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.

Sep 241940

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

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

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

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.

Aug 081941

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 121941

Very Odd Ode

Said little Stella,
“We’re in a helluva
Said Arfa-parf,
Not ’arf.
I’d better marry you,
That’s the Proper Thing to do.”
Which is not quite
The right
Way for a great story to start,
With the girl in the cart.
We agree,
But you’ll see
If this story you follow
That it has Cleo and Helen and even
Snow White all beaten hollow.
Which just shows that you never can tell
Well, well!

Pardon this rot
But I don’t need to write a great sonnet
And splash tears upon it
To tell you I love you today
So wot?


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 131942

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

Feb 141942

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

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

Feb 151942

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

Feb 201942

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

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

Feb 221942

This is just a note to thank you for your last letter. It arrived at Sick Quarters on Saturday night and I had received your previous one only about two hours earlier. What a gala day for letters. By far the most I have had yet. Two from you and one from Hughie, who is the first outside the family to write.
You will have got over your first big weekend on your own by now. I’ve thought of you a lot, especially when ‘The Brains Trust’ was on, and last night at the time when we might have been doing a jigsaw! What’s more, I thought about the dream you had and believe me, just the way you said it was “very very sweet” and made you sleep until 8.30 gave me a distinct movement in the pubic area. Who said bromide?
When I sent those clothes off I was afraid of that happening to you and, even though you are crying for me, it still hurts to think of you in tears. Chin up, my love, until all this poppycock is over. Perhaps then we will be able to let ourselves go a bit, but not before!
About the ‘Daily Post’, Hughie tells me in his letter there is to be a further cut in the paper ration and that the ’D.P.’ is coming down to half its present size for some days in the week!
I have written to May, by the way, and told her how good you have been about this whole business. You have been brave, pet, and I know you always will be. That helps me more than you know.
I’m trying to answer points in your letters as they arrive, while I’m here.
Time is getting on, by the way, in regard to the allotment. Have you the plan I made? I think you will find it in the Boots diary. Make sure you get it the right way up! In that blue cardboard box in which I kept the seeds – it was on the mantelpiece the last time I saw it – you will find some peas. There is a note in the box saying what type they are. I don’t know what the weather and soil are like, but I should get them in soon. They can be sown in Feb, but the conditions have to be right, of course. They are only tiny, as you will remember, and I may be home in time to put sticks on them! If Reg doesn’t do them for you, take out a trench about 6–9 inches deep, put some manure down (not too much, from a bag in the garage), put some lime on top of the manure, fill in to within two inches of the top and sprinkle the peas in. Before you do that, shake them up in an envelope in which you have put a little red lead. Be careful with it, it’s poisonous! Don’t get it into the smallest cut! Soak the peas a short time if you want to. It will help the red lead to stick to the seeds.
While I remember, can you spare enough coupons to get me a pair of pyjamas? If so, can you send them on for me and I’ll send you the money by return. If we are going into civvy billets I’ll have to have another pair. Let me know as soon as you can, for this pair is getting very dirty.
This is all for now, love. I have been up all day today and will probably be out of here on Wednesday. I’ve had the time of my life this last couple of days. What a change not to have to scramble for every meal. Yesterday I was up for a few hours and today I have been general lackey for everyone in the ward, getting everything except bed pans for them. Three of the lads who are still “strictly bed” are now being bathed in bed by a nurse – behind screens – so you can imagine the general atmosphere in the ward just at the moment! As the nurse went behind the screen to the first fellow, I made the obvious crack “Can I do you now, sir?” and that started it. The poor nurse is having a dog’s life. Well, bye sweetheart. Take care of yourself, for I do love you.
Arthur XXX

Feb 231942

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

Feb 251942

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

Feb 261942

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

Feb 281942

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

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

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

Mar 031942

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

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

Mar 041942

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

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

Mar 061942

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

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

Mar 071942

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

Mar 091942

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

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

Mar 101942

‘Daily Express’ article, 7 March 1942

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

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

Mar 111942

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

Mar 121942

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

Mar 131942

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

Mar 151942

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

Mar 171942

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

Mar 191942

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

Mar 201942

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

Mar 211942

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

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 241942

I never want to see a curtain or a hook or a curtain ring again! The whole of today has been occupied with curtains and their etceteras in some shape or form. It started this morning when I took our bedroom curtains down and put them in soak so that I would have to wash them today. Then after breakfast I thought I’d better get the screws in the window frames before doing the shopping. I thought this would take about half an hour but actually it took nearly all the morning because I discovered I would have to put in 16 screws – one in each corner of each frame and as they had to go in as far in the corner as possible and there was scarcely any room for your finger and thumb (I mean mine not yours) it was a fiddling job. The sun was quite warm outside but working in the window all that time I began to feel like a tomato in a greenhouse. Then there was a last minute rush to the shops, then dinner to cook and eat – and still you notice no work done and the curtains still in soak. After dinner I washed the curtains. My fist went straight through the first one so I treated the others with great reverence! Fortunately it was a perfect washing day and they dried beautifully. While they were on the line I took Wendy’s old curtains down and unpicked the Rufflette tapes on them as I didn’t see why they should be wasted. Then I sewed these on to her new curtains, made the frill, put the hooks in and hung them up. They look lovely and fresh but they will have to be washed very regularly.
This brought us to tea-time. After tea I ironed and hooked our curtains (they look lovely now – I hope they haven’t got mucky again by the time you come home) washed the dishes and bathed the children, who had been out all day and were just as filthy as the curtains! With them in bed I hung our curtains up again and then started, while there was still some daylight, to sew rings on our new blackout. I had to do this on the window to be sure that each ring was in exactly the right spot, so this was just as fiddling as putting the screws in. Anyway it’s done now, thank heaven and looks quite neat. I haven’t been out to test its efficiency as a blackout yet. If I find the light showing after all the trouble I’ve had I’ll go completely mad!
The whole thing is taken down quite quickly and it’s made from those two pieces of curtain that used to cover the two centre windows. I re-dyed them and they are quite a good black now. This leaves only the two side windows permanently papered and just now they are going to stay like that. I refuse to even consider another black-out problem. And that’s quite enough of that – three and a half pages of curtains! I’ll have you so sick of them as I am myself. I sometimes wonder if I bore you with all these tedious domestic details, but my day never seems complete if I haven’t told you exactly what I’ve done with it.
Your letter arrived by the midday post. I can never make up my mind when I want your letters to arrive. I like them first thing in the morning, of course, but when one doesn’t come it means that there are still the other two posts to look forward to.
Yes, I can quite understand how unsettled you will be feeling this week. Actually you have never had a chance to settle down in Skegness, knowing that you would be there such a short time. If you are going to be at Aberdeen for six months there will be some point in trying to get settled there. Is the Commodore who kept you waiting while your dinner went cold the same bloke who didn’t come to see your nice clean chalet? He seems a regular pest!
Michael’s behaviour is not such a worry as it was because in this weather I bundle them out right after breakfast so see very little of him all day. Meal times are the bogey. How he gets enough energy to play around all day I don’t know. He is eating absolutely nothing. Today, for instance, he had no more than two forkfuls of dinner, then at four o’clock came in pleading for a biscuit and I told him he was hungry because he hadn’t eaten his dinner and would have to stay hungry till tea-time. He yelled the place down of course, but, as he really did seem hungry, I thought there would be no trouble over tea. There being a sudden rush of new-laid eggs (they had so many today that they were making everyone take next week’s rations as well as this week’s – I had to take 18!) I made omelettes with apricot jam. Michael ate about a third of his, said he liked it, then deliberately played with the rest and didn’t have another scrap! This performance at every meal is most nerve-racking. I never enjoy my own meals. The baby-theorists say you should never show that it matters to you if a child doesn’t eat, but these days it is very hard to show no emotion when you see good food wasted. I hope Rees will give him something that will make him ravenous. Michael’s cough seems to be improving and Wendy is a mystery to me still. She looks fine, eats wonderfully well, and scarcely coughed at all during the day. Then each night round about eleven she starts this really terrible coughing. Last night she went on till she was sick. I gave her an extra dose of medicine during the night and it seemed to help a lot. There is always something to worry about, isn’t there? All day I’m expecting Michael to faint with malnutrition and half the night I’m sitting on Wendy’s bed while she coughs her insides out. Then next morning she seems so bright and energetic that you feel you must have dreamt it all.
I was wondering how you got on about your feet and I’m sorry you had to pay for new boots. How much did they ream you for them? You certainly have made very good use of the naval health services so far. It’s a wonder you didn’t have a baby there while you were at it!
Your mother was fishing for an invitation to stay over Easter yesterday. I hadn’t realised that Will was going away or I would have raised the matter myself. Anyway I thought I’d better clarify the situation right away so I told her that if I had definite news that you would not be home during the Easter weekend she would be very welcome, but while there was the faintest chance of you coming I was not inviting anyone to stay overnight and was not going to stay a night anywhere myself. With Thelma going away these weekends alone will become a very real problem for her, and she is quite welcome to come here at any time when there is no chance of a surprise visit from you, but no one under the sun is going to spoil that precious first moment, my sweet!
By the way, while we are on the subject, if you do find out exactly what time you will be coming beforehand, it might be as well not to let your mother know as she might find some excuse to be here at that time. I’m not blaming her, love. It’s only natural that she should want to see you as soon as she possibly can – but that moment is yours and mine and I’m willing to make a life-long enemy out of anyone who makes it otherwise!
It has been really warm here today. These nice not-too-hot days, especially towards the evening, always remind me of those long-ago days when we used to go walks together, stopping now and again for a drink (and now and again for other things!) while you expounded your theories on marriage and the world in general. I shall tell Wendy to marry a confirmed batchelor – they make such excellent husbands! I remember you saying that no man on earth was faithful to his wife, to which I replied that I was thankful I was not going to marry you! Dear, dear, how sure of ourselves we were, and how very, very young! Changed your ideas about fidelity, my own? Or are you leaving someone behind in Skegness? Do you remember how, catering for any eventuality, you had it all settled that if I should become pregnant you would marry me to legalise the child and then divorce me as soon as possible? What a cold-blooded monster you were, and yet I came back for more, didn’t I? I probably stuck to you at that time chiefly because I was jumping mad that I hadn’t made you fall for me. It came as quite a shock when you said “Have you ever thought of marrying me?” – in that little lane in West Kirby. I’ve never yet been able to make up my mind whether you were in earnest or not and I don’t think you knew yourself, did you? How wild I used to get because you would never say you loved me. In lighter moments you would say “I hate the sight of you” and in more emotional moments you would just kiss me but you’d never say it, you bugger! You’ve said it enough since to fill all those gaps, haven’t you precious?
West Kirby reminds me of a letter I wrote to you from there in which somehow the shadow of war cropped up. I remembered writing “Please, never go to any wars, will you darling”. Remember? That must be several years ago. I wonder if a hint of today’s separation touched me when I wrote that, even when I didn’t know I would ever be married to you. Not to be married to you! Can you imagine what that would mean? I can’t. I can’t picture myself at all without you. All those years before you came and comparatively few years since you came and yet you’re the whole of my life. How horrible to think it might never have happened. I sometimes go over the crossroads and see how often, years ago, I might have missed you. When I neither knew nor cared about your existence I was deciding, or other people and events were deciding, whether or not I should ever meet you. Just to take one little example. When I sat for the scholarship it was settled that if I didn’t pass for Bellevue I could be sent to Mount Pleasant (that being £2 cheaper). Now if I’d gone there it is practically certain that the higher standard of all-round teaching would have made up just that slight difference between an ordinary H.S. Cert and a university scholarship. Which means that I would have been fancying my chances with some conceited student when I might have been seducing you on the sandhills! ’Orrible thought!!! And you can even trace our meeting to years before either of us were born. For instance, if my Aunt Annie had not had a girl friend called Celia (who afterwards married a Tom Greene) then a certain young woman – whose parents had not even met then – would never have heard of the ‘Bootle Times’. And that’s only my side of the picture. All that time you were somehow, through a maze of crossroads and decisions, moving towards me, until that moment when you walked (or should I say staggered?) into County Hall (blessed be it for ever) and in a drunken stupor decided that you had to shag someone and I just happened to be about. And the world was never quite the same afterwards because the fates that had been trying to get these two stupid people to see that they were incomplete without each other, leaned back and left the rest to us. And even then we were stupid enough to hold out against loving each other! So the fates got a bit anxious and had to dig up a silly man who lived somewhere near me, and make him win some silly competition so that you would have to come and see him – and in passing, put me in the family way! We did give those fates a lot of bother didn’t we? They’d been working so hard to make sure that we should meet and yet when they plonked us down in the same little office we were just polite to each other – “Miss Gregson, you made these errors in this sports proof”. “Oh, did I, I’m sorry Mr Johnson.” Why didn’t the earth turn upside down or the heavens open or something when I was introduced to you? That’s what I can never understand. Life’s Big Moment – and nothing happens.
Oh, my own, my precious, I could go on like this for ever – I am never tired of contemplating the miracle of our finding each other – and the hideous possibility that we might, somewhere along the road, have taken a wrong turning, and each spent an aimless life trying to find the other and never knowing what we had missed. And Wendy and Michael would have been lonely little unborn ghosts in the limbo where the babies live whose parents lost their way. My darling, we belong to each other, now and a million years hence.
My last letter to Skegness, angel. Tomorrow night I shall be writing to you and on Friday night when you are on the train. Perhaps for part of the time the train will bring you nearer to me and then up you’ll go out of England far away – but all the time you’ll be close in my arms. You are never far away from me, sweet. Even if you sail to the other side of the world so that we are, for a moment, just as far from each other as is physically possible, we shall be a million times nearer than most people who eat and live and sleep together.
I can see every line of your face so clearly now, that I can’t believe you are not here. I’ve only just noticed that my face is quite wet – but I’m not miserable, darling – how could I be when I’ve got you right by me at this moment?
I’ll say goodnight, now, dearest, before I come down to earth again. I haven’t the foggiest idea of the time but it must be darned late. Write from Aberdeen the first minute you can.
Always your very own,

