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 121942


H.M.S. Royal Arthur, Skegness

Dear Sir/Madam,

In conjunction with the other two Services and the Ministries of Health and Home Security, arrangements are being made for the immediate notification to Members of H.M. Forces of Casualties which may occur among their close relatives during air raids. The enclosed card is sent to you as the officially recorded next of kin of:




PORT DIVISION: Not allocated; now serving in H.M.S. Royal Arthur.

You should fill in these particulars, together with your own name and address, on the card and you should then carry the card with you on your person at all times inside your National Registration Identity Card. Should you be so unfortunate as to be killed or seriously injured during an air raid, the authorities of the hospital or casualty station to which you were taken would then notify the Admiralty and the information would be passed on to the rating concerned. This procedure has been drawn up in the interest of the Naval Service as a whole and you are earnestly requested to co-operate by carrying out the instructions given above without delay. If any other close relative of the rating concerned wishes to have one of these cards it may be obtained by writing to the above address, stating full name, address and relationship to the rating.

Yours faithfully,

Commodore ??

You should not acknowledge this letter.

RN & RM Next of Kin Casualty Card

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 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

Mar 221942

The game is not ruddy well straight. For why? I’ll tell you. When we paraded for tea yesterday, our officer told us that instead of the usual march past today there would probably be an inspection and went on to warn us of the dire penalties for appearing unshaven, unclean in body or dress, long haired or incorrectly dressed. So today everyone dashed back from breakfast to get cleaned up. I even went so far as to put on my No. 1 trousers – they are my Sunday-go-to-meeting pair – which I have never worn before. There we all were, dressed to kill and after all they decided to have a march past. The air was blue and some of the lads were not at all mollified when we were “promoted” to be the leading class in the starboard watch of the division for the march. That only led to another lecture from said officer. “No skylarking. Look the officer at the saluting base right in the eye. And don’t forget, swing those arms right up to shoulder height – they won’t break off, etc etc.” I’m still feeling a bit raw but that may be partly due to the fact that the weather has suddenly turned cold again and there is a cutting wind blowing. Dinner did improve the temper of the lads a bit. Know what we had? PEARS smothered in custard. They did my old gums the world of good. Delicious.
We went to an Ensa concert last night in the big new theatre. A lovely place, although it is not quite completed. The mike broke down and most of the girl singers were very thin in the voice and this combined with the fact that we could only hear half the wisecracks rather spoiled the show. I was disappointed, especially as I had gone without my supper (curry and mash) to save seats for Percy and another lad. That was the first Ensa show I had seen but the lads tell me it was not up to standard. If you should go to the pictures in the near future, keep an eye on the newsreels. Movietone have been here taking shots of one of the Allied navy crowds. I’m not sure which but I think the Norwegians or French.
I think I told you, didn’t I, that we were taking the Chief into Skeg for a drink on Wednesday. Well we went along and had quite a nice quiet night. Not a lot to drink, but some pleasant chat. My only criticism was that they picked out a pub where the beer is 1/- a pint, which I think is daft on service pay. Some of the lads, of course, are better off on service pay, but not all of us are. Still, I enjoyed the night. It was a pleasant change. We have only two more nights ashore here. Tonight and Tuesday. Fire-watching on Monday and Wednesday, lecture Thursday, and off to bonnie Scotland on Friday. If you post a letter early on Thursday I’ll probably get it on Friday afternoon. I’d be glad of it! I can think of nothing more calculated to lighten the 17 hour journey. Mind you, I can’t complain at the number of letters you have sent. You’ve been an angel.
