Jul 081935

Eaton Avenue, Litherland, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
Aren’t I prompt? Replying within an hour of receiving your letter – because I know that if I don’t do it now I’ll never get a chance later in the week. I hate writing in ink, but for your sweet sake I’ll persevere (charm, blah, blah). Now let me deal with cold business first: Yours to hand of yesterday’s date for which we have to thank you and note contents. You say that if our Mr Johnson catches the train at the even half hour certain events will follow. Is there such a thing as the even half hour? Surely the “even half” is the hour, and the odd half hour the half after hour – or before the hour if you prefer it! Having suffered an excess of Freddie, who wanted to cut the exes down today, I had to say that.
However, there is already a cloud in the sky in the shape of a meeting of the P.A.C. on Friday. Is that annoying or is it just damnable? Still, don’t despair. I’ll use my undoubted personality on F.H.S. and Philip Lawler Whitehurst[??] to some effect. Whatever comes or goes I’ll be at Grange on Friday and this is what I suggest. I’ll save the phone call until I know at lunchtime on Friday just what is going to happen. You will most probably be feeding your face somewhere about 1–1.30pm on that day and, I hope, eating FISH! When I come home I shall probably need dozens of oysters and cases of stout, but that is all good for trade. Let’s get back to business… I’ll ring you on Friday and tell you whether I am getting the “odd” or “even” train. If it’s a day like today, which seems too much to hope for, I’ll bring costume and towel, but not a full rucksack, and we can go for a swim to Hoylake Baths or some other appropriate place. We can go for a meal after that and then you shall show me the sights, including a nice quiet place just around the corner, where, of course, we will not waste too much time. By the way, your suggestion of bracken and flowers revives a very tender (anatomically) memory of sitting, yes sitting, in bracken and going home with exactly 100 gnat bites. A repetition of that experience is definitely taboo. Look again, darling, bracken is not essential!!
Yes, dear, I have thought of you. Yesterday I took a lady to Formby – Freshfield was sacred ground. There’s no reason for jealousy, however, for the lady thoughtfully brought along a husband and two children. When you have recovered from the shock, remind me to tell you about a person in a yellow bathing costume and another in a bright green one. There’s a moral in this little story. By the way, Arthur Jones came into the office today and made a most unfortunate remark: “Who was the lady you were with at the Tennis Club on Saturday?” says him. “Miss –,” says me. “Oh I thought it might have been Miss Gregson,” says him again and Freddie, Norman and Philip Lawler all sat bolt upright. You can imagine the scene with me in the limelight, working up a splendid alibi with my usual skill. Does the mention of Miss – pique your curiosity? If it does, let me say right away I have been faithful ever since Friday morning. What do you think of that as an endurance test?
You’ll be interested to hear that Norman is back, as cheeky as ever, having spent the whole of his holiday in and around Liverpool and having failed to find, or so he assures us, any outlet for his undoubted energies. Isn’t life hard?
This is a rambling sort of letter but what with the ‘B.T.’ office in this weather and you being in Grange and me in Bootle, I do not feel exactly coherent. Note the craft with which the man introduces the weather as well as his faraway love. Low down cunning, that’s all it is. For your own personal satisfaction I feel bound to say that I have dropped so many silent tears on your chair – which sounds just a little indecent to me – that Freddie has been swearing to wring that damned cat’s neck and asking who leaves the office door open on a Saturday, anyway. Poor old mog.
Seriously, I’m glad to hear that you are feeling more rested already. Hope your Mother is also feeling the benefit of the change. You will be 100% normal after Friday. I promise to do my best to see to that for you. As I am going to ring you on Friday, you have my permission to write me another charming letter to arrive, say, on Thursday to help relieve the heat and burden of the day. Until Friday then, darling.
Love in huge chunks,

P.S. Don’t forget. No family on Friday!! If it’s all the same to you, I prefer the Grammar School to your lane. It’s enough to have one member of your family telling me what a funny face I have without the thought of the whole family telling each other just how side-splitting is the appearance of “our Stella’s young man”. You’ve heard Gracie Fields’ records, haven’t you? Well I’m self-conscious. Don’t forget that was a promise. I have broken enough rules.

Aug 211935

Eaton Avenue, Liverpool
I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse the pencil but I have just got home, at 11.15pm after playing three and a half rounds of golf against some of the best men in the club, which means that I have walked about 20 miles today. In addition, I finished the day off by calling in and having a few quiet, but rather quick ones with a few of the lads, and as I had little to eat beforehand I feel just about as sleepy as possible. For once I’m rather dismayed by the necessity for bathing – and I must do that because the course is dry and dusty.
Do you remember seeing the fellows fishing? Well when I got home I picked up the paper and came across an article on angling. The result was that I was up until 1am getting fishing tackle ready, mixing bait and ground bait and hunting out a bait can which is a family heirloom. I carefully wound the alarm and set it for 5.30am and woke at 7.45am to hear the postman knocking the door down because he had a registered letter. I had forgotten to switch the alarm on! To make matters worse, the letter was not for me but for Mother, who slept last night at Crosby, which means that I was all alone last night. Does that make you jealous, dear? After all our trouble, we might have been very comfortable at home. Does that make you mad? It certainly annoyed me when I found out. Think of the possibilities in such a golden opportunity!!
Now the parent has butted in and discussed for half an hour on the relative values of various movies the sister has seen – and it’s taking me all my time to keep my eyes open. Before the parent did speak up I was going to offer a little sound advice, and that is that you get the old brain box to work and see if you can think of anything really original for Friday. Although this is not very original, I should like you to include swimming if the weather is anything like it has been today. What about New Ferry? I have heard great accounts of it. Only a small but very nice bath I believe.
In view of your uncertain movements in the office I shall not ring tomorrow (Thursday) but suggest 2pm as a time for Friday and the rendezvous, the Liver Building, on the corner nearest the river and the floating roadway. Know where I mean? Will you try to find out whether or not F.H.S. is going to take his holidays next week. I will be interested to know what I have to look forward to, so make inquiries as judiciously as possible, will you?
After I left you last night – it seems such a long time ago – I began to worry whether that bus was as quick for you as a Ribble into town to connect with the train. I do hope you got home alright.
Apart from the fact that I’m looking forward to Friday and am trying to think of it as being near because there is only one full day and a few trifling hours, I don’t think there is much more I can say. There is lots in my head but I am too sleepy to write another page and I have yet to walk to the local G.P.O. to be certain you get this some time tomorrow as a relief, I hope, after a very busy day.
Lots of love,
until Friday,

Dec 241935

Tuesday, Xmas Eve
Just a small expression, it’s size being, as you know, dictated by economic circumstance, but I think we might as well be sensible about things. Although there are so few, each of the enclosed is a thought for and of you. Hope you will thoroughly enjoy the holiday.
Regards to the family.

Apr 081936

‘Bootle Times’ office
The difficulty about writing this is that Norman is within half a yard of me and, office manners being what they are, I should not be surprised if he is reading this. I almost hope he is because it will teach him a lesson! As I have not indicated to whom it is addressed he will be none the wiser.
When Monday and Tuesday passed and no letter came I began to wonder what had happened. I had almost begun to think that one of your complications had come along to monopolise your time and I was thinking of coming out to Hoylake in the dead of night to surprise you with a strange man in your virgin(?) bed. Would you have liked that? The visit, I mean, not the strange man! Anyway, your letter did not arrive until this morning and we have been up to the eyes in work today, so I could not possibly get a reply back to you.
I am afraid there is no office scandal, except that there are rumours that we are to have a new office. I believe the firm has purchased a house in Ariel Road for this purpose, but mum’s the word when you come back. Norman is still very randy and seems to get worse every day. Philip is still the same, making great plans for his holidays when he swears he will be a real devil. I’ll bet he goes so far as to kiss a girl before he leaves the island! That is, of course, if he finds someone really forward who will almost do the job for him. F.H.S. has again commented on the fact that your holidays are nearly over. Isn’t he a nice kind sort of gent? By the way, he has written to your beloved brats about rats this week. I suppose he feels he must uphold the honour of his clan.
So you miss me, do you darling? Sweet of you to admit that to someone you so constantly accuse of being the most insulting person you know. Still, you’ve no idea how much I have missed you this week, and I was only sorry I couldn’t come over again on Sunday. The great drawback, if I might say so, is that the conventionality with the family occupy too much of the flirting hours when we have so little time at our disposal. What about a day at Freshfield soon? The trouble on Saturday was that I wanted to stay, too. And you don’t know how near I came to doing so. If I had done so, I’m very much afraid both of us might have been doing a little sleep walking, but we wouldn’t have slept for very long, would we, darling?
By the way, when I come on Friday – that’s only a day after you receive this, thank goodness – remind me to tell you of a suggestion about Chester and to show you some literature, but don’t mention the latter, or either for that matter, in front of the family. I think both these things will interest you. At any rate, I hope they will.
So your mother is beginning to doubt the platonic nature of our friendship? I rather fancy she has done so all along. Mothers usually do, but never having been a mother (though not without hope) you will probably know nothing of this, I’m afraid, and very much so, that you cannot guarantee that there will not be an early inquiry from the family as to my intentions. Or am I meeting difficulties half-way again?
We will forget about that for the time being and concentrate on the joys of life. Between now and my holidays we will have to think of some bright scheme to make things even better, but I must administer a word of warning. No vapourings during that week, please! That would be the last straw. If you promise that, I shall promise to take precautions against any gnats chewing more pieces out of your adorable body. I am sorry about that experience and even more sorry about not being able to comfort you by saying I had suffered similarly, but after all, dear, with such a delightful morsel as yourself close at hand, even gnats know better than to bother blunting their teeth, or proboscis, on such tough material as a mere male.
Tomorrow I want to continue the very intriguing discussion on the development of our offspring and the site of our ancient or modern house. The subject intrigues me beyond measure! F.H.S. has been to my desk for the fourth time in a quarter of an hour, and as Norman insists on seeking my assistance with a little low doggerel, I’m afraid I’ll have to give up and post this at once. Freddie is distinctly restive this afternoon and altogether the atmosphere of the office has been all against the type of letter I want to write, but I’ll be doubly nice to you tomorrow (Friday). I’m trying to bring the day nearer by considering this as Thursday! I noticed, on Saturday, that there are day excursions on the train. I may try that route this week, but I’ll let you know when I ’phone on Friday. Will you be ringing up on Thursday? You will scarcely be able to answer this last query, nor I suppose will I receive another of your charming letters this week. I feel I have been swindled, but still I drink, in office lemonade, to your bright eyes and happy times on Friday. Until then, lots of love,

Apr 291936

Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
Which would be the best night? Thursday – that will be today if you receive this letter early enough – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday? What sayest? Can you give me a ring? If you decide upon Thursday, I should suggest that you ring the ‘Liverpool Express’ between 1pm and 1.10pm PROMPT and discuss nothing over the phone other than the actual place of meeting. Somewhere in town, or even the Birkenhead side would be most convenient for me on that day as I am hoping to play in the Press Golfing Competition that day. If you decide on one of the other days, I should suggest that, if you cannot get me at home, you should ring Walton 1034 – that is the golf number.
I had rather expected to hear from you during the last few days, but I know now what your answer to that will be! I think Monday is rather hopeless, if only because of the crowds. If you can arrange for Thursday night – or any other night during the holidays – can I rely on you to arrange for the “evidence” as you once did? Just mention “yes” or “no” with regard to the evidence on the phone and I shall understand but, wherever you ring, whether it be home, golf club or the ‘Express’, be careful not to mention names! You will understand that, I’m sure. If you cannot get the evidence I will have to – unless of course it will not be needed! Should you decide on Thursday, it is almost bound to be a short “reunion”, but we might be able to arrange matters for later in the week!
X – Just to be going on with!!!

P.S. If you ring the ‘Express’ ask for the Reporters’ Room and mention my name. I’m in court until one o’clock.

Apr 301936

Coroner’s Court, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
Sorry not to have been able to let you know about Friday earlier, but I have been doing a fifteen hour day this week, what with religious conventions, sessions and appeals, to say nothing of women who, by getting trapped in the sands at Seaforth, spoiled not only my Saturday night but the whole of my weekend. Every damn paper in the country seemed to go crazy over that story! Now it looks as if Friday is also going to be out of the question because the Quarter Sessions meet again to hear an appeal by a brewery company against a refusal to grant a transfer of a licence.
The mere fact that I am writing this in coroner’s court when I had been hoping to play in a Press golfing competition today shows how busy I have been. There is one consolation, however, for I heard something yesterday which makes it appear that although I’m not likely to have much more time off I will at least have a little more security. But I will tell you about that when I see you next. Here comes his lordship. Must leave you now.
Lots of it until I see you again.

Jun 021936

An example of Arthur’s ‘News Of The Waterfront’ articles.

News Of The Waterfront
By The Mate

This column was a regular feature by Arthur in the paper, and with hindsight can be seen as his application for the role of Blitz Reporter, which he took up during the war a few years later.

Jul 061936

Eaton Avenue.
Stella Dear,
In a helluva hurry, but as I promised to drop you a line, this is it! Saw F.H.S. in subs room at ‘Express’ today, and he was asking whether you had got a job. I said I didn’t know. So remember that if you are speaking to him, and don’t forget you were not in Waterloo on Saturday!
At the moment it rather looks as if things are going to be very slow in the ‘Daily Post’ this week, which means I should be free at night. Will you ring me at the Press Club between 1.30 and 2pm tomorrow (Tuesday). I should be in there then. But DON’T ring the ‘Weekly Post’. I will probably be free tomorrow night but we can make a tentative arrangement.

Jul 221936

‘Daily Post’
My Sweet,
This IS in haste. I got your letter an hour ago on the way to a meeting for the ‘D.P.’ and I’m jammed here. I’ve been in the office since before noon and I do not look like being free before midnight so I am trying to get the 10 o’clock post. I’ll drop you another line tomorrow, but in the meantime I’m afraid it will be impossible on Sunday as the parent is going on holiday and wants me to take her to Fleetwood. I really don’t see how I can get out of it and I’ll not be back in Liverpool before 8pm. In haste.

Jul 231936

Thursday 23 July 1936
Eaton Avenue
Stella, my dear,
So sorry to have had to rush that letter – if one can dignify it by such a term – last night, but I thought at the time that even a note would be more welcome than utter silence. Now, I’m not so certain! But really it was hopeless. This was the position. I was on inquests for the ‘Express’ at 11am and worked for them until noon. Then I just walked across the road to the ‘Echo’, where I was due to work from noon until 8pm. Unfortunately, Geddes, who is their regular night man, lost an argument with the propeller of an aeroplane the previous night and was distinctly lucky to escape merely with head injuries. The result was that I had to go from noon until midnight. During the day things were very slack, but at night I was sent off to a meeting protesting about the new P.A.C. regulations. In addition I had to make calls twice during the evening on the police and fire brigade and eight hospitals. All this apart from my own Bootle calls and a few pars which had to be rewritten from the ‘Echo’. Now you know all that, I’m sure you’ll appreciate how little time I had to spare. I didn’t even get supper and arrived in the Press Club at 11.48pm, which left just two minutes before my last bus went. Still, I managed to knock back one quick one.
I’m sorry about Sunday but at the moment things do look rather difficult, especially as the sister will be home from the Potteries and the brother is coming up from Stroud to get a new car the firm has bought for him. These things always come along together.
What a timetable you have had this week! Did you touch for a swig of hallowed beer? Or don’t they trust visitors in the wine cellar? Don’t forget my sandals – size five boot and size six shoe! – and also a beer tankard. If you put on a coat with poachers’ pockets you should be able to get away with them all on the one visit.
By the way – I nearly forgot to apologise for not seeing you off on Monday but I started my Waterfront stuff in the ‘Express’ office soon after 8.30am on Monday and it was 10am before I was through with it. If I had broken off in the middle of it to go to Woodside I would not have had it done by lunchtime, which is far too late.
This seems to be all work, doesn’t it? I suppose it’s because I seem to do nothing but sleep and work these days. What a treat it would be to be able to sit still for two whole hours without any need to talk or write or even think! At the moment that is my conception of heaven. I think I really must have a couple of days absolute rest in the next couple of months or I will be an absolute nervous wreck before I even begin to face the winter.
So Mollie didn’t know what it is to make whoopee. If she did she would (a) understand just how things are; and (b) certainly not send her love to any so ungrateful and unworthy wretch as myself. By the way – exactly what interpretation can be placed on a nun’s love? A pretty little poser for you my sweet!
Now I really must be off to the galley again. Whatever else you do, drop me a line without fail, to reach the Club by Saturday, telling me what time you are getting in to Liverpool on Sunday and what your arrangements are likely to be for the early part of next week.
All my love,
Arthur X

Jul 241936

In the bus on the way home
I’m afraid pencil is the only way of writing this. As it happens, meeting you on Saturday at that time – 5.47 – just fits into the programme. This is my timetable for the weekend.
Saturday: 8am to 5pm ‘Echo’.
Sunday: 5pm to midnight ‘Daily Post’ night inquiries
Monday: 10.30am to 6pm various jobs for ‘Echo’ and ‘Express’.
At some time over the weekend I have to write the now celebrated “Waterfront”, which is soon to be copied by the ‘Birkenhead News’! I’ll explain the whole timetable to you when I see you on Saturday.
Have you ever tried writing in a bus? Take it from me, if not from the appearance of this letter, it’s lousy, so having got the vital news off, I think I had better leave the rest until Saturday – that’s tomorrow. Whoopee!
Arthur X

Aug 031936

Stella Dear,
This is being written on top of a West Derby tram on the way back from a flower show and fete. I thought I had better tell you that in case you thought I had a very sticky night last night and was suffering from a hangover!
So the chin was a bit higher on Saturday? Bravo! I did not expect you to be full of the joy of spring on leaving home for the first time so your letter scarcely came as a shock. Still, I’m glad you feel better and like the crowd. That is the main thing in going to a new place. If only you can fix the other thing up you might spend a couple of happy years there, during which time we could get a few odd sticks together. Why not turn Christian Scientist and see if that has any effect? Triumph of mind over matter and all that! Sez me.
Congrats on getting a good special in your first two or three days. What did Sloane say about the Bard johnny? Isn’t it funny that once you got away, things went a lot quieter here. I’m not at a standstill but there is nothing like the rush there was. I thought of you on Friday evening during a quiet moment in the ‘D.P.’ and wondered if you were feeling a bit blue.
By the way, look after your neck properly. Go to the vet every day if necessary but get it right as soon as you can. For one thing I wouldn’t like people to think, if they saw me walking round Shrewsbury with you, that you had to wear a bandage to hide the fingerprints on your throat! Let me know what the doctor says about that and other things in general when you hear anything definite. I am FAINTLY interested you know!
Am nearly back in Lime Street now so must stop if I am going to catch the post. Keep your pecker up, sweet.
Bye now.
Love, Arthur

Aug 071936

Friday 1.30am
Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
Things have been rather slow since the Bank Holiday and I have waited in vain for another letter. What has happened, sweet? Have you become intrigued with Sloane or Mr Whatever-his-name-is already? Or is it the neck? Or is Mickey growing too big for himself? Or is it just that you can’t be bothered writing? Now there’s a list of questions that offer opportunities for writing reams in reply. Diabolical cunning I calls it and are you mortified?
You will have to make all due allowances if I seem a little light-headed. I spent all morning and part of the afternoon listening to a rape case in Dale Street court. For all that, I got home unusually early, made my own tea (the parent being on holiday) and went out to the local for a quick one. When I got back I felt really restless, probably through having a little unaccustomed leisure, so I started three short stories, all of which have since gone up the chimney in smoke! I had hoped to strike a decent line and make a couple of extra guineas, but the muse is only working on a short shift tonight. She will take me so far up the path and then leave me standing all alone in an absolute maze. Isn’t that like a woman?
I have all sorts of good intentions about earning a little extra here and there, but somehow or other I have not the powers of concentration which are so necessary.