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.

Mar 291942

c/o Mrs Reid, Gilcomston Park, Aberdeen
We made it, pal. We made it. But only just. We left Royal Arthur at 7pm on Friday. The train left prompt at 8.25 and we eventually arrived at our billets here at 8.10pm Saturday, which explains why I didn’t write last night. But let me start at the beginning.
Everything went swimmingly until we got to Berwick. There had been an air raid warning sometime during the night, although we did not realise it when we were all having a nark with one stupid lad in our carriage who would insist on keeping his blind up after dark. Had we known that then he would have been smacked well and truly under the chin, as one or two of the lads threatened to do. We were lucky in the travelling arrangements. We did not have to leave the train once between Skegness and Edinburgh. There were about 100 of us all told when we left and we dropped the first contingent, bound for Ayr, at Newcastle. Then when we got to Berwick we found that part of the track had been slightly damaged during the raid and that there had been a slight accident somewhere else. That meant we had to go all round the world to reach Edinburgh where we were due for breakfast at 8am. We eventually got there about 10.30am and dashed off for breakfast, our meal on the train having consisted of corned beef sandwiches, a slab of ration chocolate, and a packet of biscuits. We had to wait then until 2pm for a train to Aberdeen and eventually arrived here at 6 o’clock. Then we had to be sorted out into different parties for billeting purposes, listen to a little homily on good behaviour from the Master at Arms, unload hammocks and kit bags from the train, take them on to different lorries in correct order and tour Aberdeen dropping about 20 fellows at a dozen different houses. I am in a billet with Percy and we were next to last to be dropped so, as I say, it was about 8 o’clock when we eventually sat down to a meal. The house, like almost all of Aberdeen, is built of granite and would be considered quite a substantial house in Liverpool. The rooms are big and kept spotlessly clean although the old lady and her married daughter who run it are not so spotless in their own personal appearance. The food is not fancy, but so far there has been plenty of it. We certainly cannot complain of quantity, but the place seems to be run on a commercial basis. There are about 16 fellows in the house, of whom 13 are sailors, one an A.F.S. man and the others civvies. One of the snags, as you can imagine, is the bathroom etc, which is all in one room. I can see there being a real rush in the mornings when everyone has to be out about the same time.
There are two separate colleges, one for operators and one for mechanics. Ours is the furthest away and we will have to be out before 8 o’clock to start at 8.30 and go on until 5pm. We can get a bus at the end of the road and one big advantage is that members of the services only have to pay a penny on any Corporation service, no matter how far they may travel. That is an excellent arrangement as if the fares were heavy we should have to face half an hour’s walk four times a day. We went along to the school today, were sorted out into classes and had all sort of particulars noted, age, religion, are you T.T. etc.
Then we had to march a mile or so to see the doctor. When we got there we filed into a passage, a sick bay steward came out, asked if anybody was ill or wanted to see the doctor and showed the rest of us out into the street. That was the medical exam here, but quite the best way of doing it as we saw the doc at Skegness on Friday morning. Then on to the dentist who takes his job very seriously and who found work to be done on fellows who had been passed as dentally fit at Skeg. He told me to see him again in eight weeks. When we came out of there we only had time to walk back for dinner. This afternoon we met some of the lads and took a bus to a place called Duthie Park where a lovely new bridge, which later proved to be one of the show places of the city, spans the River Dee. The scenery is marvellous here. Real salmon river and marvellous hills, some of which are still snow-crowned. All the way up in the train it was the same and, long though the journey was, it went more easily than I had hoped.
As to Aberdeen itself I still have an open mind which is likely to be affected by two main issues: the question of leave and whether or not we get a tobacco allowance. There is disquieting news, or rather, rumour about the leave question. The fellows in our billet are for the most part wireless mechanics and they take an entirely different course, but they have had no leave whatever since they joined the Navy and they all came here from Skegness! They say that so far as they know there is no leave from Aberdeen until the end of the course – that is 18 weeks from now. Apparently what happens is that we do a day’s training in small arms tomorrow and then start our course on Tuesday. There is a one-day break on Easter Monday, not Good Friday, and then the course goes on steadily 8.30 to 5 (and 8.30 to 12.30 Saturdays) for a full 18 weeks. There are successive examinations after 5, 12, and 18 weeks when certain speeds have to be reached and to pass you have to attain 90% marks! Which looks as if the standard is high. Lads here say so far as they know the course in Aberdeen consists of Morse and similar subjects almost entirely and that little, if any, technical training is done here. After 18 weeks, if we pass out, we get leave and are transferred to another camp, possibly at Lee-on-Solent in the far south of England, or at Ayr, north of Glasgow. Doesn’t life seem rosy! I must confess that I don’t like the news I have heard from the fellows here but, as I say, they are wireless mechanics and not operators. Still, there is no doubt that the tendency is to tighten up all round on the question of leave. For instance, had I joined up just a month earlier, I should have got a leave after being six weeks at Skegness. In the middle of January the rule was changed from six weeks to eight weeks. We had been at Skegness, as you know, nearly seven weeks when we moved, which would have meant a weekend next week or the week after had we stayed there. I rather think there must be a Jonah aboard! Anyway, the whole question will be solved tomorrow when we will get a chance of asking someone in authority and as soon as I know I’ll let you know.
Well, darling, I’m going to rush this away now for the post and I’m hoping to ring you up during the evening. I do hope the forebodings about leave are all wrong, but if they prove to be right we will just have to lump it and settle down to wait for the end of July to come round. What an awful distance that appears to be. July! And yet I seem to have been away so long now that I’m almost becoming inured to it. It seems a lifetime since I saw you last.
All my love, precious, and, even if it is a long time to leave, look after yourself because I shall want you more than ever then. Night night, sweetheart. I love you. Ever your own,
Arthur X
P.S. Will you send my pyjamas and some writing pads, please? I don’t think there is any need to address me as O/Tel here. I think you can make it “Mr”.

