This remarkable document has recently come to light. It was donated by AB
LR3 Alan Gould's son Michael. It was written at the time as a daily diary,
with the intention of giving it it to his wife when he returned home (it
would never have passed the censor aboard).
With Michael's consent, I have ommited one or two references to officers
in order to avoid embarassment.
"LETTER by CHRISTOPHER ALAN GOULD TO HIS FIANCÉE VERA DENISE
RUSSELL, WRITTEN ON BOARD HMS LIGHTNING, FOR PERSONAL DELIVERY
1st May 1942
My Dearest One
This is not a letter sweet as it will never be posted owing to what I intend
to put in it; I just have to give it to you. I thought of the idea last
night, I wish I thought of it before as it will contain where I am and how
I feel. I'll go back as far as the first of April when we left Gib. We all
thought it was our trip home and when we got out to sea and weren't going
down the Med but our course was sou'west, and after a day we didn't alter
it we then feared the worst. We arrived at Freetown (where I sent you the
cables darling) and met up with a huge convoy. We knew one part of it was
going home, but we gave up hope when it sailed without us. We sailed with
the biggest convoy I've been with. When at sea they told us we were bound
for Durban calling at St Helena and Capetown for oil. Not a nice thought
sweet to know I'm going all those thousands of miles away from you when
we were all set for going home. Also sweet I know it was the one place you
really would have liked to have gone to yourself. I always miss you darling
but you were ever in my thoughts darling on that trip down to Capetown.
I was doing it for you too darling. We arrived at Capetown in the evening
and it was a lovely sight with the table mountain and the city below it,
the lights begin to come on it at night it was a city of lights. We stayed
the night but they gave us no leave. The trip to Capetown wasn't a good
one as we did nothing but exercises and practice shots for the purpose of
being efficient if we met the Japs on our way up to Durban.
2nd May 1942
The trip to Durban was very uneventful. To our surprise the convoy didn't
wait for us it went on ahead with two cruisers so we didn't see it till
we got Durban. Durban is quite a big harbour and our convoy and the other
naval forces filled a big portion of it. Durban's main object in this war
has been to entertain the troops from the convoys as they pass through and
a real swell job they make of it too. It is as big I suppose as Brighton
but a lovelier place owing to the climate. I studied it from the angle of
you to live there darling and I didn't relish the idea much. It wouldn't
be a hard country to get on in as say America would be for an Englishman
as it is English and that is how they want it to be. But the climate is
no good for the white, the heat seems to take the life out of everyone.
The women look washed out in the late twenties also they look really good
at the early age of fifteen and are women too at the age of twelve. I've
learnt since 1935 that these hot climates are no good without the winter
and here you get no winter. So sweet I wouldn't like you to live out here
even though it wouldn't be hard to make a go of here. You can imagine how
we felt after a month at sea and not seeing women from the time we left
England, then going ashore in Durban seeing the women in their summer frocks
also imagine nearly 50,000 troops on the loose about twice the amount at
Gib darling so it wasn't so hot for us, not counting the African on leave
from the Libyan desert and the wounded soldiers and sailors in hospital
as hospital blue was very prevalent. Now we all said to ourselves. What
are we here for? The people ashore told us is was about time we took Madagascar.
Little did they know how right they were.
Sunday 3 May 1942
Well sweet I wish it weren't so damned hot it makes it so hard to concentrate
it is even hard to read, meal times are worse you just sweat and it rolls
down you in bucketful's. We left Durban last Tuesday morning and waited
all the morning till after dinner for the convoy to form up. We had no idea
what or where we were going, and they didn't tell us till last night but
of course we knew that we were to be used as a bombardment ship because
we have an artillery officer on board also the news reel cameraman told
us it was a big job. At this moment there are in all over forty ships, thank
God two of our most modern aircraft carriers, commandos and tank carriers
etc. etc. not forgetting two hospital ships behind somewhere. We are going
to invade an island northwest corner of Madagascar and form a base there.