The muse has deserted me altogether and if you only knew what an effort it is to write at all you would become highly conceited.
On Friday I went to bring parent home from Fleetwood and you should have seen the bags and parcels! Thousands of them. With the weather being so foul she and my aunt had been able to get out very little, but they discovered a crockery shop which was being sold up by an auctioneer and they must have spent days in the place judging from the amount of stuff they collected. It almost seemed as if they knew about my bottom drawer for, in addition to my rug, I now have: drinking goblet (one); decorative jug (one); Wedgwood candlestick (one); ash tray (one). And the very first thing their landlady asked when I got there was whether or not I had found myself a wife while I had had the house to myself. Can you beat that!
I was glad to hear the good news that the neck has yielded to treatment. If only the other had! Like you I feel sick and helpless at times when I think of all there is to be done and, what is worse, the short time we have to do it all in. Go soon, dear, to see the vet. Although there seems little doubt about it now we must know just where we stand and the sooner the better. Hunt out the registry office and see what the cost is. I’ll be down to see you before then but I don’t know just when. On August 15th I take over from Walker for several of the national papers at nights. That will run until the 25th. So it seems to me that, if I am to manage it, the best thing is for me to come down during the week. If I can find a cheap trip shall I come? Or will you be working every night? Perhaps the best thing would be for you to drop me a line saying which is likely to be your best night.
What about phone calls to the office? Are they permitted, and what time am I likely to find you in? Let me have answers to some of these questions as soon as you can, sweet, and then I’ll do my best to get down, if it’s only for a couple of hours. I don’t know whether I will be down for the Show or not but as soon as I hear I will let you know.
Glad to hear the chin is well up. I’m doing my best to keep mine a little above the waist line! If I was to get a telegram now I’m afraid it would go so high that I would snap my neck!
All the best, sweet. Drop me a line and we’ll get the whole thing straightened out somehow.
Love, ever,

Aug 131936

Eaton Avenue
Stella dear,
I had been waiting to get something definite from Walker about my position if I take over his linage connection while he is on holiday before writing you anything further about coming over to Shrewsbury.
Now the difficulty as I see it is this. If I arrange to meet you on Saturday and something really urgent comes up, just where do we stand? On the other hand, it means I will not stand a chance of seeing you for at least a fortnight because I will also be deputising for Jones for a week. It is a bit perplexing, isn’t it? But that gets us no further. I think perhaps the best way would be for me to arrange to meet whatever train you are coming by. So let me know as soon as possible what time you will be in Birkenhead and I will be there to meet it. If I am not there when you arrive, wait until I come.
I won’t be very late. Really I do not want to bother doing Walker’s stuff, but when I tell you that I have earned £2-10-0 in 13 days this month you will realise how slow things have been. If that state of affairs is to continue I’ll lose all the advantage I gained by working so hard last month. I can afford that even less now than ever.
Before you come on Saturday, what about going to see the doctor? I think you should, dear. Remember that the code of conduct in that profession is so strong that there is no fear of a leakage from that source. No matter which doctor you go to the embarrassment will be just as great – or small – according to your mood. That may be cold comfort but it is worth keeping in mind.
We will have to get everything settled this weekend because, as I say, it will be at least a fortnight, probably more, before I can get over to Shrewsbury.
Try to make a list of all the points which have to be settled and I will try to do the same and then we can go through them, arrange them in order of precedence and dispose of them as quickly and as pleasantly as possible – if it is going to be at all possible!!
Now I must be off to try to get Walker to talk seriously tonight. Hope he will.
I’ll save all the rest until Saturday, when I hope to see you with neck in one piece!
Until Saturday, sweet,

P.S. If you are held up by work or anything else, wire me at the club on Saturday.

Aug 201936

Liverpool Press Club, St George Building, Lime Street, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
As usual this is in great haste as we are expecting a real riot tonight. Last night there were nearly 400 police on duty at a meeting we went to. Tonight is going to be worse.
This is just to confirm your arrangements. I cannot say now what time I will be arriving as I’ve been up to my eyes in work and not had a moment to look at trains, but I’ll wire or phone you at the office. I agree about seeing your mother in Liverpool. We’ll settle that part later.
Bye for now, sweet. Will write first opportunity.

Aug 221936

Liverpool Press Club, St George Building, Lime Street, Liverpool
Early morning
Stella Dear,
I’m so sorry I missed the post last night – that is a libel on myself because I gave the letter to one of the girls in the Club to post on her way home at 8pm and she handed it in to the Club at after midnight with the message to say that she had forgotten to post it, and was it important? Now I asks you! As you will see from the enclosed letter we were expecting real riots and if you had seen the crowd in Netherfield Road as we saw them you would have agreed with us. They had police planted in every conceivable place, in addition to at least 200 of them, who came out into the open in their uniforms.
Still, all that is past and gone and now I am really free to write to you. Had Nel Tarleton, the famous boxer, had more sense than to have given his wife twins, which were born this morning, I should have been free an hour or two ago. It is a most amazing thing the way things happen to put you off getting married, isn’t it? Here is Nel’s wife throwing out twins. I have been on another story to Walton – before the Tarleton story – about a man dying two hours after receiving congratulatory messages on his marriage. From what I can gather from her associates, the woman in the case is not too fortunate with her love affairs. Here she marries a man and the most he can stand is three days of her society. Then you get a man like Nel Tarleton, who should have more sense, fixing his wife for twins. On the strength of that, I think the least you can do is to spend your leisure time thinking out four alternatives to Michael. You never know your luck in a big city and we may touch for quads!
By the way, I had to go all the way out to Formby to give notice of the wedding. As the office for the registrar does not open until 10.30am and as I shall not be able to get the permission from the local registrar before the morning of the wedding, as I should not be able to get the notice of wedding if I did, I think I have done a good thing by arranging to call for the necessary legal form at 9am, which means that I shall be able to get to Shrewsbury by noon only if I have a car at my disposal. Anyway we will worry about that at a later stage. We will also go into details about the visit of your Mother, or at least the question of explaining things away, until a later date. At the moment I have not had more than five hours sleep in any day and there have been some nights when I have had so little time for sleeping that I might just as well have kept my clothes on for all the good it did me to take them off.
There is one bright spot about things at the moment. I have had half offers from the Mail and the Daily Express about taking on jobs on their staff in Liverpool, because they are all getting fed up with Walker and a few of the other people who have been half attending to their jobs. If I could get a job with the Mail, outside Liverpool for a few months, what a help that would be! However, that will have to remain over for the present and I will let you know in good time.
I have had a word with Tim Leuty, whom you met at the station the other week, and I have warned him that I want to go into conference with him on an urgent private matter. At the time he thinks it is something by which I hope to make money, but there is a great point about getting Tim to stand as a witness, because if he does he will have his car and will be able to run both Gertrude and I over from Liverpool. And even if I pay all the petrol expenses, it will save a lot of money on the cost of three railway tickets from Liverpool to Shrewsbury. I really do feel terribly tired at the moment and the only thing I can say about our one-day honeymoon, if it materialises, is that it would almost be better for your memories that you want to keep so carefully tucked away, if I did not see you after the ceremony until I had had at least three months solid sleep. I feel just like that tonight. In fact I am typing more by instinct than by ability.
For your benefit I am enclosing the letter I wrote under great stress the other night. You may be interested to read it some time when you have finished all the Shrewsbury proofs! Pardon the typing, dear, but really it is a physical effort to touch the keys. If I was to have written this you would never have read a line of it. By the way, remind me to tell you of the trek I had to make to find the registrars’ for my district. Eventually I found it in Formby – about a mile from the station and much nearer to Freshfield than it is to Formby!
I’m dropping to sleep now. Goodbye, sweet, keep fit. I’ll drop you a line about all the other things as soon as I have had one decent night’s sleep.
Think sometimes of
Your own,

Aug 251936

Eaton Avenue
There’s such lots of things to say I hardly know where to begin! First of all let me send my love to you. Perhaps that is not really necessary but I was down in the dumps when I received your letter – the most cheerful and loving you have written. There were so many intimacies in it. First of all you were sick and then you knitted a bootee and a mitten for our Michael (what are we going to do if it’s a girl?) Really I cannot honestly say which I most preferred to see you doing. Were I earning a thousand a year I think I should have liked to see you doing a repetition of the act which followed an over-indulgence in gin-and-its on that famous night early in our acquaintance. But being only a poor and very impoverished freelance I rather fancy I would have liked to see my own sweet one knitting bootees and mittens!
You know, sweet, there are times when I can see all this working out as the best thing that’s happened to me and for me. At other times I can see nothing but trouble, and I think it all depends how closely we stick together. I finished Walker’s job last night and the first thing I did was to get the first decent night’s sleep I have had since I saw you last. When I tell you that I have not had more than 5 hours sleep any day, and that on three days I had only half of that amount, I hope you will make allowance for my nerves being shot to pieces and my scrawl being worse than ever you remember it! And that is saying something!!!
But since I finished that work I have had an opportunity of thinking our own position out. Now on this position I want you to make a compromise, and when you have heard all my arguments I think you will agree that my theory settles your conscience and, at the same time, settles our difficulties. This – let me be quite frank – concerns only your side of the family. As you know, I am looking after my side without worrying you and they will know nothing of it until it is a fait accompli. I am not asking that of you, but what I am asking is that we should not let them in on the secret until it is too late for them to do anything other than send their good wishes! Here is my plan in detail. You may not agree with it, but I hope you will because it has this advantage – your mother and others cannot say we did not let them know before we were going to be married and, at the same time, it will not give them time to think it over and descend on us in a body on the happy day – and believe me it will be a happy day and night!!!!!! (I mean all those exclamations.) The more I think of our original plan to tell your mother a week beforehand, the more I dislike it and, my sweet, as you will have to trust me in so many things and much more difficult things than this in the years to come, I ask you to trust my foresight, my wisdom(?) and my judgement in this one item regarding our gala day – to wit September 12th.
This is the position and if you are fair – as you always are dear – you will admit the fairness of my arguments. You can only come home at the weekend. We can only get your mother by herself on the Saturday – but even the Sunday would make little difference. Supposing we tell her of our plans on the Saturday, she has a whole week to brood over them. The net result is that we are going to find, on the great day, that your mother is in Shrewsbury with Chris and Harold or with one of the neighbours. Is that going to be nice? You know very well we could not hope to keep her away. And our honeymoon weekend would be ruined. Honestly, don’t you agree? If we had to put your mother on the train while we went off, you would be really upset and I would spend the whole of Saturday and Sunday trying to make you forget it, in which I would not succeed. The thing to remember is that we are committed to this and we must make the best of it for all of us. I have had enough family squabbles in my time; you are in no fit state to be subject to a further nervous strain, as shown by the fainting episode in the office, and, finally, Michael deserves the best possible chance he can have. Don’t forget he may look like his father so he must be able to live up to the old man’s reputation!
All that is light-hearted. Here is my serious suggestion and I think it will meet with all your points. All along you have insisted that you should let your mother know that we were going to be married before we actually were married. For your peace of mind I agreed, although my people will not know, perhaps for a long time afterwards. Now this is what I suggest. And really, dear, I want you to think it over very carefully. My plan is this: I shall write a letter to your mother telling her the exact position. That letter I shall send to you with room for you to add a note to your mother. You will address the letter to your mother but you will not post it until you are certain that there will be no time for any of the family to rush over to Shrewsbury. You will then have fulfilled your promise to yourself and to your mother. You will have told her that you are going to be married and you will have left it too late for any interference. That is most important from our point of view. You can see how easily we might fall out over things if half, or indeed the whole, of your family was there, as I think they will be if we give your mother the whole week to make plans in, and not a single soul from my side was there. Don’t you think that is fair?
After all I have not told anybody on my side of our intentions and I will not do so until it is far too late for anyone to do anything about it. After all we must hold the balance, and if you tell your mother actually before you are wed, and I give her the address of the hotel to which she and all family can send congratulations, you have a decided advantage over me. Please, darling, trust my judgement in this for this is the only way in which we are going to avoid many future complications. I have spent a solid day in thinking all this over and I am right on this occasion.
Having got all that off my mind I feel a lot better. There is only one other argument I can advance and that is this: if you came over to Liverpool for a weekend can you face the role of telling your mother all this and, with that emotional strain, not betray your condition to Chris and Margaret and any other womenfolk you may meet? Can you guarantee that? If you can’t, life is going to be hell and we have enough to face at the moment. Please, Stella, say you agree with my masculine logic. It will be so helpful to me.
And now, my lady, to another side of this question. Do you know that simply to marry you, I will have to leave home on the morning of September 12th somewhere about 8am? That means I will have to be up about 7am. Isn’t that a tragedy? Or is it? Because it means I will want to go to bed early that night!! Serves you right, sweet.
I want you to put the time back half an hour, if you can, because I cannot get the certificate before 9am, which means that it is going to be a tight squeeze for us to get there by noon. Now what about the girl friend? Will Tim and I have to pick her up in Liverpool? Or can we rely on her coming to Shrewsbury from some other direction?

How funny that you should have written your letter just at a time when I was getting rid of all the enclosed letter off my mind. Having read your letter and all your fears I’m afraid I cannot change my mind. No matter how difficult it is, don’t do anything so mad as you have suggested. This is our affair and we will have to go through with it, no matter how difficult it may be. You cannot deny the truth of these things: 1. If we tell your mother beforehand we will have no guarantee that we be able to meet her in your house by herself (which means that before we know where we are we will be scrapping with the whole of the family); 2. We cannot tell your mother we are going to be married and then add “but you are not coming”; 3. As soon as she knows, you can bet your last penny she will find a way of getting there; 4. She will very probably get in touch with my parent and I am doing all I can to avoid that complication – we’ve enough on our plate already.
No matter which way you look at it my plan is the best. We will write a joint letter which will not be delivered before Saturday morning. All the explanations can be made afterwards. I’m afraid you will have to choose, even this early, between the family and me. I’m sorry if that sounds hard, dear, but that’s what it boils down to. Don’t be stampeded by the letters of other people, and by reading into other people’s heads thoughts which may never exist at all. Carry on for another fortnight and we will be over the worst part of it. No Liverpool visits and no letters of confession home just yet!
Tim has promised to run me over to see you on Sunday Sept 6th. If I can manage it I’ll come over this weekend too, but that is just a wee bit doubtful. I can’t afford to take too many days off, you know. I’ve little enough in the bank now. Still, I’ll see what can be done.
I’m sorry about Molly. She seems to have started the ball rolling doesn’t she? But don’t take too much notice of her imagination – we can’t afford to. With such a short time to go, it would be silly to weaken now.
There were lots of things I had to say but your letter has knocked them all out of my head. In the next day or two I shall get a ring card. Which do you like? Gold or platinum? I don’t know the price of the latter, do you?
Now cheer up, sweet, and don’t let a letter get you down. There’s only two more weeks and we can laugh at them all. Try to see my point of view and I’m sure we will come out of this alright. If only I were in Shrewsbury, I could convince you, and here I have written at least a column and a half trying to do it by post.
Bye love for the present, and keep Michael in order.

Sep 041936

Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
I had hoped to get this away last night, but circumstances conspired against me. I began to reply whilst sitting on some stairs in India Buildings last night waiting for the finish of a meeting. First there came the janitor, and then the liftman, and finally the charwoman. So I gave up the attempt about a minute before the meeting ended and then I had to go back to the ‘D.P.’ to write up. Wot a life!
I have had words with Tim today and, as per instructions, I read your paragraph to him which seemed to tickle him considerably. The arrangements for Sunday are that we will leave Birkenhead at noon and arrive at Shrewsbury about 2.30, having picnicked en route, which, as Tim points out, will save us something like 3/- per head for lunch.
If you had seen my bank book today you would have appreciated the need for it! So far as I can see I am going to be minus the price of a suit by the time the wedding is over, which means that I am going to be worse off than when I finished at the ‘Bootle Times’. Not too cheerful, but I’m afraid we will have to make the best of it. There’s one thing certain, I cannot alter it now. Not that I would want to anyhow! Would you? It’s you I worry about, not myself. I still don’t think you realise what you have let yourself in for.
This is only a short note because I will be with you about 24 hours after you receive it. I have a lot to do tomorrow. I want to see if I can get a suit on credit; I want to get enough out of the bank to stand the expenses for Sunday; I want to buy the ring if I can; finally I have to go to an S.J.A.B. inspection for the ‘D.P.’ and write it up and have it at the office before I leave for Shrewsbury. So that all things considered, there will not be too much time to spare, especially as I shall have to see Tim in the ‘Express’ office. Must close now, sweet, if I’m going to catch the post.
Love, until Sunday. Sorry this is so business-like but, as ever, time presses. Can you store the oats until they can be properly harvested?
Bear up, my dear, until 24 hours after you receive this.
Ever yours,

Sep 081936

Press Club, Liverpool
Stella Dear,
Forgive me for writing in pencil, but I have just been writing out that dreaded letter to your mother and it seems as if everyone in the club – where I had hoped to get a quiet hour – has made a point of coming in to speak to me. However, it is done with now, and I only hope she can read it. Read it over again and see if there are any improvements you can suggest. You will notice that I have made a special point of not saying just when we expect the happy event. I thought it best to wait until we saw how people reacted before we gave any hint of that nature!
Did you really like the ring, sweet? I tried to choose it so that it would conform with the law and not look too brand new and “brideish” – to coin a word.
You will, I know, be interested to hear that Mrs Leuty thinks you are just too sweet! Isn’t it funny how people to whom you belong somehow seem to have far greater licence than those with whom you are so intimate? Or is it that I must make up for all my shortcomings on September 12 and 13? I know I have not been too ardent in that way but perhaps I may learn even yet. Or would you prefer something other than mere lip service? And, as I don’t mean anything lewd, I think that I would prefer that you made the latter choice. Words are so cheap. Don’t think I am casting any aspersions on Mrs Leuty. Far from it! Do you know what she suggested? It was this: she thought perhaps we might prefer not to take a place of our own too soon. Your nerves, she said, were all on edge and a rest would be good for you so she thought we might like to live with Tim and her for a couple of months. Now, considering she had only seen me once before – and then half tight – and had met you for the first time on Sunday, I thought it damn decent of her, especially as she added “Don’t think it’s liquor talking because I’m not in the habit of speaking first and repenting afterwards”.
We might consider that possibility for a few days after you leave Shrewsbury before you plunge into the hurly burly of home keeping. She was quite honest about the whole thing for she said quite frankly that they could not afford to keep us (as if we would expect it!) but it was always cheaper for two couples to share expenses. I thought perhaps you would think the suggestion over from all angles between now and next weekend. I neither accepted nor rejected the offer until I had mentioned it to you and it was left more or less as a standing invitation. Anyhow, whether we accept or refuse it, I thought it very decent of them to make the offer, for although the offer came from her I’m sure she had found an opportunity of talking it over with Tim.
Now if I’m going to catch the post – which means you should get this at breakfast instead of at tea – I really must close.
Goodbye, my sweet, and look after yourself – and Michael! – until I see you on Saturday. Will try to write again before then. My love to Michael and tell him I expect him to be a good boy during next weekend!