Your reference to washing “smalls” set me going and on Saturday, as we could not go ashore and the water was beautifully hot, I washed two pairs of socks, a pair of underpants, a vest, a towel, and a blue jean (collar to you). Not bad, eh? The snag is not washing, but drying things – a very tedious process. The last pair of socks I washed took three days to dry, which some of the lads considered quite swift.
You have done well on the footwear and blackout problems. I’m particularly glad about the latter. Have you been able to anything with the front of the house? Just before I came away I was getting the willies looking at that great expanse of brown paper whenever I came up the road in daylight. Still, I feel in many ways just as you do about Morningside. I know what you mean when you compare Alexandra Road and Morningside. Only after a long time did I did I realise your deep detest for the other place. There are two days I’ll always remember at Morningside. One was the first day we were there and the second was the day you brought Michael home. You cried on both of those occasions but although I may have been a bit gruff about it, I knew you were crying with relief and, I hoped, a little happiness, as women will sometimes. And about Michael, without going into another long rigmarole, I think you are right about steering a middle course over this question of his worries. That, I’m afraid, is where I cannot help you. You are on the spot and can only deal with these things as they arise. The only thing I ask, and I do so without any reflection on you, is that you should exercise all the patience you possibly can. Patience, more than any other quality, will take you through this difficult period – difficult for you as well as for the children.
You will, of course, have received my letters about Aberdeen by now, and will know all I know on the question of leave, but just to make sure, the position is this: I will not be home during the coming week. When I do come it will be at the weekend, either for a weekend or for a full week. That clears the question of vapours and on the matter of a fresh-from-the-bath woman – tantalising thought – I suggest that a weekly Friday bath might solve that problem. Oh darling, when I think of you in the bath and all the things I could and would and WILL do to you. Just to bury my face in the soft, yielding flesh of your tummy, to feel the velvet smoothness of your thigh, to do oh so many lovely things which loving you impels me to do! Just to think of them and to conjure up my favourite vision of you – remember swimming at Freshfield? – has sent me into a coma. You talk of your innards asking for me. Well just now my outwards are demonstrating violently in your favour. Sweetheart, I’ve kept a very rigorous control of myself and seldom allowed myself to think of you too long at a time. It’s so dangerous that I usually force myself to go and do something terribly prosaic to break the chains of your spell. Oh, my darling, I love you so much it hurts when I think of you too long. But I’m not building any longer on any given time period as to when I will hold you close again. I only know it will come, and when it does time will stand still, the earth will cease to revolve, it will be both day and night at once and I know I shall see only you – yet I think the touch of you will blot out even sight of you. So, you see, my precious girl, I too have moments of desire just to be near enough to lay my hands on you. Even now I cannot say whether I want to be fierce or tender. I think I told you that once before but it still intrigues me.
Darling I’m still in a coma thinking of you and I find my feet have turned to blocks of ice in this damned chalet and that I have ten minutes in which to catch the post.
Now, once more, about leave. If I’m coming from Aberdeen I won’t have much chance to phone you and the odds are that I may arrive home at 8am or 9am on a Saturday. We’ll have to wait and see what the prospects are and what the timetables are like. I’m afraid I can do nothing until I have been there a few days. In any case don’t make any arrangements to go away until I know definitely if leave is right out of the question. Personally I don’t think it will be, but one or two fellows here do. My own guess is that I should be home, if only for a weekend, two or three weeks from now.
And now precious I must leave you for a time. Give my love to Wendy and Michael and tell them I’m pleased to hear they are both helping you so much. Look after yourself darling and do have vapours on time! If you mess up my leave I’ll have your life. Darling I’ll say more with my hands than I could ever tell you when I see you again. All my love,
Arthur X