What opposition we are to expect we don't know, we are going in till we
are two miles from shore to form a cover bombardment for the commandos and
stop firing whilst they land that will be our uncomfortable time. My opinion
is that we will either have no opposition or we'll get a lot. This time
tomorrow we shall be at action stations but the funny business doesn't start
till three in the morning. That about covers most things darling. I hope
there isn't too much waste of life its so useless. If we get through this
OK darling I think we have earned any leave that we have been promised so
many times and if we don't get through, well we still eared it but we were
Tuesday 5 May 1942
I didn't write yesterday as I was rather busy preparing for the battle of
today. Last night was a bit of an ordeal but now it is all over and nothing
happened at all and we didn't and haven't yet fired a shot. Everything went
as planned and we got the commandos ashore and they took the shore batteries
by surprise and captured them without any trouble at all, we have got one
of the towns we want but the information we get from ashore we cannot be
certain of yet anyway we don't reckon to get what we came for until 48 hours
are up. I'm glad there wasn't a lot of blood shed darling. Our worst part
in this is our usual complaint being shut up with no air and the heat is
so damn intense, it makes you so lifeless and you cannot sleep. I got out
of it last night, as we were feeling our way in amongst the islands I had
to be up on deck to take soundings, I did that till just after midnight,
then as I wasn't required for a couple of hours I laid me down in the cool
of the upper deck and went to sleep for two and a half hours. I awoke about
three rather bewildered, chef was serving out sausage rolls and cocoa so
I indulged also, had a smoke down below but it was too hot to enjoy it.
I came on deck again and watched the soldiers go ashore till dawn and on
till it was light. The zero hour was 4.30 am but I didn't hear a shot fired
till seven then just one burst of machine gun fire, also a little smoke
and a couple of fires. Now we have got all the transport, troopships and
hospital ships in the harbour without any damage. There were some mines
and still are and they are hard to explode but we have got rid of most of
them. We are refueling now and the time is three thirty darling. I can think
of nothing better than having a nice cup of tea with the person I love the
most in the world darling. Yes sweet that is you and I miss you so very
very much and now I must be nearly ten thousand miles away from you sweet
but the miles don't alter my feeling for you, except make them stronger
darling. As for my thoughts darling you are very seldom out of them and
I do most things with you as my guiding star with the thought that if you
knew you would approve darling.
Wednesday 6 May 42
We had a very quiet night last night, just before dusk we bombarded a tower
on one of the hills and again this morning at dawn about six actually. Thus
the town started to give our troops some resistance so since nine this morning
we have been bombarding that we cannot see anything as we are firing over
the hills, we can see the smoke rising from the town though. The biggest
fault so far is that they are telling us nothing of what is happening ashore.
I think they ought as the reports are coming through every minute. Good
news! We can send airgraphs from South Africa so I hope to send one before
the month's out. I don't think we shall go back to Durban before then, the
disappointing part is you cannot send them from England yet, still the service
may be going by the time we get to Durban.
In one of the lulls this morning we took a few snaps so I hope they turn
out OK. Well darling I had a good night's sleep last night, about eight
hours. It is as I was writing the piece before this at lunchtime the captain
was giving us the lowdown on what was happening. It is half seven now and
at sea. Our bombarding wasn't successful so an hour ago we stopped and the
admiral took a bold step, I'm writing it before it happens. One destroyer
(not us) has 50 royal marines and is going to dash in and land the royal
and they hope to make an attack from the rear. I wish them luck all of it.
I must say that the royals have saved the army in this war more than once,
at Dunkirk then and sailors were the last to leave or didn't get back. So
I hope they do it and the ship isn't sunk.
Thursday 7th May 1942
If you heard the news today you will have heard that we have now captured
the naval base and harbour. What a harbour! We are in it now and it is the
biggest in the world. What got under my skin about the news was what Churchill
said, he praised everyone bar the navy as we did all the dirty work and
the chaps that went in last night and attacked from the rear and we ourselves
knocked a fort out first shot this morning. Not forgetting the corvette
that hit a mine but thank God nobody was killed. It's half seven and Tommy
Handley has just come on for half an hour, he's good. It's damned hot darling
I think I must have lost lbs also I notice I have a couple of grey hairs
that I didn't have before but perhaps that's due to my hair being a little
longer than it should be, but if I remember rightly you recognised it the
last time I was home, that seem years ago.
Friday 8th May 1942
Well my darling I'm listening to Sandy's messages to the Middle East. I
shall cry if he plays Deep Purple for anyone. I feel very miserable sweet
I miss you terribly I miss your mail too darling its over a month. When
I think of lovely Spring in England I think of the Springs I'm going to
enjoy with you darling and I hope sweet each one will be happier than the
one before it. I would like to know how you are getting along and whether
you have been called up yet I hope not. We haven't done very much today
except look for a few submarines, we sunk one but what we are doing now
I don't know. I wish I knew what you want for your birthday. Anyway I shall
get you some underwear and dress material and a present I hope I can get
for you my dearest.
Saturday 9th May 1942
This day last year we commissioned this ship. In that year darling we have
steamed 70725 miles, used 16372.66 tons of oil fuel and spent 4738 hours
actually underway, that is over half the year moving through the water!