P.S. I dreamt of you again last night!
Don’t forget to enclose your letter to your mother in my envelope, because if you send a separate letter and she opens it first the whole use of mine is destroyed!

Sep 101936

Stella Dear,
I got your letter at the club an hour ago – that was the first time I had been in to the club today – and was I glad to see it? I’m only sorry that your letter and mine evidently crossed, whereby hangs a tale which I will tell you after Tim and Mrs Tim (whose name is Beryl, by the way) have left us. I can’t tell you earlier in the day as it concerns Tim! By now you will have my letter so you will know of their offer. Wasn’t it decent of them?
What has happened to you this week? Another fit of the blues? I don’t blame you really and if we can possibly cut down your time in Shrewsbury we will do so. Anyway, we will see what can be done after we get settled down this weekend. If there’s any danger of your nerves going absolutely to pieces, which is the very last thing we want, you had better leave there much earlier – but what we will live on I don’t know. That sounds a bit blue too, doesn’t it? But I suppose both of us are feeling the effect of the strain. Now about Saturday – shouldn’t it go on to the calendar as Our Day, complete with caps? I’m afraid that by the time you get this you will have posted your letter to your mother. The difficulty about the wire which you suggest is that we are not certain of being at any hotel at the time it arrives, in which case it would be refused. Why not suggest that she wires you at Coton Hill before noon? Or that she sends a wire to the poste restante at either the Wrexham or Shrewsbury G.P.O. If you decide on that course I can only suggest that you send an express letter containing whichever of these addresses you decide upon but – apart from Coton Hill – be careful not to make any time limits, because if they think we may be in Shrewsbury until afternoon some branches of the family may decide to run over by road. Don’t forget that danger. Personally I should suggest the Shrewsbury G.P.O. because there are quite a lot of Sunday excursions to Wrexham and you’ve no idea of the reserves of blasphemous language I could draw upon if I found anyone butting in on our all too brief honeymoon!
By the way, if you find an express letter will not get to your mother by Saturday morning I should suggest that you get on to the phone somewhere about 8 or 8.30am on Saturday (not on Friday night!) and send a telegram letter at 30 or 36 words for 1/-. Perhaps something like this: If you care to wire message suggest c/o Poste Restante Shrewsbury by return.
Anyway, I’ll leave that part of it to you. Somehow writing all those details seems to have driven out of my head all that I had intended to say. Remind me during the weekend to tell you of Tim’s adventure the other night and of the conversation I had with Mrs Tim and her mother. I am sorry, dear, to know that Michael is beginning to make his presence felt again. I was hoping you would get something by way of a respite for a few weeks.
Anyway, Saturday will be here before we realise it. There is only tomorrow, and then the following day I will be tearing round the countryside picking up documents and things including, at Shrewsbury, a wife and embryo family. You know, even now, I can’t think of there being, as you say, any difference in our relationship than there has been in the past. Michael will make a difference later on, though.
Now I must be off to the post and to collect a stamp as I’ve run right out.
Until Saturday morning, my dear. Saturday night will see such a change.
Love to Mickey and Mickey’s mother from
Arthur X

Sep 161936

Eaton Avenue
Stella Dear,
This is being written in between the spasms of a slum clearance inquiry in Liverpool – one man who owns property in Richmond Row has just asked one of the corporation officials what the radius or circumference of a room is! In face of that, I hope you will bear with any little shortcomings.
First of all, madam, allow me to thank you for your kind inquiry as to the state of my abdomen. I had no time to go to the vet on Monday as I had to turn out the inevitable Waterfront in the morning, go to St Helens in the afternoon and get back to Port for 6.30. However, I went last night and he told me that morning sickness is caused only by three things: pregnancy (which could not apply to me), cigarettes and beer. When I told him I had cut my beer down and had taken to shandies, he asked how many cigarettes I smoked and when I said between 40 and 50 he nearly fainted. It seems he is sick if he smokes 10 cigarettes a day! If I can’t take it now at least I have been able to take it for quite a long time. He said it was a wonder I was not dead long ago! The upshot of it all is that I’m suffering from the effects of nicotine poisoning. Isn’t that just too bad? The verdict is that I have to give up smoking, or at least cut down my rations to a considerable extent. He gave me medicine which he said, quite cheerfully, would not cure me. I will not improve, he said, until I control or eliminate entirely my smoking rations. All things considered I felt very cheerful when I left him, for I had been fearing gastric trouble which might have meant a visit to hospital, but he laughed at me. That took a load off my mind.
I am glad your mother wrote you so nicely but I’m afraid we are going to have a little trouble there on Sunday, particularly as regards your return to Liverpool. Beryl will probably have a competitor for your company then and we are going to have to walk warily. Once and for all, dear, I want you to realise that if ever you feel you cannot possibly carry on in Shrewsbury until the middle of November, as we arranged, let me know at once and I will fix something up somehow or other. That will be an entirely different matter from being told that you MUST come home at once. Those days have gone for ever! However, I’ll try to write at least a note to your mother some time this week. So far I have not broken the glad news to my mother, mainly because I have not been able to get hold of her without our young lodger (who is so well informed in matters of birth control) or my sister being present. I would prefer to talk to mother alone if possible. The trouble is that we cannot afford to leave it much longer before telling her because it would be fatal if she learned from anyone other than myself. You know the way things get round once anyone knows about these things. I had a word with Arthur Jones last night and was he surprised? He was a little disappointed that he had not been able to stand for us but readily appreciated the advantage of a car. He has promised not to mention it to anyone until I tell him he can – which will be almost as soon as I have seen mother. You should have a letter from Arthur soon but, in the meantime, he asks me to send you not merely his kind regards but to wish you – and me of course! – all the very best that we hope for ourselves. He is quite certain that we will make a success of it because, he says, “sensible women are so few and far between!” That, from Arthur, is just about the pinnacle of praise.
I am hoping to see Norman Jones this evening for he is going to the Union meeting and I have asked him to come to the ‘D.P.’ and have a cup of tea with me in the canteen because I am on spare duty, 6.30 to 10.30. If I get the chance I will break the news to him and give him to understand that the happy event occurred some time ago. I shall of course avoid giving a definite date if possible. We might as well start getting our allies together now. We have one good one in Arthur Jones and Norman will strengthen his hand considerably.
When you write thanking Hettie, give her my love won’t you? We may not see her on Sunday because I have a feeling I shall be working some part if not all of the day.
I think that, if Michael misses his father so much that he goes on hunger strike as soon as I leave him, I had better come up and see him some time! What do you say? I do hope that you have not cramp in your left hand by taking your ring off! You did so I hope? Or was that the basis of the long talk you had with Mac? I am quite intrigued about that talk for, if you could find somebody you could really trust it would do you good to be able to talk to them once in a while.
Am now in the ‘Daily Post’ office and as old Peps is beginning to sniff round I’m afraid I’ll have to give this up for tonight, but I’ll slip it into the post so you should have it by morning delivery. I’ll write again soon, sweet, to tell you what the prospects are for Sunday and perhaps in the meantime you will look out what time the trains arrive here. Is there a cheap trip?
I nearly forgot! You ask after my virgin bed. Don’t take it too literally when I say it’s lousy, but you get what I mean. Still, that state will not last for many more weeks now. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the time will fly, although just at the moment it seems to drag terribly.
By the way, I was looking in the ‘Echo’ the other night, just to get some idea of prices, and was surprised to see the ridiculously low figure asked for some furnished flats. They cannot be too good but I thought the lowest would be about £2-10. Instead it was very much lower than that. In a couple of weeks or so I shall begin looking round seriously. By that time we will know better just how we are fixed.
Bye, sweet, for now. Don’t forget to bring your ring on Sunday or your family will swear you are not Mrs Johnson.
Love until Sunday from
Arthur X

Sep 171936

Eaton Avenue
Goodness, my sweet. First of all I have broken the news to Mother and that has taken a load off my mind. Secondly, the sister in India cabled £5 with a brief note: “Good luck. Our blessing and love – Jane and Jack.” Wasn’t that nice?
The breaking of the news was not quite so pleasurable and I was almost sorry, at first, that I had made up my mind to tell her the full story. Afterwards I was glad for a reason, which I will tell you on Sunday if you remind me. She really was cut up. “It’s a pity if you couldn’t tell your own mother. I suppose I’m not worth telling,” and so on for the best part of an hour. Like your mother she was trying to insist that you should come to Liverpool at once. “Her place is with her husband…” You know the argument as well as I do, probably. The sum total of her argument is that she is disappointed in you and in me and in the whole world, it seems. Finally she was beginning to furnish a flat for us, but that was too much for me. I had to leave for town just as she was saying: “Why didn’t you let me know earlier? I could have got you a 20 guinea carpet for £4 last night.” Women!!! Will anyone ever understand them? I’m damned if I can.
Mother definitely prefers the “married some months” story so far as the rest of the family is concerned. Personally I don’t give two hoots, but if it gives her any pleasure I think I’ll give her her own way on that point. I’m going to write to your mother if I can snatch a few minutes in the office tonight and I am going to give you the same advice as you gave me. Will you write a few lines to mine before the weekend? She said she thought women stuck together and that you would have dropped her a line, against my wishes, to say that we were to be married. But I told her that I forbade it! That seems to be your best line, together with the fact that, whatever anyone may think about the circumstances of the wedding, ours was a marriage of choice and not one of convenience.
I’m afraid that if I’m going to get that letter off to your mother I’ll have to leave you now, my sweet. Is Michael behaving any better? I do hope so. Look after yourself, dear. Really, cruel as it may seem, I’m not looking forward to your bringing him back to Liverpool’s filthy atmosphere. You may not see eye to eye with me on this point, but I fancy Salop air is cleaner and better. Sleep well, dear, for I want you looking at your best on Sunday. I’ll drop you a line later about the arrangements for ringing me, but in case I should forget then make it a personal call which means that you can get your money back, or some of it, if you don’t speak to me personally. All you have to do is tell the operator that you want a personal call to Mr Arthur Johnson at – whatever the number is.
‘Bye my love, until Sunday.

Apr 111937

Stella dear,
It won’t be long now! Only one more night then home again. And then there’ll be months and months and months at the very least before we have the same business over again. Be ready when I come to collect you, I’ll be there on the dot. Today has seemed longer than ever, for with the heavy rain and generally miserable weather, golf has been out of the question. It’s lousy with nothing to do but sit down and wait for the time to pass, because it never does seem to pass somehow. I think this must be worse than waiting for a husband to come in from the Club!
I’m sorry I forgot the enclosed whatnot, but I had hung it in the wardrobe so that some of the creases would fall out of it. Being young, sweet and innocent I should have been more careful with the list instead of trusting to my Pelman-trained memory.
Don’t have any more fits of the blues, will you? You were down in the dumps last night. If only I could have turned in with you! Oh boy! As it was, I slept at Litherland and as I had no pyjamas there – and was sleeping alone – it was not so tropical. Does that wake a pang of pity in your breast – or should one say nipple now?
I have aired all the things in the cot today so it should be okeydoke for tomorrow. Don’t know whether you will agree with the way I have fixed the cot, but if not then I’ll do it again.
Bye now, sweet. Be a good lass and keep that dainty chin, surmounted by that famous rosebud mouth, well up until tomorrow. It’s much less than twenty-four hours off now.
As ever, your
Arthur X
X for Wendy

Sep 241940

My dear Jane and Jack,
I’m tempting fate. We have not had an air raid so far tonight and it is now midnight, so I’m taking a chance on at least getting this letter well under way. If there are any interruptions, you will have to forgive me if the letter seems a little disjointed. Actually we have been very lucky so far in Liverpool. There have been “alerts” – dozens of ’em. In fact we consider ourselves lucky if we only get one air raid warning during daylight hours and two at night. For all that, there has been very little material damage done and, considering the number of bombs dropped, the number of planes he must have had engaged in visits to Liverpool, and the amount of money and time he must have spent on our “Education” in Nazi methods, the number of lives lost is remarkably small. It all seems in the lap of the gods. If he hits a public surface shelter and it is crowded, then the casualties are high. If, as has happened on a few occasions, he hits a shelter which is empty, then we have a good night. I don’t know whether you ever listen to, or see in the papers, the German communiqués about the damage which has been done in different parts of the country. If you do, then take it from me that, at least so far as Liverpool is concerned, and probably so far as the whole of the country is concerned, he talks a lot of poppy-cock. He has said on several occasions that the harbour of Liverpool has been burned to the ground. He is crazy. On two occasions only – one of them was last Saturday – has he caused fires of any size at all. One of them destroyed only one building, the old Customs House, and the other day (which was this weekend) was his best day ever here and then he only got four decent fires going. Really it is a poor effort considering the number of planes he has had here. These are two of the very few days when he has been able to reach dockland, and although this weekend things looked pretty good for him, when it is all boiled down it means this – he hit a timber yard, a cotton warehouse and a general warehouse in Bootle. To do that he probably dropped the best part of a thousand incendiaries over the north end. Not very good shooting, is it?
We have had a bit of stuff round us. In all I should say about a dozen or fifteen high explosive bombs within half a mile. It may be more than that, but we have felt very little, except on one occasion when I was at home and, in full innocence, opened the front door during what I thought was a quiet spell. Just then he dropped a couple in some fields which are two or three roads away from us and we felt the full benefit of the blast. That is as near as he has got to us yet and we are not over-worried about it. My experience is that, even if you have no real shelter, you are safe enough if you stay in the house. To do any damage to you he has to drop one right on your doorstep, or at least within a couple of houses. Even then you are not likely to be hurt, but you may be shaken up. So far as I can see, there has got to be a more or less direct hit on a house before any really serious damage is done to the occupants. Property and furniture may be knocked about, but what does that matter as compared with life?
I’m writing all this, not for the sake of scaring you, but because I feel you should know what we think of it, and to write and tell you that nothing has happened here would be an insult to your intelligence. I will tell you quite frankly that apart from one occasion when a “Molotov breadbasket”, which is one of those arrangements in which he releases a big number of incendiary bombs at once, burst over my head soon after I had left the house to go to the office, I have not been really scared. Yet, on the other hand, once it is nearly time to leave for the office, which is, just now, the time at which he is likely to come over, I get all worked up and cannot settle in the house. Once I am outside and on my way down I feel much better, even if the sirens go and I have to walk part of the way during the raid. I think it must be a sort of claustrophobia complex I have as zero hour approaches. I’m all right once I’m on the move. Stella, on the other hand, heaves a sigh of relief when the sirens go and she has to go up and fetch the kids downstairs. Then she settles down into the routine of keeping an eye on them while reading or knitting.

Monday 21 October 1940
As you will see, it is quite a long time since I started this letter. In fact the night I did so he came over very late and interrupted me, which I took most unkindly. In fact we have had a number of lively nights since then. Only a couple of nights after I had written the first page of this letter, Jerry touched lucky with a whole load of incendiaries and treated us to the greatest fire I have ever seen – or expect to see. He went right along the south end docks and planted fire bombs in dozens of places. In all we had about seven or eight huge ones all going at the one time and from our roof it looked as if half of Liverpool was on fire, but actually the damage, although considerable from a financial point of view, was nothing like as great as was at first feared. The chief thing is that he was not able to affect transport at all, except passenger transport to a small extent, and once again the docks escaped serious damage. The more I go about and see the damage he has done, the more I marvel at how small it is. To back up what I said on the other page about the number of lives lost and injuries inflicted, I’ll quote what happened on two successive nights – or mornings. On the first occasion he dropped a line of high explosive among house property which, incidentally has suffered by far the most in these raids. The first bomb hit a house which had already had a time bomb in the yard in a previous raid, and consequently there was no-one in it. The second and third bombs dropped in the yards of houses in a street opposite. The fourth scored a direct hit on a small surface shelter, demolishing that one and damaging an adjoining one. The fifth dropped in the middle of the road. The only casualties were those in the two shelters. In all, about thirty killed and injured. This despite the fact that there were at least two planes which dropped a full load of H.E. and incendiary. The next night he came over and dropped even more. They all fell either in gardens, sports fields, the grounds of hospitals and places like that and there were two very slight injuries, one of them a soldier who slightly burned his hands in dealing with an incendiary. It’s like a raffle. Sometimes he is lucky, but most often we are.
You will be interested to know that the work I have put in on these air raids, sometimes working a fifteen and sixteen hour day, has made a very good impression on the office. So much so that, although I did not apply for one, I have been given a rise. In fact I am the only one in the office to receive an increase since the war began, and it is not likely that there will be any more for a long time. The news editor of the ‘Daily Post’ and the editor of the ‘Echo’ – whom I have seen about twice in my life – were so pleased with what I have been doing that each of them went on successive days, and quite unkown to each other, and told the managing director that I should be given some recognition. Result – a rise. It is very welcome just now for many reasons, not the least of which is that I will now be able to resume giving something to Mother, in which direction I have been rather lax of late, but things are so tight – or rather were, until I had this stroke of good luck. I would rather it had come through some other medium than other people’s misery, but the position being what it is, I might as well turn it to good use if I can. Anyway, it will probably mean that I shall be put on to day work as soon as possible, although I don’t think that is likely to be for some time yet, because of the difficulty in getting new staff. We cannot compete these days with the national papers who are offering excellent wages to people who are likely to be out of the army for some time to come. On the whole, I prefer night work just now from a purely selfish point of view, because I can get my sleep in as usual during the day and, at night, there is generally at least one good story to be done, which is an improvement in sitting twiddling my thumbs as I have been doing for months. I’m almost a war correspondent now, complete with steel helmet, which Stella and the family think makes me look funnier than ever. Daddy’s hat is a standing joke in the house.

