Sep 231940

H. Gregson (Seaman), HMT Dalmatia, c/o GPO London
My Dear Stella,
This is your pen I’m using and believe me it behaves itself quite well… It has grown out of the awkward age – it has shed the mantle of adolescence. No longer is it a badly behaved infant, an undisciplined, “do as I please” child; now it has become my very good friend and I do not know how I should live without this small, black creature with the blue blood and the tongue of gold.
I know all his moods, but I must confess that I have little or no authority over this mighty prodigy.
Thus do I sit myself, fully intending to pen a sane, matter of fact letter to my sister. I have it all planned that I shall ask after her health, I shall send my love to her children, for they are often in my thoughts, and I shall ask to be remembered to Arthur. I shall make mention of a few of my experiences and I shall enquire about the Liverpool raids also. I shall tell the story about the new skipper… and so on and on ad infinitum…
But, once started, my pen takes command. There is a secret intimacy between my pen and some dark mysterious part of me which hardly exists at all. So if I write what appears to be a rather selfish letter, please don’t blame me.
Ours is a strange family. We are embarrassed by too much affection, too much “gush”. In our family a sister never says to a brother, or a brother to a sister, “How are you – I am glad to see you looking so well.” Or “Can I help you at all?” You see, we always take so much for granted. We are an honest family and that’s a great thing.
And we have the greatest mother in the world, haven’t we? The most unselfish lady in the universe. Yet, for a thousand pounds, I can’t imagine telling mother that she’s all that.
Here is thoughtfulness. I know damned well from letters received and from tales heard that the hometown is “getting it bad”, yet mother makes but little reference to the raids. She even says, thinking of my safety all the time, that it would be better if I didn’t come home just now if I got leave. I asked to be sent an ‘Echo’ or a ‘Post’ but mother won’t send one “because”, she says, “there is so little in the ‘Echo’ these days.”
I know the real reason. I would still love to see an ‘Echo’ again. Could you send me one, Stella? There is one other Liverpudlian on board, he too has asked for a local paper but, so far, nothing has materialized.
Incidentally, this other fellow is a real “Scouse”, a real “Eh, Wack, warreryousedoin’” lad. But it’s great to hear the accent – a little corner of Liverpool right here in the Channel. Yesterday he said “Eh, Greg, did yuh ever go ter the labour club in Wavertree Road?” I said that I had not. He continues “Oh, it’s de gear, that’s where I learnt the Rhumba.”
Other observations of his include the following – “Mossley Hill, eh? All Jews there aren’t thee?” “Brodie Avenue? Blimey, those people livin there spend all day on their backs.”
A good crew this. At least the lads. We really enjoy going into action now. That is, so long as there is only one plane to fire at. When it’s a big raid (I’ve been in two) – well, then it’s not so good. On that first raid on Portsmouth dockyard when dozens of Junkers dive-bombed on the ships and docks I nearly died of fright, but I’ve grown out of that feeling now, thank God.
This is an unsatisfactory, half started sort of letter. I hope you’ll forgive me. I’ll have to finish now if I wish to get this posted here.
Listen, let me know how things are all round, will you? How are Wendy and Michael? Is Arthur due for calling up yet? Tell him I think I can get some cig tobacco to him and ask him if he wants any shirts or hankies. The latter are a penny each and the shirts are only a couple of bob. I can buy socks also at a low price.
Let’s be hearing from you. And don’t worry about the noise – we’re a tough lot!
Lots of love to you and the family,
P.S. Any fresh literary triumphs?
What do you read these days? Have you read any Steinbeck novels? I myself have just started the Rachel Field ‘All This And Heaven Too’ classic and should soon have Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ (the picture is terrific.) I recently finished a very fine book – John Hilton’s ‘Knight Without Armour’. Listen. If you like, I’ll send on my copies from the World Book Club. I think you’ll like ‘All This And Heaven Too’.