If it hadn't been for Madagascar we would have had our leave from Millwall
Dock London. That is an actual fact sweet, so I feel we may get home after
this is squared up a bit more than it is now. There is no fresh provision
for us here, by next Wednesday four days from now we shall be making do
for stuff, we shall have no meat left in the fridge and spuds gone and nothing
to make it up. Why worry with all the heat! I only hope we get away from
here soon darling. All the news of late must buck you up at home. I hope
it does darling. We have been in harbour today but we leave early tomorrow
morning to do the routine job of anti submarine patrol, the straits outside
aren't very smooth and its a pretty lousy job. Well goodnight dearest I
shall always love you darling.
Monday 11th May 1942
I didn't write yesterday as I had the worst watch at sea, as we were on
patrol. I wrote tonight though a letter which is to go home how I don't
know but it leaves here by hospital ship. I was allowed to tell you in it
that we were at Madagascar so I hope you get it soon or better still I hope
we get home before it darling. I had a swim today which was very nice indeed
after so long a wait for it. They thought of most things in this operation
except a refridge ship and oil in the second stage as the first lot has
almost gone. Provisions is our immediate worry as the army are to be supplied
first then us, here is yet another month we will have to feed so more to
add to the cost of war. I was on watch last night for Churchill's speech
but he gives me the pip anyway so I didn't miss much. I don't need him to
give me moral support and if a vote was cast in the services for him he
would not be there anyway, the navy has a special dislike for him as we
do all his dirty work for him. Well sweet there isn't much I can say except
sweet that I'm very much in love with you and miss you very much indeed.
I have known you just over three years darling and in the third year I only
saw you on three different occasions, about four days in all darling. Thank
you sweet for those years of restricted happiness. Let us hope the future
ones hold a more complete happiness for us darling.
Tuesday 12 May 1942
We have been in harbour all day so nothing much has happened. The captain
gave us a lecture on the whole operation now that the fighting is over.
The fifty marines did the trick. They took the telephone exchange and told
headquarters that the town was surrounded and there was only one outside.
They did it and only one was killed and one injured. The intelligence service
did their work well except they didn't find out about a maginot line they
had built, but seeing only one man did it and he was a skipper of a fishing
boat it was good work as he couldn't get inland. The soldiers were paid
soldiers from Sigally. I've just heard on the news that we have just lost
three destroyers in the Med. Actually it happened a month ago. We seem to
dodge it!!! We luckily got some fresh provisions today not very much but
some. Our cigarettes are getting low so I hope I don't have to work on the
ones I have got for you darling. Goodnight sweet all my love to you we shall
go on Patrol tomorrow.
Wednesday 13 May 1942
I've been very busy today. First we went out on patrol and were recalled
as from now on only one destroyer will do the patrol on her own, so we got
back just after lunch. They are very keen on swimming here so I've started
to run a water polo team and at 4.30 we had our first game and were able
to pick some very promising players. It is shark infested water so we have
a chap on lookout with a Tommy gun just in case. Tonight the canteen boy
who is messed with us had some accounts out and was trying to work out his
percentages, he got stuck so asked me to show him, so I worked them all
out for him. I feel it did my brain a little bit of good as it gets so idle
doing nothing. The captain spoke to me tonight whilst I was on watch about
the polo, the officer of the watch was there and when the captain went I
said to him that the captain was rather interested in sport so he said yes
and the captain was a good fellow, of course I didn't say anymore I just
shut up. I wasn't going to tell him so he could go down the wardroom and
tell the other officers what I said as the captain and I have a little war
of our own. He is very nice to me but if I give him an opening he jumps
in and makes it nasty for me, so far he has only caught me once. Goodnight
Thursday 14 May 1942
I've had the great pleasure of getting in lovely letters from the sweetest
girl in all the world. A ship we were with a year ago has just arrived here
and must have called at Gib on her way out and collected all the mails for
the ships here. I'm going to answer them in a letter to post but when it
will go I don't know, but a convoy should leave here very soon empty. I'm
hoping we shall take it darling. Never give up hope do I sweet.
Tuesday 19 May 1942
For the last five days I have been answering your letters darling. It was
really lovely getting them darling, a surprise sweet which made all the
difference in the world to me. Thank you for them sweet. Yesterday I went
ashore. I could have gone up to the battlefields but there was a lot of
bloodshed as we didn't expect any opposition and got some. They ran into
it blindly so a lot of chaps were killed, then a lot were picked off by
our own people as the artillery advanced and the assault troops were retreating
so the artillery were in front in a hot spot. The poor soldiers have nowhere
to live and most of them are living under appalling conditions and haven't
washed since they landed. Still the garrison are landing now to take over
the place and the assault troops are embarking and some, the commandos,
say they are going home and there are rumors that we are going to escort
them. They hold conferences the chiefs of staff each day so things may alter
from day to day so you don't know what to expect. I would like to see all
our officers ashore living under those conditions. In native huts in filth
and dirt and no water and nothing to drink.