Sunday 3 November
Still another effort to get this into the post and I’m determined to finish it tonight. So far I have written of nothing but the war but now, with November upon us, I had better make this a Xmas letter! It seems as if we have gone back to the ice age, writing Xmas letters two months ahead of time. Despite war conditions, there are signs of the festive season being on its way. Already Woolworth’s and other stores are displaying some purely Xmas lines. I don’t know whether we will be able to get hold of a Xmas tree this year. Usually Bert gets us one from the Burton woods, as I have told you before, I think, but as he is not at Burton now, the chances do not seem so good. I would like to get one if I can, because we are ging to do everything we can to make it as normal a Xmas as possible. Stella has already made the puddings and the next job will be the cake. Even if we cannot buy any fresh ones, we still have a few crackers left from last year and these, together with the coloured paper garlands, will help to make the atmosphere something like normal. I have bought some decorations such as Santa Clause on a sleigh and that sort of thing because they may be scarce later on, and we are gradually accumulating a stock of small novelties for the stockings. I have even got some new pennies so I think that, whatever happens this year, the youngsters should have a decent day, which is the main thing. It is impossible to tell what will happen in the way of visitors, of course, but I have no doubt things will be sorted out at the last minute, as usual. Presents for the adults will be kept down to microscopic proportions, I expect. I don’t know what to make for Wendy. Last year I made her a doll’s cot and she is just a bit too young for a doll’s house yet, and so is Michael, who would probably break it in the first day if I did make one for her. It is impossible to stop them from playing with each other’s toys. Before the time comes, however, I shall probably have a brain wave. Michael has already made up his mind that he wants a train – a big wooden one which he can pull along, so I’ll have to start that very soon. I suppose it will have to be painted the traditional red. It won’t be long now before he is demanding the real thing like Hornby trains, or Meccano.
As you will see from the date, we are not far off Bonfire Night, but of course a real bonfire or out of doors fireworks are out of the question this year. We are having a few indoor ones and I expect a few of the youngsters from round about will come in to see the fun. We tried one or two of them out the other day and they were a great success. I was not as strong minded as Stella, who religiously kept her hands off them, although she actually bought them in South Road. As soon as I saw them, I had to try some of them! What’s the good of being the boss(?) of the house if you can’t do things like that? I’m quite looking forward to the time when we can have a real Bonfire Night out of doors. It’s like going to the grotto, the children are a great excuse.
I don’t know what the arrangements will be in town about grottos this year. Last year, so far as I can remember, only Lewis’s had a real grotto, the remainder of the stores having only a toy fair. It will probably be the same this year, but whatever happens, we will take them both into town some morning – Stella will probably meet me in town straight from the office, where I can have a sleep and some breakfast before I meet her. If we do that, we should be home again about lunchtime and then I can have a sleep in the afternoon if necessary. The children like the trip to town and Wendy, like a true woman, will probably insist on a glass of milk in a café. She has reached that stage already.
Today I lifted the last of my potatoes. I put in quite a lot of work on the alleged allotment at the back of the garden last year, but the results were disappointing, probably due to two reasons – lack of manure and slackness in not keeping weeds and pests down. Everything seems to have come so far and no further. Sprouts, for instance, have come to a small ball, about an inch across, but seem to have stopped growing altogether at that point. The same thing happened with beetroots. Some of them reached the size of a tennis ball, but some of them never exceeded a marble. Cauliflowers were promising well and suddenly bolted, growing about a foot in a couple of days. Dwarf beans were severely attacked by fly, two rows failing to yield a single bean, and the cabbage fly, which was a new pest to me, did a lot of havoc with my greens during the summer. Still, we have had a few meals off our own stuff and I have learned a lot, which I hope will be useful next year. Considering everything, the potatoes did well, for they had no feeding of any kind, and one cannot expect too much in those circumstances. In all I suppose we will have had about six or seven months’ supply by the time the last are eaten, for with these I have lifted today we should have about two or three months’ supply in hand now. Bert sent me quite a good stock of winter greens which are doing better than the others, and which I hope will just be right when the shop supplies are running low. That was the chief difficulty last year, that we were unable to get any fresh greens for two or three months during the winter.
Well, I must finish on this page so it’s time to say au revoir. We shall be thinking of you both as usual at Xmas, and particularly when we are eating the turkey, or whatever takes its place. In the meantime, we all send you our love and best wishes for Xmas and 1941. We hope, too, that next year will see the end of all this nonsense and that you will be able to get home for a few months’ leave. Bye for now, and see you both take care of yourselves.
Arthur XX
P.S. I’m almost certain Stella has already acknowledged them, but just in case – many thanks for the frocks for Wendy. They fit her beautifully. Not one has had to be altered. Everything you mentioned in your letters as being on the way has now arrived. Yes, your cable came and was duly passed round all the family or else they were told its exact text.

Aug 081941

Story Of Year Of Raids On Merseyside
A Story Of Grim Experiences And Great Recovery

The new raid “season” is about to open, we are warned by people in authority, and as it is a year or so ago since Merseyside was first attacked by the Luftwaffe, it is interesting to review the “season” just ended.
Though the full story of the year cannot yet be told, it is interesting and instructive to look back along the road we have travelled and to realise to what extent our outlook has changed.
Few realised, last July, what we should live through in the year that has gone. True, there had been minor excitements. Occasionally there had been gunfire, even in daylight. But can you think back to that first night raid – not a heavy one – when in the intervals between the firing of the guns you could hear the steady “drum-drum, drum-drum” of Goering’s dark angels high overhead?
That night – it was in July 1940 – the first bombs were dropped on Merseyside. Neston, Irby and Thurstaston can claim the distinction of being among the first Merseyside districts to suffer actual attack. A stick of bombs scattered over these areas fell in fields and did no damage, but dug deep craters which drew wondering crowds.

Birkenhead And Wallasey
Birkenhead received an early “visit” one night in August. Bombs were dropped in Prenton, and when a house in Prenton Lane was struck, a maid who was in bed was killed. She was Merseyside’s first fatal casualty.
Two days later Wallasey was struck a heavier blow. Houses and shops at Stroud’s Corner, Cliff Road and Mill Lane were damaged and demolished. Infinitely worse, a few people were killed.
Next came the first Liverpool bombs. Just about midnight on Saturday August 17, they whistled down but did little damage. With the horrors of the Continent fresh in their minds, everyone called them screaming bombs. Do you remember that, and do your realise that nobody speaks of screaming bombs these days?
Two days later Liverpool had its first incendiary bombs, several hundred of which fell. From the centre of the city one saw for the first time that leaping, flickering greenish white halo, soon to become so familiar.
In some ways these early demonstrations of frightfulness, particularly those early deaths at Wallasey, made a deeper impression on the public than the succession of heavy blitzes during the longer nights.

On Their Doorsteps
People who had never seen themselves in the light of heroes suddenly realised that this war was to be fought out, literally, on their own doorsteps. Perhaps unconsciously, but nevertheless determinedly, people settled down to the raids, and that attitude meant defeat for the German Air Force. They set out to crack the morale of the civilian population and failed. They failed in those first few nights.
More and more efforts were made to destroy the town. In September there was scarcely a night when the alert was not sounded, and bombs were dropped on 19 nights in the month. Those were the nights when the housing estates were bearing the brunt of the attack, as they did for so long. Those were the nights, too, when the Anderson shelter proved its worth.
About the end of September raiders began to make greater use of incendiaries and for several months there was the same story in the papers of an “abortive fire-raising raid on a coastal town in the North-West”. That phrase about the town in the North-West is an echo from the past, isn’t it? Throughout the weeks there was raid after raid, with serious damage on only one occasion by fire. October came and went, bringing with it the long raids which meant six, seven and eight hours in shelters for so many people.

Lull, Then Fury
There came a lull in November, but suddenly there was unleashed all the fury of the Luftwaffe, who brought their heaviest bombs to Merseyside on November 28, rendering many people homeless but failing to crush their spirit. That was the night when a big shelter was struck, causing a number of casualties.
Another lull, with occasional nuisance raids and little material damage. Then the December blitz, which lasted two nights and on the third switched over to Manchester. This very heavy raid was followed by almost two months of comparative quietness, in which there were small raids, which failed in their objective of creating big fires.
By this time the organisation of civilians in defeating the incendiaries was so successful that raiders began dropping explosive incendiary bombs in the hope of scaring the public – a hope doomed to disappointment.
Raids, though fewer, were more concentrated in the early spring. March 12 and 13, for instance, brought two nights of hell to Merseyside, where residential areas were badly damaged by some of the heaviest bombs. It was at this time, however, that we began to hear of our night fighters, who shot down at least seven.
Spasmodic raids followed in April, but May saw the outbreak of a heavy and concentrated attack. Eight nights in succession the raiders came.

National Admiration
Firemen, ambulance drivers, rescue squads, police, and all the civil defence personnel worked unceasingly, earning the admiration of the whole country. Just how well they did their jobs is shown by the speed with which vital services were restored.
Many famous and historic places in the city were hit – churches, homes, public buildings, hotels, all felt the weight of Germany’s relentless bombing, but still the city stands. Ugly wounds in the streets have been cleaned and healed by temporary dressings and, most important of all, the port carries on its vital work. People come and go much as they have always done.
The people of Merseyside can face this autumn more confidently, for they know what to expect.
There are two great differences as compared with the post-Dunkirk period: We are now hitting back at Germany, in Germany, and we have our night fighters protecting us with growing success.
Arthur Johnson

Feb 111942

HMS Royal Arthur, Skegness
Hello Sweet,
Today has seemed about three weeks long! Now I know what Michael feels like when he’s had a really full day!
I have drawn all my uniform today except respirator and gaiters. Tomorrow I have to take bellbottoms back to have them altered. We have even been issued with tropical kit – white duck trousers and blazer and white topped hat. What a laugh for you if you could but have seen me. Still, I was not so bad as some of the lads here who were so keen to don uniform that they were to be seen parading in a hat with no ribbon, a sailor blouse, grey flannels, and a collar and tie. Some just wore the naval overcoat – we have a coat and an oilskin – over their civvies. We have, thank God, touched for a very decent Chief Petty Officer who is in charge of our dress and he does all he can to make life easier for us.
This morning, it seems much more remote than that, we had a little homily from the second in command here and it struck me how well he would “go” over the radio. No nonsense, a fairly strong play on the tradition and customs of the Navy (saluting the ensign and that sort of stuff) and a promise of help and a square deal if we were in trouble domestically. He told us, with just the right amount of pride, that he was for seven years in lower deck. The theme of his little speech was that we were at Skegness to learn discipline. According to him this involves no degradation. Discipline is to a big organisation what self-control is to an individual and it looks to me as if one will go along quite well here by doing what one is told to do.
The timetable is rather complicated, with bugles blowing about every quarter of an hour, or so it seems. The thing which has hit me most, however, is the restriction on smoking. There have been several half hours today, for instance, when we have been standing about just waiting for something or someone. But we could not smoke because we were “on duty”. There are two stand-easy spells, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, for a smoke and there are, of course, breakfast, dinner, tea and supper when we can smoke, so it is not so bad really. We cannot, however, smoke in the chalets and there are only three of us to each chalet. Apparently, the danger of fire is too great. Incidentally, we should feed in a mess which was burned out two weeks ago. The result is that we have to share a mess with another crowd, which makes meals rather a scramble.
We learned today, by the way, that we are here for discipline only, which means that we will be making a move in five weeks. Whether that means leave as well I don’t know yet, but a lot of people seem to think so. Still, I’m not banking on it. When I can find anything definite out I will let you know.
Among others I saw the dentist today. His laconic comment to the clerk was “Extensive: urgent”. Happy thought! We have yet to be inoculated and I heard tonight that we are to be “done” on Saturday, which would have been our only day “ashore” this week.
Well, pet, this is all the “business” side of things for now, except that I’m constipated and cold and I’m going to make a supreme effort to cure one of those complaints now.
I’ve got to be off now because somebody has blown a damn bugle again. Write me soon, sweet. No need to tell you how much I miss you. It will be worse at the weekend. I think of you often.
All my love, darling, look after yourself properly and I hope you have a nice weekend. My love to May and the family. Will write you again soon. Bye for now, my love.
P.S. Tell Wendy and Michael I’ll probably write them at the weekend.

Feb 131942

Just a note in a hurry to say that I’m a full sailor now. My uniform is complete and I’m sending my civvies off today so watch out for them, will you? They may be delivered by rail. There is a note inside and one for the children giving the latest news. Just hang my clothes up and keep them brushed for me. Perhaps you can crease the flannels.
In haste, lots of love.
Arthur X

Feb 131942

Dear Wendy & Michael,
How are you both? I do hope that you are behaving yourselves while I am away. Remember, Mummy has enough to worry about now, so I want you both to be very good for her.
Daddy is a real sailor now, with two funny little hats – one blue one and one white one. And I have also got a bed to hang up between two big posts when I want to go to sleep, although just now we are sleeping on beds in tiny houses smaller than our garage. Today I have been vaccinated just as you were when you went to the clinic. Do you remember? Because I have been vaccinated I have not got very much work to do today, but next week we shall all be busy running round the big buildings here, going to the gymnasium to play games and learning how to fire a rifle. So you see Daddy has more work to do here than at home. It is harder work than digging the garden! There has been lots more snow here than we had at home, but most of it has gone now. We have also seen a lot of big aeroplanes, flying very low – just above the housetops.
Well this is all for now, but remember, I want you both to be very good. Promise? I will write you another letter soon, but until then Mummy will tell you the news.
Lots of love from
Daddy XX

Feb 141942

My Darling,
This is supposed to be a free day for us as we have just been inoculated and vaccinated, but their idea of a free day is rather different from mine. We have also been photographed! What a thrill. It is just an ordinary passport photograph, but I’ll see if I can get a copy and send it home to you. That will probably be in a few days’ time.
Two things, while I remember.
(1) Scarf and gloves if anyone is doing any knitting.
(2) If anyone calls about the application I have made for a special allowance, don’t forget I allowed you £3 a week for food and personal expenses and I paid rent, electric, telephone, insurances and papers. Set as high a standard as you can. That seems to be the general idea of things.
So far I haven’t heard from you, love. I do hope you are settling down to the new life a bit better. I was sorry to rush out of the house on Tuesday, but I thought it better that way. I still get a lump in my throat when I think of you all. I didn’t even say bye to Michael and Wendy properly. Still, perhaps that was as well, but instead of making this a long letter to you I’ll put a note in for the two of them.
All my love, sweetheart, it’s four days nearer seeing you now. Did you get my last letter before you went to Limedale?
Bye for now, darling. I do love you so much. Ever,
Arthur XXXX

P.S. We had a lecture on the evils of V.D. before church this morning! I like the Navy’s idea of relative importance!

Feb 151942

O/Tel AJohnson, Class 127, Top Div.
H.M.S. Royal Arthur
My Darling,
Well the first week is nearly over! Am about fully recovered from the vaccination and inoculation. My left arm is just a little stiff but I felt no real ill effects except that on Friday morning I was a bit squeamish in the tummy. The worst thing so far has been the cold. There’s a lazy wind here which prefers to go through you instead of round you. Last night was the first time I was really warm and that was because we went into Skegness, Saturday being the first time we have been allowed “ashore”.
They stick very strictly to the nautical phraseology here. Those going ashore are “liberty men” and the buses which take us into Skeg from the camp are “liberty boats”. We got into Skegness about 2pm and made The Lion the first port of call – you see they’ve got me into this nautical business. We sat by the fire and watched the lads playing darts while we lowered a couple of pints. Then we toured the town. What a place. One main street where every other place is a bazaar (admission free) and almost every other shop a barber’s, tobacconist’s or a photographer’s. Then there is one other street, a narrow place running behind the main street, and there are fish and chip shops cheek by jowl along the whole length of it. Fish, chips, bread and butter, tea – 1/2 for HM Forces, 1/6 to benighted civvies!
We spent a full hour over tea, after touring every damn bazaar, and then walked the streets until The Lion opened again. Six o’clock they open in this dive. While we were sauntering along I bumped into Harry Stamforth who was with me on the ‘Waterloo Herald’ and who ended up at the ‘Daily Herald’. He is now in the airforce here. I have made a date to meet him in Skegness on Wednesday.
I think I have told you pretty well all the news. Saturday was a very lazy day and today we have been free since 11am. When I got here I made a few enquiries as to what the position was in regard to non-religious people and everyone was horrified at the mere suggestion. I got a straight tip that I would be “marked” if I kicked over that issue and, even worse, would get all the lavatory fatigues. I decided to embrace religion again and here I am a Methodist and so had to go to church this morning for about three-quarters of an hour. The only advantage is that the padre here is under no illusions. He said the other day that he realised everyone in the Navy had to go to church whether they wished it or not. So far I have kept my mouth shut on both politics and religion. You wouldn’t recognise me here! Never mind, I can witter to my heart’s content when I come home. Every day will be a Saturday!
By the way, we are cooks today, four of us. That means we have to be on the mess a bit before the others and lay the tables and pass the food out. Afterwards we have to clear up after them and wash cups and silver(?). You should see some of the knives. They are real rusty. We have had very good grub so far. Breakfast might be just bacon, or porridge and tinned herrings, or, as today, bacon and tomatoes. For lunch today we had soup – we get a cup every lunchtime and it’s grand in this cold weather – beef, roast potatoes and sprouts, followed by rhubarb. Tea is a very light affair – bread and butter, a cake and a cup of tea. I don’t know what is for supper, but usually it is a hot meal, generally sausage meat and mash, or perhaps, as it was on the first night we were here, oxtail. In addition to these meals we get a cup of boiling hot cocoa about 10.15am and it is welcome after drilling or marching in the bitter cold.
There is a march past here every Sunday and some of the officers are real martinets on discipline. The salute was taken by a Vice-Admiral today and our Chief Petty Officer – usually called Chief – was tickled pink because a Commander told him after the parade that the class did very well considering it was their first parade. I’m glad that happened because old Chiefie is a good sort and very considerate to me. Tell Michael that Daddy had to march past a big sailor and that the band played while we did so. There is a detachment of marines here and they play for ceremonial occasions.
Well, that’s about all the news, love, but try to touch somebody for a scarf and gloves as soon as possible. It’s cold here when the wind blows. When there is no wind it is not so bad. Today, for instance, the sky is clouded for the first time since we came, but there is no wind and it makes a big difference.
I’m sorry about having to leave you all alone, pet. It hurts every time I think of it, but I try not to think too often. I’d go loopy if I did. I ALMOST avoid looking at your picture for the same reason. You’ve no idea what you’ve come to mean to me. As you say, this war has become too damn personal now and if only it could be made to affect EVERYONE in the country in the same way, we’d soon have it finished. Never mind darling, the time will come sooner or later.
I’ve just heard the post goes in five minutes so will answer your letter later. Tell the children a tortoiseshell cat came to see me this morning. A real friendly thing it was. Hug the children for me and tell them all you can from this letter. All my love, sweet. Leave is one week nearer.
Bye, precious,
Arthur XXXX