I feel the urge to learn. Have you an old book of shorthand you don’t require? I’m going to have a go at learning shorthand – it can be most useful.

Oct 201940

HMT Dalmatia, Portsmouth
Dear Arthur,
The 3/6d more than covers the damage and is guiltily but gratefully received. The stuff was meant as a gift actually, but if you feel better sending me half-a-dollar as a kind of counter-gift – well, OK. But remember, 2/6 is ample for half a pound of “tea”.
To ease your mind, there is no censorship of my letters. Say what you like and how you like – it’s OK with the Navy and with me. Since we now pull into Newhaven and are granted leave, it is the easiest thing in the world to post packages ashore. At Portsmouth one has to take a risk. Dozens of special police give you the once-over when you walk out the gates. They look at your gas-mask for any “ominous bulge”. They’re a suspicious bunch – I can’t think why!
I sent a parcel home last week – going out one day with a parcel of dirty washing and leaving it in cold storage in the sailors’ home, then going out the following day with a half-bottle of rum in my sock and packets of “tea” stowed about my person. When the cop looked at my card and said “OK Jack!” I felt like saying “That’s what you think.” I got the parcel of washing out and, wanting to add the “milk” and “tea”, I took the darn thing to the only place possible to do the packing in secrecy. Well, while I was sitting there with socks, cigs, rum, matches and shirts all about me, a guy pulls open the door and when he sees me his eyes nearly pop out of his head with astonishment. “That’s OK,” I said, “I always do my washing down here.” He beat it.
“How am I doing?” you ask. Today – not bad at all, it’s Sunday, I’m ashore in Pompey, I’m going to have tea soon and then see a movie (bang goes your 3/6). Tomorrow we put to sea and then starts the fun. There is a lot, Arthur, that I do not put in my letters to Mother. I will not tell her of the body (not the first) we picked up yesterday – it had been in the water a long time. When a body is found we are supposed to identify it – search for papers, etc – the seamen do the dirty work. This fellow was a German pilot – he was headless and limbless.
Nor do I tell of this new mine menace – we picked two mines up yesterday, an hour after sinking the body. They’re a new type entirely – he’s using a lot of new mines – some they call acoustic mines – the sound of propellers is enough to explode them.
When we left Newhaven on Friday night the Skipper ordered everyone on deck with lifebelts – five mines were in the harbour but we got out OK.
Last week two trawlers were sunk on this patrol by German destroyers and another trawler is missing completely.
Jerry got to know that Eastbourne is an open town – whilst laying off there each day we were subjected to about three raids a day, on one occasion being bombed by what we took to be a British seaplane because he dropped our own recognition flares. When, however, he dived and dropped a bomb by our bows, we knew we had been mistaken. I shall never forget the Junkers that let fly with a whole stick of bombs – you could see them leave the bomb rack, hear the awful screech and then see the great spouts of water that shot skywards. We are a hard target. So it’s not all beer and skittles.
Tuesday evening – at sea.
I meant to mail this last Sunday or Monday, but the Navy decided otherwise.
So here I am feeling quite weary after two days “sweeping” and another two days to do ‘ere hitting harbour. Actually the sweeping is being done by the other five trawlers – we follow up and lay the dan buoys – marking the course swept – then we pick the damn things up again. Sounds easy but it’s the hardest work I’ve done since I left the good old A.T.M. Quite a change. I’m certainly not overburdened with work on this ship. It’s just a series of monotonous watches – standing and looking at the sea for hours on end or maybe holding onto the wheel for the same period. The air raids liven the proceedings somewhat and although we have seen no action for a week now, we certainly had our share of bombs during those days off Eastbourne.
It was that bloody bell. The first week back from leave when the blitzkrieg started in earnest was pure hell. Until we got used to being awakened by that alarm bell we were all a bundle of nerves. The funniest thing was when we got ashore. I was in a pub with the gunlayer – a bell rang and we both jumped up – just shows the way it gets you!