Thursday 21 May 1942
We have been on patrol for two days now and are the only destroyer left
here. The mail went out in the convoy yesterday six ships in all but they
split up and one half is going to Durban and the other half with the rest
of our flotilla are going up to Mombassa so that leaves us patrolling with
no one to relieve us and the admiral in the battleship in harbour.
Friday 22 May 1942
Very unexpectedly we came into harbour last night as the two boats that
escorted the convoy to Mombassa arrived back so one relieved us. Our (officer)
is so bad that he spoils our stays in harbour. He's so exact that he doesn't
realise what his madness causes and no one works hard enough for him. We
have broken him of a few bad habits and there are a few more I'll break
before long. The weather is hot and lousy. It is cool in the respect that
a strong wind is blowing. It blows ahead on the sea and causes a sand storm
ashore which we get too, the temperature goes up to 100'F some days and
this is winter. God help us if we are here in the summer. We are playing
our flotilla leader at water polo tonight our first challenge.
Friday 10th July 1942
We went to sea for our exercises as I said. We went again the following
day at 11.30 and when we were at sea the captain gave a little speech. Unbelievable
news sweet we are on our way to Freetown and I think it means home for us
darling. If it doesn't darling we shall be a lot nearer. It is a fast run
so we may not get leave at Durban; if not I can't get you any undies etc
sweet, but if I get leave that will be the main thing. There are three destroyers
and a carrier with us. The carrier had a crash which we picked up the pilot
and today we went alongside the carrier and they put a crane over with a
seat hooked on and he sat in and was hoisted back and we didn't reduce speed
below 15 knots. It looked very funny indeed. Goodnight darling. I wonder
if I shall be home in a month dearest one.
Sunday 24 May 1942
I wrote you a letter on the 22nd and we also won our Polo game 1-0. I scored
the goal. On Saturday we went to sea with the remainder of the ships left
at Madagascar and we took them half way to Mombassa. I'll have to find out
how to spell that name. We left them at six tonight with two corvettes and
we are dashing back now. It is a rotten hole Diego Suarez but they have
a nice type of salad almost English. My messenger speaks French so we sent
him ashore to buy some stuff for the mess and he did very well; got three
dozen eggs, tomatoes, lettuce and spring onions which were very nice indeed.
They have made another application for us to dock!! It may do some good.
I hope darling. I've just had a shower and the sweats running off me as
if I were a miner.
Monday 25th May 1942
Well darling we are in harbour once more. It was getting lousy at sea so
we were glad to get in. I heard tonight that on Wednesday we are to start
or way back to Gib. I hope its right darling as it is 5000 miles nearer
you sweet and we will stand a better chance of getting home from there.
It is funny how it is cooler in harbour than at sea. I wonder if you ever
listen to the programmes to South Africa, India etc. If you do you'll know
what programmes we hear. We got a month's pay on Saturday so I have £12
in my pocket so I have a sum to buy a few things for you sweet. Goodnight
Saturday 30 May 1942
I haven't entered anything here for five days. Thursday morning I think
it was that we were told that we are to join up with the Eastern fleet under
the Admiral we had before Summerville. It was a shock to us and I'm afraid
we treat it as a lousy trick. A mail closed that day so I wrote and gave
you an idea. Also a mail closed yesterday but I missed it. When the first
mail closed some stinking letters were written and the captain had a little
private talk with some of them that wrote them. Yesterday my letter was
a stinker and I had a private talk and told him too darling. I'll keep the
letter for you. I think he has an idea that there might be trouble aboard
also he has a slight fear about me as he says my ideas are right but says
the same as a lot of people. "Your trouble is you haven't bettered
yourself." Well you know my answer to that darling as you have said
that too. He asked me to keep my ideas to myself as it is hard and impossible
to do anything about it in wartime. Also I think he doesn't want me to spread
my ideas for fear they might cause trouble.
Sunday 31 May 1942
We got the news through last night at about ten thirty that the "Ramillies"
a battleship that has been with us since this operation started also it
has the Admiral on was torpedoed in harbour, two torpedoes in her at Madagascar.
We left her alone there with only two corvettes to look after her. So they
have found their mistake out at a cost. I suppose they will learn one of
these fine days. We are at an island called Seashells, Port Victoria, rather
a nice place, the sea is the same to look at as it is at Bermuda and the
island is covered with Mango trees so it looks rather pretty. We are supposed
to join a big fleet very soon, somewhere. Where and how big a fleet I don't
know. But it is obvious that it is to meet the Japs when we are ready. We
shall be going to Colombo very soon so I hope we get a chance of going to
Australia. Anyway we'll see. At the present I haven't much fear that we
will give as good as we can take and we will get through OK.