Feb 201942

First of all, the latest piece of news. I’m writing this from sick bay – no, don’t get worried. I have a heavy cold, nothing more. As a matter of fact I felt worse yesterday than I do today and if I could have got one full day in bed then I should have been alright now, but it is literally impossible to get a day in bed without going to sick bay. It is too complicated to explain on paper – all a matter of organisation, apparently. Anyway, don’t worry about me, you know I wouldn’t lead you up the garden path and the mere fact that I can start the letter within an hour of getting here shows I’m not so bad. What I wanted when this cold started was some of those chlorodine tablets to loosen my chest up, but I can’t get them in the camp as it is a crime to “doctor” oneself. As a matter of fact I have been expecting to come here for a different reason – teeth. I’m told that if you have a lot of teeth out they give you gas and bring you in sick bay for two or three days. That will probably be in the sick bay in the camp. Where I am now is about half a mile from the camp in what is, in peacetime, a miners’ convalescent home. I have a bed by the window and the sun is shining beautifully, for the first time since we came. Looking from my window, I might be in a house on the front at Blundellsands for there are sandhills covered with that star grass and low growing scrub, and the Wash beyond. Not a sign of life on the Wash. It is a pleasant change to get meals without a scramble. I’d almost forgotten there were such things as saucers!
Another thing I have missed is the radio. There is none in the mess we use, although I believe there was one in our own before it was burned down. Here there is a radio in the ward and it has been on every minute since we came in. I believe we listen to the 9 o’clock news in the darkness (lights out at 9) and then it is switched off for the night.
Well, love, you wanted a timetable for a typical day. We started “square bashing” and P.T. two days ago. Square bashing is the colloquialism for marching etc. Squad drill is the official name. Next week we should begin rifle drill. Well, the day starts at 6.30 with a bloke banging a stick on the door and shouting “Wakee wakee, rise and shine. Now my lads, show a leg” and whatever additions and variations he cares to throw in. Some of them are real humourists. At 6.45 a bugle joins to summon cooks for the day to the mess. At 7 another bugle summons everyone to breakfast. Meals are eaten by almost everyone at an enormous pace, quite unnecessarily. After breakfast, down to the chalet to wash and shave, if you have not already done so and also to fold blankets regulation fashion. At 7.55 we muster and the last 12 to muster are given light fatigues – brushing the roads, chiefly – quite without rancour. From 8 to 8.20 down to the chalet again to give another opportunity to get everything shipshape. At 8.20 Divisions, which means everyone in each Division parades. Men who have to go to sick bay – many go each day just for medicine – go to sick parade. The rest ensemble and run twice round the main camp buildings – which is very welcome in the cold weather. Afterwards we march to prayers, in the open, and at 9 there is the ceremony of hoisting the white ensign on the quarter deck. Then we march back to the top of our chalet row and carry on with our training.
Routine varies a little, but we will have a lecture on, say, different messing arrangements in the Navy. That will last until 10.15, when we get our first “stand easy”, which means we may smoke (we cannot smoke after 8am except at given intervals). We also get hot cocoa served and it is very welcome. If we are lucky enough to get to the counter of the canteen in time we can buy buns. I’ve developed an enormous appetite, by the way. That stand easy lasts until 10.30 and then we do a spot of “square bashing”, which goes a long way to keeping us warm until 11.30 when we have another stand easy followed by a period of P.T. (gym to you) until about 12.45.
Dinner at 1 and freedom until 2. Then there might be another lecture or two periods of square bashing until 4 o’clock when we finish. There is, of course, a stand easy in the middle of the afternoon. At 4.10 we muster for evening quarters, which is merely a question of seeing that nobody has gone “adrift” during the day. At 4.30 we have tea, which may be bread and butter and cake, or bread and cheese, or bread and butter and meat paste. From 4.30 onwards we are free, and on alternate days may go out until 10pm, but there is little to entice people into Skegness. Thursday, by the way, is an exception when nobody is allowed out and everyone has to attend a lecture on some branch of Navy work. This week’s lecture took the form of films of convoy work. Supper is at 7 – the other day we had American hash – after which we usually write letters, or do little odd jobs and perhaps have a drink in the canteen, although not always! What a change, eh?
By the time it gets to 9.30 I can scarcely keep my eyes open! I’ve been in bed before 10 almost every night I’ve been here. Well, there you are. That is a fairly typical day’s programme. What do you think of it?
Have just finished supper and am now waiting for the Tommy Handley programme and shall think of you while it is on, for I expect you will be sitting in the armchair, with your feet up on the stool, perhaps even knitting my gloves. The radio can be a blessing, but it was on the whole of the time I was writing the first half of this letter. In fact the only time it was off was when the doctor was doing his rounds, and it is getting a bit wearing now.
There is one thing about this sick bay business, it’s a good chance to get arrears of letters wiped out – not that I’m really in arrears, but there are so many to write to. I didn’t write you in the middle of the week because I felt the phone call was better than a letter, although we got so little chance to say a lot. The minutes seemed to flash by.
Now I’m going to try to answer all the points in your letters, which I have just re-read. I had a talk to one of the men cooks who has been here a few weeks and he says he has never seen any bromide go into the tea, but one of the lads here thinks it goes into the greens. Speaking of bromide, and allied subjects, I will be waiting next week for the V sign on the top of your letters! Letters bring up another point. I have been here 10 days now and I have only had four letters – three from you, bless you – and one from Mother. That despite the fact that I have written to seven other people apart from you and Mother. Mind you, it’s not so bad now as in the first few days – the isolation period I think you called it. Apart from your letters, which mean more than you can ever realise, I’m not worried who writes or when they write. I love your letters with their intimacies of the home and the doings of the children. I do miss you all but I get a lot of consolation from the photos – tell Dave that, won’t you?

Didn’t get a chance to finish this yesterday but I didn’t want to send it off half finished. I ran through your letters again. It’s nice to be missed! Selfish of one, of course, but flattering to my ego. Your date with me is 7.30, but mine with you is at supper time about 7 o’clock, for there is never a quiet moment here except in bed, when I always think of you just before I go to sleep. I like to think of you and the children at 7 o’clock because that was the time, in normal circumstances, when I was getting ready to say goodnight to you all. I hope that by now you are getting more used to your new routine. I don’t suppose you will ever like it, but I know you will do all you can to make the best of it.
So Wendy and Michael loved Donald Duck? I’m so glad because so many of these long-planned big treats fall flat, don’t they? I should have liked to be with you then and on the visit to Sefton Park, about which I know almost nothing. You evidently had a nice time – and finished one penny to the good, eh? Nice work! And beer! By the way, if there’s any beer left at home, don’t save it up for any special purpose, it won’t keep too long you know. Oh! And by the way, be careful not to let Michael take that airgun out in the street at all. He is far too young and the older boys will get hold of it. If it should be in working order – you may not know it – and then if anyone gets injured we will be to blame.
About the clothing card. I had to give that in when I came and I was sorry afterwards that I didn’t cut most of them out because we could have used the loose ones for buying through the post or you could have used them for the purchase of wool. Re your inquiry about my mental state on waking, let it be placed on record that I have not, so far, disgraced myself in that respect. In fact I’m usually awake two or three times during the night. I haven’t settled down to sleeping at night properly. Soon will do, I expect.
On the subject of leave, get this firmly fixed in your head – I will not get any leave from here, but only when I have been drafted to wherever I have to take the wireless course – that is in six or seven weeks from the time I came here.
Proof of the fact that I’m not really ill. I’m allowed out of bed today, “when necessary”. There’s no need to elaborate on their polite phraseology, I’m sure. That means I should be out of here in three or four days.
What a change this morning. Grey skies and quite heavy snow. In the middle of it an air raid and all the bed patients (that’s me) had to roll under the beds, dragging our gas masks with us. Then we were ordered downstairs – this after Jerry had done a spot of machine-gunning. I only heard one bomb dropped but I don’t know what happened. A flutter of excitement for those who were not used to raids, but I would far sooner have stayed in bed. By the way, don’t say anything to Mother about me being here or they’ll need a special train to bring all the patent medicines and then I’ll find myself in trouble.
Well, sweetheart, I’ve just about written myself to a standstill and I have still lots of people to write to, but I shall not do another line before dinner. To hell with them! This letter will last you for a day or two, I hope, and I think it just about brings things up to date, doesn’t it?
Darling, I do love you and it’s nearly two weeks nearer leave! Look after yourself, pet, and let me know if there’s anything worrying you.
All my love, sweet,
Arthur XX

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

Feb 231942

Dear Wendy,
Thank you for your nice letter and for all the things you asked Mummy to tell me. Mummy is good to read so many books to you. When I come home I will read to you sometimes. Is the book about Jane and John and Margaret a nice one? Was Tiger waiting at the door for you when you got home from Grandma’s? I have just written a letter to Grandma to thank her for letting Michael and Mummy and you stay there. You were asking about my white hat. No, Wendy, it is not a Sunday hat. It is to wear in the summer or if my boat sails a long way and we go into bright sunshine. I have two white suits as well. I will come home as soon as I can, perhaps in another month but I do not think I will have a big bag with me, so I will not be able to show you my funny bed. Bye bye, Wendy. I will see you in about four weeks. Write to me soon.
Lots of love from
Dear Michael,
I have written to Wendy so here is a letter for you, too. Thank you for your letter which Mummy sent to me and which came to me on Saturday afternoon while I was in bed because I had a cold. It has been snowing a lot here. Wasn’t Uncle Harold good to give you that big gun? Has Mummy told you that you must play with it in the house until you are bigger and can play properly with it? So you dreamt about my little house, did you? It will be a nice little house in the summer, but in the winter it is cold and as all the windows are painted black we have to put the light on in the daytime. I am glad you have seen Donald Duck and all the other funny animals and the train with the funny face. Did they make you laugh? I wish I could have been with you and also when you went to the big park, which I have not been to very often. So the fire went out? That was because it was such a long time while you were at Grandma’s. I’ll see your gun when I come home, perhaps in four weeks. Will you write me soon? Bye for now.
Love from

Feb 251942

As usual, in a hurry! Was discharged from Sick Quarters today and will be back on the job as usual in the morning. Remind me to tell you when I come home what a really tough time I missed by being sick just when I was. Did I have a lucky break?
Don’t worry about your “dismal” letters, sweet. I understand only too well and was thinking of you a lot during the weekend. You have been so very good and I know you will keep your “armour”, as you call it, on all the time I am away. Although I hate to think of you being miserable, I take it as a compliment. That’s me all over. I’m glad you have got your bad weekend over. The next won’t be quite so bad and once the better weather comes and you can get out in the garden you will find things easier, I think. Whatever else you do while I’m away, love, do look after yourself. I can’t bear to think of you being ill. Is your cold any better? I hope so. Don’t neglect it will you? I want you fighting fit when I come home.
Hope Wendy and Michael liked their letters, which you should have by now. From that letter to you, you will realise I got both of your letters – and both on Saturday. Thank you for that, my love. They meant a lot, especially the one with the dream in it. It sent a glow all over me.
Send me full details of the allotment when it comes through. Many thanks for the scarf. It’s a godsend, even if it does place you in an awkward position. I don’t want to rush you, but will you get the gloves here as soon as possible? You have no idea what the cold is like! There’s the “clear mess” bugle. Bye, pet, will write again in a day or two.
All my love,
Arthur XX

Feb 261942

Thursday Night
I’m just dashing a note off so that you will be sure to have something for the weekend. Will you let me know, by the way, if letters bearing a Friday postmark reach you by Saturday!
Thursday is about our worst day. We are on the go all day but instead of finishing at 4.30 we have lectures until 6 o’clock  and no one is allowed ashore during the evening. The result is that the mess is always crowded and right now there are 1,500 fellows dancing with each other or bellowing all the popular songs at the tops of their voices while our own danceband – and a good one too – blares out about five yards from my elbow. But this is the only place where I can possibly write. There have been one or two impromptu turns by some of the lads and a “snotty” has just told a story about a camel which went with a great swing.
Many thanks for the V sign! Hope things are not too bad for you. Why do you always pick days like that for a heavy day’s work? When you wrote about the first day’s washing drying in the garden I came over all nostalgic. It brought back such a vivid picture of home! And, like you, I have been building up a mental wall. I dare not think of some things. Peculiarly enough, you mentioned the back of my neck. Sometimes I get a picture of you bent over the bath in the evening, or perhaps at the sink and I do so want to put my hands beneath your breasts and kiss the back of your neck. Just to feel you tremble as I do that, or as I run my fingertips over the back of your frock! Sweetheart, it’s a fortnight nearer that moment! By the way, how is the evidence? Look after it because I think I would be regarded askance if I went to the sick bay to get any while I’m here. Just to think of it has given very forcible evidence that if there is any bromide in our food it must have perished a long time ago!
How is Wendy’s head? I do hope she has not done any real damage. Is Michael fit? And are they both behaving themselves?
I’m afraid I’ll have to finish now. If I get a chance – I doubt it – I’ll drop a few more lines in the post in the morning, but I want to be sure of this getting away. Many thanks for all your letters. You have been an angel. You realise now, of course, that I have had them all. Perhaps over the weekend I may get a chance to write another fairly long one. If there is a gap of a few days in between my letters, you will realise I have gone into sick quarters again, to have my teeth out – a fairly long job here. If I don’t have them out before Saturday I’m going into Skegness to have me photy took before the shape of my face alters! Have you realised that when I do come home I will be all gummy? It will make a very big difference you know!
All for now, my darling. Look after yourself. My constant dread is that you should be ill and me not there. Hug the children for me.
All my love,
Arthur XXX
P.S. Heard from Mother today and Dot two days ago.

Feb 281942

This is being written outside camp, in an ancient church schoolroom which is converted at night into a little canteen by the W.V.S. It is in a little village called Ingoldmells, about two miles from camp. Quite a pleasant little walk in the opposite direction to Skegness. The canteen is in a typical country school. One tiny room with desks pushed back against the walls, a real fire in one corner, a radio in another. We can buy cakes, tea, etc here and the prices are ridiculous. We have had beans on toast, trifle and tea – 7 1/2d. What do you think of that? It’s only when you are in a joint like this that you realise what all these women scattered all over the country must be doing for hundreds of thousands of fellows away from home. I’m surprised, but thankful, that there are not more fellows here. Less than a dozen at the moment and I don’t suppose there will be many more now as it’s about 8pm.
Tonight and tomorrow I’m going to try to answer your last four letters, rather than write one of my own to you. First of all, how is Wendy? Is her throat better and have you had the doctor in? If you did, did you get him to look you over too? How is your cough? I do hope it is getting better. Mine is a good deal better but I still have a cough which I do not expect to lose until we leave here. If you can get some more of those tablets and forward them in any parcel you may be sending – gloves or pyjamas – I’d be glad of them. We are still getting snow almost every day, but it is not very bad and today seems a bit warmer. On the question of woollens, I’ll try to put Mother off the Methodist knitting circle. One of the lads in the chalet has lent me a pair of gloves which have improved things considerably.
I left Sick Quarters on Wednesday and the following day had the full normal routine of drill. It is quite enjoyable in this weather. Since then we have been duty class which, as I think I told you before, consists of doing odd jobs all over the camp. The C.P.O. put me on some soft jobs because I had just come out of Sick Quarters. Actually the class did no actual training while I was away and I have had only three days’ proper training although we have been here nearly three weeks. That is no good for it may keep us here longer than we should have been.
By the way, did you get any peaches? Or was there a rush? On the question of rationing, soap was rationed three days after we got here. Isn’t that our luck? On pay day we were issued with two soap coupons. If I can save any up for you I will do because they can be used in outside shops. I sent more things to the laundry (free!) last week and got them back today. The towel was quite good, but the underpants had shrunk badly, although they could stand it as most of the issue woollies will!
Many thanks for the ‘New Statesman’s. I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet, but hope to do so tomorrow. I don’t hear the news and only see a paper now and again.
That was a good idea about teaching Wendy the value of money. It will help her at school. The next step is to let her spend her own money actually in shops. that will help to give her a sense of value.

About the gates. This, of course, has been going on for a long time in other districts, and actually should have reached Crosby long ago. I’m speaking from memory, but I think the local authority had to inform people that gates and railings would be removed, but if they had to give each individual warning, I’m not certain. It may have been sufficient if they advertised in the local Press. To save gates and railings you had to prove that they were either of special artistic or historic value, and I doubt whether the people you speak of could do either! Otherwise I believe they can claim so much per ton for them!
Your parcel and note arrived after I had gone “ashore” on Saturday. Many thanks, love, they are lovely and warm! A bit big in the palm, but they may shrink a bit when they are washed – but NOT at Butlins! As you can probably tell by this writing, it’s damn cold here again today and quite apart from that I’m writing this in the Scout Hut in the camp, just an ordinary army hut and the wireless is going full blast with a repeat of last night’s ‘Saturday Social’. Not conducive to concentration!
Glad to hear Wendy is improving. Just while I remember I will send you that 11/6 for the ’jamas. You will want any extra few bob you may have. I have been going carefully here and I’m going to see if I can get through this fortnight on service pay, although I spent a few bob yesterday. For one thing I had my picture taken and should be able to send them to you by the weekend. Big laugh for you!
I made several efforts to ring you from Ingoldmells last night. First of all we had to go along to the local Post Office and ask them to switch the line through  to the call box at the other end of the village! Then we got a warning, which made things fairly hopeless for an hour or so (I believe they got a plane down) and finally when I did get through a bloke I was with said a special constable was getting worried about us as, according to him, it was after 9.30 and we were more than half an hour from camp. I had to give up and was really annoyed when we got back to camp and it was only then 9.35! I wondered if the phone rang and you were disappointed.
There were lots of things I wanted to tell you but I simply can’t concentrate with all this noise. I don’t need to tell you that I love you, do I sweet? I do miss you. I’ll do you the world of good when I come home. Just see whether I will ring the bell or not! Oh darling, just to be in bed with you. Wow! Can we send the children away and spend 7 days in bed? Bye for now, my darling. Take good care of yourself. You mean so much to me. All my love,
Arthur XXX

P.S. The weekend seems my only real chance of writing long letters so I’ll make a habit of sending shorter ones during the week and trying to answer all your letters on Saturday and Sunday.