Mar 231942

I know you’ll understand when I say that just now I don’t feel very much in the letter-writing mood. It’s very seldom I do feel that way, but everyone in the class seems affected by the same restless spirit and I think it must be infectious. The feeling is rather similar, in a mild sort of way, to that experienced in the last week at home. You know how it was when we both felt rather glad when at last February 10 did arrive and the suspense was ended. Our feelings have not been improved by being kept waiting by the Commodore this morning with the result that all our dinners were stone cold. The custom is for all out-going drafts to receive a little homily from the Great White Chief. You can imagine my surprise when I heard him repeat word for word the first three minutes of the speech we had from the Training Commander on the first morning we were here. I think I mentioned that speech in one of my early letters. This time it made absolutely no impression and not because we have become hard boiled in six weeks, but because the Commodore, who has eyes just like a cod-fish, has absolutely no vitality and is utterly incapable of inspiring confidence in anyone so far as I can see. We know, now, that our training as such, apart from a little boat drill, is over and from now until the end of the week we will do general duties. Quite honestly, we don’t mind that. There is a sense of venture in the early part of the day to see whether you will be lucky or not in the general distribution of duties. But we do feel that now we are just killing time until we have to board the train.
What a pity the contretemps with the children arose. It looks as if I’m going to spend a good deal of my leave bringing Michael back to the straight and narrow. I’ll do it, no matter what effort and sacrifice it costs me. I’m not going to let him get out of hand if I can help it. Anyway, we’ll leave that subject until I come home.
I don’t think I told you, did I, that for the last week I have been going to sick bay again, this time to the chiropodist. We have everything here! The pair of boots I have been wearing for every day use are a shade small. I took them to be stretched but even that did not make sufficient change in them. They still pinch and I developed a corn on my left foot and that ingrowing nail on my right foot gave me hell. The result was I went to the chiropodist, had the corn cut out and the toe nail fixed. The latter was a painful job but it has been a lot better since. I’m going to get a new pair of boots today, but I have to buy them because they argue it is my fault for taking small boots in the first place. Still, it will be worth it for the comfort. Among the lads I’m earning something of a reputation as a permanent sick bay patient. Still, it has saved me a few sticky jobs so far.
The weather is still pretty nippy here, after the first four days of lovely warm sunshine, such as you described in your letter. We get a heavy mist from the sea in the morning, which the sun cannot always dispel.

Just to give the lie to that sentence, we had a heavy mist but now, midday, the sunshine is glorious. So far I have had quite a successful day. I went to sick bay and declared myself fit, getting back just after all the big jobs had been given out. Between 9.30 and dinner time I have carried a bucket as far as the end of Morningside, collected in it some soda, half a bar of soap and a new floor cloth. I’m fair wore out! In addition I have been to buy my new boots which are much more comfortable and should break in without much trouble. It looks as though that will be my total effort today.
I have had a letter this morning from Mother, who assures me, as she always does, that there is no need to worry about you or the children as you are all looking in the pink. She makes no reference at all to the Litherland incident.
I thought of home today when I saw our Chief in his allotment planting parsnips. Was I jealous? The ground here is getting into reasonably good shape now. What a lovely place this must have been in peacetime with grass verges and trees between the chalet rows, each verge edged with long rows of roses and, at the ends, solid flower beds. Still, I doubt whether it was worth the money charged by Butlin. I’m told the prices were pretty stiff – I can believe it.
Well, sweet, I’d better close now and get this into the afternoon post. You may get it by the morning delivery then. I want to try to have a bath in the firm’s time this afternoon as there will be little time to spare after tea. We are going ashore for the last time tonight and want to get into Skeg to say cheers to a couple of Percy’s R.A.F. pals and then back past the camp again for a drink with a few of the lads in Ingoldmells.
Goodbye, my darling. Look after yourself because I had the most glorious erection when I woke this morning! Just like old times. It would have done your heart good. Precious, before I go into another coma I’ll just say I love you more and more.
All my love, darling. Ever,
Arthur X