Mar 301942

Before anything else, many, many thanks for two comforting long letters. One of 10 pages and one of 18 pages! I am going to have a lot of arrears to make up in the next few days. Yes, your letters did arrive on Monday and I got it almost a quarter of an hour before we finished for the day. What really annoyed me was that I had to wait a couple of hours before I could begin to read it and it was only after a couple of efforts that I was able to read it right through uninterruptedly. You don’t know what it meant to me to think of you sitting down writing a letter which you did not know would eventually reach me at the first possible minute, as it did do. You are an angel and some time this week I hope to be able to deal with all the arrears of letters to you.
Now, for a moment, let us be sternly practical on the question of leave. This morning the matter was raised with the Master at Arms who made the position quite clear. There is NO leave from here. There are no long weekends. Ordinary weekend leave (Saturday afternoon after school to Monday morning, 8.15) will be granted occasionally only to men living in Scotland. The routine is that we do a full course of 17 weeks here and then, if we pass out, we get leave for seven clear days (apart from travelling time). Instead of reporting back here, we go to some other place for eight weeks’ training and then get another full week’s leave. That means that in ten weeks we get two lots of seven days, so looking into the future that’s fine, but I would like some now, just as much as you would. In some ways I would like it more than you would. You see my desires are so much more obvious than yours. I’m beginning to think there must have been something in that bromide business at Skegness because my desire for you has been far more physically evident today than at any time since I left home. At other times, as I think I may have mentioned to you occasionally, I have had a faint (!!!) spiritual desire for you and, every now and again, a movement of the upper portions of the bellbottoms has indicated a certain physical desire for you, but today I have been just one long ache for you. I am now, darling, and my desire just at this very moment is with the whole of my body, from my head to my toes and also with the whole of my mind and spirit. Darling, I love you so much that the next four months are going to be the hardest in my life. Thank God you ARE you and that I shall be faithful physically and mentally to you. Perhaps mentally is more important although so few people realise it. And it is comforting to know that, no matter what may come, we will be true to those things we have believed in since we were married and realised our complete dependence on each other. Darling, I have often said I would swing for you, and I would, several times over because I should have nothing else to live for.
Now, I said I was going to be sternly practical – well, I am. You’ve probably heard there was a bit of a “do” at St Lazaire. And, I think, you probably realise the Navy had a hand in it. We have felt the repercussions up here. Everyone in the establishment has got to take a hand in coastal defence, even our blokes, who previously were regarded as non-combatant. While we are in training here we’ve got to do our stuff. Percy has command of two field guns and he’s never seen anything like them before. I’m in a different class to him now, for schooling purposes, and our mob have been allocated to the lighter stuff – rifles, tommy guns and machine guns. We have been using them all today and will have one day a week on them. Reason: people high up have the jitters that Jerry may try a reprisal raid. I don’t think so, but they are taking no chances and this, of course, is the attitude they should have adopted ages ago, as I always said. Now they are just beginning to say officially “every man must learn to use arms, even if he never needs to use them”. Now all this rigmarole means that behind the new orders which rob you and I of our own personal pleasures and desires in the midst of what is supposed to be total war there is at least the glimmerings of a determination to do something definite and, at the same time, to leave nothing to chance here, as we have done since the war began.
What is more, young woman, I am paying you the compliment of telling you all this in the full knowledge that you are not going to panic over it and imagine me in the front line immediately. I shall not be. Only if things get really sticky will I be called on and I should be called on in any case if real trouble broke out, no matter where I might be. The only difference is that, even after today’s training, I know a little more about things and would therefore be a little more help, directly, to you and the children than in the days when I used to wander between Morningside and the ‘Daily Post’. I still dislike war as wholeheartedly as ever I did, but I dislike even more the idea of becoming a sitting target for some bloke with a tommy gun. I had enough of that business of sitting down and taking it when the raids on Liverpool were at their height. Anyway, that is the leave problem as it stands now, and the apparent explanation for the change in procedure.
There was a minor outbreak of meningitis here some weeks ago and one fellow who was in hospital for two months was given a fortnight’s leave. He returned today after one week because he was afraid he might miss a class! There’s no need to say he was both young and single.

When I found I was going to miss the post I thought I might as well hold this back until tonight as I doubt whether it would have reached you any sooner. The mails from here are apparently not too hot. There is only one collection on a Sunday and that is at 9pm so I doubt if you would get my letter until this morning. Let me know if it arrived on Monday will you?
On Sunday we found a Services Club on the main street in Aberdeen and joined at the enormous expense of 1/2 for a year. There is no bar so you need not fear the worst, but there are two lounges, with piano and radio, a reading and writing room where I’m writing this, a couple of small games rooms and a dining room where meals are served quickly, cheaply and in pleasant surroundings. A big improvement from the point of view of comfort on the YMCA and NAAFI places. Meals seem quite good although I don’t buy anything out. Some of our fellows do, however, and here are two sample meals: (1) Two cups of tea, sausage and chips, bread and butter – 8d; (2) Two cups of tea, sausage and bacon (good helping), bread and butter – 10d. Those are reasonable enough, aren’t they? More important than these things to me is the fact that there’s a telephone in the club. On Sunday night I tried to get through at seven o’clock and was continually called by the operator who kept telling me what the delay on the line was until eventually I got through. That would have been pretty well impossible in an ordinary call box for I would have had to be hanging about the street for three hours.
Our digs are decent enough in a way, but there is no common room with a fire, nor is there a fire in our own room. As we have no table in the room either, the Club makes an ideal place for us in the evenings and we have already introduced quite a lot of our fellows to it. It is light, warm and cheerful and the small membership charge is sufficient to keep the real crowds away, although Sunday is a pretty busy day. All this to show you where I spend my leisure time.
We began our course today by being taken to a civilian school where we will stay for a fortnight, just to familiarise us with the tapper and to give those who don’t already know it a chance to learn the code. As you know, I haven’t done any for ages and was pretty rusty, but it gradually came back and the instructor, a decent laddie who was for years confidential telegraphist at Balmoral when the King was in residence, had me at the key sending to the rest of the class for a time. If I can only keep up top like that I shall be O.K., but I have my doubts for I suspect one or two of the lads, particularly one who was in the Post Office in peacetime, of hanging back for bets. Still, I’m hoping that when the time comes I shall be able to hold my own.
There has been more information regarding the leave. This comes confidential-like from Percy who had to go into the office today and saw some documents there. We are scheduled, at the moment, to leave here on July 27 and are to report to HMS Scotia, Ayr, on August 8. Percy has worked it out into the number of days! As we have to face the prospect of a wait, it is nice to have some idea of a definite date and if we stick to schedule, we should be home for the Bank Holiday, if that means anything more than a normal week. Any time with you is going to be a gala week, sweetheart. Have you realised, by the way, that when I do come home I will be replete with teeth? If these new duties we have to perform mean a lot of gas mask drill I might even touch the Navy for a new pair of frames for my glasses. There are special frames with flat side pieces for use with respirators as the broad horn-rimmed ones allow gas to seep in through the sides.
There are a few things I would like you to send me at the first chance you get. Chief of them are my black swimming costume and a metal cigarette case. The leather case doesn’t hold very many and there should be somewhere at home a square silver one which holds 8 or 9 cigarettes on each side. If you can find it, will you send that one please? I want the bathing costume because we are forced to go for a shower bath every Friday morning and while we are there may also go for a swim at a charge of 2d. We can get slips there, but I prefer my costume. Will you see that the moths have not attacked any vulnerable places? I’d hate to give the lads a treat! As we are going to be here for the summer, we might get some quite nice bathing as a cheap way of spending the weekends.
Did I ever tell you, by the way, that wives of service men can travel at cheaper rates by producing their allotment book at the railway station? It’s as well to know these things in case you do decide to go away for a weekend at any time.
When I was mentioning things to send on, I forgot to include my tapper set. I wonder if you could get it to Bert at Litherland some time and ask him to send it on to me? He probably has more materials for packing it safely and it must be very carefully packed because if that valve goes I’ll be sunk. It’s almost impossible to get another these days. No offence, love, but as I say, Bert probably has proper packing stuff.
Must get this away now, precious, as the lad is waiting to collect the mail from this club.
All my love, sweetheart. I’ll write again tomorrow and by the end of the week should catch up with the gap the move has made in letters. Night night, my love. I still love you perhaps more than ever through this damned leave business. Look after yourself and try not to get too depressed. Remember I still love you.
All my love. Always yours,
Arthur X

Apr 011942

There is an accumulation of your letters to be answered and I’m going to try to answer several of them tonight, but not the two long ones with all their lovely passages or I will go into a coma again and never get anything written. There has been a big enough gap in my letters as it is. By the way, I catch the 9pm post each day. Will you try to let me know when you get my letters? I’m afraid there’s likely to be quite a gap from the time they are written until they reach you. There is no possible chance of writing during the day here so I cannot get them into the post any earlier.
I have just re-read about five of your letters and you set me longing to see 45 again with all your descriptions of the advent of spring and the departure of the blackouts. How I should have loved to see those daffs with the sunshine on them in the hall. We went out to a park on Sunday, as I think I told you, and saw great bunches of daffs growing. They did remind me of you. To get back to the blackouts. I found them the most depressing part of life in the lovely summer days when I was at home. It will be the height of summer when I do get leave and the thought of walking into a light house makes the prospect even more delightful. You have done well, sweet.
Now about insurance. You say you have to put 5/9 a week away. I make it 5/10. I’m not quibbling, but as you asked me, there it is! About money in general, don’t forget to cash those postal orders. They’ll be invalid if you keep them too long. Cash them and bank the money. You are quite right about the phone. If the Special Grants people check up in a few months you want to make a point, without stressing it too much, of letting them know that you are economising where you can. I thought the electric bill very reasonable for the winter quarter. It was less than you expected, wasn’t it? You ask in two of your letters if I am bored with your little domestic bulletins. Darling, as if I could be when I sometimes stop dead in the middle of the day to wonder what you are doing. Every little thing about home helps me to feel a little less isolated from you. One point does worry me, though. In re-reading your letters I found that in about every one of them there was a reference to Michael either being naughty or else to his being ill. Poor old girl, you’re having a thin time, aren’t you? I do wish I was at home with you when I read those incidents. I could at least guarantee that there would be less to worry you. I hope he has improved both in temper and in health. I worry about you a lot on this score.
While I remember it, do you think you could pay special attention to my clothes? Don’t let the moths get at them will you, sweet? New things are going to be so expensive when the war is eventually ended.
Now, about Wendy’s birthday. I’ll do my best to telephone (you haven’t told me yet when the phone will be cut off!) some time on Monday evening before she goes to bed. I can’t make any promises so don’t say anything to her because the phones are likely to be mad busy then with it being Bank Holiday. I got a card for her before I left Skegness so as to be certain of having one and I’ll post it some time Saturday. That should make sure of it arriving. What have you done about a present? I hope you have been able to manage something for her. I’m looking forward to hearing how the day goes off. I hope you’ll be able to manage them all and how I do wish I could be there.
Have you heard anything from the school yet? If not I should go along and see them on the day they re-open after the holiday.
Well, darling, I think that covers all the points in several of your letters. I hate leaving items unanswered. Once again, many many thanks for your long letters. They gave me new life. Oh my darling I love you so much that these last few days have been very trying but gradually I have got a grip of myself and have now disciplined myself to face the inescapable fact of no leave. It’s not been a cheerful business and I have no doubt I shall have lapses, but in the meantime I’m forcing myself to work hard. The point is that to get leave I have to pass the final exam and if I allow myself to be distracted too much now by the immediate prospect it might make all the difference between getting through and failing. So I’m working hard. We have started our actual course as I think I told you last night and so far it has not been too bad, largely because we can more or less please ourselves here. It will be different, far different when we go to the other college in a couple of weeks’ time. By the way, we go to school on Good Friday here. The Scots don’t observe it as a holiday. That will seem strange to most of our lads.
I’m going to close now, darling, to get this into the post so you should have a reasonable letter delivery this week. Writing is much more of a problem here than at Skegness. Precious, I do love you and think of you at lots of odd moments trying to think what you will be doing. And I see you in my mind’s eye and mentally  follow your every movement, some of them so characteristic of you. I’m in that mood tonight when, as I think you wrote in one letter, I just want to say “I love you, I love you” over and over again. Because, amazing as it may seem, I do you know. Yes, darling, I love you but now I must go and post this or you may not know that for another twelve hours! Just as if!
All my love, angel. I’m all yours. Night night.
Arthur X