That’s too much about me – it’s not really a tough life – it’s easy, dead easy – the only thing that occasionally gets me is that there is no escape from it. When I try to imagine what five, six, ten years of this sort of routine will be like! Hell! Of course the commonsense thing is to develop an “artistic outlet” – a hobby. I wish I was crazy about astronomy or fishing or knots. Too bad the only thing that held my interest was acting – not much chance of doing any of that now. I had thought of becoming a kind of recluse, living in books, studying drama and dreaming of the days to come when the war is over and I’ll be all loaded up with so much knowledge that it’ll be a push-over. But it doesn’t work out that way – or does it?
When I return to harbour, Stella’s letter may be awaiting me – I hope so. She mentioned on a sheet of your own letter that she intended taking the children to Greenbank Park and it strikes me as being a good idea. It’s a good idea for everyone to get into the country these days as much as possible. The other day I took a walk from Newhaven to Lewes. I can honestly say that I forgot the war for that one day – it was grand. It took me “right out of myself”. So did the film I saw last week – the funniest film for a long time. Title – ‘The Ghost Breakers’. The story doesn’t matter but the stars are Bob Hope and a negro called Stepin Fetchit.
Now that’s all for now – I’ll send another half pound of “tea” soon. Tell me – does the potato keep it fresh? I’ll probably send the next lot in its original tin.

Nov 071942

“Same Address”
My Dear Stella,
Your letter reached me on the Wednesday and I’m darned glad to hear that you’re improving fast from the pneumonia bout. According to what you tell, you would still be at Limedale when I rang up last Saturday. I tried to make it all clear then, but it was difficult and I further explained the position in my last letter to Mother. You see, by the time the news of your illness reached me, you were way past the crisis period. Otherwise I might have managed a few days leave. I had previously promised that I would make every attempt to get a few hours in Liverpool when next this ship touched Holyhead. Providing I can get away at midday in time for the 1.45 to Liverpool and providing the ship is not due to sail, it should be possible to make the excursion. Although we were in Holyhead for four days, the trip was not practicable owing to the fact that nobody knew when the ship was sailing, and also to the fact that I could not stay ashore all night without being missed (that on top of my recent all night drift would have been too bad for me).
So I did things the right way for once – requesting to see the Captain for a mere 20 hours leave out of my 24 hours off duty. The pig of a First Lieutenanat rejected my request – it’s like getting blood out of a stone. Later, after another seaman had bluffed his way into four days leave with an excuse that was simply ridiculous, I again accosted the little fellow who wears the braid – reminding him of my rights and too of the fact that my sister was sick. The cunning swine takes me up on the latter plea and goes and asks the Old Man if Gregson can have compassionate leave. Hence the wire to the police for verification and thus the reply that my presence was unnecessary.
Enough of request forms and red tape – next time the slightest chance arises I take it – asking no man’s permission. Amazing how that old town draws one. That Liverpool. There is no thrill comparable to the thrill of stepping off the train at Lime Street Station – the sight of the old familiar streets, tram cars, the sound in your ear of the “scouse” accent, the first sight of home and family and how small and compact the kitchen appears to be, the fire in the grate, the radio in the corner. Stirrings of the memory. Drab, dirty Liverpool? Peter Cavanagh’s, the Rialto, the Hanover and the pseudo-affluence of the Adelphi lounge. The thousands of peoples.
My next official leave should be early in December. This year I shall probably miss Xmas at home.
