out each day and we are hoping to meet him some time this afternoon. From what I can gather, he will only be under treatment for a few days as the attack he has is apparently pretty mild. I’ll bet it shook the Smith family up a bit, though. When I saw them last they all sent their kind regards.
The weather is marvellous here now and I’m sitting in front of the guardroom window watching the small craft cut through the still water of the harbour without the slightest effort. This is the time of the year I should like to make my first trip. What a good way to find one’s sea legs. In many ways I’d quite enjoy a trip to Canada or America now.
Well, I must be off again. See you later.
And here I am again, but now it’s Sunday afternoon. There was no chance to get down to letter writing again yesterday, so this letter will be rather patchy. At that point I left off once again, this time to pack that parcel for you and to write a note which I have very carefully left out of the parcel! I’m enclosing it with this letter.
On the subject of letter writing, did I tell you that one of our Lancashire lads, Eric Whitehouse [??], went home on compassionate leave some time ago and his girl had discovered that he was doing a line with a bit of stuff up here. She wrote to him up here the day after he got back and he showed me the letter. The result was I wrote a good alibi for him and he is now receiving regular very adoring letters! Since then my stock has soared with him.
I told you a bunch of fellows went back to their bases some time ago, didn’t I? Well, last week another bunch, about nine of them including four from our class, were sent back. Some of them had far better marks than I have been getting, too. I must be something of a blue-eye with Sim, our instructor, but I do wish I could do better. I hate to say this, and have deliberately refrained from doing so while you have been so worried about the children, but I’m getting “feared”, as the Scots say, that even Sim won’t be able to stop me from being put back one or two classes. You know that if I can possibly avoid that I will do, because it will put leave further back. Don’t mention this possibility to anyone else, especially Mother, for I agree with your remark about her reactions. Nothing is at all certain yet, but I feel there is just that possibility and it’s only fair to you to let you know how I’m feeling about things. Please, darling, don’t let it worry you too much. I know just how you will feel because I feel that way, too. In my case nobody here has made the slightest hint yet, but as soon as they do I’ll let you know – IF they do, I should say. The snag is that they make these decisions so quickly and give you a minute’s notice. They have a nasty habit, for instance, of sending for you at 11am and telling you to go to your digs, pack and report back after dinner to collect your warrant as you are on draft for your base! If it DOES come to a choice between going back a bit or giving up the course and going to my base, I think I’ll stick to this course. I’m not keen on another course.
Now, I have been very straight with you and I want you to promise you won’t go and have your “black” days all over again, or I will be sorry I told you of the possibility. I promise that the moment I know anything I’ll tell you. While I was on guard on Saturday the rest of the lads had their S.B.X. and they all say they did very badly, so if I can put a few marks on when I take the S.B.X. on Monday I will be in luck. I’ll let you know how I get on.
We have finished playing football now and have a new game – tip and run cricket. If you hit the ball at all, even if it only goes a yard, you have to run, which makes for a fast and fairly interesting game. We played last Tuesday for the first time and got quite a bit of fun out of it. Cricket was never my game and I made just one run, but as I was playing wicket keeper I managed to get nearly half of the other team out! All the youngsters were delighted with the “old man’s” game and there was a good deal of chaffing. Even the P.T. instructor who is, as I think I’ve told you before, rather a taciturn bloke, seemed to thaw a little and since then he and I have got on quite well. We are on speaking terms now, which is quite a feat unless you happen to be a real star turn at games, or one game at least. It’s always helpful to be well in with him for he can be a rather awkward person on occasion. He is a devil when he is in charge of the lads on “jankers”.
News of your brassicas – de dah! – is disappointing. What a shame that you should have had a set-back like that. Still, if it is not cabbage fly I should be inclined to have another try and remember, this time, to dip them in root and lime. You’re probably quite right about it being too bitter for the wireworms to tackle. For all that, the other stuff in the garden seems to be doing well and I was particularly interested to hear the blackcurrants are showing promise. Is the rhubarb still bearing? And what of the raspberries, or have they been completely over-shadowed by the weeds on that bank? If we decide to keep a kitchen garden going in peacetime, we might get hold of some decent canes, or perhaps some of those cultivated blackberries. I believe they are very good. I often wonder just what will happen when the war is over. I have even begun to wonder whether I will go back to newspapers! Yet at the moment I cannot see a lucrative alternative. Much as I struggle to keep a normal outlook, I sometimes feel very unsettled. Goodness knows how the younger fellows are going to take to civvy life again. Sometimes I feel very sorry for them, especially those who naturally rebel against being tied to an office stool. Where will they all finish up? I fight against this sort of speculation but it will keep recurring.
Your plans for the immediate future are of much more interest. I was glad to see you have planned the next few weeks out and if all your schemes materialise I think you will find the time passes very quickly. I hope so. Lilian wrote the other day and sent a simplified book on magnetism and electricity from Eric which should be very useful. Just what I was looking for. She seems to be kept fairly well occupied with visiting and being visited and mentioned that she was expecting to have you and the children over very soon. Have you heard anything of it? If not there’s another visit to help pass the time. You’re doing so much better since I have been away, in the way of travelling etc, that I can see you cursing loud and long when this racket finishes!
Now, my darling, I’m afraid it is nearly time to leave you and I, too, have an incipient coma mood on me tonight, as on so many other nights! Sweetheart, I can’t afford the luxury of a coma these days, so I have to be utterly ruthless with your beloved memory. It hurts, but it is the only possible thing and I sometimes wonder if you find anything of this cold, callous detachment in my letters. I simply dare not think of writing all those little things I want to say. Oh if I could only take this damned Morse solid and get 100% every S.B.X. I could sit and dream of you for hours on end in the evening. Never mind, precious, only a few more weeks at the most and then instead of dreaming of you I’ll be holding you tight. What heaven that will be! Occasionally I loosen the rein just enough to visualise Lime Street station, Skelhorne Street and the journey as far as the bottom of Morningside, but I never let myself turn the corner for I should be up that road in a flash! And another road, too! I have permitted myself this luxury, especially since they have been ill, of seeing the children run down the road to carry my little case. I wonder if they will? I hope so if I arrive at an hour when they are up.
Poor old Wendy! She is having a bad time, isn’t she, poor kid. I had an abscess like that when I was a kid and it swelled to such an extent that I couldn’t see out of my right eye. In those days we called them gumboils and the treatment was to put camomile flowers and poppyheads into a basin, cover them with boiling water and hold one’s face over the basin, with a towel over your head to keep the steam in. I can smell them now!
Well, angel girl, much as I love you I’m afraid I must leave you now. I’ll write you as often as I can, but I know you understand about this confounded night school. I’ll do my very best in the S.B.X. tomorrow again and see if there is any improvement. Anyway, I’ll let you know the result.
Bye for now, my own girl. I love you very much.
All yours,
Arthur X