Apr 021942

I have just been doing some washing – my blue jeans and a pair of socks – and that has made a hole in the evening so I’m afraid this will be rather a short note, especially as I want to drop a line to the children. It’s ages since I wrote them and your letter with their notes arrived today. You say you didn’t get my letter until Tuesday. It was posted by the only Sunday collection there is, 9pm, and yet was postmarked Monday morning. That must mean there is no sorting done on Sundays here. I have only received one of the letters you sent to the R.N. unit so far, but the others will probably be at the other school and nobody has been down there for mail today. Someone will go definitely tomorrow.
As usual school did not go too well today. I always think that things seem to go best on the first day. After that it may be that the novelty wears off or enthusiasm flags, but you seem to go off a bit. No doubt it will improve again later on.
Well, sweet, I must get on to the children’s letters or I will miss the post.
All my love, darling. I’ll try to write more tomorrow. Cheer up, sweetheart, one of the 17 weeks ends tomorrow and the second begins on Saturday.
All the same, I wish it was the last week in July!
Bye till tomorrow, precious. I still love you. Amazing, isn’t it?
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Dear Wendy,
Thank you very much for the letter you sent me. The postman brought it while I was at school and when I came home for dinner it was waiting on a table in the hall for me. Has Mummy told you that I go to school now? Do you remember my tapper thing? Well, every day I play with one of those at school. I can still spell your name and Michael’s name on it. So you had tea with Nanna by the fire, did you? Wasn’t that nice! I am so glad Margaret is back from hospital and that she is quite better now. You WERE a good girl to give Jennifer your tiny dolly. Did you like going to Freshfield with Valerie? I do want to come home soon to see all the surprises there are and to see the new curtains Mummy has put on the windows. But I don’t think I can come home for four months because I have a lot to learn yet and I can’t come home until I know all my lessons.
I had not forgotten it is your birthday on Monday. I do hope you have a nice party, pet, and I wish I could be there to have some of your cake. When you see Cynthia will you tell her that Daddy sends his love?
This is all for now, Wendy, because I have to hurry to catch the post.
Love from
P.S. Is your cold getting better? I hope it is.

Dear Michael,
Thank you very much for your long letter which the postman brought at dinner time today. Wasn’t Uncle Durham good to send you all that chocolate? So you have been working with Mummy in the allotment, have you? That is a good boy. You know while I am away I want you to be the Daddy and to look after Wendy and help Mummy all you can. That is what all big boys do, you know, and you are getting a big boy now, aren’t you?
The nights are not so dark now, are they, and I’m glad you can play out after tea. You used to do that last summer, didn’t you? I will come home as soon as I can and see your nice settee in the bedroom. Teddy will look nice sitting on there. Tiger will be a big cat now and should catch some of the mice to stop them eating our peas. I’m glad you can put your shoes and socks on by yourself. Can you dress yourself without mummy helping you? You should be able to now, shouldn’t you? Has the doctor made your cough quite better? I hope so.
Will you tell Mummy that while I was washing my sailor’s collar in the kitchen I saw a parrot in a cage and he said to me, “Hello McGregor. Hurry up.” There is also a little tiny Persian kitten here. Do you remember how little Tiger was when I brought him home? Well, he is as small as that and he chased a piece of tape I have on my collar.
I think that is all I have to say tonight. Goodnight, son, and be a good boy and look after Mummy while I am away, won’t you?
Love from

Apr 031942

Good Friday
First of all many thanks for your letter which arrived at dinner-time and the parcel which came at tea-time. As you say, there was a note in it! And that being so, let me get down to the main item at once. I can’t honestly say that your “threat” was unexpected, but there were several difficulties in the way so far as I could see, the chief one being the children and finance and in truly typical feminine fashion you ignore both of them. I’d be glad of some information on both of those points! I’m not raising difficulties but these problems are important, particularly the one about the children because, as you no doubt realise, we are going to set a precedent that may have repercussions later on. I know you won’t think I’m pouring cold water on the issue – if you saw the state of my bellbottoms just at this moment you certainly wouldn’t – but before you actually commit yourself in any direction let me know your ideas, won’t you.
On the money side of things, don’t forget that all the cash we have is what you have and we are not likely to be able to add to that while the war is on and at the moment this looks like being another Hundred Years War. I will eventually get some leave, you know, and we could do with a few spare bob for then. Anyway I have no doubt your letter discussing all these points fairly fully will be here in a day or two. Just to show how much I expected this proposition from you, I can tell you I had thought of all the points you suggest some days ago! And, young woman, I’m going to do nothing at all about it for at least ten days or a fortnight. The reason is this. At the moment we are attending a civilian wireless college at the opposite end of the town from the naval training centre which is called Torry. Now we don’t start at Torry for about another ten days but it is from there that I will have to get permission to leave Aberdeen for the weekend. As we have only been there for one day so far I propose to leave this matter until I find my way round a bit. I have asked one or two fellows in our billet about the matter before you announced your intention of forcing your company on me(!) and the only result was a welter of confusing statements similar to those we had in Skeg on all sorts of subjects. This time I propose to find out definitely for myself. And at that I think we had best leave the matter. Oh no, there is one point. I was thinking in terms of Whit weekend. You see this week church parade is voluntary and school is closed on Monday – we have been at school all day Good Friday – so that we are free from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday morning. If the same position arises during Whit we would have three nights together in which case something else MIGHT arise! Could you guarantee it, do you think? I wonder! No I don’t, you’ve done it already. There must have been bromide in something at Skegness. Don’t worry about the mountainside sweetheart, this place is lousy with them, but don’t forget the evidence, will you?
Another thought has just occurred to me. Have you enquired the fare for the children? I was thinking that if it is fairly reasonable and we could find somewhere fairly cheap you might all come up for ten days – giving us ten smashing nights and two weekends. I might be able to find a little place within bus distance which would make it worth the risk of sleeping away from my billet, although I would have to go there for dinner each day. Anyway, think that over and let me know what your ideas are. If the extra fares are reasonable, it might be worth while because I don’t suppose the cost of the children’s digs would be very great and I should only have breakfast and tea. Don’t forget that I have to be at school at 8.15 so there will be little chance of really late nights during the week – such as pictures etc – but it would make a good break for you. Another point: ask Eric if there is any likelihood of him coming to Scotland any time. Anywhere in Scotland would do if he was here during a weekend, as he might easily be in the course of the summer. It’s worth saving £3-15 if you can, you know. Anyway, make your mind up to the fact that we will have to wait five or six weeks, but with something like definite date that won’t be so bad as the wretched uncertainty and fluctuating hopes and fears of the last three weeks. Still another reason for waiting that long: in four weeks we have our first exam and, if we fail in that we are bound for Skeg poste haste and the stoke-hold of a ship about five weeks later! I don’t think we dare risk the distraction of your lovely self in that period. Sweetheart, I don’t know what I’ll do when I see you. Probably crush you to death. My darling you are doing things to me at long range. And what things. The Sundays you mentioned when I followed you all round the house were child’s play to what will happen when I come home for seven full days. Nice, glorious, heavenly as this weekend will be, it won’t be quite the same as good old 45 where the whole atmosphere is permeated by you.
Sweetheart, I have fought hard to keep myself in hand and sometimes I have felt almost unfaithful to you by being so ruthless and almost callous with my feelings towards you, but if I had done otherwise I should have gone to pieces. I feel I owe it to you and to myself to get through this course successfully and your distracting self helps not at all, damn you. You make it twice as hard but I love you for it. Thank God I have never felt, as one of the fellows here says he feels, that if he had to start again he wouldn’t get married because of all the little things he has had to give up. Darling you are a pest, but such an adorable pest. Tell me, by the way, how vapours will fit in with Whit! All I know is that had I come home this week it would have been ideal, but beyond that I’m all at sea. Can you give me two sets of barred dates – you know the sort of thing, say 16–20 April and 20–26 May or however the confounded things work out. As a married man of five-and-a-half years standing – I like that word – I never can work it out.
Well, precious, here goes another letter and I’ve not even begun to answer so many of your letters. I got the two addressed to the R.N. unit today after they had lain at least two days at Torry; another letter at dinner time and a note in a parcel at tea. My lucky day, isn’t it? I feel I have you all about me today. What a lovely aura you have, darling. So comforting, so warm, so permanent. One of the nicest things about having married you is the feeling that always and forever you are there waiting for me. Darling, the thought of it makes me positively conceited. Just now, talking to you, I feel as rested as I used to do when, on Saturday or Sunday, I leaned against your knees, or laid my hand in your lap, or cushioned my face against your breasts. Oh, precious, there never was a phrase quite so expressive as “sweet con”. That’s what I am now and there is a little pulse in John beating steadily because of you, just as if he were ticking off the seconds until he meets Mary again. What a glorious reunion that will be. We’ll need stacks of evidence. Lorry loads of it. My precious, I can feel a coma mood just on the horizon so I must stop. When I look up from this writing table the lads are beginning to wonder what is the matter with me. To think none of them can feel about anybody else as I feel about you. The poor eternally damned souls. Now I MUST stop.
I’m posting Wendy’s card tonight to make sure it arrives on Monday. I forgot about Mother’s birthday, and couldn’t get a wire away. Hope you sent a family card. Now about all your other letters. I’ll never be able to catch up with them I’m sure, so if there any immediate points you want answering which I don’t deal with in the next week, will you make a list of them in one of your letters? Do you know I’ve written to nobody but Dot and Mother since I left Skeg. Has Eric got this address?
Two minutes for the post. Thanks for Durham’s letter. Bye now, sweetheart. Need I tell you I love you? Damn you. All my love, ever and ever,
Arthur X