Tuesday 2nd June
Well dearest the news of 1000 planes over Germany for the last couple of
days is rather cheering. But just now I really thought of it and what it
meant and it means one hell of a lot of suffering for some innocent people.
Sunday afternoon the first lieutenant said he had had a word with Captain
and he said he was sorry I was so bitter. We spent most of the afternoon
talking and I came to the conclusion that he is two faced and not fit to
be in charge of men. He suffers from nerves I'm sure as he has eaten or
picked his fingers and fingernails to pieces. We went to sea on Sunday night.
I was very miserable and longed for you so much as the conditions aboard
disgusted me so much more than usual. I only hope it will not spoil my future
life, I hope I shall forget the navy and the bitterness it has given me.
Now we are on our way to Colombo with two aircraft carriers and the Warspite
and a cruiser. God knows our destiny darling.
Thursday 4 June 1942
Well darling tomorrow we arrive at Colombo. We have been doing a few exercises
on our way. Yesterday the carriers showed us how they can put up a barrage
and tomorrow sometime the RAF at Ceylon are going to attack us as the Japs
do to give us some idea what to expect. It is June darling and it would
mean so much to me if I were in England with you darling. June 1939 was
a wonderful month for us sweet but here it depresses me sweet and the weather
does more than that darling. We have the damnedest luck-don't we sweet?
We haven't heard anymore of what happened to the Ramilliies but I don't
think she sank. I hope not anyway as our mail was aboard, but apart from
that; although she wasn't much good as a ship-not many battleships are anyway.
Do you know darling that the morale of this ship isn't very high and if
anything happened to the ship I'm quite sure they would sooner make a get
away than stop to think first.
Friday 12 June 1942
We left Colombo early this morning. We arrived there a week ago today in
the afternoon and that night we were duty destroyer so we had no leave that
night. Funny, after three years of war they have decided that in harbour
we are to be on the lookout for subs and aircraft so its no rest in harbour
now at days. We did a boiler clean whilst there so they decided that they
would send us to camp but they canceled at the last moment. I went ashore
three times there was so very little to do. I had a good walk around the
first day, it is all native quarters here. I only saw about three white
ladies and they were with naval or army officers and also a couple of nurses.
If we were on our way home I may have bought a few things but we are not
so I didn't. The next time I went ashore I was on a mission to buy sports
gear for the ship. I got an estimate that day and went to the pictures in
the evening and saw 'A Yank in the RAF'. The next afternoon I went ashore
to order the stuff but I had to be back before 4.00 as I had to go on watch
then. I did rather well over the sports gear and the chap gave me a pair
of tennis shoes and a pound when I paid him. I only spent £25. Yesterday
I was ashore and went to the pictures and saw a bum show "They met
in Argentina". So taking all we didn't have a very good time. Now we
are going somewhere but where I don't know sweet.
Saturday 13th June 1942
We are on our way to the Chagos Islands to look for Jap supply ships if
any. I think they have an idea a few Jap subs are operating from there.
I dreamed of you last night sweet. I very seldom dream at night sweet. It
was quite a nice dream and your mother was in it too. I always spend half
the night thinking of you darling but a dream was an added pleasure. Our
captain is sick with bronchitis so (an officer) has the command now, God
help us darling. I said in my last letter I said I would try and send you
some money I forgot it darling so it will be more next time sweet.
Sunday 14th June 1942
The days roll on sweet and it seems pointless and endless such a waste of
precious years darling. I suppose its because I've been thinking a lot of
June 1939. What a glorious month sweet. Little did I think all these years
of waste were to follow. Goodnight my precious one.
Tuesday 16th June 1942
Well darling we didn't find the supply ships that were supposed to have
been there. Today we called at Addo Atoll for oil. A lovely little place,
the atoll part of it means a lagoon with a coral island around it. The beaches
look lovely from the ship. We arrived about ten in the morning and left
at five tonight, we oiled in that time then guarded the fleet for the afternoon,
poor old destroyers do all the work we aren't supposed to stop. I saw the
doctor this morning about my eyes. They weren't really bad but they trouble
me a bit so I've to see an ophthalmic specialist when we meet up with one.
I suppose that will be at Colombo as we arrive there in a couple of days
time. The doctor aboard here said something about glasses but I don't think
it is as bad as that. If it is bad it may mean a rest that is all darling.
The doctor is quite a good chap really, he had a row over the health of
the troops with the 1st lieutenant so he just went ashore to the big noise
and told them as to what condition we are in which is lousy. He said we
wanted a rest. No one knew anything about it till a signal came through
saying that accommodation will be made for unfit men to have a rest ashore.
Of course that happening is a different matter but he wasn't so shy as they
all thought. Goodnight dearest one.