Jun 271942

Another weekend! And I’ve got to that stage when I don’t give two hoots what happens about the Morse so I’m now in delightful “to hell with the Pope” mood. Several things have undoubtedly contributed to this feeling, one being the fact that we expected to have to take part in a naval week parade this afternoon and found at the last minute that that arrangement had fallen through. Secondly, it’s Ralph Oliver’s birthday today (he’s quite recovered now, by the way) and he is threatening a blitz tonight. After this week I’ll have to draw in my horns a bit and may start playing golf on Saturday evenings. With today, it will be three Saturdays in succession that we have been out seeing the highlights.
Since I began this letter innumerable things have happened. Just to give you an idea of the difficulties under which letters are written, the procedure in the last hour and a half has been something like this: I get out this pad and get as far as the address when Percy produces a bottle of leather dry and begins to mark some of his stuff. This, of course, cannot go uninterrupted and in comes Frank who suddenly finds he has several things to mark. Back he comes with a great pile of things including a new pair of shoes which I have to hold while he stamps his name on the inside of the tongue. Then another interval to chew Mars bar and roll cigarettes. A couple of sentences to the letter and another interval for polite conversation with Penny who has come to invite Ralph, Percy and I to tea to celebrate Ralph’s birthday tomorrow. Invitation gladly accepted, knowing Penny’s teas. Two more sentences and then, having developed a real dithering mood by this time, suddenly remember I have to scrub my gaiters. That well done I return to your letter and then decide to stamp my name in my cap and respirator. Following this comes a period of real concentration in the course of which I write five lines before Percy gives me a letter he has received from his pal Geoff, who shared our Saturday jaunt last week. After that, minor interruptions from all sorts of people including two lads who came to demonstrate conjuring tricks. Ever since I began to explain the interruptions there have been three more. This very minute a fellow from downstairs has been in to complain that his two new bedroom mates are wireless mechanics. Before that, Frank came in with a pile of clothing, including boots, which he wants to send home. He dumped them in the middle of the floor and stood there looking helpless. Result: I packed his parcel. He has scribbled a note to enclose in it and now I’m going to tie it up. If anyone in the house needs anything, they come to Percy and I. See you again in a minute, interruptions allowing.
Better now! Frank’s parcel is safely tied up all ready for the post and there was only one other interruption but a welcome one – Penny with a cup of tea and cream cake!
I have thought once or twice that when I do leave here it might be a nice gesture if you wrote and thanked her for all the things she has done to make us comfortable. I’ll give you her address when I come home.
As you will guess by this paper, I have been going through your letters but can only find a few points to answer. One is about the tent. The poles are, or should be, somewhere in the garage. The tent was packed in one of those army valises and perhaps some of the poles are with it. If not they may be on one of the sides of the garage, just under the roof. Probably the right-hand side wall. There should be six of them in all, two pointed. The pointed poles go through small holes at the ends of the tent where the long ropes are sewn on. Lay the tent out flat on the grass. Then insert one pointed pole through each end of the tent. That leaves four other poles, or two for each end. Stand one lot of poles up and balance it by holding the longest ropes tight and stick one of the metal pegs in the ground while you fasten, say, the right-hand one of the front pair of long ropes in. Then fasten the left-hand one about 3 feet away with another peg. Go to the back and repeat the performance of balancing the pole while you peg down the ropes, being careful to keep the roof ridge tight, or it will sag. At the front you will find an extra single rope which you can peg down last. At intervals all round the tent you will find smaller ropes which you can also fasten down. If you are short of metal pegs, do the four small corner ropes first. Hope you can follow all this.
I’m glad to hear the bike has returned. How much did it finally cost, and has Michael lost his early enthusiasm? Was it badly bashed up?
I’m interested in all your garden news, even if I don’t refer to each individual item. Every day going to Torry, I pass a garden in which there is a big clump of blue geraniums – like a bit of home. I do hope I’m home in time to see some of the flowers in bloom. What is happening to the hydrangea this year? The new plants will make a big difference to the garden and your new rockery.
I’m interested in the news of the marrows. I can imagine the children’s interest, too. Let me know how you get on with them. You’re quite right about the usefulness of the diary. If it is properly kept up it can be very useful for comparisons. About the vacant ground: I don’t know that I’d bother with a lot of roots like carrots. Aren’t they always fairly cheap? Get in as many winter greens as you can. Have you any kale in, or aren’t you going to bother? In any case, I should keep the land where the peas and beans are for next year’s roots. It won’t do the ground any harm to lie idle during the winter. In fact, if you dig it up rough it will do it good. Get it into rough clods by October–November, throw some lime on it and forget about it until next spring when it should be ideal for beet, parsnip and carrots. Another job you can do then is to take a broad trench where you have had the onions and leeks, put a good layer of manure on the bottom and put the soil back. Then you have that bed ready for next year. Your suggestion about spring cabbages in succession to the early potatoes is a good one. Do you remember we had our very first spring cabbage in the garden, on the left-hand side and they were quite good. Concentrate on those this year, and any greens which will last through the winter. And while on the subject of the garden, I wonder if I have mentioned your compost heap? Keep that going all you can but don’t put anything “woody” in it, only stuff which will rot down. Grass cuttings are very good. My suggestion is that you put a layer of manure on top of your green compost as often as you can get it. That’s what I did. In fact you can include some of the sods which were used to build the low walls in the plot, providing you strip the long runners of live grass from the sides. If you have layers of green compost and layers of manure alternately, you will find the manure will help to rot the green stuff and the greens will stop the cow manure from being like a cold “poultice”.
Well, darling, I’m making the experiment of getting this into the post on Saturday night, just to see if it reaches you on Monday morning for a change. Let me know if it does. Oh! angel, I’m wanting your presence more and more often these days. I do wish it was six weeks hence!
Take care of yourself, precious. I love you. Bye for now.
All my love,
Arthur X

Jul 011942

The date has just reminded me we are in to another month! Won’t be long now, love, providing the war is still going on! At the rate we are backing out of places there’ll soon be nowhere left to fight in except England. I’ve not had a chance yet of reading any of the parliamentary debate, but I’ll bet there’s some “doit” flying around.
I’m so glad the letter arrived in time to chase away the blues. As you know, I’d write much more often if I was not so blinking busy. I feel very guilty about my correspondence. There is stacks of it waiting to be done but, without giving up what little leisure time I have, there’s no chance of getting the pile down. I feel some relaxation out of doors is more necessary than ever just now and the little golf I have played has done me lots of good. In fact I’m going for 9 holes with Mr Smith and Ralph tonight. The Smiths, by the way, never fail to ask after you on the rare occasions I see them these days. I have been neglecting the Grants, too. As soon as I get a free week I’ll see both of them and also get my letters done. Here’s Ralph for me now. Bye for the moment, love.

So you got your tomatoes after all? I’m very glad, and although it’s a bit late in the season you should get some fruit from them. Before you buy any other “food” for them, have a good look round to see there is none either on the kitchen shelf or in the garage. I’m not sure whether we used up the packet we bought last year. That dried blood is as good as anything I know of. The white grubs Mrs Reid found on the cauliflower are the grub of the cabbage fly and that is the reason why plants on the soil round the roots should be burned. Otherwise they hatch out into more cabbage fly. If they were as big as you say they must be pretty well advanced. How are the blackcurrants and raspberries progressing? Don’t worry about the cabbage. You’ll probably save quite a lot of them but, if you remember, the savoys did not do awfully well last year, so don’t worry if yours are not too hot.
So little Stanley joins Butlin’s Navy? Well, well! Won’t Audrey be pleased. I can well imagine Mrs Johnson’s feelings towards her. What a comparison between the two of them and, I must admit, Mrs Johnson only voices the feelings of several people on the score of income. What a nice sort of lodger to have. I’ll say this for her: she’s a good picker.
Well, at this point I had to break off and I heard a little thing which made me think I may be home for leave much earlier than we expected. When we drew our new issue of tobacco today the chief told me to leave mine on one side – usually taken as an indication of an early departure for one’s base. Nothing more was said, but it looks to me as if I’m due for a move as they evidently think I’m not so hot. Anyway, if I do go back to my base I’ll probably get leave almost immediately. I can’t make up my mind whether to appeal against it or not. Anyway, don’t say anything to anyone for the moment, but if I do get a move I’ll wire you so as to save you writing letters which may not reach me. If I am going I’ll certainly know by the weekend so you will probably have received this letter before my wire. In other words, if you have received a wire saying “going Devonport today” you’ll know what it is all about. I will feel very disappointed if it is so, after all the work I have put in here, but it looks to me as if they are tightening things up a good deal all round now, judging by the number of people who have gone back from here recently. Almost it looks as if they are not prepared to spend too much time and trouble on people.
Anyway, it may mean that I’ll be home all the sooner. If I do ask to stay on they may push me back still another class! Within the next 24 hours I shall know my fate, so if you don’t receive a wire by Saturday you’ll know the whole thing has only been a scare.
I have started a letter to Michael but if I cannot get one finished to Wendy I won’t enclose it in this letter.
Well, sweet, this is all for now. Look after yourself. I’ll be seeing you one of these fine days.
All my love, angel.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Jul 261942