About Arthur. It seems this course of his is exceptionally long and what is he when the training is complete? A signalman? Or is it some special branch of the signalling dept? Radio location or something. Anyway, I hope he is lucky enough to get a good draft and avoid the foreign service bogey. Whatever his fortune, he will probably be happier aboard a ship than in barracks. I’ve never yet met anyone who prefers the barracks. Although for my part I’m sick to death of life at sea. True we never do as much as a week out of harbour but, oh, the monotony and boredom of the same old routine. The novelty wore off long, long ago, and – another thing – I’m a little scared of the sea since I was mined. When the sea is calm that’s alright, but when the weather is bad – and it gets really bad around this part of the coast – well, I don’t like it one little bit. There is really nothing one can do, with the vessel rolling, pitching and tossing – you can’t write or even read and to sleep down aft in my mess is quite an achievement under such conditions. A persistent loud rattle from the steering mechanism above the deck-head and a thundering roar that shakes the mess every time the screw comes out of the water. The seas beating against the ship’s sides send streams of water through the closed ports and the mess deck develops into a pond in which tables and forms play the craziest games…
Albeit I’m lucky in a way. There is no action around here, which is good and yet bad for me in a way. Down in the Channel the bombs used to fall, there was danger all around yet it seemed that I was satisfied to a certain extent and in some strange unfathomable way I was glad to be alive – my mind was keener and more receptive. But now there is nothing new that can happen, although I recognise the fact that I do little to fight against boredom and I know there is much that I could do. I feel that I want to throw myself body and soul into some vast enterprise, but the only thing that has ever, or will ever, hold me completely now eludes me.
From leave I brought back with me my greasepaints, the works of Bill Shakespeare and one or two books of plays, thinking maybe to stir this crew into some sort of histrionic activity, yet somehow the hopelessness of it all has held me back. However, last week something started moving. My “Wren” friends ashore are a pretty good bunch of girls and one or two are surprisingly talented. There’s June, writing her own words and music, sings her way into the first prize at a recent talent contest. Well, the other day I wandered into the canteen and the girls started telling me about this WONDERFUL play that Lorna has written – already they had started rehearsals, tickets were being printed and the date set for December 1st. The whole thing attracts me greatly. I’ve promised to come along to the next possible rehearsal and further to give a hand with the make-up on the night. Maybe THIS is the acorn I’ve been waiting for. I’d be willing to sacrifice my present series of dates with my current heart-throb to recapture the irresistible thrill of the world of make-believe.
This letter has overreached itself. The trouble with me is that I make a start on one letter then find that I have no time left to write other letters. Last time in harbour I received no less than six letters – including one from Eileen King, recuperating now from some strange illness in an RAF hospital. Her husband is a commando officer out in the Middle East.
Please pardon this leap into pencilling – and I hope this letter does not seem too disjointed. I’m making every effort to get it ashore tonight – it should have been completed in harbour but we steamed out before I expected. Now it is Sunday, at the moment I am on watch but I get relieved at 5 p.m. in time to get ashore – although God only knows what I shall do in Wales on a Sunday. Here in Holyhead there is none of the social life of Milford Haven, yet the people on the whole are decidedly better natured and altogether more civilised than the South Wales folks.
Monday 6.15 p.m. At sea.
Again I’m stymied. Everything was fixed for an entertaining evening ashore. I was on watch all night then this morning, instead of turning in when I came off watch, I washed some “smalls” (collars, hankies etc) and I had a bath and shave, intending to complete this and also snatch a few hours sleep in the afternoon before running ashore. Then suddenly they pack us off to sea and here am I up on the bridge, due to take a trick on the wheel in 15 minutes time and feeling mighty tired.
Now I really must finish this. By the way, I’m sending again a little something or other which might be useful – I know you can’t get it in Liverpool anyway. Hope it’s OK.
I couldn’t write any more even had I the time – inspiration vanished with the sight of land an hour or so back.