Mar 251942

What a glorious day this has been. Baking hot sunshine, with all the lads sitting out in the sun at every opportunity and me doing the longest day’s work I have done for quite a long time. Two of us had the job of trimming the edges of the lawn between the rows of chalets, which is about 300 to 400 yards long. It took us all day and we had to keep on the move all the time to get it finished. As a matter of fact the C.P.O., whose job it is to supervise all this sort of work, didn’t think we could get through it and was delighted when we did because it is rounds tomorrow. He is a decent old cock and has always treated me very well so it was worth making the effort for him. He has been responsible for me having about three or four lazy days!
Before I forget. I had a letter from Lilian and Eric today. They say they will be writing you soon from their new address in Southport. It was only a brief note, obviously written in a hurry, but Eric says he has received both of my letters which is good news. I hate to think of letters going astray, it seems such a criminal waste of effort, and somehow you can never recreate the same atmosphere in a rewritten letter. I found that the other day when I wrote to Bert and after sealing the envelope realised I had made no mention of his family, a point Ann would have seized upon. It was, of course, quite impossible to have made that a postscript, so I had to write the  last two pages again. The result was that I only put in a third of the stuff the second time. I find that normally happens.
I’m not attempting to answer your letters fully until I get to Aberdeen. You don’t mind do you? There is only one more night in Skeg after tonight and we are as bad as a crowd of schoolboys the way we are straining at the leash to be away. We had quite a nice night last night – our final shore night here. Percy and I went into Skegness to see his R.A.F. pal. There is only one here just now, the other being on leave. After we had seen him we bumped into quite a crowd of the young lads out of the class so we stood them a drink or two and then caught a bus to Ingoldmells where we had arranged to meet some of the fellows more to our taste. We had a few gills there and wound up by going into the W.V.S. for beans on toast – my portion minus crust. Quite enjoyable, and we were able to get back in time, but only just in time to check in.
The remainder of our time looks like being very easy. Pay day and rounds tomorrow will do most of the day in. Friday will be spent packing and going through a formal, very formal, medical examination. Will we sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ with fervour at tea on Friday? I asks you! What annoys me is that we leave camp at 9pm and have to hang around Skegness station for about an hour before the train goes, and there will be no chance of slipping across to The Lion for a couple of final quick ones. This business of being herded together and treated like absolute children is perhaps the worst part of all this business, although I can understand why they have to do it. If they let some of us go they’d have to let the lot go and half of them would never come back in time. That is where a few spoil things for everyone and one of the reasons, too, why they don’t put us nearer home I think.
Many thanks for telling me about the garden and I should say it sounds like it was just as well you got it done while you could. I’m glad you have made a start, but don’t go and overdo it, and above all don’t go and tire yourself out before I get home. By what you say you have made a good start. Which peas are you planting? The dwarfs in that cigarette box are the earliest we have. They can be planted in February when the ground is right. Yes, you are quite right so far as I can remember about the parsnips. We did try a lot of thinnings. That is worth remembering for again. By the way, if you are going to make a bonfire, make it on the place where you are going to put carrots and parsnips, that is about opposite the gate. Parsnips should be in soon. I don’t know whether it is worth putting a lot of carrots in. They are always fairly cheap, aren’t they? Would you prefer more beets? And don’t forget that the mustard and cress was not used last year! Have you seen Reg lately? Ask him if he thinks you should get plants of things like cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts etc. If he thinks you should, get hold of Dave and ask him to buy some for you from the parks superintendent. That was where we got them from last year. Remember how we were fed up eating them and giving them away.This year you should have more room for cabbage with all that land free where we had potatoes last year. The thing to do is to concentrate on stuff for the winter and spring. Try to get hold of a lot of spring cabbage, many more than you want, plant them close together. The winter weather will thin them out for you. How did the salted beans last? If they were good right through the winter – ’scuse me a moment there’s a lad playing ‘Danny Boy’ on the stage in the mess, quite good! – as I was saying, if they lasted well I should put a lot of them down this year and pick them while they are young. Concentrate on anything that will grow through the winter or will preserve. That is the way to get the best value from the ground. Time is creeping on and you should have a good idea of what you are going to plant and where you are going to put it. But that is enough of gardening for now. Just one thing more. You might let me know if you ever found that plan I left in the Boots diary. That will give you a good idea of what I had in mind.
Hope the children are better. Do you think they might have to have their tonsils out? Perhaps they will do better when the warmer weather comes. I hope so. I don’t like to think of you having all this worry on your own.
Well, love, I must be off. Give Wendy a pat on the back for being so good. I’m glad to think of her “mothering” you like that. I have thought often how you’ll miss her when she goes to school.
Bye bye pet and look after yourself. I’ll drop you a line tomorrow. At the moment I can’t concentrate here. All my love, sweetheart. I do love you. Ever,
Arthur X