First of all, about letters. I have forgotten two or three times to let you know the time taken for them to reach here. The postmark on your Saturday letter is not legible, but one of them recently was postmarked 4.45pm one day and I received it at 4.30 the following day. Answering that little point gets a load off my mind! Funny how little things like that worry you.
Sorry to hear that you have been having a bad time with the plot. Do you think all the onions will go? It’s a pity if they do, although we did not do so remarkably well with them last year, did we? I had hoped for better results from both the onions and the leeks. Every year there seems to be something which goes wrong. Look at our experiences with cauliflower last year. At any rate it’s a comfort that the tomatoes stood up to the high wind. If I were you I’d hunt out that other glass jar because last year it took quite a long time to get the old sweets out of the other one. To hark back to the onions, one cause of the trouble may be that someone along the row of plots has had trouble with onion fly but has not tackled it properly, with the result that everyone is having trouble with that particular pest. That does happen where you have a lot of gardens running cheek by jowl and is one of the main reasons why each person should be careful to burn all diseased plants instead of just leaving them to rot and breed further disease. But apart from your troubles, I’m glad you are getting out into the plot more. The fresh air does you good. Have you picked any of the raspberries? In spite of all the rain you should find a good crop ripe now because once they begin to ripen they come along very quickly and you’ll probably find a lot well hidden away. On the subject of fruit, I should pluck the few blackcurrants from the bushes if I were you. It may harm your trees to let the currants run to seed. Even though you don’t use them, take them off.
Possibly I am to blame for Mother’s mood because I haven’t written to her yet as I was waiting for some definite move. She is probably annoyed at my neglect and is taking it out on you. I’ll write her today. These incidents between you and Mother worry me when I’m away from home. When I’m there I can deal with them myself. I’m not at all surprised at the line she has taken over Jane’s letter. It’s the obvious way for her to get her own back, and I’ll bet that, if the truth were known, there are several messages in it for us.
Back to gardening again, following the general lines of your letter! One of these days you will have a nasty accident with that fork. For cryin’ out loud, be more careful with it. It’s not the first time you have done that. I’ll have to give you lessons when I come home! One thing you have always been inclined to do is get hold of the fork too far down the handle, which throws it out of control. I’ll tell you off good and proper if you hurt yourself with it. With all the digging I have given you I’ve never hurt you yet – or have I? Perhaps I have sometimes, but not seriously.
You will still be at Limedale while I’m writing this and it’s just after our dinner hour (11.30 on Sundays), which probably means that you will either be helping May with dinner or else perhaps visiting Milly. I wonder just what you are doing? And I wonder, too, if the family is avoiding the usual “Limedale scourge”! Hope so, for your sake. I’m going to be interested to hear your account of what has happened during the weekend. I’ll bet the children have enjoyed it, especially the fair. I only hope that the weather has been decent. Here we have no complaints about the weather until today when we stood for three-quarters of an hour in the rain waiting to get into the pictures inside the barracks. My usual luck held and when I was within arm’s length of the pay box, all ready to slam my threepence down, the P.O. came along with the joyful news that the hall was full. You should have heard the Bronx cheer he got when he advised us to get there early tonight! From this, of course, you will gather we are watch aboard and I’m trying to write intelligently in a mess where, a few yards from me, a young fellow who has been in the Navy for over two years has found a new victim to bore. We are now hearing the whole of his naval career for at least the tenth time in the last week. This involves a full description of his “peculiar” rupture – a very, very special one – and just what he said to the doctor here, and what the doctor said to him and just why he should be a writer, and just why he does not want to go to Cabbala etc etc. There seems to be no end to his ability to recite this piece word for word, day after day, and we have learned that he has turned down an operation because he is afraid it might spoil him for married life. “And I’m courting back home!” he adds naively, from which I gather that the very special rupture, without an operation, has not spoiled his ability in that direction! Shall I develop a very special one? Let me know, pal.
I’m afraid I will have to keep away from the baths, darling. I went for a swim and sunbathe to the pool down by the Hoe yesterday and it played hell with me. I kept looking round at all the fellows with all their girls, frisking in the water, lying out in the sun together and, sweetheart, I thought of you. Precious, I did want you. I wanted you so much that at times I was positively indecent and had to get into the water again! Then, going from the baths to the YMCA for tea, we were surrounded by family parties, man, wife and children, lying basking on the Hoe. I never miss you so much as when I see other people leading quite normal lives. Still, I suppose that’s not for us for a time yet, but I do begrudge having to snatch a week from the war with a feeling that we must cram as much as possible into a few precious days, including oats, and, just as I felt it wrong to rush individual lots of oats, so I felt, in one way, under a sense of compulsion not to miss a single opportunity. I know you’ll understand what I mean. Fancy having the whole of one’s life in front of one, stretching away like a long road to be trodden at an easy, leisurely pace, with time to linger by the way to pluck the delights as one came to them. No sense of hurry, no slight sense of the need to be intoxicated with those delights as quickly as possible, lovely as that intoxication can be. And it can be lovely. Just now, at the mere thought of sitting down on that settee, with you insinuating yourself on the edge, there is a stirring deep down in me. And, by the way, I’m rather worried in case that settee should supplant the armchair in our affections. We can’t allow that, you know. With all due respect to the settee, it’s an interloper. And, while I remember, when are vapours due? I make it about August 5th. Am I right? I’ll be interested, you know!
My God! This lad is starting his naval story all over again, because someone new has come in! Heaven preserve me.
Oh, while I remember, will you try to build up a little store of cigarette papers for me? They are very hard to get hold of here. If you can get some I’ll be glad, but keep them for me until I ask for them.
Well, darling, this is all for today I’m afraid. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s letter. All my love, angel. I do love you. Look after yourself for me. My love to the children.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Jul 271942