Apr 041942

As you will see from the date I’m making a start on this on Saturday and will get it into the post tomorrow. By the way, will you making a habit of dating your letters so that if I get behind in answering them I can sort them into their proper order? I’ve been re-reading some of your recent letters – lovely reading, darling, despite the disappointment of leave – and it has passed a happy, very happy hour. Now I’m going to try to be prosaic in this letter and answer some of the points which cropped up in those of your letters I have just been reading. But before I do that, WHEN DOES THE PHONE GO? My God, if I’ve asked that once I’ve asked it 10,000 times. Well, perhaps not that often, but quite a few times, anyway. Will you, could you would you PLEASE let me know?
You ask about the three leave vouchers before October. One will be used in July and another about the beginning of October, but don’t forget that leave in wartime is very chancy, as we have already discussed. They don’t pretend to guarantee anything. A pal of Harry Forman’s joined the Navy, went to Skegness, was sent from there to a base for training as a stoker and found himself on a ship without even a weekend leave. He went to Africa and the Mediterranean and arrived home more than 18 months later. What do you think of that?
From this point on this letter is likely to be very jumpy. About the bike, can’t you arrange for it to break down if you think it’s doing Michael harm? Is there any chance of Vic getting a couple of knock-off tins or pots of jam FOR ME? The jam ration seems a funny business and soon goes and since I have been drinking so little I’m developing a sweet tooth! By the way, I don’t expect you to sacrifice any of yours. If you do that I really will be annoyed. I don’t want to develop the frame of mind one gets with Mother – you know what I mean, where one gets afraid to mention a thing for fear it arrives by return of post! Do be sensible about this, love.
I’m glad Wendy is making friends of her own and that you were able to get over the situation without any lasting impression on Michael. He will soon be going places without Wendy and they may both be better for developing their own individual interests. Watch the Savage boys and at the slightest sign of trouble, see them off. That is part of our house, not a public thoroughfare. Townsend is a pest not fixing that gate. One of the very last thing I did was to mention it to the Townsend who used to collect the rent. I met him a day or two before I came away in the Blundellsands and I think I told you about it at the time. I was interested in the point you made about the children being afraid you might go away too. It is quite an understandable fear. Sometimes I wonder if they do miss me. I don’t think they feel any real sense of loss while you are there. Most probably know I’m no longer in the house, but I doubt if they really miss me. Just now they are so busy absorbing new impressions and new ideas, that their own joys and fears probably fill the whole of their horizon.
No, Percy is not married. Too damn self-centred and realises it, I think. Hates babies, too. I remember someone like that!
Some day soon I’ll try to give you a timetable of the day here. It’s quite different from Skegness. Perhaps I can do it now. This, of course, refers at the moment to the civilian college. We get up about 8 and get to a place called Holborn Junction for 9.15 when we fall in and march to the college about three or four minutes away. Why we can’t walk there and back I don’t know. Holborn, by the way, is just over five minutes walk from our billet. At 11.15 we have a stand-easy and can buy a cup of tea and a cake. At 12.15 we march back to Holborn, dismiss and go for lunch, returning there at 1.45. In the afternoon we have a stand-easy at 3.45, more tea, and finish at 5pm. Again we march to Holborn and dismiss. We are then finished for the day but by the time we reach the digs, clean ourselves up and and have tea, it’s getting on for 7 o’clock. Then we have to go to the Club if we hope to get our letters written peacefully. As the last collection is at 8.30 there is very little time, as you will see. Then back home, wash, shave and clean our boots ready for morning and it’s 11 o’clock by the time we are in bed. That is how the day goes by. In addition to that, we have to report at Holborn at 9 o’clock on Friday mornings, march to the baths – the biggest and newest indoor baths in Great Britain – and have a hot shower and swim (if we wish) and be dressed and in the street by 9.45. Not much time to dawdle there, is there?
When we go to Torry, however, we will have to be at school at 8.15 and the journey takes about 25 minutes. The rest of the timetable will be the same except that we will have to be at the baths at 7am. Not a nice thought, although we are allowed until 9.30 to get home for breakfast and get to school. Some of the fellows in our billet make a habit of reaching the baths at 6.30 and leaving earlier so as to have a good break after breakfast. It also means breakfast – which in Scotland consists of salted porridge and rolls – is hot when you get it. Well that gives you an idea of our day. We can come in when we like and, as far as I know, there is no check on whether or not we sleep at the billets. There would be a row, of course, if we changed billets without permission.
As to Aberdeen itself, I’m beginning to get acclimatised. For some time I couldn’t make up my mind about it. There are many lovely buildings here, all, of course, in grey local stone which has given the place the the name of the Granite City. Wherever you look you see spires, domes, turrets and torres in lovely grey stone. The main shopping street, Union Street, possesses some fine shops, just as Princes Street, Edinburgh, has. We saw Princes Street in the short time we waited there on the way up to Aberdeen. All the houses in Scotland have one thing in common – they are built solidly of great granite blocks and they are built on much more generous proportions than in England. The modern house, as we know it, is rare but is now seen occasionally on the outskirts of the big cities which is a damn shame. Most of the streets, even the smaller ones, seem wider than ours, perhaps they have to be because the houses are generally of three floors. There is a good deal of space at the back, too, although in the case of our house the back garden has been trampled to death and I must admit it looks rather frowsy. I rather think that will be the same with most of these houses which are generally inhabited by several families with the result that nobody seems to own the garden. The civvy wireless college we are attending is out in what you might call the professional quarter of the city and although trams run along the road there is no resemblance to, say, Stanley Road or Smithdown Road. For one thing there are no shops there. Instead there are these tall light grey houses, the homes chiefly of doctors, dentists, solicitors etc with a sprinkling of nursing homes. The trams are set in the ordinary roadway but on one side of the road there are trees and gardens and, beyond them, a carriageway running in front of the houses, which are thus quite a long way from the traffic. The houses on the other side are also set well back from the road behind walls which give a sense of privacy and yet don’t convey the “you keep out” atmosphere.
Altogether rather different from the average city.

We have been rather devils this week. There are five of us go about together on occasions – Percy, Gibbie, Gibbie’s pal Edgar Taylor who is a real heavy Yorkshire lad, and a very nice fellow named Ralph Oliver. On Friday, Ralph, who works in one of the engineering depots of the Post Office, heard that he has been promoted to a post which will give him another £300 a year when he gets back after the war. He’s only 27 so it seems he is going to make his mark in the Post Office. He was telling me he had expected to hear something before he was called up and had he done so he would have drawn this extra money all the time he was in the Navy! As it is I fancy he lifts a useful packet every month. On Friday he insisted that we had a pint to celebrate so we went and had several pints and everyone got the holiday spirit. We decided that we would make this a holiday weekend and last night went out on a little pub-crawl. Nothing ambitious, but just a steady drift from place to place, sinking the odd pint here and there. At 9.30 we wandered into a big and rather tough dance hall, not unlike the Grafton. We got in without paying, to the great annoyance of the man on the door, and once inside found several of the lads from our billet slightly the worse for wear and almost all the younger element of our class, many of whom were just plain dead drunk, especially the two smallest who are amusing youngsters from Oldham. I’ll tell you about them some time. They’re reet Lancaster, sithee! Well, all this crowd let out a great yell when we walked in and when the old man of the mountains – that’s me! – got up to dance they lifted the roof off. You would have laughed if only you could have seen them. Everybody else in the place wondered who I was. The younger lads are a good set of kids who love to greet me by calling me Pop and Uncle and even Grandad. But it is all done without malice. One of these Oldham kids has an india rubber mouth and makes the funniest impersonation of my gummy state. What makes it all the funnier is the fact that people don’t realise I have had my teeth out unless I tell them, so you can tell how little affect it has had on my appearance. That’s probably the reason I can stand all this leg pulling so well. I’m not in the least self-conscious  about it, if that is any comfort to you.
All that is by the way. I set out to tell you of the holiday plans. You can see we had some quite good fun last night. Today – I’m writing this during the morning so as to get it into the post – we are going to walk along the banks of the River Don, if the weather holds out. It’s looking very dull just now. Tomorrow we hope to go in the opposite direction and walk along the other river, the River Dee. We have made up our minds to see all we can of the country while we are here. There is no point in sitting down moping, is there? One place I do want to visit before I leave is Balmoral, which is some distance from here but I believe it is set in some lovely country. With the longer days coming we should be able to get about quite a bit at the weekends. Compulsory church parade on a Sunday is a snag and although some of us could probably dodge it, we would have to leave Percy in the lurch. Being class leader, or platoon commander as they call them here, he can’t very well get away without being missed. Still, we will be free on Saturdays and Sundays from midday which is more than we were at Skegness.
Well, precious, that gives you a good idea of how I’m behaving, or misbehaving myself, while I’m away from you. We may have to pull our horns in later on, but just now we feel we ought to get around a bit while we can. There certainly seems to be no point in just sitting down in a bedroom for hours on end as some of the lads here do. I’ve always wanted to see something of Scotland and I’m going to make the most of my chance. I’ll keep an eye open for likely places for seduction, but I cannot guarantee  a bank of heather because so far we have not seen any at all, not even coming up on the train.
It’s now well after midday and I’m still in my pyjamas, with bellbottoms and jersey on top. I have had a real lazy morning and I still have to wash and shave before dinner so I must go. I’m still loving you lots and lots but trying not to think TOO much about you until nearer the time when I can look forward to wrapping my arms around you again. What a day that will be! All my love, sweet. Hope the headache has quite gone now. Bye darling.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

P.S. Would you like to buy me a little present? I have to wear my identity disc round my neck instead of on my belt as I always have done. At the moment I have it on a piece of string, but would like a thin chain. Have you got one? If not would you like to buy one for me? I should like it to come from you and not anyone else. Don’t pay a fancy price for it. One from Woollies will do quite well if they have any. Now I MUST go and sing ‘The Red Flag’ and ‘Danny Boy’ in the bathroom!

Apr 061942

Easter Monday
It is now 11pm. I’m sitting in bed just waiting for Percy to put the finishing touches to his nightly toilet and then we’re off to sleep. We’ve been roaming the banks of the Dee and not a few hills today, but I’ll tell you about that again. The only thing is I’m tired out and will only write now until Percy is ready to sleep. I tried to phone you today – this before I received your letter telling me the phone had been cut off. It was impossible to get a line, they were mad busy when I reached civilisation because we seem to have spent the day losing ourselves and then getting back almost to where we began. That sentence is as rambling as the day has been, but you will see that your letter did save some disappointment after all, although I, too, feel another link with home has gone. I’ll send you the club phone number and let you know when I may be there. Don’t forget you’ll have to make it a personal call.

Now to try to answer your letters. On the question of your need of a holiday, I have felt very guilty some time. You do need a holiday, sweet, and you deserve something more than a week, too, but that seems as much as we will be able to manage just now. We will let the whole matter lie on the table for a time because there are so many things which cannot be sorted out until we get to Torry. There is the question of whether or not I can get permission to sleep out with you for a full week and that in itself depends on where I can find for you. I have already got someone working on that line and and may hear something in the next week or so. When I do get it properly sorted out I’ll let you know and the sooner you come up the better because neither of us will settle down properly until you have been up. Do your best to make it a week. Two nights would be such a short time that I think we would be tempted to stay in bed for the full 48 hours and I want you in other ways than sexually – I mean in addition to sexually of course! To be serious for a minute, I think one of the things which has helped to unsettle us both is the way we have shown in our letters how much we want each other. No wonder we cannot settle down! I know yours have been very, shall I say, “stimulating”, to me. That may have also been the case with some of my letters to you. Therefore, apart from an occasional word of endearment here and there perhaps, I don’t think I had better describe my biological urges too minutely.
I have only answered part of your letters but I am going to try the experiment of catching an earlier collection tonight – the 6.30pm – and see if that reaches you any sooner. It’s almost post time now so must go. Many thanks for the regular letters you write, darling. They mean ever so much to me. I got your Easter Monday – or rather the one post-marked 8pm 6 April – by this evening’s delivery. I was glad to hear May is well but sorry you had such a time with Mother. Eric seems to have had the rough edge of her tongue.
I had a letter from Harold today. Will send it on when I have answered it, but goodness knows when that will be. I don’t seem to get time to write to anyone except you these days. My arrears of correspondence are assuming gigantic proportions and I’ll have to do something about it. Sorry this is so short a note. Will try to do better tomorrow.
Goodbye, sweet. Biological urges or no, I only know I love you now and ever.
Ever yours,
Arthur X
P.S. Will you tell Wendy I tried to ring her up on her birthday and explain about the phone. Tell her how much I wanted to be at her party.