So long for now then Stella, don’t mope too long or too often. I suppose, in a unique sort of way, the boat we all share affects us similarly – you minus Arthur, Mother minus her “pink-eyes” and her pink-eyes minus – well, everything worthwhile…
My love to Wendy and Michael and you. With deepest affection

Aug 051943

HMS High Tide, c/o G.P.O. London
My Dear Stella,
All day long, I have been saying – “this evening I shall write to Stella”. I make no apologies for failing to write to you sooner. There is no specific reason for such laxity; you know that the times I write to someone out of a sense of duty are practically nil. I get a hunch to write (I write at least one letter a day) and I think I’d like to write to so-and-so, and it all depends on the way I feel to whom I write. So that often letters are left outstanding for some time. Regrettable, I admit. About five weeks ago I had an urge to write to Mollie. This I did and at great length, but that was the last I sent to her. I still await the required mood to write again.
As I was saying, I had a hunch to write to you today. Now that the time is opportune, the whole mood for writing has gone. Due perhaps to the present atmosphere that pervades the messdeck. Half a dozen card players hold thrall. They got to the table before me and I’m left with a square foot to write in. A card school always has priority over a mere pen pusher.
Due perhaps to the fact that this is the first day of the four “on station” and my mind is restless.
Here I broke off for some hours – about 24 hours to be almost precise. In the interval the only exciting thing that happened was at dawn this morning. Dawn these days, if you don’t know already, is between five and six. The weather all night had been atrocious. To you ashore it would appear to be merely windy. But, anchored as we are outside the breakwater, we had something to cope with. The motor boat has been tied up to the stern and now, prior to lifting the anchor and seeking shelter in the lee of the breakwater, the skipper foolishly decided to call all hands and have a shot at bringing her inboard. Probably this is as dull to you as your cake recipe is to me. I can’t describe the incident because I’d have to go into technical details and talk of derricks and booms and things and I guess you wouldn’t get the full import.
Imagine seven men wrestling with a boat which swings viciously over our heads… Now she is out over the water and we pull on ropes to swing her inboard… then she lunges back at us… we drop to the deck and try to grab her, to hold her, and to get her in position for lowering… like a bunch of circus hands with an angry elephant… Ropes part, matelots curse, and from the safety of the bridge the skipper shouts meaningless advice. He is worried. Well, we made it, me an’ the lads – and nobody was hurt seriously.
This morning a letter from Mother and full of interest and very flattering. I love being flattered – it’s a hell of a weakness, isn’t it? If anyone tells me I’ve got a way with women, I can feel my head swelling. But sometimes I’ve been fooling around – maybe impersonating the leading seaman or the skipper or merely drawing from my imagination and the boys have all laughed and someone, usually the cook, has said – “By Christ, you ought to be on the stage.” That’s what I like to hear, pal. The cook’s a great guy, he is! A fine judge – I think the world of the cook…
To return. Mother says this: “I really wish you would write. You could do it. How about having a shot at a short story – something minus a plot, a chosen character as a study, a detailed description of life aboard… It’s the sort of thing that catches on. Stella would fix up the technical part and type it for you.”
Apart from the fact that Stella has not been consulted on her part in the transaction, I still “hae ma doots”. At times I love to write – yet I lack that eternal spark that is necessary in any form of art. In Art one creates for one’s own satisfaction… You act and it doesn’t really matter if there is no audience… And I can’t imagine writing for my own satisfaction – and indirectly that is the motive – or should be, don’t you think? Well, what do you think about it?
Whilst on the subject. Have you read the latest Modern Reading selection? So far I’ve only read the first few stories and they’re gems. There is a Benedict Thielen story that brought a lump to my throat – it’s beautiful. And incidentally, ever heard of – wait for it – Rabindranath Tagore? In Holyhead’s small public library I found a slim volume of his works. Apparently his name is famous in India, where he is “as great in music as in poetry and his songs are sung all over India. He was already famous at 19 when he wrote his first novel and plays written when he was but a little older are still played in Calcutta.”
W.B. Yeats supplies the introduction and writes: “I have carried the manuscripts of these translations around with me for days, reading it in railway trains and in restaurants and I have often had to close it lest some stranger see how much it moves me.”