We seem to have inherited your ”summer” weather, for it rained all day yesterday and all through the night and then, when we had thought we were in for a pleasant week’s work in the open, working on the small boats, we got a morning of rain. It was that fine drizzling rain and we were baling out boats at the time. Still, I enjoyed it and was looking forward to a full week of it but at dinner-time the fellow who was acting “skipper” of our mess got his discharge from the Navy so I got the job, which means that I’m excused all duties except keeping the mess clean and tidy, a task which occupies in all perhaps an hour-and-a-half each day. It is alright in some ways, but it means one is largely tied to the mess all day and I was hoping to learn a bit of practical seamanship. The chief over at the boats is a decent fellow who never expects too much and, in addition, there was a chance of a bit of fishing, but that chance has now gone, more’s the pity. Anyway, I hope you are now getting some of the decent weather we have had because it would give you a good chance at the plot.
I’m sorry you missed the apricots for I love apricot jam. Still, I’ll look forward to sampling your raspberry and rhubarb, a new combination on me. But I thought you were going to leave the rhubarb! How are the tomatoes coming along? I hope the rain has helped them to push on a bit, but if the weather has been cold that’s hardly likely.
Mrs Swift’s experiences in Germany were interesting. You know my views on individual cases of illegitimacy, but I have never been able to make up my mind about it as a national policy. Even when Russia was credited with fostering wholesale illegitimacy and abortion (at one and the same time by clumsy British propagandists) and easy divorce, it was one of the sides of social legislation on which I could never reach a definite decision – and never have done. It’s too far-reaching to be decided in a minute.
Now, following the course of your letter, from babies to raspberries! I mentioned them in my last letter, but now you ought to look at them often. You should get a plate or two from them every second or third day. Don’t forget there are some canes at the opposite end of the bank to the elderberry. Did you know? If you can strike that bargain with Mrs Reid, it seems a sound scheme to me, for then you’d be able to use your own bits of sugar for any other jam you could make. Will this business of putting syrup on points make any difference to you?
I was interested to hear the insurance man’s explanation, which sounds very plausible to me. I can quite imagine Mother forgetting she had had an increase although I have an idea that she once told me about it. But I couldn’t swear to it. You know what my memory is on these things.
If you had sent me an evidence – used I take it – in a letter I might have taken it as a hint that you were finding a cure for your spotty face elsewhere. What a thrill for, say, Mother or perhaps Lilian if either of them had received it! Whoopee!
I won’t be at all surprised if I don’t get a letter from you at the beginning of the week. I know what you are once you get to Limedale. Out drinking with THAT one, and forgetting all about your poor husband who is eating his heart out for you. And I suppose I can say goodbye to the two pints you owe me! Seriously, I hope you do get to the Rose for a drink while you are there. If you do, I’ll bet you come home all giggly. That’s OK so long as you don’t gamble the rent away! Now that, I think, answers your letter.
Last night I repented and, although I had stood for three-quarters of an hour in a vain effort to get into the pictures, I made another effort in the evening, this time with success. And I was really glad I had done for I felt I had had a good threepenny worth. We saw two full-length films, lasting three hours. One which I think you would have liked, for there were some good laughs in it, was ‘I Love You Again’ with William Powell and Myrna Loy. I suppose it’s far from new now, but if you get a chance to see it, don’t miss it. The sentiment is not too heavy and, as I have said already, there are some good laughs. The other film was one which would not have interested you, for it was a wild western which I thoroughly enjoyed. So did all the lads.
We are still waiting to hear news of our course. Two other lads who are going on the same course leave here for Glasgow tomorrow, so it looks like the north for us again. But when we will move on we don’t know. It may be any day. It may not be for a week, but as soon as I know anything I’ll be sure to let you know. As there is such a short time between posting and delivery, not many letters can go astray and I’ll fix it with one of the lads in the office here to forward my mail for me. If there are any letters from other people for me, send them on and take the chance of my getting them. If you enclose them in your letter they should be safe enough.
I seem to have covered pretty well all the news by now, for yesterday was pretty quiet, as you will see and Saturday was filled in with the baths.
Some of the lads who left Aberdeen after us have come back from leave today and two of them are already on their way to Warrington to become mechanics in the Fleet Air Arm. Another is in hospital with a recurrence of a septic leg which he developed at Aberdeen nearly four months ago. The fourth is adrift, having failed to arrive by noon today. Knowing him I should say he has a sound alibi – probably a friendly doctor. But that is getting very risky these days.
Well, love, it’s nine o’clock now and rounds are due any minute. When they are over I must get a letter off to Mother. And I haven’t written Eric yet, which is not fair for he was the only one to go out of his way to do anything to brighten up the leave.
Night, night, my angel girl. Take care of yourself. My love to the children. All my love, precious.
Ever your
Arthur X

P.S. I suppose you have told Dave what the position is. Will you tell him I’ll write when I get to the new place and give him all the news from there.

Sep 241942

I’m jumping wild about Monday’s letter not arriving because I nearly got pneumonia walking through the pouring rain for a quarter of an hour to post that letter at the G.P.O. and it was by far the worst night we have had yet. It’s disappointing that it should have been held up this weekend after me going to so much trouble. Funnily enough, a letter from Frank posted at Ayr on Thursday night didn’t reach here until Monday night. They blame the war for all sorts of things.
You certainly seem to be getting a good stock of things in for the winter and it is a good idea because you save in two ways – in money during the winter and in points at the same time. I’m interested to hear how the apple rings go on. So far as I can remember, pears are halved or quartered but to dry them I should think you would want racks with a meshing made from cotton or some similar fine non-rusting material. You might be able to rig something in Michael’s room from some laths with cotton stretched tightly between them.
I was interested to hear of your good impressions of Florence Rollo who has always struck me as being a good type, but I don’t like your hint of compulsion for mothers of two young school children. There will be a good deal of trouble if they try to enforce that while there are still women who have no children and don’t even do their own housework! Still, against the possibility I should like to see your doing a few things off your own bat as you used to do. Does the ‘Echo’ still make use of short articles and “Echoes and Gossip”?
So far there has been no sign of Dave. How is he coming? By train or by car? How will he manage for petrol and what are his chances of being picked up? I should have thought he would have to be at home for the invasion exercises, both from a work point of view and also because of the Home Guards. Now I’m off to school – morning session as I’m writing this after breakfast. What a man. Ta-ta for now.

Dinner time
Many thanks for your letter, love, but there’s no need to worry about Michael’s reaction to my letter. Your description was so good that I chuckled over it for a long time. Actually, it is probably a good sign for I think it really means that he is unaware of the gravity of the offence. In his moral code he may place lying in a similar category to going out when you are told to stay in. I don’t think a child who was conscious of wrongdoing could really dismiss the affair as lightly as he evidently does. When his moral sense is anchored he’ll probably be a lot better. In the meantime, I’m glad you have had a better week with him.
I don’t think there are many other points to answer in your letter except about the plot. I think there may be time to decide what is going where when I come home, except that you will want to get your spring cabbage in early unless they are already in winter quarters. If they are not already settled, put them down in the roots plot as soon as you get it cleaned up. Providing you don’t get a lot of really heavy rain you could leave the main crop until I come home and I’ll lift them for you and enjoy doing it. Until then just use them as you want them but try to make sure you have all the small ones up.
Now I must dash off to school. All my love, sweetheart. As you say, we can’t worry about October vapours yet. It’s far too early because you haven’t had September’s yet! Take care of yourself, angel. It won’t be long now. We have our second Admiralty exam today. I’ll let you know how I get on. All my love, angel. I adore you.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Feb 221943