From Michael to Arthur
Dear Daddy,
Uncle Eric gave me a shilling instead of an Easter egg and I went to Hilton’s and buyed an aeroplane and it’s got a thing that goes round. I saw Ronnie today and he said “Do you want to see my boat?” and when he came out he said I could keep it. It’s got a gun on the front and funnels and a thing that petrol goes in. I’m going to sale it in the bath. Uncle Eric brought the mirror for my dressing table in his motor car. The mirror moves. Mummy let me have a little clock in my bedroom. The aeroplane’s got wheels and nice things on the end and windows. It’s a fighter and it’s called a Defiant. When I saw it in Hiltons on the shelf I gave the shilling to the lady and I carried it home. I’ve got money in my pocket – a farthing, a halfpenny and a penny and a ha’penny with a boat on and a shilling. My trousers are nice and clean. Ronnie gave me a piece of clay. When I was in the garage the mudguard came off my bike. I have eaten all my meals up today. Ronnie has got a big yacht with a little man on. I took my bus and racing car out and I found a little car at the back of the cupboard. Mummy has got a sewing machine.
Love from Michael

Apr 071942

I’m afraid, love, that I have so many people to write that soon I shall have to “neglect” you for a couple of nights to catch up with myself. Letter writing here seems to take such an age. The only alternatives are sitting in an unheated and not too light room or going out to the Club, and the mere effort of getting ready to go out, making the short journey there and settling down seems to waste half a precious hour. The Club number is Aberdeen 2747 and although it is difficult to say just when I will be in, if there is an emergency I should try any night Monday to Friday, say 7.30 to 8. If I am in I will probably be in the writing room, so when you ask the operator for the call, make it a personal call, explain this is a services club and tell him where I am likely to be. With the lighter nights coming I may do some of the writing in one of the parks, but even that is hard to say. At the weekends, however, I’m going to try to get as much walking done as I can, for we don’t get a lot of exercise here except on the way to and from school.
Now to continue to reply to your queries. I am quite clear in my own mind as to the relative merits of Ayr and Aberdeen, so I cannot understand how I have misled you. We all swore when we found we had missed Glasgow and Ayr, for they would have been 4 to 6 hours nearer home. What I may have said in my letter was that we come north again to Ayr after leave.
No, I haven’t noticed the fish manure smell here, but I have noticed the kipper factories.
Glad to hear Eric looked fairly fit. I’m looking forward to hearing from him but I don’t suppose he will tell me about feeling the rough edge of Mother’s tongue. He’s not a lad like that.
Judging from your letters, and I can always tell, you are feeling more like yourself aren’t you? Your last two letters have breathed a much more Stella-ish atmosphere. You couldn’t hide things from me if you wanted to. You may be quite right about Michael needing more sleep and I would not be surprised if that was more than half of your trouble. Try to get really rested before you come up here for there’s many a restless night you’ll have in Aberdeen. You will notice that I have made up my mind to a week if it can possibly be managed, and without the children too. I think you are quite right on that point. The only snag is Michael. From what you say, Mother doesn’t have a good effect on him. I wonder if Lilian would take him for part of the time.
Thank God there seems to be a good margin of safety so far as vapours and July 27 are concerned! You should be right on top of your form when I get home.
I’m still waiting to hear what the calendar says about the week beginning Whit weekend, or the week ending Whit week. That’s more important in that it is nearer. Less than six weeks now, sweetheart. By the time you receive this it will only be about a month if you can get here on the Friday or the Saturday of the week before Whit. See the advantage. That would mean a full week here and then perhaps two full days to wind up the holiday and you needn’t travel back until Tuesday evening, arriving home early Wednesday morning. That would make it ten days! All this, of course, is still hypothetical, but bear them all in mind.
No, I am not being bullied at school. What I meant was that I made a good impression on the instructor on our first day, but I’m afraid I fell away in my performance later. The instructor said that was common experience. Today has been much better and if we can get down to some solid work in the remainder of this week I will feel a lot happier. I hate messing about.
Guess who arrived here on Saturday? Ted Kidd! He is billeted on the main street and shouted me from his dining room window as we were all returning from our travels yesterday. He is a wireless mechanic and goes to Fleet Air Arm after his course here. He is taking the whole thing very seriously, which is just as well for a youngster. He was out in Aberdeen on Saturday night and came to the conclusion the women were a forward lot! What do you know about that?
The 30/- for a sewing machine will prove to be money well spent and should more than earn its keep this summer alone. Nice work, love. That’s economical spending, and I’m glad you’ve got your heart’s desire at long last. It will make an enormous difference to you. Is this one of your “surprises”? And while we are on the money subject, have you paid Rees each time you have been to see him?  I hope so, it is by far the best way. Let me know when you get the spool for the machine and I’ll also be interested to hear Wendy’s reactions to her birthday presents. Tell me what she got. Glad little Mollie got over. Did you make Michael pay for his present to her? And did you tell him about it or can’t he be trusted with “surprises” yet? Nice thought of yours about Mother’s birthday. What a girl. She wrote and told me about it.
And that, I think, clears up most of the points in your letter. Now I must get this off if I’m going to catch a daytime post. Bye sweetheart. I still love you.
All yours,
Arthur X

Apr 091942

As I want to reply to the children tonight if it is at all possible so as to be sure they get an answer by the weekend, I’m afraid I shall have to be content once more to answer a few of your points from your recent letters. So here we go. I had foreseen the difficulty of having several offers of assistance with the plot and spoke quite frankly to Dave on the subject before I came away. He didn’t even look after his own properly last year so I felt that if he gave any time to ours his wife might feel, quite naturally, that it was a bit thick. Still, I hope Reg gets down to it fairly soon because if he does there’ll be very little left for anyone else to do! Did you ever find those onion sets somewhere at the back of the garage? They may have sprouted too far now but see what they look like. If they look OK then all you have to do is stand them firmly on the place where we had onions last year. I manured and dug it before I came away so it should be in good condition now. The weather you are having at the moment should be ideal for them as they need a fair bit of water. Did you do anything with the raspberries and have you put anything new in?
You seem to have had a rough time with Mother over Wendy’s party day. It’s harder for you to be as frank with her over things like a purely children’s day as I used to be. Even I used to get the backwash of my plain speaking but I know her far better than you do. What’s more, she took very few liberties with me! I think you did the right thing, love.
Don’t want to appear mean, but do you think Wendy’s teeth will keep until she goes to school? Not if there is any real pain of course, you know me better than that, but once private dentists get hold of children the bills can mount up. On several occasions I have intended to mention the matter of home made cake. Yes I should love one occasionally. We do quite well for cakes really, but the trouble is that we get them all at the beginning of the week and although we try to spin them out and are not as “fussy” as we used to be in civvy street, they ARE getting a bit stale by Tuesday or Wednesday. If you could time yours to arrive about then it would be very welcome. Just a word of warning – no hard outside to it please. My gums are still too tender in places to manage anything at all well baked. Mother might like to send an occasional one so you could arrange something with her if you like so that they don’t clash. Apart from cake and jam I can’t think of anything we need to cheer life up – except you, sweetheart. Don’t send anything else like biscuits or that sort of stuff. An occasional piece of that coloured square cake used to arrive from Percy’s mother and it was very nice because it was so soft – rather like a sponge cake. Now, about cigarettes. We found to our surprise that we do get an issue, but only half a pound a month and even that has to be drawn in small lots from a store at Torry. However, as there are some non-smokers in the class I get two of them to get half a pound each for me so I manage quite well. With a bit of care I think I can get through the month on one-and-a-half pounds at a cost of 3/9d! What I should do if I was in the Army I don’t know. There would certainly be no beer then.
Do you remember Harold saying he could buy quite a lot of things cheaply – in the way of clothing I mean? Well, we can get them, I find, but there are certain restrictions of which I will tell you later. We can only get them on certain days – slops days they are called and there are long lapses in between. We have our first slops day tomorrow and I’m getting a few things. Lightweight underpants for summer 1/3d, some thin socks to wear with my small boots 1/3, hankies 3d each (we are restricted to six), and a few other odds and ends. Bedroom slippers, black leather, are 12/- and good quality I’m told. I thought Bert and Eric might be interested next time we get a slops day. Mention it if you see them. But NOT to Harold Bird!
Now, darling, if I’m to write to the children I’ll have to close. I really am glad to hear that Michael is behaving so much better. It’s one of the best – only ONE of the best – things you have written to me. I worry about him you know because, as you say, he can be such a likeable little chap and quite the little man when he tries. Do you think he takes any notice of my letters and are you still persevering with the “responsibility” test?
Finally, we had a simple Morse test today. Very simple and I should think we all got through alright. An officer came up to the civvy college from Torry and seemed quite satisfied with the quick glance he had at the papers, although he took them away for closer scrutiny.
I really must go now, pet. I got out early but already it is getting on for 8.30 and I still have the children’s notes to write.
Darling, I do still love you and am looking forward to getting the details of your holiday fixed up in the next week or ten days. All my love, sweetheart. I know you are feeling more cheerful these days and that means I am, too. I love you, precious.
Ever your own,
Arthur X

Dear Michael,
Aren’t you a lucky boy? Fancy getting a shilling off Uncle Eric and buying such a lovely aeroplane with it. You must be getting a big boy if you can go to Hiltons and buy things like that. Will you show me your aeroplane and the boat with a gun on it when I come home? I saw a boat with a gun on it in the docks today. Mummy will tell you what the docks are. The gun is bigger than yours and bigger even than the one I have to shoot with. What a lot of money you have in the pocket of those nice clean trousers. Mind you don’t lose it. Perhaps you had better put the shilling in your money box in case it falls out of your pocket. A shilling means 12 pennies, you know. Your bedroom must look nice with a clock and a mirror that moves. I will see them when I come home again and tuck you in at night.
Mummy wrote and told me what a good boy you had been and that you had eaten up all your meals. She also told me that you had grown bigger. You know if you are going to grow into a big strong man you must do three things. You must eat up all your meals, you must learn to do everything by yourself, and you must play out in the street and in the garden as much as ever you can. If you do all these three things, not just one or two of them, you will grow into a big man after you leave school. But you must do them ALL now.
Before I go to school in the morning, do you know where I am going, son? I’m going to the baths for a swim. That is why Mummy has been washing my bathing costume. It is a lovely big swimming bath nearly as big as the one we went to at New Brighton when we went on the boat. Do you remember? Only this one has a roof on it. One day, soon, I hope to go skating on some ice in a big building here with a lot of other sailors who go to school with me. I think this is all I have to tell you just now. But I am glad you are learning to be a good boy. Night night, son.
Love from