Mar 031942

So you had a bad day on Saturday! Too bad, but you do strike days like that every now and again, don’t you? Sorry you missed Eric and Lilian. I can’t understand what has happened to the letter I wrote him last week. I think I told you I wrote him care of the office and asked them to forward it or return it to me. I received a letter from Eric today, with a 5/– book of stamps, and apparently the only news he had received of me was my last letter to Mother, which she sent on to him. It’s annoying because I wrote about nine pages to him. If you should be writing them in the next day or two you might mention it, although by then Eric may have been to the office and picked it up there.
I have had a letter from Mother today and I guessed, from the tenor of that, that things had gone very smoothly during the weekend.
Regarding what you have heard about our visitor while I was in sick bay. You are only one short in that number you heard! How the news travels. You know me better than to think I’m trying to keep anything from you. In any case, I didn’t have any idea myself as to the content of it until after I came out of sick bay. You will remember I asked you to remind me to tell you what the lads had been doing while I was off sick. Well I’ll tell you when I come home, not in a letter, which is liable to censorship. Compared to what we had in Liverpool, the whole affair was nothing. One bomb!
No, the dentist has not done his worst, yet, although I’m expecting it every day. Nearly everyone in the class has been to the dentist’s chair except me. There’s no hope of a temporary set and I’m still wondering whether you’ll love me as much in a real gummy state.
What a practical young woman you are these days! I think the changes you have made in the bedroom are a big improvement. I can well imagine just how much the children “helped” in taking the packing case upstairs. If you want wood for a shelf, have a look what there is in the garage. I remember the willow patterned curtain quite well. Wasn’t the inside lining torn? I’m glad you are finding so many things to do. They will all keep your mind occupied. I’m not looking for work for you, but can you think of any way of brightening up the living room?
From what you say about the shoes, you are going to need the “very generous” allowance you referred to in your letter about the old gent. You have no idea how that letter bucked me up. One of the great troubles, of course, is that the leather in shoes is probably very inferior now to what it used to be. Crepe sandals are very limited in supply now, but I believe there are still some to be had. I should get hold of some as soon as you can and before most people are thinking of summer wear. Manufacturers are not allowed to make any more but they can sell those already cut. It might be as well to pay a little more for leather shoes, if only as an experiment. Of course, the children are more active now than ever they were and children are proverbially heavy on shoes.
I object to being told that I am always ignoring your questions when I have made a habit of going carefully through your letters at the weekend and answering your points one by one – or at least the most important of them. About the ‘Statesman’ – I have acknowledged those you sent and which I am reading. Will you please continue to send it? I think I told you in my last letter I called on Ted Kidd on Sunday and in a previous letter I pointed out that Durham would have to come over soon, or we would be away from here. That settles, for a second time, two of your questions. The fellow I met from Liverpool I only see very occasionally as, after the first night, we were put into different classes when we were all sorted out.
Now, about the people in my “little house”. One is a fellow of my own age, a bank clerk, married and expecting their first child. He comes from Halifax and, for a bank clerk, is surprisingly dumb. He is quite a good fellow, yet always takes the line of least resistance. I can never imagine him taking any real responsibility. That is Gibson, variously known as Gibby or Don. The other laddie is Harold Forman (Harry to me) and he is the youngster on the left of the trio on the photograph. A lively youngster and, like so many lads, impatient to be up and doing. In civvie street he served in a Co-op shop in Derby. A very nice lad, who has all his wits about him and who is a constant source of surprise to Gibby, who regards him as a young marvel. Gibby, in fact, comes very near hero-worship of him. Harry is delighted because I have taught him ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ which he is going to sing to the Derby Home Guards! We had an abortive air raid siren on Friday night and spent about an hour and a half in the shelters, singing at the tops of our voices. Harry and I led the lads in ‘Fanny Adams’, which bids fair to be a real favourite. There were other songs, bawdy and otherwise, including ‘Danny Boy’ and our own song about Butlins Navy.
Must close now. Many thanks for sending Jane’s letter and many, many more thanks for your own sweet letter. You’d back yourself against a ton of bromide, eh? I’d sooner you backed yourself on to me. I could do lots and lots of things to you tonight and any night, pet. I’ll go mad if it is a vapours week when I come home! I couldn’t bear that. All my love, sweetheart. I think it must be a post-V week with me too. I do love you so.
Ever yours,
Arthur XXX

P.S. Hope Michael is getting better. Will try to write the children later in the week, but it is Commodore’s rounds this week and we are likely to be very busy.

Mar 041942

I’m making a start on your weekend letter tonight because tomorrow looks like being a hell of a day. First of all it is Commodore’s rounds, a sort of fortnightly tour of inspection by the Great White Sahib for whose special benefit everything has to be laid out just so. The deck – floor to you – of the chalet has been duly scrubbed today and we will have to be up early in the morning to be sure everything is ship-shape before 8am as we will not get another chance at it. That is our first burden of the day. Then we have been taken off training for the day and put on to salvaging stuff on the bomb site. That will be a filthy job as it has been raining all afternoon and now, just to put the finishing touch, there’s a real blizzard raging. Finally, just to make tomorrow a perfect day, we are due for another spell of firewatching on the roofs of buildings. My turn is from 10.30pm to 12.30. That’s not a bad day’s work is it? The only thing that can save me is a trip to the dentist, as I believe that after having so many teeth out I will go into sick berth – a different place from sick quarters – for three or four days to make sure I don’t catch cold and to give the gums a chance to heal. I prefer the dentist or firewatching.
By the way, I have been going to tell you this for ages. I now have an official number and you had better make a careful note of it for future reference. It is JX 342517. You may need it in connection with the allowances some time. Have I told you that my base or depot is Devonport? Anyway, it is. That is the place I will go after I have passed the wireless course and I shall be there until I am posted to a ship. After that I don’t suppose I shall see the place much. I’m glad I was not posted to Lowestoft as that would have meant some tiny ship. Small ships have their advantages but, all in all, I think I prefer the bigger jobs.
Many thanks for the cough drops. They are the best things I can find. I have no hope of losing this cough while I’m here. Even the natives here seem to have perpetual colds in the winter and one of the sick bay lads told me has been trying to cure his own cough for two months! It’s the weather which doesn’t give you any chance.

The day has lived up to my fears. To start with the blizzard raged all night and has not properly stopped yet. I’m adding these few lines in a few illegal spare moments as tonight is lecture night (until 6), supper at 7, bed about 8 and firewatching 10.30. Isn’t it funny, that sounds like the middle of the night to me, now! Yes I did hear from Monty Taylor and from Fisher[??] but have not yet had a chance of replying to Fish. I have asked Monty for a writing case like the one we got for Durham (from whom I have not heard yet) or a leather photo frame – one of those folding ones, you know. I don’t seem to have written quite so many letters this week and the days have fairly fled by.
All the lads in the class are banking on us getting away from here a fortnight today. I’m not because no other class so far has moved so promptly. We can only wait and hope but as soon as I get to know I’ll get in touch with you. If it is a leave day for us when we hear I’ll slip into Skeg and phone you. If not, I’ll drop you a line at once, if it is only a note giving you the bare information and the new address. My stolen time is over, I’ll try to add a line or two before or after tea.
Here we are again. Pinched another few minutes but my hands are so cold, even with your thick gloves that my writing is steadily getting worse. Do you know what happened this morning? It was too bad for the old Commodore to turn out so the Divisional Commander came round instead. Isn’t life in the Navy just too joyful? After all the trouble we went to for the old sod.
We have spent all the day sorting out electric cables from the bombed chalets and buildings. It was all in small lengths and we had to unfasten the little clips by which it had been secured to the walls. One good thing about it was that we were inside a building which at least had the roof on it, while a lot of the lads were outside in the snow salvaging timber and loading it on lorries. Half of the camp have been shovelling snow today with the result that everyone is well and truly browned off, a mood which was. It made any sweeter when, on morning parade, a warrant officer said “Wait till the sea is coming over the top of the fo’csle in gallons. You will know yourselves then.” The sotto voce remarks deserve a place in history! Off to tea now!
Back from tea and the lecture. A bloke was speaking about submarines and finished up with an appeal to young, fit and adventurous fellows to volunteer for submarine service.
Well, love, if I’m to get this in the post tonight I’ll have to finish. Will you tell the children that I loved reading their letters and that I will try to write to them at the weekend, which means they should receive them on Monday or Tuesday. Must go now, sweetheart. I love you very much tonight. If only I could creep into bed beside you when I finish this damn fire-watching instead of coming back to this damn chalet!
Bye my sweet, look after yourself until I come home again.
All my love,

Mar 061942

HMS Royal Arthur, Skegness
Isn’t this paper too, too! I’m running short of pads, although I brought three with me! That shows what my main occupation, apart from work, has been here. And speaking of letters, I’ve had a nice one from May today. She seems quite touched that I should have written, though goodness knows why. Were the position reversed, I should certainly hope you would write to Mother. May sent me the last letter she had from Harold and I’m enclosing it for you to read. If you think May would like it back, will you return it to her? And while we are on this question of returning letters, don’t worry, I will not bring Jane’s letter home. Jane is part of the trouble. She says things in her letters to us which make it impossible to show her letters to Mother. If she kept them on separate sheets at the end, we could easily “lose” them, but they are usually either on the first page or bang in the middle of the letter.
Keep that strong man out of the bathroom, or I’ll have to take you in hand! But perhaps the bathroom is not quite the right place for that? So, apart from the ringing of the bell, there is a ’prise for me, is there? Like the children, I like ’prises, and cannot think what it might be. Gives an added spice to coming home – if that is possible. I hope I don’t get a different ’prise when I do come home, in the form of unexpected vapours brought on by excitement. It’s possible you know! I’ll have your life! The occasion will certainly warrant the best obtainable, but my concern is to be sure there is one at home in case I cannot get one on my way home.
How I envy you your wet-day activity! Here it has been snowing for two solid days and is as cold as it has ever been since we came. Last night I spent a solid two hours on top of a snow covered roof! Fortunately we were out of the worst of the wind. Today has been better for we have had lectures all day, except for an hour at gym which got me beautifully warm and in good trim for dinner. The rest of the day we were under cover – actually in a super cinema which is being built at one end of the camp. No mere service job, this, but a bigger and better place than Crosby’s Plaza! Smashing job it will be when it is finished in a few weeks. It seems we came here at the wrong time. A fortnight before we got here our mess, apparently by far the best in the camp and furnished with cosy – yes, cosy! – small rooms for reading, writing etc – was burned out. A fortnight after we got here Jerry drops one bomb which makes so much fatigue duty that we miss half of our training classes. If that means we have to stay here in the freezing cold longer than we thought, there will be plain but very bloody murder here!
It is the custom here when a class is leaving on draft for them to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in the mess after their last meal. In the last three days, five classes have murdered it. You should have heard the feeling in their voices!!
I got the ‘Statesman’ today. Many thanks, I’m enjoying it, but I’m right out of date with the news. Don’t even know if Rangoon has fallen. Has it, or is it likely to? The par in the ‘Statesman’ was interesting but, after just one Sunday in the Navy, not surprising.
Religiously we are divided into three sects: C of E, Meth and RC. Everyone comes within one of those three sects. The Meths include a weird collection: Congregationalists, Plain Methodists, Baptists, Salvationists, the whole ????. But what surprised, and shocked me, was that in the Meth service on Sunday was a Jew! So much for freedom of thought. When I commented on this to the fellow sitting next to me, he said, half in a huff, “There’s nothing in this service that will do anyone any harm”. Seemed quite unable to grasp the fact that a Jew was a separate religion.
I’m afraid I’ll have to give up this for the moment. I hope what I have already written makes some sense. When I got halfway through the first page an impromptu concert began and there has been a succession of lewd songs since then.
One of the lads who came on the stage after I had given up trying to write any more gave a “dumb” show – mime I suppose you’d call it – of a girl getting undressed, getting into a bath, washing and drying and dressing again. Do I need to say it went over big? You could tell what parts of her anatomy she was washing by the roar of the lads! Talking of shows, there is an Ensa production of ‘Hay Fever’ with Ellen Pollock in the lead on here tonight and I did want to see it. We were duty class again today and as I had touched out for a job that went all wrong from the beginning I asked Harry Forman to get me a ticket when he went for his own. There was a tremendous crowd and they would only issue one ticket to each person. I have just been along in the hope of getting in at the last minute but the queue was about half a mile long – or almost! I gave it up but was really disappointed. It was the one show I have been at all intrigued by since I came.
So you don’t like my picture? You try to keep me out of 45 once I get a few days leave. Just try it! I know you are not going to like this uniform, not because of its lack of beauty but the lack of certain essential features, which you will learn in due course. Just wait until you have seen me struggling into it in the morning, or for that matter, out of it at night. The sooner I come home and instil a little discipline into the family the better, I should say. It is bad enough to have the wife laughing at the boss of the house, but for her to encourage insubordination in the lower ratings is unforgivable! By gad,woman, a touch of the rope’s end for you. And you’ll take it and like it – I hope!!
Anyway, that’s what I look like and that is what you are tied to for life – so help you! If you don’t like it, on your way sister. Churchill’s secret weapon indeed. Stella’s secret weapon up to now, but if you don’t behave better I will not keep it so secret. Now what have you to say to that? On your knees woman. Oh, if only you could, right at this very second. Remember the way you used to do and I used to take your dear head in my hands. Oh, darling, just to remember all the little things we used to take almost for granted as our normal rights gives me a peculiar feeling. Perhaps the biblical phrase “a yearning in the loins” comes nearest to it. It is not an erection. It is something better, deeper, far finer than that. You shouldn’t describe your letters as “oaty”. They are sweet and natural and they mean so much more than mere oats. If only oats was involved, you’d have had that strong man in the bathroom long ago and I should now be worrying in case you had, or else I should be out sampling other wares on my nights ashore. The mere fact that I can complacently bank on you hungering for me as I hunger for you – and my appetite grow each day – proves, thank God, that we do mean so much to each other. How terrible were it otherwise.
To more mundane things, although it is a wrench to leave that subject tonight. I’m glad you have written Eric and Lilian – I think you did the right thing in mentioning the financial side. I’m answering a series of points you made in your last letter so forgive me if I jump from subject to subject. My cough is a good deal better but still worries me a little at night and in the morning. I think I have acknowledged the lozenges. They are a godsend. We don’t know where we are going to, of course, but we have arranged, tentatively, that if all three of us – Gibby, Harry and I – are moved to the same place we will try to get into the same digs, that is if we are sent to private billets. You speak of missing me for clearing the snow. I know which I would sooner clear, the snow at Crosby or that at Skeg. It isn’t very deep here, in fact surprisingly light, but it is bitterly cold. Sorry to harp on the subject, but it fills our days and nights. I have been wondering about this subject of the children’s behaviour. Do you think I ought to make direct reference to Michael’s naughtiness, or do you think it might teach him to regard you as an arch-sneak? The child mind registers such distinct impressions.
I was interested to hear of your progress with the dressing table and am looking forward to seeing the result. Careful, love, about knocking nails in walls. The two great dangers are that you will bring down half the plaster or put the nail through a gaspipe. In either case you would be in a jam. You will find a lot of stuff, by the way, tucked away at the back of the garage or perhaps on a shelf on the right-hand side, but most of the stuff – odd nails and bits of chain and staples and the like are at the back, under the window. I should have loved to see you in the middle of the corner wardrobe job! From the sketch it looks quite well, but I doubt if it will stand very much weight. Be careful you don’t pull the curtain rail down.
So you went to sleep to dream of me and spent the time chasing a lavatory? Come to think of it, I’ve a few things to settle with you when next I see you.
Well, darling, I’ve about written myself out. Writing you is so like talking to you that I do wish I could find more time every night for a letter like this. I shall go to bed now as content as ever I can be when I’m actually away from you. Be careful in this changeable weather, pet. You mean more to me than I could ever tell you if I wrote a whole volume. You are part of me – and such an essential part, too. It seems a silly thing to say, but I have drawn a lot of my consolation from you. That’s badly put. What I mean is that if I had not you to retreat to so often, life here would have been much worse.
Night night pet. I love you more and more each day in a deeper, fuller way.
All my love, darling,
Arthur X

P.S. I forgot to enclose the 7/2 postal order although I had it in my pocket. I’ll try to remember this time. The post office is not open now but I’ll send you the 11/6 for pyjamas, which as you will see from Wendy’s letter I’m going to wear tonight. Many thanks, sweet, they’re very nice. About this money business. Don’t be silly. Keep it and save it. You may need it. Shoes, for instance, are going to be a big item for you now, so save every penny you can. I’m trying hard to live on this service pay and have almost succeeded this fortnight. I think I will be able to do it in the next two weeks. It’s not too bad with the tobacco ration which I drew today. That is going to help a lot. I’ll miss it if I go into civvy billets from here. Talking about tobacco, can you get me a supply – a dozen if you can manage them – of packets of cigarette papers. Woolworths may have them. Ask for Rizla Red papers. If you can manage to get hold of a couple of cigarette machines like mine, there’s a couple of fellows here would be very glad of them. They’re absolutely unobtainable here. The only thing we can get are the spare canvas rollers. Do what you can, as soon as you can, will you? Many thanks love.
P.P.S. Do you remember the printed cigarette papers, those referring to the horse manure? [??] Will you put a few in your next letter? I think you will find them in one of the ornaments on the mantelpiece. Now I really am going to post this. Bye my precious. X

Mar 071942

Dear Wendy,
Thank you for your nice long letter. I was glad when the postman brought it to my little house. Is Margaret back from hospital yet, and is her leg quite better? I hope it is. Mummy was good to wash Margaret’s clothes while she was away because you will be able to make her look very pretty when she does come home, won’t you? Thank you very much for getting two loads of manure. Will you get some often so that when I come home I will be able to put a lot of plants into the garden? Michael will help you, I know.
I am glad Cynthia still comes to play with you. Tell her to come and see me in my sailor’s uniform when I come home. Fancy Tiger fighting the black cat. Wasn’t he silly? The house must have looked like a cat shop with two cats sitting on Mummy’s knee.
Did you laugh when you saw my photograph? I hope you won’t laugh at me when I come home. Do you think you will? I don’t think I look as funny as that photograph really. Very soon now I will have to go to the dentist and when I do go I think he will take all my teeth out, so I shall look funnier than ever when you see me next time.
Well, I don’t think there is very much more for me to say today except that I think you are a very clever girl – and will you tell Michael I think he is a very clever boy, too – for being able to take my pyjamas to the post office by yourselves. I got them a few days ago. Thank you very much. Will you tell Mummy I am going to wear them tonight for the very first time? Night night, love. See you in a few weeks, I hope. Be a good girl for Mummy, won’t you?
Lots of love from

Mar 091942

Class 127 at HMS Royal Arthur, photographed on 10 March 1942. Arthur Johnson is wearing glasses, seated far left, second row back.