The volume I have, entitled ‘Gitanjali’, contains for the most part prose offerings of a religious flavour. But they are lovely. Listen to these lines:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is full;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depths of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreamy desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action –
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
Your last letter was here when I returned from leave. Most of it was, unfortunately, out of date since I had seen you in the meantime, but it was all very interesting, the philosophical paragraph and the idea that fate is at work building the individual from the subconscious. That is very true. I have great confidence in myself now – and I know my fellow-men better. I realise the difference when I’m on leave and meet civilians – people I knew and even admired. Now they seem almost petty and narrow-minded.
There is so much to write about and I have only ten minutes to watch time. I’m remembering fast all the things I should have mentioned. I’m just getting in the mood. Too bad – but there’ll be next time.
Write, as I write, Stella, when you feel like it, never out of a sense of duty. I love your letters, really I do, but don’t write because you think you have to… I’ll understand.
My love to you & Wendy & Michael (not forgetting the rabbit)

Nov 091943

HMS High Tide, c/o G.P.O. London
Dear Stella,
And about time I wrote to you, isn’t it? It must be over two months since this sort of thing happened, but I’m in one of my sentimental, “blood is thicker than water” moods, when shadows from the past come crowding in and one gets that nice comfortable feeling – recalling earlier days and basking in the sunshine of adolescent magic (horrible sentence!).
It’s strange to live on a ship. When I am out here and there is no possibility of going ashore, the body appears to relax – one becomes resigned easily to the estrangement and the mind alone has freedom. And the mind is fickle – sometimes my thoughts are to the future, but often they wander back, not regretfully, but almost with pleasure recalling incidents from the limbo of a half-forgotten world…
The little things of no importance. They live in the memory, it seems, where the major events have no place. Mill Lane – and I recall the sharp sound of dishes being washed of a Sunday morning and the mingling of voices – your own voice complaining loudly of Convent Convention, Mother’s a little lower key, understanding and sympathetic. Sunday dinner, always late waiting for father. The tablecloth that is rough and the curtains are dark blue. Sunday afternoon and a trip to Patten’s sweet shop for peppermint creams and Clarnico marzipan… It was quite in order then to borrow Stella’s bike, but any other time met with Stella’s disapproval. No damn wonder – I certainly knocked the life out of that thing.
A stock phrase – “Are Ernest and Margaret coming today?” And if they came, why, then, what a “to-do”… For they came in a bright blue Morris and I’d see it through the hedge. I’d hear the door slam and then they came romping down the path. In they came and the house would shake its head sadly to be thus disturbed on the Sabbath and everybody would start to talk at once.
Back through the years. Back to the [??] long, long ago… back to the land of dreams… Winter nights that were dark and mysterious. Sledges and snowballs – roller skates and “relievio”.
Summertime and the living is easy… A few pieces of wood and four wheels became a racing car, “The Black Panther”, and once I took little Olwyn Lewis, the parson’s daughter – I took her in my car down Deverell Road – and never again will I feel as proud as that moment… and I carved her initials on the back of my bed and all my thoughts of her were the sweetest in the whole wide world – and never again shall I be in love.
A little later and it was S.F.X. [St Francis Xavier School] and a man called Barber, who is now an army chaplain, put the fear of God in me and killed all interest I might have had for education. Hours of homework when the mind would roam and concentration an impossible thing. At Our Ladies’ School it was different. The scholars there were roughnecks, but there was a certain amount of encouragement given. I remember you were allowed to choose subjects for composition and two or three times my essays were read out to the school. I felt proud and pleased and I wanted to go and write some more… this was the way. At S.F.X. I lived in fear… not all the time of course, but the shadow was on the mind, and there was no peace.
And now I’ll snap out of it – too much grave-digging is unhealthy – tho’ to refer to one’s earlier days for enlightenment is a good thing if one is desirous of understanding one’s true self.