Dear Wendy,
Thank you for your nice letter telling me all about your party. I am glad that Michael and you and all your friends had such a good time. I was wishing I could be there and I thought of you when I came out of school because I thought you would just be having tea then. That was at 5 o’clock. I wonder if you can read that figure five which I have just written? I’m so glad you liked the brush and comb set which Mummy and I bought for you. What a lot of presents you got and wasn’t Michael good to buy you a sewing card set? You will soon be able to sew like Mummy. Don’t forget to send me the elephant one, will you? I want to see how clever you are so do it all carefully for me. Don’t hurry too much. With all the money you got you will be able to buy lots of things. And Mummy has a sewing machine now? Was that what you wanted to tell me in your last letter, but Mummy said you must not because it was a surprise? Have you heard when you are going to go to school? Write and tell me on your very first day at school, won’t you? When I came home from school today I had to go past the docks – that is where all the boats live when they are not far out on the water – and I saw a lot of boats. Not very very big ones, but like the one Uncle Harold was on before he went on to the big one he is in now.
Mummy told me how you washed your hands and brushed and combed your hair all by yourself. I think you are a very clever girl. When I am going to come home to see you in July will you make yourself all nice and clean to come and meet me? I would like you to because it will save Mummy such a lot of trouble, won’t it?
I don’t think there is any more to say just now except that I am glad you are such a good girl for Mummy. She tells me how much you help her in the house. Night night, love. When I come home can I tuck you in bed like I used to do?
Lots of love from

Apr 101942

Many thanks for the parcel, which arrived here just before I left for the baths, which is good going. I have noticed before that generally speaking mail seems to travel more quickly from your end than from here and that letters don’t seem to come as quickly as parcels. So you look all svelte in your frock, eh? Well just you keep off my preserves. I’ll do all the commenting necessary so far as your hips are concerned. And can I comment? I was thinking of your clothes problem only yesterday when it rained all day here. I’m glad you are to get yourself a mack. You certainly need one. Let me know if you do manage it. Our letters about Wendy’s teeth have crossed. Hope you won’t think I was being Jewish in my suggestion that you put it off until schooldays. By the way, have you heard anything from the school? If not I should go up and see them. Don’t leave it, or she may be a term late getting in. I’m sorry about the gap in her teeth in a way. Whatever you say, it will spoil her appearance a bit and that tooth having such a start may push the later ones out a bit. It will be well established by the time the other second ones begin to show.
Glad to hear the news about Reg going to Kirkby for I’m not disinterested in his future! I’m hoping he’ll do that plot for you soon. Many thanks for the picture of the garden. I wish I could see it. Don’t forget to let me know if there are any raids.
This will be the shortest note I have sent you for some time, but today was pay day – I’ve got 36/- for a fortnight. Whoopee! So I’m going ice skating with the lads. It’s only 1/6 including skates, which is cheaper than drinking and it will be a change. While I’m on the subject of money, don’t send me a penny. Put every cent you can lay your hands on aside. You never know when you will need a little extra cash. In any case, if I do need a few bob it will be when I’m on leave to buy beer for YOU. You secret drinker! Seriously, if I’m short I’ll let you know.

Just back from the ice rink. Skating was such a pleasant change from anything I’ve done here yet that I’m all enthusiastic at the moment and seriously thinking of making this a regular weekly night out. I have always had a sneaking desire to learn to skate decently and this seems an excellent opportunity. I took things very quietly tonight as I don’t want to be as stiff as a board tomorrow. There were some very good skaters there, the best being Canadian R.A.F. men. As usual in all my enthusiasms I wondered how you would react to it and made a vow, as with golf, to try to have the children learn while they are young enough to take to it naturally. Both golf and skating are sports which last beyond the normal “games” period of life. There was a fellow of over 60 tonight teaching a fellow and a girl, both in their 20s. Golf is just the same and if you learn both these sports really early and then have to leave them for a time you never really forget them.
Bye, precious. All my love, darling.

Apr 111942

This is, we expect, our last day at the civvy school and as it is only a half day we have not done a great deal of work, as you can imagine. Still, all things being considered, we have done reasonably well here despite all the fooling. Most of the lads can receive at between 6 and 8 words a minute, which is not bad going when you consider that they apparently only expect 8 words a minute after five weeks. The only thing is that while we have been here we have done nothing but Morse, but when we go to Torry we will have one or two other subjects. In addition there will be a higher standard of receiving expected. As proof that we are apparently a bunch of Jonahs, we have discovered that a new admiral has been appointed to the unit. From what we can hear he has begun to tighten things up all round. Previously there were only about four exams in the whole course but now they have a weekly test and if you cannot make the grade at a fairly high standard, something like 85%, you have to come back to school for four nights a week. I can see that taking some of the nonsense out of some of the lads who have done little but fool around up to now. Whereas in the past one was safe for the whole course after the five-week exam, people are now being sent back to their bases as stokers, sick berth attendants etc, if they don’t maintain a reasonable weekly average. Still, in many ways that is just as well, as it will cut out a lot of wasted time. It may also mean that those who do settle down to work consistently will have a chance to get up to the standard needed for leading telegraphist, which carries more pay. I hope this proves to be the case. So much for school and for hopes for the future. I’ll be able to tell you a bit more next weekend when we have seen how the course runs.
Percy has let me down. He and Ralph Oliver, the other fellow I mentioned in a previous letter, have changed courses and are now at a different school training as wireless mechanics. This is a much more technical course, but is right up their street as both were in the Post Office in peacetime. I’m sorry they have changed because now I’m more or less left on my own. Gibby is in the other class so I can’t pair off with him at school as I did with Ralph. In addition, the wireless mechs have a good deal of homework each night and have to go back to school two nights a week. That means that if we do want to go anywhere special, like skating on a Friday, I shall have to go with a crowd of fellows in whom I have no real interest. Still, we are going to do our best to use our weekends together. Today, for instance, the three of us are going to see ‘Hatter’s Castle’ at the Odeon. After church parade we will probably try another walk along the River Don tomorrow, providing the weather is reasonable. We will not do so badly if we can manage Friday, Saturday and Sunday as days of relaxation and go very carefully on the other days. Anyway, we will have to try that programme and when all is said and done should not spend a great deal during the weekends if we are out in the open a fair amount of the time.
“Slops day” was postponed until today and was rather disappointing. I could not get my summer underpants, which was the main item on my list. I did get half-a-dozen handkerchiefs which I’ll probably get you to take home to put into stock against civvy needs. At 3d a time they are a good “buy”.
I had been expecting to hear from Eric after what you wrote, but the note on top of Thursday night’s letter explains why I haven’t heard. Your note about the post deliveries is interesting but unfortunately I have little chance to write in time to catch the 4.30 unless I write at night and post it the next day.
You have struck the same snags about the children that I had in mind. I, too, think Wendy more adaptable to surroundings than Michael. He is the one I’m thinking of. Still, for all we know he may give us both a surprise although I do hope Mother doesn’t take him to Sunday school. That could, to say the least, make things a little complicated. Still, I think I might, somewhere between now and then, contrive to drop her a more than gentle hint, probably fairly near the time.
Yes, I did receive your list of dates re vapours and will pay due attention to them. I really am sorry about the Whit weekend because it would have been ideal for us. I cannot give you the exact date of the exam but it should be three weeks from now – that is about five weeks from the time we came up here.
Now I must go if I’m to keep my date with ‘Hatter’s Castle’. That’s the only date I’m likely to make here. Don’t worry about the forward women here or anywhere else for that matter. Forward, backward or coy, sweetheart, they can’t compete with you. As the lads here say, “you’ve got something the others haven’t got” – and do I know it. There go my bellbottoms again!
Bye, my sweet. My bellbottoms tell me I still love you. As if I need them to tell me, but I’d better go before I throw Percy on the bed! It’s the Navy coming out in me.
All yours, my sweet,
Arthur X