Mar 261942

This may be the last letter I’ll write from here. Whether it is or not depends largely on what the morrow brings forth. There seem to be a good many odd little things to be done. We have to see the doctor in the morning, finish packing our gear, get it labelled and over to the baggage store. Not big jobs but remember here they seem to take a terrible time. I suppose that is through waiting until everyone is ready.
You have asked about several things, offhand I cannot remember them all. Don’t worry about the cigarette machines. If we need them in Aberdeen I’ll write to George Evans at the office and see if he can get one for me. At the moment I’m alright for papers. I don’t know what the position is going to be about tobacco. The odds are very much against us getting an issue at Aberdeen which will be a sore blow. I have smoked all my last issue and a lot more besides. When I get my address I might get you to send the bit there is somewhere at home.
Today has been one of those funny days. I had to go to the dentist for a final examination and he seemed quite pleased with the way they had healed up. I will get further treatment at Aberdeen and should have my teeth in three or four months. Because I was missing when the work was given out, there was nothing for me to do but walk about the camp looking very busy and rather worried, saluting an occasional officer in a rather absent-minded manner, but not sloppily enough to be pulled up. It’s a definite technique. That lasted until first stand-easy – 10.15 when we get our cocoa – and then, as it was Divisional Officer’s rounds, we could not be found anywhere near the chalets so went for a haircut, which just took until second stand-easy – 11.30. From then until dinner we just scrounged about. After dinner we were paid, I get 30/- a fortnight by the way, and were left hanging about quite a long time. Then we solemnly stood in a line to take off our gaiters and hand them in. Finally we came down to the chalets to begin packing up. People were in and out so much that it was impossible to write at all. Actually it is not much better now for there have been ten people in about the last half hour. It complicates life considerably.
Well, darling, I’m afraid this is just about as much as I can manage tonight. There is no peace anywhere for all the lads are wound up. I do hope Wendy is going to be alright. Do tell me if she seems really bad, won’t you?
Night night, precious. Last night here and a stage nearer that elusive leave. Look after yourself until then my love.
All my love. Ever your
Arthur X

Mar 271942

This will definitely be my last letter from here and, even more definitely, it will be very brief I’m afraid, because in a couple of hours we will be on our way. The chief reason for this hurried note is to say that, for the moment, you can write to me at this address:
O/Tel AJohnson, JX342517, R.N. Unit, Aberdeen.
Later I may be able to send you a full address which will reach me more quickly, so don’t pass this on as my new address just yet anyway.
Our luggage is on its way now and we have sung Auld Lang Syne at tea so we feel the day is about done. Supper is early tonight, 6 o’clock, and after that we parade to be searched for tobacco and to hand in the identity cards we have been using here. Then off we go like a herd of cattle to the railway station. We may get a chance of one quick drink before we parade for search. We are hoping so.
By the way, I have not written to the children for some time. I’ll do my best to do so soon after I get to Aberdeen and I’ll also try to answer all your recent letters, including your last one. What a lovely letter that was. With things as they are, I had to read it in three separate “bites”, but I’m looking forward to lingering over it on the train. Then I shall go into a coma! Your reference to West Kirby and my first hint of marriage brought back such vivid memories. Even now, amid all this hurry and hustle all around me, it takes me out of myself and I can feel the lovely atmosphere there was that night. Oh darling, I must have loved you then, even though I didn’t realise it. But since then you have grown a thousand times more precious to me.
Well, pet, much as I should like to linger on this subject, I dare not. If I do I shall miss the post, which will mean that you will not get this letter before Monday. If you get this on Saturday you may be able to post a line on Sunday before 4 o’clock which may reach me on Monday. Aren’t I selfish? But I should like it! I really am off now. Bye my love and take care of yourself. You belong to me you know.
All my love, darling. Ever yours,
Arthur X

P.S. Don’t send those pyjamas, or any parcels, until I give you the O.K.