As we are very slack in the office – in the old ‘D.P.’ days we’d now be playing snooker at the club! – I thought I’d make a start on your letter about the plot. First of all, you’d better get someone on Russell’s plot as soon as possible or you may find that if the spring gets too far advanced no-one will tackle it. The top part, by the rhubarb, will do better once all the brambles are cleared away. I don’t like your choice of site for the tomatoes. Will they get as much sun running ACROSS the plot as they would running up and down it? I have my doubts. Remember they did quite well when I had them going up and down the plot by Mason’s. I’m wondering, too, if the site of the present manure heap isn’t too shaded for marrows. For quite a long part of the day they are shaded by the poplars, which means that once the fruit is formed the ground might be TOO damp if there is a rather wet spell. You might get better results in the open even if it means using some of the manure. Anyway, you can think on these points when you are making your final decision about what to grow and where. Another thing you want to do is carry the centre path right to the bank where the raspberries are and put another path at right-angles to it, running parallel that is, with the bank. You will find a bramble there which needs digging out.
I’m enclosing a plan with a few suggestions. As you will see, I suggest that you take up one of the crowns of rhubarb and split it into three or four new ones which, if you let them grow and die off this year, will give you a really good supply next year. The remaining three should give you plenty for this summer. Use the end of the present onion bed, or the continuation of the rhubarb bed (perhaps the latter is really the best) for your marrows and prepare the bed as soon as you can so that anything you do put there, old leaves etc, will be rotting down. Do you think you’ll be able to get a bit more manure? Get all you can and keep Michael up to scratch on that point. Your greens should do well this year because they and the onions will be almost the only things needing manure and you won’t have the spuds taking such a lot.
According to a list at Kew, broccoli and sprouts are the best vitamin-bearing vegetables so it might be well to do away with summer cabbage, or put only one score in, and concentrate as much as possible on them and cauliflower and savoys. The cauliflower may do better with more food in the ground. Scarlet runners are only a suggestion for you. The great snag is the stakes. Where you had peas last year should be ideal for parsnips, but I’d put some naphthalene on first and get your seed in early this year. They seem to take a long time to germinate and an early dry spell will set them right back. Are you getting loganberries from Milly? If so, I suggest that you clear one or two little spots on the front of the raspberry bank and then try to stake them up. If you put them on the open ground of the plot you’ll never keep them under control. They run all over the place. I’d put globe roots – beetroot, whitestone turnip and redtop turnip – in both sides of the garden this year, with emphasis on the redtop which will keep and store for the winter as a change or to go with carrots. As an experiment, why not try a few different plants – brassicas and roots of all kinds – on the site of the present manure heap when it is cleared, just to see what plants do really well on old manured ground? Remember if you do try this to keep the taller stuff near Mason’s side so at to give the front ones a chance of sun.
All these things are just suggestions for you because you must decide what you want to do for yourself. I know it’s easy to give other people advice on this subject, but all the same I wish I could get a fortnight’s work in on that plot for you. I’d get in quite a bit of digging there – and elsewhere! But seriously, you want to spend what little time you have in the garden and plot preparing for your earliest stuff first and, if you can manage it, I’d get some of those mothballs crushed or get ready-powdered naphthalene and give as much of the plot as possible a dressing of it as soon as you can. It might do a lot to ward off some of the pests that are hibernating.
Now to your letter. I’m glad the “boodle” from Jane has arrived. You may find that very useful later on. Have you sent a cable or an airgraph in reply? Let me know by return because, if you haven’t, then I must immediately because of the evident delay in transit. They’ll be wondering what happened. The old oak chest is looking a bit healthier now but we’ll probably need it all!
Say “thank you” to Michael for his drawing and tell him I think he’s a clever lad, although I must confess I’m not certain whether the big object with two chimneys is intended to be – Littlewoods or a cruiser! I think he writes amazingly well, don’t you?
Your letter was quite one of the nicest you have written – so homey with its wide range of subjects that it was almost like sitting talking to you for an hour or so by the fireside, which is the atmosphere letters should produce, isn’t it? I was interested in all you had to say on the barred subject but am not going into that further just now. Nor do I think I can usefully add anything in regard to the allowance/allotment business. I think you know best on this score and at the time I mentioned I had a feeling myself that it might be well to leave the whole matter alone as we have done so well, but I believe there was an undertaking given in the House, at the time, that this would not happen.
Thanks for the local gossip, love. I enjoyed it but was sorry to hear that Batty’s have given it up. Tell Mrs Batty so, if you see her. What are they going to do? I can’t imagine him in any other job, can you? How will you fare with the new bloke and what are the chances of muck?
I liked your story of the canal because I can see Michael taking after me in that respect. Not only did I lure a very willing young woman there on certain occasions, but as a kid I spent half my holidays there. The “cut”, as we always called it, was a great place to me and you may remember that I finally discovered I could swim only when I fell in! Once Michael starts school, he’ll be haunting the place too, I expect. Which has just called to mind the fact that when I was up at the golf course I meant to see if I could get some frogspawn for the children. Could you get a bit from one of the little brooks and keep it in a jar for them? They’d be tickled pink, you know. One of my secret pleasures had been hoping to be able to introduce them to tadpoles, jacksharps and newts. In another month or so the male newts will be wearing those gorgeous crests of theirs. They do look lovely in mating season.
You are a good soul to go to so much trouble to see Michael gets fresh air these days and I’m doubly glad because it takes you out, too. Do you feel better for it?
All things being considered, I think the snaps are not too bad at all. The reason why Wendy has come off best is that I had used two films on Michael indoors. He did well to sit for a time exposure, didn’t he? With a fast lens one of those would have been very good. Did Dave (a) give you only one set; (b) say if we could have any repeats; (c) return the negatives?
Now, angel, I must fly to the post or you will never receive this. I do love you, angel. Do take good care of yourself and I’m so pleased to hear that your cold is on the mend. I’ll be interested to know – banned subject altogether apart and not even being considered – whether you have got over your succession of late nights and if your sexual exercise has done you any good. Do you feel physically and mentally better for it?
Pet, I must go. Yesterday I really did get to the zoo at last, but I’ll tell the children about it as soon as I can find time. Give them my love. I hope they are behaving well. All my love to you, Stelly-well.
Ever your own,
Arthur X
P.S. Let me know which, if any, of the snaps you want back.

Feb 241943

I’ve been working really hard outside today so am feeling full of virtue and very blistery on the hands – I must be getting soft. This afternoon I dug quite a good slice of the plot, I should think about a quarter of the left-hand side. I don’t mean just the part up to the line of sprouts, but right across to Russell’s, where the peas and a path were. Where it was very overgrown I skimmed off the sod and used it to make a low wall. If someone is going to have that land we’ll need a proper line of demarcation. Then I lined it all and divided the rhubarb as you suggested and retired for a cup of tea and a sit-down.
I didn’t intend to do any more, but we had tea early, and I was at a loose end afterwards so I had another shot at the garden. I’ve got all this side tidy, which was something of a job if you remember how overgrown it was. I’ve got an absolute mountain of grass out of it. So altogether I feel I’ve broken the back of both the plot and garden today and if I go on at this rate we’ll soon have everything ship-shape. And I forgot to mention that I put some muck on the rhubarb. My precious spade has been put away as clean as it was in the shop – I don’t know how long this zeal will last!
What a nice long letter yours was today. You know sometimes I can hear your voice in every line so that I feel that I’m listening to you rather than reading a letter. Oh, my love, you’re such a nice understanding sort of person and you’ve left the “bored subject” just as I wanted you to, as a distinct possibility for the near future. And don’t worry that I’ll let this obsess me. After the first day one quickly gets over the disappointment. Not because of shallow feelings but just because it’s no use getting fussed about things that can’t at the moment be altered. For the next couple of months I’ll be using my urges, biological and sexual, in hard work on the plot. You remember what a source of interest and consolation it was to me last spring. It was the one thing that saved me from going gaga during those first awful months. So please don’t think I’m all depressed now, sweet. I’m not, and I won’t be, but heaven help you next time I’ve got your not unwilling body within my reach! Oh, darling, darling, you’re so sweet in everything you say in today’s letter, and I do love you such a lot tonight.
Thank you for your suggestions about walks. I thought of that Thornton walk but I haven’t the foggiest idea just where we got off the bus. Can you enlighten me?
I’ll try and remember to clean up your golf bag tomorrow. I doubt if there are any balls around the house now for I sent all I could find to you in Aberdeen. I’ll let you know in tomorrow’s letter whether there’s a lock on the bag.
Michael has looked much better today and has had more fresh air than he usually gets. He’s not eating much but you know how the slightest upset puts him off his food for ages.
Tragedy! The family’s one hot water bottle has sprung a leak! I’ve dug out that tin one I got and it seems quite efficient but I like something soft myself – not that you’ve noticed it!
Well, love, I think that’s all the news for today. By the way, I’ll send a letter to reach you on Sunday this week.
Goodbye, precious. I do adore you. Had a nice dream about you last night, not sexual but you were very nice to me.
All my love, dearest,