Apr 121942

Another week gone! Tomorrow, which you may not have noticed is the 13th, we begin at Torry. In many ways I’m not looking forward to it because of the tales we hear from the lads in the billet, but I have no doubt they are exaggerated to a large extent. Anyway, they seem to get by without a great deal of trouble. Still, there remains the unalterable fact that I have to be at school at 8.15, which is a decided wrench after the last fortnight of starting at 9.30. This time next week, perhaps earlier, I’ll be able to tell you more of it.
We had to go to church today. Wot a to-do. First of all, as we were newcomers, they hadn’t got us sorted out, with the result that I got mixed up with Baptists but, I know not how, eventually arrived at a Congregational Church! There they chose hymns of which I know the words but not the tunes, which annoyed me. Then, in the middle of the service the siren went and we all adjourned to a room in the basement, which only goes to show how small the congregation was. Anyway, the service went on and on. Then they produced an infant for christening, adding a few more minutes to our period of incarceration and we finally got out about 12.25 which put me in a bad temper. This business of church parade is getting more and more strict as they gradually find out the various schemes the lads devise for dodging it. For instance, many of the boys got into the habit of going to the parade and dodging away en route or at the church door. Then one Sunday there was a roll call at the church itself with dire results for lots of the lads. Now most of them have decided that it is not worth all the trouble of trying to get away with it. Another burden we have to bear is a weekly inspection at this church parade and today this new Admiral himself turned up. Incidentally, he is the first bigwig to pass me without a word! I’m almost hurt!
Did I thank you for the full description of Wendy’s party? If not, I meant to do so because I enjoyed every word of it and sympathised with you in all the little trials and tribulations you must have had to bear. I’m sorry about the Cynthia business because she is a good kid and I hate to think of her being hurt, as she must have been. I hope it won’t make her feel a grudge against Wendy. She might, because you know what kids are. Do get it sorted out with Mrs Reid and, if you like, tell her I’m disappointed in her.
Have you seen this week’s ‘Bootle Times’? Mother sent it to me and I was surprised to see that someone you know well is married again. The last person in the world I should have thought would marry a second time after his unfortunate experience. Guess who? John Kinley! [Labour MP for Bootle, 1929–1931] Yes, you are right, to Lily Thorpe. If what you have always said of her is true, he is going to have his hands full for a second time. I do hope not. Marriage, of course, may make an enormous difference. If they do enjoy normal relationships I can see Lily Thorpe putting on weight, becoming less dynamic and, generally speaking, changing a great deal. I do hope John is lucky this time. God knows there is no one I know more entitled to a decent break.
In the same issue of the ‘B.T.’ there is a reference to WING COMMANDER Peter Mahon of the A.T.C. – that’s a sort of cadet organisation. I rather think I have mentioned this to you before, but it still makes me retch. What hope is there for the alleged Labour Party with this poppycock going on? I’d like Kinley’s views on that! It’s very seldom I worry about politics these days, and I can see that when peace does come there’s a grave danger of me giving up any interest I had in such things, but now and again when I see items like that I flare up in spite of all my good resolutions. The Labour Party, I’m afraid, is doomed after the war although they will no doubt poll more votes than ever. I wonder what organisation the Socialists will have? What a pity there is only a handful like [James] Maxton and Campbell [Stephen], and what a pity, too, that when the break occurred years ago Kinley was forced by economic circumstances to break from the I.L.P. rebel group. Well, that’s all on that subject.
We kept our promise to ourselves and Percy and Ralph spent the weekend away from their studies. We went to the Saturday matinee of ‘Hatter’s Castle’ – if we had waited for the evening show we should never have got in – and in the evening had just a few beers, not many. Today, after dinner, we went for a walk starting at the Bridge of Don and going over the Scotstown Moor towards the sea and coming out again at the Bridge. A very pleasant three hours walk during which I thought of you a lot because it is within easy distance of the town and might make quite a pleasant little walk for us one evening. Whatever else you do, you will have to bring a good pair of walking shoes when you come.
There are two disappointments in store for you, I’m afraid. For one thing, as I may have told you, I have been unable to find a bunch of heather within convenient distance of here. There are some good substitutes, but they would not add to your already long list of experience. More important still, I think, is the fact that although my bellbottoms are even now showing a distinct interest in this very delightful prospect, they simply are not intended for this particular form of outdoor recreation. You will appreciate that when you see them, but when I think of the complaints you have made about a pair of lightweight underpants, I cannot see you being satisfied with my performance in uniform. And I don’t think I dare risk taking them off completely, even for my adorable wife, because that might mean 14 days cells just at a time when you were within reach. Sweetheart, what an awful calamity that would be!
Oh my darling, I do love you and there’s a delightful coma on the horizon. Do you know – perhaps you do! – it always WAS the left breast I used to fondle. Oh why did you tell me of that dream? Sometimes I think of the hundreds of nights when I have had you to myself and there have only been you and I in the whole world. Even those hundreds of nights have not satisfied me. Never can I be satiated with you. And yet, darling, I always have this comfort – we have made the most of our lives together. Even when we were single we had some delicious moments, didn’t we? Oh darling, darling, why didn’t I meet you years ago? Still, as I say, we have done reasonably well in the time we have known each other and not one moment of it would I retract. Even this separation has, somehow, brought us closer.
When I got to the end of that page I DID go into a coma. I could feel your cheek under my fingertips and the silk of your eyelids under my lips as you turned first one eye and then the other to be kissed. Sweetheart, my own, I want you. I want to hold you close, to sit in a big comfy chair in the half light of the fire with you on my knee. To feel the gentle swell of your thigh in your silk stocking from just above the knee. To have just you in my arms while time stands still. You once wrote you would follow me around the house when I came home. Well, we will be going in circles because I will be following you. What a sight for the children! Angel, I have tried to visualise our reunion on Aberdeen station but just can’t. I wonder what will happen? You talk of stepping from the train into my arms. I don’t think you better had. I might lose complete control of myself there and then. Perhaps the best thing would be for you to give me your case. No! Bring two cases, then I’ll have both hands occupied. I MIGHT be reasonably safe then. Often I wonder if our self-control will stand the strain of that first minute.
Precious girl, I love you. God help you if you were here tonight.
Sweetheart, we must come down to earth and I to my lonely couch must hie. Before I do, will you be sure to answer these two points in your very next letter? (1) Can you travel up here on a Friday morning – arriving Friday night? (2) If you can, do you think you could manage, say, May 1st to May 11th (that is, leaving here on the Monday morning) or May 8th to May 18th? These are, of course, only tentative dates, but they are the earliest possible weeks I can think of and I want you here at the very first second. Don’t bank on these dates, will you? I still have to find out about possible digs and that will take time. Last night I met a sailor and he said the C.P.O. at Torry is very decent about fellows sleeping away from the billets when their wives come up here, so that seems hopeful.
I met another cheerful sailor yesterday, a real old sweat, and he believes that so far as Germany is concerned this war will be ended in the next couple of months. Can’t say I agree with him, but it’s nice to meet even stupidly optimistic people sometimes. What a vision that conjures up! If only it could be so! And now, angel, a wash, a shave and bed in readiness for Torry in the morning. Be good until May. I do love you.
All yours,
Arthur X

Apr 141942

Sorry I couldn’t write last night but I had my first lot of homework to do on what we call naval procedure. Actually, it is learning the use of various letters in certain circumstances to save sending long messages, but it is surprising what combinations can be made. As we have procedure every day I suppose we will get homework each night. Tonight’s batch is not as bad as yesterday’s, but there is still a lot to learn from what we already have. No doubt we will learn most of it in actual practice; that is by sending and receiving actual messages in plain language and code. Still, it will cut down our leisure to some extent.
Your cakes, for which many thanks indeed, arrived by the afternoon delivery, which is good going. We have already scoffed half of the sponge cake and it was lovely. I think we were lucky to get either, however, as the string around the outside was almost completely off. You were perhaps afraid to pull it tighter when you tied it, but with all that wrapping on it, it would have been alright to put a bit more pressure on. Anyway, the main thing is that we got it safely and I’m now looking forward to sampling the fruit cake.
Thanks also for the stamps on your last two letters but, without offence, don’t bother to send any more for a time. I still have some left in stock and when Eric wrote yesterday he enclosed a 5/- book. Actually, I haven’t had to buy a stamp since about ten days after I got to Skegness, so there’s no need for you to worry about that side of things.
Eric in his letter, quite a long chatty affair in which he presumes I’m going to do far more technical stuff than I actually am, says something to the effect that when you come up here the fare “is on us”. I don’t know quite what he means by that, but thought I had better let you know unless, of course, you already know about it. He told me of his visit to you when the children were in the bath and says they both looked very well.
Not exactly chronological, this letter. I should have thanked you for the ‘Statesman’s, too, in case you thought I had thrown them away. There’s not much in ‘The Journalist’ these days, is there, apart from the ‘Mirror’ issue.
So you have become a Marks & Spencer fan? At any rate I shall be glad to hear of the last of that check mac.
Re trains to Aberdeen – after I had written in my last letter to you, I had a marvellous dream! But that is by the way, except that I fell into a coma and as that letter was written in my bedroom I tumbled straight into bed in that mood, so what could I expect? Now, re trains to Aberdeen. I notice you say there are trains from Exchange at 9.35am. What about Lime Street? And wouldn’t it be as well to drop the children, or at any rate Wendy, on Thursday? If Chris, for instance, failed to meet you in time you’d be in an awful stew and 9.35 is early, you know. You could drop Michael on the way to town if Dave is going to run you to town in the car. That would be easy enough. I know you will have it all sorted out but I’m just making a few suggestions.
As an exception to the rule I do know the O’Brien bloke you mention. Jack was my best pal years and years ago. One of the nicest fellows you could wish to meet. I had great hopes when we were kids that, as he was a seafarer he would rise to be captain of a ship. I still think he would have done but I fancy he was a bit lazy, or easygoing, whichever you prefer. Then when he was quite young he did a foolish thing. Know what it was? He put a girl in the family way. Now wasn’t that wicked? As a matter of fact it was in this case for she was a slut of a girl whom I never liked. Jack dropped out of things after that and always seemed a bit shamefaced when we met. One of those invisible barriers grew up and gradually we drifted apart. I was sorry because Jack deserved better than he got, I felt. Now I don’t think Mother knows any of this, so just tell her I’d be glad to hear from Jack or to have his address.
On the subject of friends, tell Peggy I’m sorry to hear Alan is off colour and hope he gets on his feet again. He never has been very strong, has he? He was always being sick when they lived in Bootle. But I’m disappointed in Arthur. I thought he might have written a line – that is if you have ever given them my address for I haven’t written to him yet.
I wrote Dave during the weekend so he will have had my letter by now. Tell him O/Tels are ten-a-penny in this war and the only P.O.s are likely to be either the fellows with fairly long experience in the Navy, or else the young fellows who can romp through the course. Tell Marjorie how sorry I was to hear about HMS Trinidad. I hope she soon hears that Bill is safe. The uncertainty of these things must be terrible for women. So Valerie’s father has gone too? I didn’t know him of course, but it’s hard luck on any married bloke being dragged away and from what I saw at Skegness just before I left the average age of incoming drafts is going up by leaps and bounds.
Coming to your Saturady/Sunday letter, how is Michael? From what you say he seems to have had a real bumping about. Watch him for the next few days, love. And let me know how he is. Tell him I’m sorry he got hurt but glad he didn’t cry very much after you had washed his face. The digging squad have set to in earnest, haven’t they? If I remember rightly, the peas took a long time to show last year. Do you know how to stick them properly? When they are big enough to need support, start on one side of the row and place sticks (there’s a pile of cuttings all ready for the purpose) leaning one way and, working from the other end, make the other side lean the appropriate way. If you start from the end near our garden make the twig slope towards the Littlewoods fence, then coming back lean them from Littlewoods towards the house. Is that clear? I should leave the rhubarb for a time because I think it grows a fair size. As you will want peas for drying, don’t be afraid to grow them quite thickly. You’ll have to buy some more so get some that are a little bigger than those you have. You will get a better yield. I’m not sure about French beans. Better look them up.
I cannot do anything about towels just now but I’ll remember about them. I’m OK for cigarette papers so don’t worry about them. Yes, thanks, that was the cigarette case I had in mind. Don’t send that tobacco up here, keep it until I come home.
We won’t know the result of the Morse test. It was only a simple thing for their own guidance. At school I seem to be holding my own. About the middle of the class I should say. At the top are a fellow who did 12 weeks of the course and then went off sick and so has had to start again; a railway telegraphist; a fellow who some years ago was a Tel in the R.N.V.R.; and a couple of fellows who could do 12 words a minute before they came here. I can’t compete against that crowd, of course, but I’m doing reasonably well against the others. The youngest fellows just lap it up while my poor old brain struggles along, but I hope to get through in the long run. After this five week exam we’ll have a good idea and I have no doubt that the class will be thinned out a bit. This exam should be either May 1 or May 4, but if I can arrange for digs I’d sooner you came up here on May 1 irrespective of the exam. Our instructor, by the way, is quite a young fellow and as we are his first class I rather fancy he will do all he can to push a big proportion of us through. If I find that I’m doubtful about some of the stuff I’ll arrange to go back for voluntary instruction a couple of nights a week. It should be well worth it. If I do it will mean still fewer letters for you, but I hope you will manage to write me, although not at the expense of all your other interests, the radio, your knitting, reading, the garden etc.
To answer your questions. All the seeds there are are in my trousers pocket. Wait a minute. Look in the pockets of my fawn sports jacket. There may be some there. You will probably have to buy some more parsnip seed. I think I used the others. They should be in now. The mossy stuff in the rockery will come on alright. If you look closely you’ll probably see the new growth beginning deep down. Keep an eye open for those unusual little things Sid gave me last back end. They were only tiny. I put some in the rockery and some in the front garden.
Now, sweetheart, I must fly to catch the post and I still have some work to do. I still love you lots and lots, pet. Come to me soon for I need you more than I can say. This weekend I’ll try to get some ideas about digs. All my love, angel girl.
Ever your own,
Arthur X