Tuesday 23 June 1942
I think it is a week since I have written any to this darling. We have been
at Colombo for a few days. Friday we arrived there we got some mail on Saturday.
The captain went out of the ship Friday night, the ship he dined in had
their mail that night so when he came aboard, drunk of course, he asked
for mail but didn't get any. I wrote you quite a number of letters and airgraphs
this time in. The news tonight was lousy. Results of our latest operations,
Libyan and Med naval operations. It is so disheartening it seems to put
the end so much further away. I think we are going to have a refit very
soon but where I don't know. England, Durban or Simonstown I hope they send
us home. I think the Hermione (that is a light cruiser that has been with
us for ages and running for about eighteen months) must have gone for her
refit as she isn't down in the Eastern fleet. This time in we lay next or
alongside the Formidable one of the new carriers, lovely ships really surprising
how big they really are. I got lost on it three or four times just going
from one side to the other or trying to get onto the flight deck. I think
a great deal about you and I don't think I say very much about it here darling.
I was thinking last night sweet that it is over three years since I've known
you precious and I love you even more than I did two years ago so you can
see sweet how I feel about you darling but I suppose it does darling.
Friday 26th June 1942
The captain made a speech this morning. Admiralty says we have our refit
in England now. When darling! Well such time as we can be spared by the
C in C and the war situation, it may be days, weeks, months or years. It
is hope dearest, great hope and has done a great deal to the men. If it
is a bluff it is a lousy trick but somehow I don't think it is. I'm sick
with a cold at the moment a lousy head and throat and the weather doesn't
help any I don't think it will be long in going. I hope not anyway darling.
I've just finished reading "The Stars Look Down" if you remember
sweet we saw the picture a good three years ago in our very early days.
It is a very sordid book, but I suppose true to life, he has a bit of a
go in his books does Cronin. I have noticed lately that no matter how much
is said or written about the injustice or unfairness it never gets very
far and it is only an outlet for one's bitter feelings. I may be wrong,
I hope so, but I know what it is like in the navy if you kick up a stink.
They let you go so far, then when you are getting at the root of the evil
you find that you have got a shift. We are on our way to Mombassa via Seychelles
or Sea Shells as we say. Why we are going and what for I don't know and
I don't think we have a big operation to do just yet, but think this Egyptian
attack may make a bit of difference. I should say if we met up with our
boats (destroyers) the C in C could easily let us go without missing us
as we have only wasted time so far except pick up aircraft that crashed
from the carriers, we have picked up 4 so far, the fourth today at eleven
thirty the pilot was only 19. Our luck has been that we bring them back
alive and safe. I feel quite bucked that perhaps very soon I may have the
pleasure of giving you this letter to read. I wonder if you'll like it?
Saturday 27th June 1942
I have seen the Doc again this morning. He asked how I felt. I said a bit
better. He took my temperature which was nearly a hundred, so he said I
had to take things very easy. I think he would liked to have put me in bed,
but we have only two and they are both occupied. Tomorrow we should arrive
at Seychelles; it shouldn't take long to get to Mombassa from there. I'll
have to look at the map again as I can never visualise this part of the
world somehow. My writing doesn't seem to be very good. It is the awkward
position I get into. I surprise myself when I sit down at the table when
the ship is still and write, but even that is spoilt by not being very quiet
or too crowded so I usually retire to this little corner I'm now in for
writing and reading. One lot of people on board seem to think we are on
our way home now, I hope we are darling. It will take a good two to three
months to get home from here I should think. Everyone is talking about gardens
and growing stuff at this moment. Wouldn't it be lovely to get leave precious,
actually I thought about nothing else for the last day. I do so hope we
get home soon sweet.
Sunday 28th June 1942
I feel a little better this morning, the Doc wanted to put me on duty, but
I said I couldn't do my usual job as I have to talk or shout too much; so
he said he'll see the lst lieutenant and I might get another job for the
present. We are at Seychelles now only we are patrolling outside while the
big ships are inside, we get all the pleasure darling!!! I read last night
the overseas Daily Mirror of March! Cassandra's last column and the debate
on the suppression of the Daily Mirror. Mr Morrison had it rubbed into him
but it seemed to run off his back. A P Herbert said he had seen the Daily
Mirror poison work on sailors! (He is a PO in the Thames Patrol service,
Brave man- I'll change places with him and he can see some real poison working
aboard here.) Sailors like to read the mistakes and muddle but they don't
stop and say, "What's the good of carrying on?" Also 65000 of
them don't get caught in one place. I have heard of ships to go down fighting
greater odds. Most sailors are bitter men and only want one thing. Some
who want to get that bit of gold braid are frightened all round in case
they miss it. Those people must be the same outside as they are in the navy.