Feb 251943

Thanks for your long and interesting letter from which I gather that you have been bitten rather badly by the spring gardening bug. I’m glad you have got a decent spade and if you look after it – and the fork too – better than I did, it should prove a bargain and last for years. All these things break off at the shaft because the rust from the metal weakens the wood. They should really be wiped and oiled, but as you know, I never bothered at all so I can’t preach at you! Anyway, there’s no doubt sharp new tools do infect you with enthusiasm but be careful not to overdo things. Progress slowly and dig deeply. That is undoubtedly the great secret. All that land was due for a good double digging last back-end and would have got it had I been home, but it is heavy and uninteresting work and tiring on the back, too, so once again – be careful! If you are going to pay special attention to one side I should give it to the left hand side because where the potatoes were should be alright with a good forking over to get up any odd bits of grass I may have missed, but I think I did it fairly carefully when I lifted the potatoes. If I were you I’d leave the blackberries alone. With loganberries and rasps you’ll have quite enough trouble keeping them within bounds. Where are you thinking of putting the gooseberry bushes if you get them? Remember they’ll throw quite a lot of shade on other things. You are probably right about the temptation to get things in too early, but you want to take advantage of the decent weather to do as many short spells in the allotment as you can. Even half an hour’s forking or weeding in the morning and the same in the afternoon every day will make an enormous difference. We didn’t have any luck at all with onion seeds remember. What about those you planted in the garden? Can’t you recognise them? A start like that makes all the difference you know in the real growing and ripening season. Get what muck you can as soon as you can and either add it to the present pile or start a new one somewhere with an eye to its site for growing stuff next year. Well that’s about all on the allotment, but keep me posted with your progress, won’t you? You know I’m interested and I think that, given a spell free of trouble, you may do very well this year. Try giving the greens a lot more muck this time, even if it means fewer plants.
As you will see, I have written to the children telling them of the trip to the zoo. I could probably have written a lot more but the great trouble is trying not to write more to one than to the other – a great restriction, I always find, which cramps one’s style a lot. When the war’s over, we really must go to the zoo at Chester, or wherever it is. We will both enjoy it just as much as the children. The colouring of some of the birds is almost unbelievably beautiful.
I’m feeling a lot better for getting a little fresh air on my day off. There is a warm breeze blowing and it is a lovely afternoon so instead of sleeping I’m going to post your letter and then take the train to Hammersmith and walk back along the bank of the river to a point near the spot where, in peacetime, the Oxford and Cambridge boat race finishes. Everywhere in London seems to mean something, doesn’t it? One day I’m going to have a look at Wormwood Scrubs which is not very far away from here! There’s nothing like having a Catholic taste, is there?
Well, my love, I must be off. I do hope the vapours are improved now. Don’t forget to natter at Rees about it, will you. And tell me all that he says, especially regarding conception. All my love to you, angel.
Ever yours,
Arthur X

Mar 011943

My darling,
I always love you, you know that, don’t you? But I love you to distraction when I receive letters like your two weekend ones. You are a darling girl to give me long-range erections and deep-down yearnings for you such as I have had since I got your letters, and such nice letters they are, too. Apart from loving you, I’ve had a very contented mind lately just through knowing that you are really well at last, and I’m so glad my crocus-time prophecy has come true. We’ll have to have your new spade silver-mounted for it seems to have been your lucky talisman, doesn’t it? It’s good to think that once more you can do a long spell in the plot, or a day’s washing, without feeling absolutely all in. Next thing is to get a couple of decent walks in and then you will be getting all the exercise you need and, with the plot, will have the advantage of some real interest in life apart from the family and books. That’s what is really needed to keep you fit.
All your gardening news was very interesting. I always found that bank a devil of an eyesore and a real handful to try to control. If you can get the grass pile by the manure dried out, that with the old raspberry canes and the big dead weeds from the bank should make quite a good bonfire, but don’t pull the weeds – those dry and thoroughly dead ones – until you can put them right on to the fire. That will save transplanting their seeds on to the plot. Once again, no matter how great the temptation to see the surface looking properly cleared, don’t rush this business of digging the plot, and especially the left-hand side. Be satisfied to do a little at a time and do it well. I have always thought the method of muck-spreading rather wasteful where manure has to be conserved so closely, but it may be worth trying. What that ground could do with is a good layer like that in the late autumn, or even this time of the year, and then manuring in the ordinary way as the stuff is put in. I think last year’s very disappointing crop of potatoes shows that the nature is going from the ground. So get all the manure you can from both Batty’s and Neville and hoard it and add every possible leaf from the kitchen to it so that next year you will be able to give it a real feed. By the way, have you given your spring cabbage a touch of nitrate of soda yet? I think you could give a few a little filip now. It’s March, you know, and the start of still another month nearer leave!
It seemed to me that the mere newness of the spade handle may be responsible for the condition of your hands. The shaft is probably shiny and slippy yet, and it is the very slight almost imperceptible slipping that helps to give you blisters.
Naphthalene seems to be the answer to the pests, doesn’t it? I’m glad you had a chatter to Yacksley. He’s a nice fellow and the only way to learn is from other people’s experiences and, generally speaking, gardeners are only too pleased to swap experiences. I’m glad you are going to have a few flowers, too, and that the children will have an interest on the garden. Let me know how your marigolds turn out. Why not line the plot path under the blackcurrant bushes with flowers, and use your parsley for filling some other odd corners? Or try the experiment of lodging a few flower seeds in the face of the bank. Just a few. They might take there and would look very effective if they did. How big was the rhubarb crown, by the way? Did it look really mature? And how are the blackcurrant bushes looking now? Will you get a much better crop this year? If you get some gooseberry bushes from Milly, try to remember to plant them somewhere so that when they grow bigger they won’t shade a lot of other stuff.
Jack and Dot are almost certain to get that other flat and will probably move in some time this month, but not a word to Mother! If they do, Jack is talking about getting a plot. I hope he does because I’ll be able to do quite a bit on my days off and I’ll feel more at home in a way. Dot is very keen on the idea, of course, as you may imagine.
Now to non-gardening subjects. I’m glad that, in the sum total, vapours were not excessive. That, of course, demolishes one of your cunning pregnancy arguments about the inevitability of the loss! Do have a really serious talk to Rees about this and DO tell me all he says. I’ll be interested, too, to hear his reactions to the fact that vapours fitted in with leave so well. That will probably tickle him to death. Yes, I’ll try to write Wendy in script some time, but don’t promise her anything as my script is lousy and I’ll have to experiment. It might be best in pencil.
So my stinking body has impregnated the bed? I do get the compliments, don’t I? You are an angel to think so nicely of me. I wish you had slept in my bed because then I’d have somewhere to nuzzle, too. And would I nuzzle – especially while I had you here. And I’m glad to have the somewhat tardy and begrudging admission that your sexual urges were satisfied to some extent. Mine aren’t for I get a smashing erection each time I re-read your letters. By the way, something came unstuck and I didn’t get your letter at Whitehall until this morning. I can’t understand it because it is postmarked Saturday 1.30. It must have just been carelessness by someone.
I’m more pleased than I can say to hear that you are writing something at last. Don’t bother sending me an original. Let me have the carbon and stick the original into the post the moment you have done it. If you send it to me you’ll waste nearly a week. Where will you send it? To the ‘Echo’, or to one of the nationals? Would it make a broadcast? That’s the stunt to get into if you can. If you don’t sell it to the papers, quickly bung it off to the BBC. Get it done without waste of time, love. I’m dying to see it.
You’re a devil for parting us, aren’t you? First it’s Beryl and I; now you have a hidden husband and I find in my innocence that I’ve been living in sin for seven years, nearly! You produce any hidden husbands if you dare, you hussy. I’ll swing for them, but first will shag you to death. Oh death where is thy sting?
Now, angel, it’s nearly four o’clock and I want to get an hour’s fresh air and have a bath before tea. Oh and talking of tea, can you send me an occasional quarter, please? They have stopped us going down to the canteen now and we want to make our own. If you can let me have some fairly soon I’d be glad. And I think perhaps you had better send me 10/- out of the old oak chest by return because I’m going out with Jack and Dot and a pal of theirs to dinner on Wednesday and that will probably cost me few bob in drinks. Cigarettes run away with my money, as you can imagine. You can’t buy many at 1/6 for 20 when your sole income for all purposes is about 23/-. I’m not moaning. Just stating facts, love.
And now, sweetheart, I really must go. Again, many many thanks for two lovely and cheerful letters. Sweetheart, I love you more and more and that’s why it means so much to know my girl is well and strong again. All my love, my own.
Ever your
Arthur X
P.S. I have at last written to Geo. No baccy from the Grapes yet is there?