In your last letter you erroneously stated that there was never a suggestion of latent histrionic ability evident in my childhood capers. Your mistake is quite understandable. I suffered pleasantly enough from a dual personality. This still endures. The person who cavorts around the town and has, ’ere today, held the front room at Peter’s Bar in rapt attention, has little in common with the less fantastic individual of the maternal hearth… My imagination is now, as then, in childhood, a safety valve. And did I not have an overgrown interest in the cinema? – knew more about cinema than the average adult? Could name the directors and read books on film technique. And all my “outside” life – away from home – I never felt that I was myself – always acting, I tell you – always watching myself – never being truly sincere.
Tragic in a way. But, there – I have delved too deeply. These are my own thoughts and the conclusions reached are my own affairs and future practice will prove me right… I hope.
This is too much about me. I apologise most sincerely. The nostalgic interlude is now over. You understand how it is? Repressions and such… One puts pen to paper and then anything might happen… This sentimentalising over the past is nothing unique. All sailors, perhaps all forces men, have this weakness. Often we talk of our childhood adventures and some awful lies are told. Another thing – it’s strange how most of my comrades earned such fabulous sums in peacetime. They talk about the splendid jobs they had and the magnificent suits they wore (with padded shoulders and pin stripes). It appears that everybody was very happy and contented in their work. Coal mining, for instance, is a grand occupation and work in an abattoir is heaven indeed. And as for fishing… well, apparently it was nothing unusual to be paid off with about £50 and spend it in a couple of days. I myself frankly admit that I have never been more prosperous in my life as now.
I was home last week. I have made three trips in the last month to see a series of productions at the Royal Court and after the shows I have time for a couple of hours up at Limedale. At the Court I saw ‘Othello’, then Robert Morley in ‘The Man Who Came To Dinner’ and last week “the Lunts” – Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontaine, America’s greatest acting team – in Robert Sherwood’s ‘There Shall Be No Night’. Which means that last week I witnessed the finest acting I have ever seen. The word is “magnificent” – I have never seen such stuff. They achieve a natural effect which is miraculous.
Mother tells me that she has heard nothing from you for a long time. Why so? Is all well at Crosby? And what of Arthur – can he still get home at times? I left a tin of stuff at Limedale for him. I don’t know whether Mother has forwarded it or not.
Leave for me should not be more than a month distant. I suppose my visit to you and the children will be the usual brief affair – though each time I tell myself it must be different. I see us all together enjoying at least one good night’s fun. Can we not arrange something?
I must to my bunk. Four hours I shall sleep and then another watch. I shall stand on deck in the dark and gaze at nothing. I have spent thousands of hours of this precious life of mine doing nothing. It is bad for me – but I see no incentive for promotion, no betterment in change. We are the ones who “stand and wait” – and we do also “serve” I suppose. But God – what a waste of life and time.
With all affection,
P.S. My love to the children. Is Michael still enjoying that secret joke of his? Talk about “the Man with a load of Mischief!”

Oct 061944

HMS Bee, Holyhead, Anglesey
My Dear Stella,
It is not possible to compare my own sorrow to that of yours. I can’t begin to do it.
I can give no consolation or comfort to you in words, and knowing the futility of this I feel ashamed to write to you.
I am with you all the time in thoughts. I want with all my heart to be near you – to try to give you some sort of comfort – but that’s impossible. I can’t get to Liverpool.
You’ve suffered the greatest blow that any woman can suffer. Your mind is a hell and your heart’s in agony – no words of mine can alter that, but I know that my sister is a brave woman and slowly life must come back to her.
You will see again, and live again.
Hold on! For God’s sake, Stella. Hold on! For Arthur’s sake. Get a tight hold. Through Wendy and Michael you will learn to see, to live again. Through Wendy and Michael you will learn that he can never leave you.
And as long as I myself am with the living you will never need, you and the children. I swear it, all that I have, or will have, is yours – always.
I swear it.
All my love and sympathy to you. God bless you, Stella.