Nov 021942

O/Sig (A/M) A.Johnson Jx342517, Hut B11, R.N. Camp, Cookham, Rochester, Kent
Once more just a note in the hope it will reach you before I do. We arrived here about 11 this morning and are favourably impressed by this place so far. One reason, probably, is that we have seen it in very good conditions for the day has been perfect. All of which is a big help.
We thought at one stage that we would be able to get away today. But it was not to be and we are hoping to get away tomorrow. That, I’m afraid, is all I can tell you at the moment. I simply can’t write more just now because the hut is in uproar with people sorting their gear out and trying to get the stove working. All I can say is that we hope to be on leave about noon, Tuesday, and I’ll wire you. Hope you are much better, love. All my love, sweet.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Nov 111942

Here we are, back in the old routine of standing waiting for people to see us and then being told to come back later. We, on our part, of course are doing our best to avoid work and have done quite well so far. One of the junior officers whom John Dagg saw, admitted quite frankly that they don’t know what to do with us! We have to parade at 8.30 in the morning and then report back to the regulating office again. As this young officer seems quite friendly towards us I have put John up to asking for periodic leave in the morning! I don’t think we have any chance of getting it but in this racket you get nothing without asking. We may touch lucky and if we did, I have a feeling that people would be sick of the sight of me! Not that that would put me off. Anyway, don’t bank on it, but I thought you would be interested in our cheek! If we are lucky, of course, I’ll wire you.
I saw Bill Black last night and he says he is getting on with Michael’s fort. He was going to camouflage it but decided that it would catch a child’s eye better in plain cream. He says one advantage is that it can always be camouflaged later if it shows signs of wear. Another good idea of his is that if the fort is made in two halves it will be easier to put away. From this I gather that it will be a fair size. Bill says he has profited by his experience in making one for his own lad, so I think it will be a good job.
Well, love, if I’m to be sure of catching the post, I’ll have to be off. I hope this reaches you by Thursday. It should do.
Sweetheart, I do love you and I hope that you are feeling better now. How’s the cold? Better? I do hope so. Take good care of yourself, my sweet, and don’t do too much at a time. Was Wednesday a very blue day? I hope it was not too bad.
Bye for now, angel. I’ll try to write you a longer letter tomorrow. All my love, pet.
Ever your own,
Arthur X
P.S. Excuse the scrawl, but a cat has adopted me and insists on sitting on my knee.

Nov 121942

I’m beginning this on Wednesday night because I have discovered, soon after posting your letter, that I have left my trousers at home. So I wonder, seeing that they are still there, if you could either do them for me or get someone else to do them. You will find that they have been turned up already. Will you cut that off and then shorten the present length by one inch – no more or they will be too short. Can you follow that? And if you can get them done quickly I’d be grateful – just in case! Oh, and when you send them on, will you enclose the bits you cut off, because they will be useful for patching later on – always presuming I’m in this racket long enough to wear it out.
I meant to tell you, by the way, that the very first thing that greeted us when we got here was an offer to go abroad! Six volunteer A.M.s for foreign service were called for and I didn’t fall for it, as you can imagine. However, six have volunteered – but there is no indication yet as to where or when they will go. It may be some time before they hear anything, because at the moment it does not look as if there is much call for us. Still, I suppose we have our chances still to come.
Well, that is all for tonight, sweet. Night night and sleep well. I wish I was still at home with you.
That leave has dwindled considerably for they have found us a job. Isn’t that a tragedy? We are in the dining hall, which means that, on alternate days, we wash or collect to be washed, the dirty dishes from 300 meals, clean the tables, sweep up and lay the tables for the next meals. As you may guess, we look after ourselves and at this time of the year a warm and dry job is not to be sneezed at. The job itself is easy enough but it’s a bit messy and greasy. Still, I’m not moaning, for we are excused all parades and every other day we finish at 1 o’clock. That is on days we are watch ashore, as we are today. Still, they won’t let us ashore any earlier.
Just now I’m on my way to London to see if I can get hold of Dot and Jack for an hour or so. I think I’ll make a dive back tonight instead of sleeping ashore for I think it will be rather a rush to get back in for 8.15. Anyway, I’ll see how the trains work out. I rang Jack up but he has apparently moved and I had no more change to ring his new number. I’ll tell you all the news tomorrow, after I have seen Jack and Dot.
At the moment there is nothing new here. The lads have heard nothing about the job they volunteered for and even the fellows who are due to go to the Admiralty haven’t heard anything yet.
Charlie Mitchell is quite convinced that we will never get a draft from here! He says we are here for the duration of the war! From the way things are going I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we were. I don’t mind collecting dirty dishes for months on end.
Well, love, that’s about all the news just now. I’m going ashore now because we are once again long weekend aboard, and if I don’t get out now I won’t have another chance until Monday night, which seems a long way off just now.
How are you feeling today, sweet? Hoping you are taking things easily and not tiring yourself too much. Are the children behaving themselves? I hope they are. Give them my love.
I do miss you, angel. This time last week we were “having trouble with our water” but it was well worth it and I only wish I was in Morningside now.
All my love, sweetheart, and take care of yourself.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Nov 131942