Mar 021943

Thank you for another very nice letter. You are an angel, you know, and when you write letters like these I love you more than ever. Cheerful letters they are, which bring a real “homey” atmosphere with them.
Now about this long weekend. Before we begin making any determined plans, will you let me know exactly how much we have in the old oak chest, not forgetting to deduct the £2-5 which I will need for slops? And also find out what the fare will be for you. I think it is about 28/- but I’m not at all certain. I’ll ask Charlie what they charge for breakfast but I know that the charge for a room is 4/- a night. Dates will have to be worked out and I’ll get one of our “experts” on the job. If you came down on a day when I was on the forenoon watch I could meet you and are you out to Dot’s because I’d be off from 1.30 to 8 and would also be off from 3am but it would be impossible to get to Chiswick, although I could get to the Union Jack! Then there’s another point. Would it be better to come down mid-week and go home say Saturday or Sunday? You see everywhere – trains, buses, cafes, theatres are jammed with service people up in town on weekend leave whereas in the week we’d have places like parks and river banks almost to ourselves. Then, if you wanted to, you could stay on for Saturday and Sunday, I would be off for one of those days and you could get out with Jack and Dot. Let me know what you think and then give me dates for a Tuesday or Wednesday in following weeks. Another complication is that at the end of this month or early next month they will be leaving here and going into their new flat and I expect they’ll be fairly busy but we should know the date of their move soon.
You will only have three days here, you know, so you won’t get all the “sights” in and in any case you will find that many of them are missing in wartime. The changing of the guard, for instance, as there are only lads in battledress now and I think all unnecessary procedure has been cut out. I haven’t seen the Bloody Tower myself and I think that, too, is closed to all but an officially conducted services party. No. 10 Downing Street can only be seen at a distance as there are barriers at the end and passes are needed. Sorry, love, but it isn’t my fault and I’m only telling you these things because I don’t want you to be disappointed when you get here. Now, in the best Admiralty style I’ve passed the buck to you so will you answer some of these questions and then I’ll start inquiring about dates, etc.
Many thanks for the latest bulletin on your “plotting” progress. I’m glad you managed to get some muck. Get as much as you can for you’ll need it all. In your last letter you said Neville had orders for a couple of “loads”. Does that mean he delivers a full load and, if so, what does he charge for it? I’m glad to hear that Reg is taking over Russell’s plot because that will mean all that bramble by the rhubarb will go, as well as a lot of other rubbish. That will probably mean you will have fewer weeds, especially if you can keep those on the bank cut down before they run to seed. That is a great breeder of weeds, isn’t it?
Well, love, there’s not a lot of news. Yesterday after writing to you I got the trolleybus to Kew Bridge and walked along the river to Kew Gardens where I wandered about for an hour or so. Spring is definitely in the air. On Sunday in Richmond Park courting couples were quite frequent and one fellow was lying on top of a girl in a very suggestive manner. Yesterday at Kew it was just the same. Couples lying on the grass or necking quite unembarrassed by passers-by. I was jealous and did miss you then! Never mind, I’ll have my chances soon, I hope. I only hope that the weather holds good. Now I must slip off to the post and then have a bath.
All my love, sweetheart. I’m so glad you are feeling so much better. Keep it up, angel.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Mar 101943

I hope the divil may fly away wid yez and that right soon. As you will see, I have written to the children, but that effort at script for Wendy was a real labour. And then you have the damned cheek to tell me that they can’t afford the time to write to me because they are playing in the street! Seriously, I only hope she will be able to read it after all the trouble I took. I kept lapsing into ordinary writing in the first effort I made and I’m not sure now that all the letters are right. If not, will you tell me which are wrong and send correct examples, please? And for the love of mike if she can’t read my scrawl, tell me, but if she can then it is worth the effort I suppose.
Many thanks indeed for your letter, love. I was interested to hear all the garden news, but very sorry to hear what Batty is charging for muck. Have you asked Neville what he does? You may find you can get a good load from him for 10/- or 15/- which would really be worthwhile because it would be a good basis for your compost heap and would probably see you through next year with what you have got and additions of every scrap of green stuff that comes off the allotment and the garden. Have you put the loganberries up on the bank? If not, you and whoever has Mason’s plot will be in for a hot time next year. The damned things run all over the place, you know. I’m glad you have another hollyhock. That is another inducement to get back to civvy street! By all means replant that bed if you can get the plants. They mask that wall so well, don’t they?
I’m glad you have got that article away at last and I’ll be interested to hear its fate and also to see carbons of your other articles. Don’t make them too long as space is very precious these days.
A gardening point I meant to mention was that it would be a good idea to get the hedges cut right back as far as possible before they get too sappy. You’ll find them easier to do now than, say, in June.
It’s all very well for you to tell me that you were doing all sorts of nice things to John and then add the order “Lie down there!” Things aren’t as easy as all that. It took me nearly an hour to get him under control and in sheer desperation I had almost to ask assistance of one of the Wrens! If I had done, you would have been to blame, you know. Oh, angel, it will be good to sink him to the limit again and to feel I’m fast in Mary’s warm embrace once more. I can feel now that lovely moist embrace of hers; warm, loving and so contented to have him back once more that just for an instant she stops all else to sigh a little sigh of sweet con. That’s what you always do, you know, first time. Oh, my love, just the mental picture of that first moment is blissful agony and John is in torment. He does weep for you on these occasions. So much so that I can almost do with a bath after them. Sweetheart, I’m yearning so much for you that I could almost jump on the Merseyside express instead of going back to work tonight. But go back I must. And right now I must go to the post.
All my love, angel. I do love you so much, sweetheart.
Ever yours,
Arthur X
P.S. I’ve never said thank you for my tea! Thank you, love. But don’t send more, I can get all I want now.
Golf balls? Lock? WHEN OH WHEN?

Mar 291943

Hello Angel,
And thank you very much for my Whitehall letter on Sunday. Yes, it did arrive safely and was waiting for me when I got back from dinner. It really was a nice letter touching, as it did, on so many sides of home life from the garden and your Sunday walks – both interesting subjects – to your beloved new hat and the possible methods of thwarting the threat of vapours! What a variety of topics to be answered.
Yes, I think you did all that should be done to prepare an onion bed, but I think you will find either plants or sets a better proposition than seeds. Why not try some of each just to see the difference? That’s a good way of learning. I’m looking forward to seeing all you have been able to achieve when I do come home. Be careful not to thin the rhubarb down too much. Yes, you certainly seem to be ahead of last year, but if I were you I’d take the beet out now. They won’t do much now and might be harbouring eggs of pests.
I’m interested in Michael’s flannels. Did you ever have anything done with that serge I sent or not? And has he got a blazer to wear with his blouses and pullovers? If not, he might be cold for although the weather has been fine here it hasn’t been really warm enough for summer clothes. If he can go to Southport the change will do him good.
About Mollie – you know what my views are about her. For all that, you have a right to please yourself about going to see your own sister. I know you won’t expect me to get all enthusiastic about her, but God help her if she upsets you! And I mean that, for I’m growing less and less tolerant these days as you may have noticed. While you are there, give the Mother Superior my compliments and ask her who the British nuns are praying will win the war and who the Roman nuns are praying for! But that is really too hoary a chestnut. All I can say is that I hope the visit won’t make you unhappy, but if you feel you ought to go then do so by all means. There’s only one thing I would ask – I would like you not to let her have photographs of the children. You may think that childish, but there you are. Anyway, love, you said some very nice things about the things which have happened since you were last there. Thank you, angel.
Have you got your London hat yet? You are so rarely feminine in that sense in your letters that it’s a change to hear you enthusing about a hat.
As I have been feeling down in the dumps all day I have arranged to go out with the lads, which means that I have very little time to say all I wanted to say. But there is one important point: your idea of coming down Friday is good. So if Eric and Lilian can take Michael, will you arrange that? It will mean taking him over on Thursday. Get the morning train and I’ll arrange to meet it. Yes, I did arrange about the doll and am waiting for it to arrive. It should have been here today. I’m sorry to have to skip this last part of the letter but I’ll try to write you a really full letter tomorrow.
All my love, sweet. Take care of yourself. Less than a fortnight now! Will you please send my slops money by return? I’ll need it definitely in the next day or so. Sweetheart, I’m aching for you today. I don’t think I’ve ever missed you more.
Always your
Arthur X