They are not worth much thought. Well darling some people still think we
are on our way; we may be able to tell after our next port of call.
Tuesday 30th June 1942
I'm supposed to have recovered from my cold now darling. I wish I had as
my head isn't very clear at the moment sweet; my eyes too are sore, too
much reading I know what that is. Well everyone is still of the opinion
that we are on our way home. The other ships too seem know and think the
same. Wouldn't it be nice to be home for my birthday, be nice to be home
at any time sweet. We are right on the equator now and the weather is lousy.
A couple of ships were caught in a Monsoon; we were lucky as we were just
ahead of it although we caught it a bit today.
Thursday 2nd July 1942
We arrived at Mombassa last night, not a big place, not big enough to entice
me ashore. I saw the eye specialist this afternoon. I surprised him. He
put drops in my eyes for the test and my sight was almost abnormal it was
so good. He just couldn't believe it, but when he had a look round inside
he found a spot in my right eye. The first thing he asked me was if I had
ever had syphilis. The way he asked me was rather funny, as though he didn't
want to ask me. As I hadn't had that he mentioned six or seven different
kinds of diseases all of which I hadn't had so he couldn't say what caused
it. He got his junior doctor in to have a look at it. A strange sight. The
specialist was a very nice chap and explained it all to me, yet the staff
said he was a bit of a terror. He knew his job and was nice enough to me.
One of the very few friends I've had in the navy (which I spoilt by independence)
is on a hospital ship in the harbour. I've sent over to say that I'm about
here so I may hear from him. He is an officer now, has been since 38. We
haven't heard any more about our home going yet, yet I fail to see it not
happening. That sounds lovely doesn't it darling. How I pray that is true
sweet. The news seems pretty rotten in Egypt. I hope we turn the tables
soon before they get too near Alexandria. It is pretty peaceful down here
tonight as we are alongside the Illustrious and most of the boys have gone
to the pictures on her. They hold them in the lifts which bring the aircraft
up from the hangers, you imagine how big they are darling. Goodnight dearest
Friday 3rd July 1942
I feel sure that when we leave here it will be a homeward bound journey.
It seems rather impossible but everything points that way and I think it
will finish us for I have an idea that we will pay the ship off. If that
is so I hope they give us leave from the ship as if they send us to depot
first we'll only get a very short leave. They had eighty bags of mail for
the fleet today, not much when you think of 3 battleships, 3 aircraft carriers,
1 depot ship, 4 cruisers, numerous AMC's and destroyers. We got 4 letters!!
I didn't get one sweet naturally. Goodnight darling.
Tuesday 7th July 1942
Saturday, a chap was ashore with the mail orderly of the port and he said
that he had seen twenty bags of mail for the Lightning. The next morning
we sent our postman in for it and there wasn't any for us. It turns out
that we the Lightning weren't down on the post quota so it was redirected
and the mail officer shut up and said he wasn't allowed to say anything
about it; orders say that so what could we do. Lucky everyone thinks we
are going home or there would have been a row. Sunday afternoon I went over
to the hospital ship to see two people, my old friend and a ship mate with
a touch of T.B. He and another fellow both have it from this ship, both
caught it aboard, so things are bugging a bit. I had tea in my friend's
cabin and had a walk ashore with him. He isn't too happy, works hard, think
he is rather friendless, I mean a real friend of his class. They were bombed
and abandoned ship and cannoned in the water. They had over 400 patients.
He was mentioned in dispatches over that. I read that in the honours list.
Yesterday evening I played deck hockey on the carrier. It was a draw but
for us a damned hard game. Today I'm as stiff as hell. I sent you an airgraph
too last night darling. Tomorrow we go to sea for exercises. Bloody silly!
Goodnight my precious one.
Saturday 11th July 1942
We started the day by picking up a Dutchman alone on a raft; he is a survivor
of a ship taking ammunition up to Aden. He said two boats got away as well
as him. I hope they were picked up. He is a chap of about my age, not so
tall, well built and fair. Three nights and two days he spent alone on that
raft, he speaks quite good English and he told me about it. First he nearly
went mad because the boat left him behind. It happened at dusk, a sub torpedoed
them and then came up to shell the ship. The next morning a long vessel
passed on the horizon and he fanned smoke signals to attract their attention
but they didn't see him. You can guess what the reaction was when we picked
him up. He wanted to cry but was just able to hold it back. He is well and
fit enough now. Tonight a plane crashed and we picked up three in the crew.
The pilot made a good effort to land but just couldn't do it, two youngsters
of about twenty and one older. They will have to put a settee on the crane
tomorrow. Goodnight sweet, Durban Monday, but I doubt our chances of leave!
