On the train
If your experience on the train was anything like this, I’m sorry for you. We’re near Edinburgh at the moment and there are some people who have been standing since we left Aberdeen. In the same compartment as us is a woman with two little girls, one about a year younger than Michael and the other about Wendy’s age.
At that point I had to stop for the younger child kept banging my elbow and an hour later I was persuading the other to go to sleep on my knees. This woman had the heart of a lion taking both children on her own to Dover from Aberdeen. Her husband is billeted there and they are staying three months – all the holiday. Not what I would call a health resort and by no means a wise journey these days for some people had to stand all the way from Aberdeen to King’s Cross – just 14 hours! I wired Jack and Dot telling them the time I’d be there but I didn’t see either of them at the station, which was a pity for we were in London from 8am to 1.30 and out of that time I could have wangled a couple of hours.
About this sudden change. Evidently there is a new ruling that unless you are sure to get through in 20 weeks at the most you have to be sent back to your base for re-drafting. I shouldn’t say anything to anyone yet if you can help it because I may be home soon, but if you find things difficult, just say I’m going to Devonport for another course. With anything like luck I should be home by next week, which brings us to an important point – what about vapours? I didn’t receive a letter from you on Friday before I left so there may have been a reference to it in that. Whatever else you do, for God’s sake don’t have vapours while I’m home. That would ruin things.
This, as you will guess, is also being written on the train, this time the 1.30 from Paddington to Plymouth – a mere five-and-a-half hours! Just a few minutes ago, incidentally, we passed through Reading. We did a good wangle at Paddington by getting the R.T.O. to give us labels “Reserved for Naval Party” for two carriages, which was pretty good going as there were originally only seven of us in the party, but a few more sailors came along and were glad of a seat in such crowded trains. One of them is a C.P.O. just back from three-and-a-half years foreign service and he is on his way to Plymouth to be married. He’s what you’d call a real sailor – does he hate the Yanks!
Sunday 5 July
Yes, eventually we made it after 26 hours travelling. I had the big thrill (?) of slinging my hammock and sleeping in it for the first time – and was I ready for it! I’m told the barracks gets a bad name, but so far it hasn’t been too bad from the point of view of discipline but comfort is almost non-existent. We sling our hammocks from iron bars in the “mess” and theoretically they are supposed to be lashed and stored by 7am but they are not very keen on that. Breakfast is 8–9, dinner 11.30 to 12.30, and tea 3.30–4.30. Supper at 6.30–7.30. The great snag is that there is nowhere to put your clothes at night, the prevailing custom being to make a pillow of them.
Still, as I suppose this is the general idea on board ship I suppose it’s better to serve an apprenticeship on dry land. Feeding is rather tough and the grub not anything to be compared with Skegness or private billets. Life seems to be taken fairly easily here and I haven’t seen very much of the stern discipline of which we have heard so much.
So far today we have done very little. Breakfast and then into the office to have our particulars taken down, then on to the doctor and the dentist, which meant we missed church. The dentist is sending up to Aberdeen for my dentures which I tried in there on Friday morning just before I came away. They have to be altered because something was wrong with the bite.
We have made inquiries about leave and we are told nothing can be done until after we have seen the Training Commander tomorrow and settled just what course we will have to take now. The odds seem to be all in favour of coding according to several tels who are here and have been fixed up for that course. There is no telling where we will go for training yet so I can’t give you any definite news except that leave in the near future seems pretty certain. It may be in a week, it may be less, it may be in a fortnight, but if it is going to be that long I’ll let you know. My address here is O/Tel AJ O/Jx342517, Mess E100 T.D., R.N. Barracks, Devonport.
I have made arrangements with Percy to forward any letters which may come for me, so will you keep them until I come home? He is also going to send you the towels and serge and one or two small items and also my oscillator.
I think that’s about all the news at the moment, except of course that I’m still in love with you. So get the evidence in good trim for we’ll need it, providing you arrange vapours intelligently, so I’m relying on you.
Somehow this letter “feels” strange but, for that matter so do I! I’m not fully conscious yet, although I may feel better when I get another night’s decent sleep. Bye for now, love.
All my love, angel.