May 201943




You will probably find that all my letters now will be written in the open air so I hope you’ll make allowances for the calligraphy. As a matter of interest, this one is being written on Turnham Green which, as you will no doubt remember, is not at Turnham Green at all, but at Chiswick! Having got the geography straight, let’s answer your letter first as I’m behind time today. As soon as Jack went out I set to and washed three flannels, a jean and a pair of socks; then bathed, shaved and turned in. I didn’t get up until 3.30! Naughty lad, aren’t I? But I must confess I felt tired out. I’ll be okay providing I can get a solid night’s sleep, although I expect the blasted sirens will go again. Jerry seems, from all accounts, to have settled down to his old programme of nuisance raids every night. From what I can gather there have been a few odd bombs within measurable distance of here, though so far I haven’t seen any of the damage and I can’t say that I’m going out of my way to find it! Jerry must either be pushed for planes or else he’s saving them up for defence against an invasion or invasions.

Many thanks for today’s letter, love. I was interested to hear of the experience of Hilda’s sister at the  hands of the Navy and so will Dot be. I’ll tell her when she comes in tonight. And, while I remember, I brought the wrong negative back with me. It was the blurred one, which is no use to anyone. Will you send me the one of Dot and Bobby? Dot thought the pictures very good, but said she looked like a drunk on that one taken in the ruins – and come to think of it, she does!

I’m glad you enjoyed leave so much, but we certainly can’t judge at all by the stoppage of vapours now! Anyway, you’ll know something fairly definite in about three weeks. How many pints do I get if we have rung the bell this time? I’m not surprised that you have not had sufficient energy to do a full day’s work on Tuesday! Whatever else happens, you certainly lose a lot of sleep while I’m on leave, don’t you?

I’m glad the kids are in their bathing costumes again. The weather here is absolutely scorching.

You seem to have made a lucky deal with Mrs Gardiner. Nice work.

Reverting to leave, one of the best features of it to me was that I spent more time actually at home, doing odd jobs about the place, but I was sorry not to be able to get at the very least one full day on the plot for you. Get rid of those piles of grass as soon as you can. Shake them up and turn them over with the fork every day for a week and in this weather they’ll be dry at the end of that time. There is a lot of soil on the roots, but if you can knock some of it off you should be able to turn the whole lot at this time of the year. Anyway, get rid of it, for it harbours pests. If the weather is anything like decent on my next leave, I will devote at least one full day to the plot, if not more. That should be at the right time of the year for clearing some of the ground where your early stuff has been. Let me know how the plot goes during the summer, won’t you?

It has just occurred to me that it’s just possible Michael will be at school, too, by then. Which means we will be tied to home more than before, for I don’t think it would be wise, if he has started, to break his first week or two, do you? We’d best let him settle down as quickly as possible.

You won’t forget to call and see Peggy as early as possible, will you, and make my apologies for me. It might also be a good idea to give Hughie a ring and ask him to keep those pads until he sees you. If you don’t do that, it may mean that they’ll lie in the sergeant’s office at the door for ages and then be knocked off!

Well, angel, I don’t think there’s a lot more to say except that I got a 5/- postal order from the office, which I’m enclosing as I feel I owe you a few bob, including the 2/- for Michael’s box which we borrowed. I’m also enclosing £2 to be stowed in the old oak chest for slops. If I keep it on me, it will melt away!

Now I must be off, sweetheart, or I will miss the post. Dearest, I love you so and it’s been a bit of a struggle to concentrate on work, but I’ve managed it somehow! The next three months, until we can start looking forward to the next leave, will seem fairly flat but, thinking of the woman who thought herself a widow, we certainly don’t know there’s a war on. One thing is certain, by the time leave does come, the war should have taken a definite turn so far as Europe is concerned and then we’ll see better where we stand.

Give my love to the children and tell them I miss them both a lot. Take good care of yourself, sweetheart.

Ever your own,

Arthur X

May 251943




Many thanks for your long newsy letter of home in which I was well and truly slated for being a bad lad. By now you will have had the explanation of my lapse and I hope I’m forgiven!

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday’s letter was the £1 in the old oak chest. I was only saving it against emergencies and to make up the balance of my slops money, but if you will feel better by settling the debt with Mother, do so by all means. It will be a few weeks before we have to pay for slops and by then I may have got a few odd bob together and if I haven’t, perhaps you’ll be able to lend me it. It ought not to be more than five or six bob. A thought has just occurred to me – my birthday comes between now and slops time and I think it will be a poor do if I can’t make up 5/– or 6/– that week! Anyway, use the quid on the strength of it.

I’m glad Michael is getting more enthusiastic – or would it be more correct to say less hostile? – to the idea of school. As you say, the cap and blazer seem to have made a difference to his outlook.

Many thanks for all the horticultural news and I’m glad to think you’ve got your seeds and “dope” before the rain came. Natural watering is always worth gallons from the tap, I always think. The point about rabbit manure was interesting. I wonder how they discover these little things?

By the way, do you ever listen to the schools’ gardening talks? I heard one at about 11.40 yesterday, the subject being tomatoes and it was very interesting. One very strong point he made was that they should be well watered in the box or pot before being planted out. If the plants are in a box, the ends should be knocked out, the plants and soil slid out and each plant cut out in a cube of soil so that it is as near as possible to the idea of knocking a plant out of a pot with all the soil around its roots. He was very strong on this point.

I hope, by the way, you didn’t catch cold when you got wet in the garden. I’m sorry you found the blackouts difficult. Perhaps I made a mistake, but I thought I put all the cross pieces and the little frame for the latch on the back. Are they easy to put up, and are they properly “blacked out”? I never felt that curtain was a real success on its own, you know, and if these frames are a good blackout you will be able to have a decent light in the living room. Let me know how they are.

As you may have guessed, I’m writing this in the office for I am on that “loafing” number – the Creed machine – but, all in all, it has been a very busy 24 hours for us so far. I’m subject to constant interruption but I want to get this letter written before 1.30 because I am hoping to go to watch the lads play cricket as the weather has definitely improved after yesterday’s hours of solid rain.

I don’t think there is a great deal of news for it has been bed and work since I wrote you last. We just went out for supper, walked once around the park and so to bed where, despite the best intentions of the riveters, I fell soundly and beautifully asleep to dream pleasant – not oaty – dreams of you. I dreamt that we woke up one day to find the war was over and within an hour we were soberly homeward bound. You and I, together with the children, spent a couple of lazy days on the beach and then I went off to the ‘D.P.’ just as usual. And I hadn’t a single drink to celebrate! Still, we must have done some pleasant things in the sandhills because I woke up with quite a reasonable erection! And I’m only just back from leave. Doesn’t augur too well, does it, with nearly four months still to go. Still, I’m trying to tell you in my own way that I love you, sweet, and I’m missing you – which is one of the reasons I want to go to the cricket because there my mind will be more fully occupied.

It’s almost dinner time so must away. Bye, sweetheart. Take good care of yourself. My love to the children.

Ever your own

Arthur X