My darling,
I’m afraid this will be a hurried and rather brief note as I am hoping to go to the pictures in the camp for the first time and it is already nearly supper time. Getting tired of waiting to hear from the dentist, I went to see him – or rather, them – today. They had forgotten about me as apparently they sent for me while I was in sick bay and had not inquired whether or not I was out again. Organisation! We are to have our second inoculation tomorrow so I cannot have my teeth done before Thursday and according to the dentist I should be ready to come out of sick bay by Sunday. That will leave me at least a few days to get used to being without them before we have to move. Our C.P.O. was hoping to be able to let us know when and where we were moving today, but was unable to find anything out. Tomorrow we are going to have our photographs taken as a full class – you know the idea, all sitting in rows. I’ll send it on to you.
About the other photographs. I’ll send one on to Mother and other members of the family. They might as well all be in the fun!
By the way, I had a parcel of knitted goods from Mother today – socks (too big!), scarf and helmet. I have sent a brief note acknowledging them. This is all for now, sweet, as I am trying to catch the post before supper. There may be a bit of a gap in my letters this week, but you will understand, I know.
Bye, my sweet. It’s four full weeks gone tomorrow. Four weeks towards the solution of your doubts and difficulties about bellbottoms!
Am enclosing letters for the children written on Saturday and left out of your weekend letter.
All my love, precious,
Arthur XX

Mar 101942

‘Daily Express’ article, 7 March 1942

Just a month since we came! That means one month nearer leave. I always said I wouldn’t bother coming home for 48 hours but just try me right now. At the moment the whole class is unsettled with all this doubt as to when and where we are moving. Today five fellows out of our lot – all of them were failed in the preliminary test for telegs – have been told they go on draft on Tuesday of next week, lucky devils. They are all stokers and go either to Devenport or Bristol.
Speaking of Devenport, I thought I made it clear that I would only go to that port after I had passed my wireless course. From what I can gather there is no chance of us going to Manchester, which seems to be a centre for people taking a special course, so that rules that out. From what I hear, the alternatives are London or Ayr. Of the two I am naturally hoping for London – 3.5 hours by train.
Believe it or not, the last two days have definitely been warmer, although I don’t think the temperature has risen sufficiently to justify the order that overcoats have not to be worn between dinner and tea. Still, I have seen the first signs of life here today. Crocuses in one of the hundreds of little garden plots which abound in this camp. I admit that flowers don’t get much chance here, for fellows have been set to dig over the garden edges to cover the countless matchsticks and cigarette ends with which the place is littered. Some of the lads are quite daft. I saw one push a spade right through the centre of a rose bush one day.
Today has been a quiet day. We did practically nothing before cocoa time (10.15) and at 10.30 had our second inoculation. It is now about 6pm and my left arm is just beginning to stiffen a little. Inoculation seems to affect people quite differently. Last time I just had a stiffness and slight soreness in the arm. I hope it is as easy this time, as it should be.
Glad to hear the financial situation is not too bad at the moments, although as you say, it leaves no margin for clothes, the chemist, doctors, and so on. I agree you will need “generous” treatment from these special allowance people. I do hope things work out alright. So far I have refused to worry and am hoping you will get a margin from them over and above the rent and insurances limit. You will need it, especially when Wendy goes to school.
You seem to be having a tough time with the children. Do you think I should write and tell them off? I’m sorry you have to carry that side of family life all on your own. It is one of the things I hate being away for. What an awful sentence! Still, you know what I mean. They will probably be better when the fine weather comes and, of course, when Wendy goes to school Michael will have to pick his fights outside the home. That will be a comfort, but it still doesn’t solve the problem, does it? Anyway, I’ll deal with them when I come home.
You seem to have been doing a lot of odd-jobbing around the house. I’m quite intrigued but I hope that when I do return I shall not find all my tools have been ruined! You are not, by any chance, using chisels as screwdrivers are you? Or trying to make a 6 inch nail into a 4 inch by planing it down? Whatever you are doing you are apparently having a whale of a time. I know what you mean about getting absorbed in a job. I’ve done it myself, often. Still, you shouldn’t have missed a play for it. Until you mentioned it, I had never thought of a difference in people’s attitude towards the pictures and wireless. It’s a bit thin for a woman’s piece in the ‘Echo’, isn’t it? Several times since I came away I have wondered if you do anything for them these days. You seem to have your hands full just at the moment, but I should try to keep it up, even if only occasionally. If you let it slide now, you will find it more difficult than ever, if the time ever comes when you really need to do it. I’m not criticising, sweet, just suggesting. You know how I hate the idea of any tendency for the house and children to “kill” your original urge.
I am absolutely ignorant of any trend in rationing but I should say that now everything is going to be rationed, or at least controlled, and probably very drastically. Even if we were to recover some of the places we have lost in the Far East, we would not start getting the raw materials and goods they produce for a long time. Obviously we should conserve every ton of stuff we have in the country and it only annoys me that we will allow all sorts of people to corner the market in essential things and then compensate them by stabilising prices at a high level.
If only Woolton[??] and his crowd were in earnest about the cat for racketeers. Incidentally, while I was writing this Percy Faulkner, the third of the trio in the photograph, gave me the enclosed cutting showing what the Navy are doing about it. Percy is in the next chalet to me and I met him at the first breakfast we had here. I found him a more suitable fellow for me than the lad from Liverpool who was, without being snobbish, a real Liverpudlian. Percy and I have gone about a good deal together. He is our class leader – similar to the job Ernest had – and I know that I was in the running for it too. He got it, justifiably, because he is a Rover[??] leader, a Group scoutmaster, a member of the Home Guard, and a former member of the voluntary A.F.S. Who could compete with that record? Anyway, he is quite a decent fellow. In civvy life he was in the Post Office telephones, on the maintenance side I think. It is a useful job that he has as class leader because it carries exemption from all sorts of fatigues and, most of all, from fire watching. To be honest, I should have liked the job. For one thing it shows you are being noticed. My only consolation is that I was “runner-up” and have deputised when he has been off-colour. Quite honestly I thinks he is probably the better man for the job. I have meant to tell  you about him on several occasions but never found a real opportunity. He, if anyone, is my pal here and I’m only sorry his depot is Chatham because we will probably lose touch when we leave here. Chatham suits him admirably, however, as he is a Londoner.
Sorry if I have harped on about the coldness here! But it has been lousy, although it improved a bit on Sunday and was quite decent, by comparison, yesterday and today. Don’t worry about the hot water bottle when I come home, sweet, just a woman is all I shall want – and do want right now. Oh darling, what fun you’re going to have exploring these bellbottoms, if I can restrain my impatience for you. Right now, darling, I could crush you to death. Yet I want to be so tender. I want to do all the familiar little things. To kiss the palm of your hands. To feel you close your eyes beneath my lips. To brush the nape of your neck with my lips. Darling! You’d think we were a couple of callow children instead of an almost respectable married couple with two children and, just now, thanking God it is not going to be three – at least while this war is on.
I have made this a fairly longish letter in case I miss the chance of writing tomorrow. I will almost certainly miss your weekend letter this week, although I’ll try to get a note off. Thursday is not likely to be my best day, however. By the way, I’ve got the postal order for the amount of the pyjamas and hope to remember to enclose it. Save it. If you like, you can get me boozed when I come home. I’ll be a cheap drunk, too. I’m almost T.T. now.
By the way, the chalets here have pipe heaters which are on for a couple of hours each night. Three hours sometimes and on gala days like today for four or five hours.
This is all for now, precious. I’m off to bed early to rest my arm, it is throbbing just a little and will be all the better for a rest. It’s not bad so don’t worry. I’m not being a martyr! All my love, darling,

P.S. Don’t miss my weekend letter this week, will you? I’ll need it!

Mar 111942

Sick Berth, Skegness
Just arrived here for the preliminaries such as a bath and, I suppose, a dose of salts before I get the gas tomorrow. There only seems to be four or five fellows in the dental ward, which will accommodate at least ten.  Beyond that there is little I can tell you, except that the fellows who run the place seem decent enough. I’ve no doubt I shall be able to tell you more at the weekend.
For the third day in succession this week I have done precisely nothing. On Monday I was one of three for whom there were no jobs. On Tuesday we were excused duty because of the inoculation. Today I had to go to the dental surgery at 9am for small tests – the water test etc – and when I got back I found all the jobs had been given out and the Chief told me to lose myself, so I promptly went to the chalet and went fast asleep. Did I enjoy it?
Somehow the less you have to do, the less you want to do, but I had a lucky miss in having to go to the dentist for I missed a full day’s digging in that blasted bomb crater. So far I have missed every one of those. I only hope my luck holds. Some of the lads who were on the crater have come back worn out and swearing. Most of them had sore left arms from the inoculation and the ground they had to work on was just a sea of sticky mud. To cap it all, the order of the day in regard to dress – issued at 7am – was “no overcoat”. The officers responsible for that, however, must have felt cold for after dinner came the order “overcoats will be worn”. I should think so, too. It was far from a summer’s day although warmer than it has been for some time.
I shall be glad when this week is over, now. By the weekend my gums should be reasonably hard, or at least properly healed. That is one thing about having a job like this done here, you get more attention than you would give yourself at home. I will probably be in here for three or four days – until Sunday or Monday. At home I would probably have had the job done on a long weekend and have had to be at the office on Sunday night. Anyway, I can be sure of not catching cold in my gums here. The place is beautifully warm.
One thing I have just learned from a fellow who came in yesterday is that if you have a cough they will not risk taking your teeth out. I do hope they don’t keep me hanging on here for days. If they do I will miss a draft and that might mean another five or six weeks here. God forbid! The laddie who told me that says he was in here for eight days a fortnight ago and then they discharged him so that he could get rid of his cold.
Well, pet, must finish now. Harry Forman is going to post this for me. All my love, sweet. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be OK by Friday morning. I love you still, sweet. Ever,
Arthur X

Mar 121942

7pm, Sick Berth, Skegness
This is only a note because I’m trying to get one of the lads who is a walking patient to post this for me. Well, sweet, the job is over and I must confess it has been far easier than I expected. They look after you well here. A shot of morphine a couple of hours before you go to the theatre makes you only half conscious by the time you get on to the operating trolley from the ward to the theatre. The result is that by the time you get to the theatre you don’t know much about taking the gas. I must have gone in about 2 and was back in the ward here before 2.30. Nice work. I came to about 4.30pm and have felt, as I say, far better than I expected. By morning I should be quite fit. At the moment I feel a bit “muggy” and am afraid I will have to give this up in a couple of minutes.
The doctor came in to see me at noon, put his “telephone” all over my lungs and passed me as being fit for dental operation with gas. That shows how much better my cough is.
Will write some more tomorrow but just now can hardly keep my eyes open. Don’t worry about me because I’m not saying it to reassure you when I say I feel fine. I have a faint headache but the jaw bones feel very little effect. Tell the children I have no toothy pegs now!
All my love, darling. I will probably have time to write more fully tomorrow, but I don’t suppose you will get that before Sunday. Bye, pet, I still love you.
P.S. Hope you can read this!

Mar 131942

Sick Berth, Skegness
By now you should have received the note I scribbled out while in a semi-comatose condition yesterday. I hope it was not too incoherent, but I thought you’d like a note, even a weird one, as soon as possible. Normally full extractions are made in the mornings, but for some reason the doctor who was to give me the anaesthetic was not free until the afternoon. I went in about 2pm and came round in the ward about 4.30, but then lapsed again. So far I have felt very little discomfort except that at breakfast this morning (6am!) I tried to chew a little bread and it was just like chasing a small piece of rubber around my gums. However, I made quite a good meal of porridge, lashings of it with brown sugar and plenty of milk. It depends on what there is for dinner, but in my case I should do quite well on soup, vegetables and rice pudding.
I seem to have timed my drop in for periodic rounds by big people and inspections by distinguished visitors. Yesterday was the Surgeon Captain’s fortnightly rounds – the staff are scared on these occasions – and as I was in a bed near him of course he picked on me for a little light conversation. That was before I went to the theatre. Anyway, I answered as brightly as I could and you could see the relief on the faces of the sick berth stewards. They are all men here. Last night we heard that the whole camp had to parade for Rear Admiral Walker of Portsmouth. We had to have the ward all polished up in case he decided to look in on us, although nobody really expected he would. However, soon after 11am in walked half of the Admiralty, or so it seemed, headed by our own Commodore and the Admiral. Once again the two big shots picked on me before going their way.
Now I am feeling fine. For dinner I had all the thick soup I could drink, a big plate of mince and mashed potatoes, but could do little with the cabbage. We finished off with quite a respectable plate of rice pudding which, unlike the stuff we generally get, was nice and sweet. So you will see I am sitting up and taking nourishment although, naturally, my gums are not yet hard enough to tackle anything that needs real chewing. So far as I can see, the extractions have made very little difference to the shape of my face. Tell the children that this morning I could not pull my funny faces when I was shaving! It hurt a bit when I pressed my lips and cheeks into my gums. For a time I was in two minds whether or not to bother shaving but, as the powers that be condescended to notice my existence, what a good job I did. The old Commodore is a stickler and would, in all probability, have had me on the carpet.
Now about your letter. You are right. If you had written a pseudo cheerful note I most certainly would have smelled a rat. I’m glad to see from the postscript that you felt better on Wednesday. That was probably due as much to your having got the matter off your chest as to the good night’s sleep. Why have you not been sleeping lately? That is far more important than an odd day of the blues, much as I hate you feeling that way. As you say, the blues will pass, insomnia might linger for weeks. Don’t forget that, in the long run, it is far better to see the doctor at once than to just drift on getting lower and lower in your reserves. You sound as though you have been pretty seedy lately. Have you had a course of those pills? Don’t forget spring and autumn are the times you are supposed to have them – not winter and summer! I’ll bet you have never yet taken one complete course of them as they should be taken. Get some now and see they are finished in a month.
Now listen, sweetheart. I have always told you that, in many ways, yours is the more difficult part, the sitting at home in the same surroundings. I know it’s hard, but try not to let the children get under your skin and, above all, never let them realise they are getting you down. Easy to write about, isn’t it? But I know you’ll do your damnedest. I told May so in the letter I sent her, so that shows how much confidence I have in you. Keep your chin up, pet, for your own sake, for the sake of Michael and Wendy and for my sake. I know you can do it – and what’s more I trust you as one can only trust the person one loves above all else in the world.
I think your analysis of the position is right. You will have black days and nights – blue ones if you prefer that shade – but you will have bright ones, too. These moments of depression are bound to come. I get them sometimes, though perhaps not as often as you do, because my life, at the moment, contains a fair amount of novelty. Even being in bed “under the doctor” twice in a month is a novelty to me and, despite the loss of my peggies, quite a pleasant change. Whenever you get a fit of the blues, sit down and talk to me on paper. Write the misery out of your system, go to bed and you’ll find you will sleep well. It’s conducive to a form of exhaustion. I hate the thought of you being depressed but when you are like that I should hate it even more if you cured your blues by talking to the neighbours. Although I am so far from you physically, I always want you to feel I’m right at your side. And I am, you know. That’s why I want to help you bear all your little burdens. It’s one of the reasons we were married, and we have faced quite a bit of trouble together in the last five short years. How short they seem now. Looking back on them, do you sometimes feel we wasted just a few precious opportunities of absorbing still more of each other’s spirit? Sometimes I do. But sometimes, when I think what we mean to each other and how completely we have grown into and can trust each other, I think we must have made pretty good use of our time and so would not have spent one moment of it differently. Had we done any different, our understanding might be different and that I would not have. Now, don’t forget, next set of blues and every set for that matter, are on me. Promise?
Sorry to hear Mother has been on about Jack again. She sent Jack’s and Dot’s letters on to me some time ago and I returned the m with comments in their favour. I’m afraid that is all I can do from long range. I agree with you about Bert’s attitude being influenced by the marriage business. Bert, of course, has a rather Victorian outlook on many things and not least on the “what are your intentions young man” question. For that reason I have been quite surprised at the way in which we have got by with him, especially in view of the relationship between Anne and him as compared to with those between you and I. Go to Limedale by all means on Saturday and I hope you will have a nice time there. Give May my love and thank her for her letter which I may or may not get a chance to answer before I leave Skegness. Once the weather improves, you will have to try to get out a bit more. Is there any of the shore left open to the public these days? If not, what about a walk through Ince Woods occasionally? That makes quite a pleasant change.
I’m glad you were able to back Wendy up and hope you managed to explain that she was right and the girl wrong. Will you tell Wendy I said “thank you” to her for posting my letter? She’d like that, I think.
Many thanks for the cigarette papers. They arrived in sick berth at a moment when I was getting very low and all my spares were locked in my kit-bag. Tell Mother not to send cigarettes or chocolate. I can get any amount here. On that subject, by the way, is it worth while my bringing any home? Let me know in your first letter because we never know the day when we shall be moving now. You probably will not get this until Monday and we will have been here five weeks on Tuesday.
Two other things, while I remember. Have you made any inquiry as to when the telephone quarter ends? If not, do so straight away and then send in your notice cancelling the subscription in ample time, as I presume you have decided not to keep it.
The second thing is about the office allowance. I have had a note from Jimmy Gregson. Have you written him at all? He tells me the office loan will continue until the Special Allowance comes through. If they do continue to send it, don’t forget that out of the lump sum you get from the Special Allowance people you will have to repay all but the first two pounds from the ‘Daily Post’. Anyway, I’ll drop Jimmy Gregson an ambiguous note on the subject. He tells me, by the way, that in my case, for the first time, the Allowance Board has raised the question of expenses. The firm has replied that all expenses paid to reporters are expenses actually incurred and are not liable to income tax. Jimmy seems to think this a point in our favour. It’s funny how all these people seem to pick on me to start their monkey business. Do you remember I was the first to be given a medical exam while still on the reserved list? There have been other instances I can’t remember off hand, except that I was first of the under 35s to be roped in.
Well, my pet, this is scarcely a light cheery note to lift your gloom, although I suppose that will be lifted by all your illicit drinking at Limedale. Don’t develop into a hardened drinker while I’m away, will you, or you will be able to drink me under the table. It’s nearly a week, I think, since I had a drink, but as I said before, the beer in camp is not worth drinking.
I quite enjoyed the pictures the other night. The feature was ‘Target For Tonight’ and there were a couple of M.O.I. films and a news reel as well. Sometimes I believe they get Disney cartoons, but there were none on Monday. Still, it made a pleasant break. I was given a ticket for a boxing match in the camp on Wednesday night, but could not go as that was the night I had to come in here. Wasn’t that bad luck? I haven’t seen a scrap for years. Just my luck. So I gave my ticket to young Harry Forman, who was very keen to go. I have not seen him, of course, but I’m told by some of the lads in the ward that some of the decisions were not too popular. I don’t suppose you’re greatly intrigued by that!
Well, my sweet, I must close now. I still have to write Jimmy Gregson, Eric and one or two other people. I have been interrupted several times since I began this letter and we are now well on the way towards supper. All my love, darling. You will be home from Limedale when you get this. A welcome home for you. Hope you had a nice time. Bye for now. I still love you, precious.
Yours for ever,