Being very superstitious, all the lads here have their fingers crossed, for drafts at any time are not too popular, but on Friday 13th they are even less popular. There is absolutely no news of any move for us yet and the feeling is growing that we will be here for weeks yet.
Last night, as you know by now, I went to London and eventually did find Dot and Jack, but even after I found the house – after going all round the world to get there – I very nearly came away. I rang and rang the only bell on the door and it was only the fact that I set the dog barking that I eventually did get an answer. They were very glad to see me for they had been expecting me for the past fortnight. With messing about, as I did, it was eight o’clock when I got there and we did not get to bed until one o’clock. As I had to be up at 4.45 to catch the first train, we didn’t get too much sleep.

That was the most I could get done yesterday, for I was on duty from 8.30am until well after 8 at night, half the crowd having gone on long weekend. As we are watch aboard this weekend it looks like being a fairly tough time. Still, next weekend we will finish at 1 o’clock on Friday until 8.15 Monday!

After several attempts I’m trying once more to write you. As you will see from the enclosed pencil note [above, dated Friday 13th], I have made more than one effort. Just as I was in the middle of today’s pencil note I got an urgent summons for a draft to WHITEHALL! We go on Monday and will wait there until we get another draft. In some ways I’m glad, for it means we will be doing something definite and I must confess that I have had enough washing up to last me a lifetime. A thousand knives, forks and spoons at every big meal is enough for anyone! Tomorrow I will ring Jack and see if it will be alright with them if I request to billet out with them. That would be very pleasant – much more so than taking a chance on official naval digs. We don’t know, of course, whether we will actually be at Whitehall or at one of the outside stations. If we do go to the latter then we will be well outside London.
While I remember, will you ring Hughie Ross as soon as you get this and tell him not to write me at this address but to hold on until he hears from me? I’ll drop Mother a line tonight and perhaps she will let Bert know. All who did not volunteer for foreign service are going there, by the way, and the other A.M.s who have been here for months are still hanging on. That’s the way things seem to go in this service – and in the others, I suppose. Life has been fairly pleasant while we have been here, despite the long hours of this job, for the weather has been beautiful – ideal autumn weather, with bright days and nice clear starry nights when it would have been delightful to walk for miles, setting the world to rights and winning the war en route, with a pint or two before returning home. And by home I mean home and not a service camp.
Now, many thanks for your two letters which seem to have taken 36 hours to reach here. I suppose that with the big gap between my first letter and this one, you will have been on tenterhooks to know what has happened, but I suddenly realised on Friday that you wouldn’t get my letter until Monday so I hung on to it until I could get down to it seriously. This duty I’m on makes it awkward for writing because even when I have a spare hour I’m so covered in grease from the pantry work that it takes 20 minutes to get cleaned up. From the appearance of the paper you will appreciate that point and I only hope the pencil is legible.
I’m so glad to see by your letters that you are feeling so much more cheerful, but you are still far from feeling strong and I’m glad you are husbanding your strength to the best of your ability. What about seeing Dr Rees again? He might be able to tell you about vapours, or is it too early yet to decide if the miss is only due to the state of your health? I am, of course, presuming that they have failed to materialise yet as there has been no mention of them in your letters. I forgot to say “thank you” for your thought in writing me for Thursday, and even though it didn’t arrive until Friday I liked the thought very much indeed. You are an angel, darling, and you were braver when I came away this time than ever before. You have no idea what that means to me.
Well, darling, I don’t think there is a great deal more to be said except of course, that I’m still crazy about you. Every time I come home you mean more and more to me and I think I appreciate that much more when you are off colour than at any other time. And that is saying something!
Give my love to the children and let Michael know that I do appreciate that he is doing his best to help you. By the way, he promised to get coal in every night for you and Wendy promised to get the chips each day in her dinner hour or as soon as she came home from school in the afternoon. Try to keep them up to it because it will make them feel they are doing something really concrete to help and, if possible, don’t give them another job to do until they have done that.
Now darling, I’m off. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright in London, or even if we go outside the city. As soon as possible I’ll let you know all the news but there may be an interval of a day or two in my letters because goodness knows how we will be messed about on Monday. The thing to remember is that they evidently think we will be in this country long enough to make it worth while sending us down to the Admiralty. The only fellow I have met here who was at Whitehall was there for over two months waiting for draft and never got one because he went into hospital. He has been here for many weeks – they seem to have forgotten about him. So you see there’s nothing to worry about.
Bye for now, sweetheart. I hope you will be heaps better by the time you get this. Do take care of yourself. All my love, angel. I do love you.
Ever your own,
Arthur X