Mar 151942

Sick Berth, Skegness
The first thing, I think, is to try to answer the riddle of the difference between Michael and Wendy. Let’s try to get down to common ground if we can. First of all, I don’t think you are quite right in saying they have both been treated exactly alike. Think back. Did we ever say, in excuse of Wendy when she was 3 1/2, “well, you must remember she is only a baby yet”? We did not. We treated her, from the beginning, as our equal and that policy has paid good dividends. She was helping you, in her own tiny way but to the full extent of her powers, to look after Michael in the first few days you were back from the nursing home. It might have been that she only brought the towel or the powder or a clean nappie but, and this is the important thing, even at that age she was learning to think of the welfare of others. It was the same with her toys. She would give anything to Michael because she wanted to see him happy. She was learning to give, Michael always taking. It is so still. Wendy is far more generous with her toys when other children come in. Michael tries to play with three things at once in order to corner the market. Then there is the big factor of their opposite sexes. Women have always fussed over him more than over Wendy – a tendency I have always protested against. That is where a lot of the trouble arose, the tendency to treat him continually as a baby. And the unfair thing is that Michael himself will suffer for it when once he gets to school. The lads there have no illusions about babies and for that reason he should learn to stand on his own feet and yet show some consideration for others. In this respect Wendy comes much nearer to a happy medium because, coming back to the original premise, she has thought of others from a very early stage and was always treated as an equal. Michael, on the other hand, has always thought only of himself and other people have been much more inclined to say “Oh! It’s a shame. He is only a baby yet.” That, I think, sums up the difference between the two of them. The question remains, how to make Michael toe the line properly?
Two great dangers must be avoided at all costs. (1) In attempting to make him more considerate and obedient he must not be continually nagged at or over-punished in sheer desperation; (2) I must not be held up to him as a permanent threat.
This is one of the worst sides of war, the withdrawal of authority at a crucial age. In one way it is so easy to give advice from a distance; in another way it is very difficult to give sound practical advice because there are so many factors to take into consideration – Michael’s health at the moment; whether or not your own nerves are strained; the degree of temptation; and the enormity of the offence. These are but some of the things to be considered, yet they make it difficult to lay down a set of golden rules. I’m pointing all these things out because I don’t want you to think I’m under-rating the job of keeping Michael on the right road. One good way might be to give him more responsibility. Face up to this fact – that where a child is left an orphan at an early age, he or she soon has to take on responsibility, especially where there is a family of any size. Small sacrifices are accepted as inevitable and become part of life.
To get back to Michael. Let him do things for you by himself – not with supervision from you or from Wendy (her continual supervision may be worse than yours). Look how pleased he always was when he came back with a load of manure. To him it’s a job well done – an achievement. Why not let him bring the chips in for you every day and let him realise that he is doing it because I am away and he is being the daddy. Tell, him, too, that he is helping both you and Wendy. If it weren’t for him bringing in the chips there would be no fire for you. That is one little thing he can do every day. Can you think of any others? There must be lots of little things – even such things as bringing the milk in from the front door each morning. Make that his job, too, even though he has to carry the stool to the front door. It’s another community job and don’t let Wendy interfere in any job assigned to him. That would spoil the whole thing. If you can, try to find little things he can do for Wendy – jobs you can say are boys’ jobs. I know you are not keen on stressing the sex differences but I think it can be done with success and advantage sometimes. If you can make him feel that both you and Wendy are to some extent dependent on him he will respond by accepting responsibility more readily. Once he does that, you are on the way to teaching him obedience and self-discipline, which are both necessary if he is going to be a “good” boy, in the real not the namby-pamby sense. Show him gradually that your happiness depends to a large extent on his behaviour. Sometimes it pays to show some of the weaknesses in your armour, unless the other party is essentially evil – and, with all his faults, I don’t think Michael is that. Above all, try to keep him away from the exuberant admiration of people like Mrs Reid. People like that mean well but can make things much more difficult.
On the second point there is not a lot to be said, but obviously it would be bad for me to be held up as a distant but rather terrifying deity. The danger then would be if I was away for any length of time he would feel perhaps that he had only to behave himself while I was at home. Alternatively he would learn to dread my homecomings for fear of an accumulation of sins to be accounted for.
Well, sweet, there is the problem as I see it. I don’t know whether all this, written in more or less detached spirit while 200 miles away, is going to help you faced with the problem in the flesh and no escape from it. You speak of “worrying” me with these problems. Don’t be daft! I don’t like to think of you having to battle with all these things alone and like to feel that you still turn to me in your hard times. It keeps the contacts with home ever so much real.
Now about one other “serious” matter while we are in this mood. You speak with dread of the possibility that I might be away for long periods at a time. Make your mind up to the fact that I probably will have to go at some future date. That is by far the best way of dealing with these problems. Expect the worst all the time. Neither you nor I enjoy the prospect of such a long and enforced separation, but we are luckier than most people. We know each other as few people do. We are constant to each other for another ten thousand years. Darling, we faced worse things than a world war in the few months before we were married and the eighteen months after. It was worse than a world war because, knowing each other far less intimately, we found ourselves together and to make sure of our own happiness were prepared to give our families the bird. That was a much bigger personal decision than the decision we now have to make – that, come what may, we will hang on like grim death until eventually we come together again, as come together we must. I am not enjoying being away from you all but I do realise this, that more than ever will I appreciate my own home and family. In that way we may gain something deep and lasting from all this nonsense. While I have been here I have been amazed at the depth of feeling there is in quite ordinary every day fellows for their wives and families. I never imagined the average Englishman had such a highly developed family sense. In many ways I feel sorry for the single man who will gain from this war nothing but a sense of disturbance and frustration. They will find it difficult to settle down for few if any of them have ever lived in a “normal” atmosphere.
Oh my sweetheart, I do get smug sometimes when I think of you. I still have not got over the miracle of learning to love you and of being loved in full measure in return. I’m still amazed when I think of you waiting with such impatience for me. Beyond loving and caring for you as I’ve never cared for anyone – how could I help myself? – I’ve done nothing to deserve it. I’ve been profligate with money, and drunk far more than was good for me. I have come home late and meals have been ruined. Even if you did sometimes nark a bit, you never bore malice next day, did you? Not even when I woke you, as I so often did, at 4am to give you a cup of tea and other things! Happy days, pet! How happy. And here I am living an almost completely pure life. Never a dip of the wick and seldom a pint of ale. Woe is me for I am undone, or will be in the next couple of weeks I hope.
Several times I have tried to construct the scene when I do creep into the house, but I can’t. All I can see is you and it is impossible to describe your expression beyond the fact that your eyes show how much you love me, if that is possible. I’m toying with the idea of surprising you by creeping into the house about midnight, and just sliding naked into bed beside you. How would you like to wake up like that, one night? In some ways it would be better than getting home and finding you all strung up with excitement. Then, too, you wouldn’t be able to laugh at me until the morning. Now that you have been to Limedale this week – did you have a nice time? – don’t go again until I have been home. You might just arrange to go there on the weekend I’m coming. Then there would be complications with Limedale and with the children.
Sweetheart, I just want to go on telling you how much I love you. To hold you tight until you cry out. To hearthrug you. To throw you on the bed. Oh, to do lots of things I can’t possibly do from this distance, except say “I love you, sweet”.
Now, darling, I’ll have to close soon if I’m going to catch the Sunday post. My gums are coming on nicely but they feel as though there are a few pieces of tooth or bone splinter which have still to work their way out. I have not seen the dentist for a couple of days, but no doubt he will be in some time tomorrow and will probably send me back to normal routine. I want to be out of here soon because I don’t want to run the slightest risk of missing the draft whenever it comes along. If I did I might be stuck here for another five or six weeks and even then might not get a weekend from here. What a prospect! Anyway, I feel fine in myself and am eating quite a lot of stuff, although it takes longer than it used to do. By the time I get home my gums should be quite hard.
Yesterday and today have been glorious here. Lovely warm sunshine for a couple of hours just about noon and no real cold at any time. If only it stays like this until we leave my heart will soften towards Skegness. What has it been like in Crosby? Any more lovely drying days? And what is the garden doing? Crocus should be through now. Are the daffs coming on? If you do anything to the rockery, be careful not to pull out those tiny plants Sid gave me last back-end. And what of the allotment? Judging by reports everything is likely to be late this year. I’ll be interested to know if you are getting any of our own veg. You won’t forget there were two beds of parsnip, will you? Or have you used them all? And how did the sprouts last? I expect most or all of the spring cabbage were killed off by the frost and snow. Keep an eye on the rhubarb and look up the proper treatment of raspberries. They should have been cut back last autumn. That’s my fault but you had better deal with them at once if you can. Anyway, send me a report on the progress of the Johnson estate some time. I’m still interested you know,
Wendy’s birthday is certainly complicating life for you. If I were in your place I should have Mary and Chris and Jennifer and Nanna over on Sunday and make Monday a purely children’s day. If you don’t you’ll do nothing but worry all day Sunday and instead of enjoying Monday you will be snapping at the children all day! Regarding the present, I think you are right. Will you buy it and let me know what my share is? Incidentally, I’ll bet you will never think of giving Michael a “grown-up” present on his fifth birthday. See the point? A gun, or a pair of skates – some toy for him. Why? All this is not to say Wendy won’t appreciate a set for her table. She will.
Well, pet, I really must go or I shall miss this post and I want this letter to be waiting for you if possible but before I go – I love you more and more and more. Take care of yourself, darling, and if you are feeling down slip into the doctor’s for a tonic. He’ll understand and in the end it will be by far the cheapest. I will be much happier if you do and if I know you have taken all the tonic properly! I’ll supply the next tonic – by injections!
All my love, precious. Ever,
Arthur X

Mar 171942

I’m afraid this is going to be a rather hurried and scrappy letter in which I’ll try to answer some points overlooked in your last letters. About notepaper. This is being written on the pad in the very nice letter pouch sent by the lads in the office. I’m alright for paper at the moment, but when I get settled in to my new address, wherever that may be, I’ll get you to send me some pads. That’s one point settled. Another one. About news. Don’t bother about summarising any bulletins, but if there’s any item of political importance – you know the way I used to keep an eye on the general trend of things by picking out small points – make a note and let me know. What I really miss is the Parliamentary debates. I used to keep a fairly close eye on the answers to questions in the House. Those dismissed in about five lines often give an enormous amount of information. Keep your political sense sharpened on these things.
While I remember. Just in case letters go astray when we move, it might be as well to keep them fairly prosaic!
This morning I am off to sick parade again. This time I want to see the chiropodist! I’ve an ingrowing toenail on one foot and a corn on the other. I’m afraid my boots are a bit small. Anyway, by going sick I avoid having to run “round the houses”. The only snag is that they may make me buy my new boots for being so stupid as to take such small ones when they were issued. Still, I’ll even do that because I can’t walk a mile in comfort. Before I leave here I will have been in every branch of sick bay. There’s only the Turkish baths and electric massage left! I’m fairly having my money’s worth. By the way, I only just went into that dental ward in time. They have closed it now and all the dental patients go into a big general ward, which is not half so nice. The old dental ward is being held in reserve as a measles ward.
Well, love, this is all for the moment. I’ll try to drop you a line tonight, although there will not be a lot of time as we are taking the Chief into Skeg for a few drinks. Just a few of the older ones – Percy, Gibby, myself and two other lads. Make a nice change, I hope.
Bye for now, sweetheart. I love you still!
All my love,
Arthur X

Mar 191942

Have just received your “spring morning” letter and it comes as a welcome antidote to things here. First of all it’s not a lovely spring morning; secondly, I don’t feel chirpy. ’Cause why? ’Cause the blow has fallen. A week on Saturday, my sweet, we leave Skegness and go to – ABERDEEN! Young Harry has a map in the back of his diary. It doesn’t go up as far as Aberdeen! Nearly all the Scotties in the class, there are about 10 of them, have been sent to Glasgow, which would have suited us better because it’s six hours nearer home. The smallest fellow in the class has just made a wisecrack: “Never mind, lads, we’re all right for winter sports. Only 22 miles from Norway!” As you’ll gather, he’s a bit of a wag. Naturally enough, feelings throughout the class are mixed. Some lads have dropped on their feet. One who lives in Glasgow will probably be able to billet at home. On the other hand, there are people like us – well away from home. Quite a few of the lads come from London and they’re browned off, but best of all is the lad from Brighton! What price Aberdeen to Brighton and back for the weekend? Considerably worse than our trip. Well, precious, there it is. It’s almost as bad as being at sea, but in wartime I suppose it is all one can expect. Some of the lads from Scotland say all the wireless schools close down from April 1 to April 9. If that is so we may get a long leave then and another at the end of the course – six months. At the moment it looks as though weekends are washed out, but we will have to wait and see. We have only three free travel vouchers between now and October and in that period we should have two long leaves. That means there is one spare travel voucher. No doubt we will find a way of using that up even if it only means 24 hours at home and 48 hours travelling. I have no idea what the address will be. Some say we are going into private billets, others that we will live in hotels which have been taken over. I don’t know, but as soon as I do know anything I will let you know. We will probably leave here on Friday evening and arrive at Aberdeen on the Saturday according to the latest story so don’t send any letters to arrive here after Friday. Will you tell Mother that, please, and impress on her that I don’t want her to send any more parcels here. I think that’s all there is on the subject for the moment. Now to your letter.
The news about the allowance is far better than I had hoped. I am glad because it will leave you a little margin to live on. It was pretty near the bone otherwise. Altogether it has been a good weekend for you! So glad you feel so much benefit from going to Limedale. That will carry you on for a time and soon the better weather should be here and then you will feel better. I think too that you will settle down more completely when I get this first leave, however long or short it is. I think the prospect of that leave is unsettling you as much as it is me! There’s one thing about Aberdeen – no bromide. Do you realise what that means in a city where the female population is said to be eight times the male population? At all afraid? Like you I’m staying from the subject. You say the children have also benefited from the change and that Michael is full of firm resolutions. You don’t say how you applied the Johnsonian psychology cure to Michael or what the results were. I was interested too to see that you think the children may have been getting chivvied about a bit in the last few weeks. I rather thought that might be so. Really that won’t be serious so long as you are aware of it but try to keep an eye on yourself as well as on the children! I’m not criticising, love, but just putting myself in your position and I know that if I had lost you for five weeks I should have been apt to take it out on them unconsciously. One does, you know. By the way, keep religiously to that course of pills. It will do you the world of good.
I have made a mental note about the sweets and will do what I can. I may send a parcel home this week. If I do, DON’T OPEN IT in front of the children. It will contain my pyjamas which I have had no chance to wash, and some chocolate which I was hoping to be able to bring home with me, but there is no point in carrying it all the way to Aberdeen and then all the way home again. Will you hide anything I send by post so that I can pretend I have brought it with me? Hard luck about the phone, but it can’t be helped. Find out the exact date the phone will be cut off and let me know. By the way, I got the cigarette case – but no note in it! I WAS disappointed! Never send things like that – blankly. If there’s only five lines I’ll realise, but nothing. Oh, sweet, it did leave an empty feeling all day. That’s the second time you’ve done that. I’ll shag you to death for it when I get home.
No, don’t tell the Allowance people anything about the loan. That is the very reason the office made it a loan. You did the right thing.
Well, pet, I must be off now. It’s lecture night tonight.
I think we should get leave in two, possibly three weeks, so don’t make any arrangements about going away! That means April 4 or 11th. I love you so much, precious, that I seem to have been away about a year. Keep the evidence powdered and dried and trust in little Arfa Parfa.
Bye for now, my love. I’ll soon be home and in your naked arms. I can feel now the soft press of your warm breasts against my naked back on that first morning, and it’s doing things to my bellbottoms! And what things. Angel, I adore you.
All my love,
Arthur X

Mar 201942

Lecture time has come and gone so I’m making a start on your weekend letter, although there’s not a lot of time left and some sod is sitting on the far end of the table and rocking it backwards and forwards. You should see the literary activity in the mess tonight as the lads write home to break the news. They’re all at it. I should think you were about the first to know that we were on the move, as few, if any, of the lads got letters away by the early post. I hope the news was not too much of a shock. We are all resigned to it now and we hear, although most of the rumours are mere gossip, that we will attend a school and, as a result, will get he same holidays as the civvies. The lads here argue that on those grounds we should get a week at Easter. Don’t bank on that, but I believe it is a possibility. It sounds feasible enough.
The weather has gone colder here again and the warm spring sun is hidden behind thick layers of drizzling mist. Still, I have the feeling the sun is there, just waiting for a bit of encouragement to break through.
On the financial side, when I read that you had £12-15s to come I imagined what a binge we could have when I get home, so that your following note about two months’ rent was rather a cold douche! Still, I think you have done remarkably well. If you have any extra money from that I left with you, it might be as well to put that in the Post Office too. It’s safe there and you can always draw out what you need. By the way, I think you’ll find you need to put more than 26/- a week away. When there are only four pay days in the month you will find you have not enough – only £5-4. On the other hand, when you have a five week month you find yourself well off. At least, that was my experience. Get hold of that insurance bloke and tell him that you want to see him more regularly. And also make certain that none of the policies have lapsed. Will 5/- a week cover everything in the way of insurance? Wendy’s is nearly 3/- a week and mine 1/- (the quarterly one that is). Make sure of those things or you will find yourself in a mess. Anyway, I think all your suggestions are excellent. You will be wise to save every penny you can. By the way, I must tell you that I have reduced your allowance by 3/6 a week under this new scheme. That amount will be paid by the Government, however, so your total allotment will remain the same. It means I get an extra 6d a day. Whoopee! The commanding officer here solemnly told the men that they should give their wives part of the extra money, but did not tell them that if they did so any additional allowances would be reduced by that amount, as they undoubtedly would. I was wondering about the children’s savings certificates and if you can complete them I would do so.
About my own finances. I’m going to do my damnedest to manage on service pay. I shall feel I have failed if I don’t, but will certainly let you know if I get into a real jam. I might be glad of a bit of extra money when I come home on leave, but we’ll see. I have spent very little of the extra money I brought with me. In fact I’ve turned miser. One thing we will miss when we leave here will be the tobacco issue. I don’t think we will get that but we will have to wait and see.
It’s now dinner time. We are cooks today so time is rather cramped, but I’m rushing this away in the hope that if I get the lunchtime post you may get it on Saturday afternoon.
We have heard nothing more of Aberdeen beyond this: we are likely to be in private billets. So now we have to await the luck of the draw and see if we are lucky or unlucky. We leave the camp at 7pm on Friday and are due in Aberdeen 1.30pm on Saturday. I believe we are due at Edinburgh for breakfast 8am. That is as far as we know at the moment. If we are going into billets, I don’t be suppose we can let you have an address until we actually get there. Must go for the post now and the two periods of rifle drill. Bye my darling, I love you such a lot and if Aberdeen means an early seven days’ leave, as it may, I shall bless it forever. All my love.
Ever yours,

Mar 211942

This is only a note about the things in here. First of all, don’t let the children see the sweets and things. You can produce one each for the children if you like, but I would like to save a few as a surprise for when I come home. Second: put the scarf somewhere the moths won’t get at it. Bert sent it to me and asked me to look after it as it is the first thing Jane ever made for him. If you know you are going to see him at Litherland any time, will you return it to him? In any case, take good care of it for him because he evidently thinks a lot of it. Thirdly: will you shrink these socks as much as possible for me? They are the ones Mother sent and they are rather big. Lastly, will you wash my pyjamas for me? They haven’t been done yet. Perhaps you will send them back to me at Aberdeen and then will you enclose a couple of writing pads? I’ll be glad of them by that time.
Let me know if the parcel arrives in good condition.
Bye for now, love. All yours,
Arthur X