Tuesday 14th July 1942
Well dearest we arrived in Durban last night at 4 o'clock and they gave
leave so I dashed ashore to get some things for a girl I'm always thinking
of. The shops shut at four as they black out here now. There were two of
us with the same idea and we arrived at the shops at four thirty and were
sadly disappointed. Never mind darling. This morning I got six letters from
you dated 21st 28th April, 8th 15th 19th and 27th May and 1st June. I can't
count as that is seven darling. I think you are the sweetest girl in all
the world darling, the letters were so nice sweet. We are leaving at three
this afternoon. The trip will bring us so very much nearer you darling.
Last night I had a very nice time. As we cannot do our shopping the chap
I was with said come along with me I have some friends who run the Majestic
Hotel. So we went there had a few drinks, dinner and a good chin wag. Then
we went and saw a chap's brother who was on the ship until a short while
ago. Darling if you knew at this moment what we know you too would be a
wonderfully happy person. We are supposed to dock in Glasgow in the second
week in August. Some one has just said that so I hope it is true. At this
chap's house we had another good chin wag with him and his wife and daughter.
His place is a bit out of town and we were staying at the Majestic that
night. We missed the last bus by miles so tried taxis, but couldn't get
through on the phone. So at last we thumbed a ride to the post office in
the centre of Durban and got a taxi from there. We had promised to be back
in time to say goodbye to the other people but it was nearly one by then.
We went up to our rooms a bit sorry we were late; when we switched on the
light of the room we found a big bottle of lager and a plate of sandwiches
and three glasses; it was a lovely surprise for us.
Saturday 18 July 1942
Well dearest we called at Capetown and to everyone's surprise they gave
leave, so my darling I got us a few odds and ends. I only had four hours
leave and it rained most of the time. There was a table cloth on the table
mountain sweet. If I had you with me sweet and £100 to spend. We could
have done it wonderfully. As it was I only had three and no you darling.
It is a better place than Durban from the business point of view, more like
London. I really think one could make a go of it there if you landed with
enough money to take the knocks. I suppose being Winter it looked more like
it from the millinery point of view. We are on our way home darling only
it is so hard to believe it seems impossible. I have answered your letters
and I'm at a loss as to what to do with it darling. I'll just have to wait
and see what we do and if we stop at Gib get it away from there or wait
till we get home as we will go quicker than anything else except airmail
I suppose. Goodnight dearest one.
Tuesday 21st July 1942
Well darling we are a thousand miles nearer you than we were three days
ago. I would like to know what is happening. They say now, "I don't
know where you get the idea from that you are going home." It is heartbreaking
darling really as one lies and thinks at night what they are going to do.
If we go home fairly soon and arrive in August say first week; you darling
may be away on holiday, you may not be. I cannot warn you. Also I don't
want to as I'm not going to have you disappointed again. So sweet I work
things out then give up and start again some other time. Our hope is that
the force that here is to be "H" force at Gib again as were before.
That's good you know darling two mails a week and can send two airmail at
that, also you can hear the home service on the wireless. I don't think
I'll grumble about it this time, its better than the Eastern fleet.
Wednesday 22nd July 1942
There is another surprise for us tomorrow, we are going to fuel at a place
called Pointe Noire in Portuguese West Africa, actually we were to fuel
from the Carrier but it seems not now. We should arrive at six tomorrow
morning. Dearest this time next week we should know our destiny or be awaiting
it with bewilderment and hope; they have us in suspense now right enough
dearest. I'm wondering if I should spend my birthday with you this year
darling. It is getting hot again now as we are only a very few degrees from
the line about a hundred odd miles. This side of the line it is Winter,
north of it is summer and very hot so we have still hot weather to come.
Goodnight precious one.
Thursday 23 July 1942
The news has bucked up a little so it may make things more easy for us.
I have an idea they may give the ship a refit and get her ready for the
big second front assault that may be coming off. That is just an idea sweet
that's all as I've an idea they are getting ready for it. The place we oiled
at this morning is Free French quite a big harbour, lousy place according
to the chap who went ashore, nothing to eat at all,
a few of our people who can speak French have a quiet job ashore to do the
business for the few ships that do call there. We get to Freetown on Sunday.
This place is almost opposite Mombassa around the Cape and we have done
the distance in a fortnight about 5000 miles. We have almost done our 100000
miles. Whilst I was at Durban someone told me why Tobruck fell this time.
Fifth column work from South Africa. I have a Durban paper which shows the
results of the forming of a new division from Natal recruiting campaign.
Bloody lousy after knowing the place, a lot of chaps with good jobs don't
intend to go. Not that I blame them, but life goes on still with very little
restriction owing to the war. Goodnight sweet.
Friday 24th July 1942
Today has been very awkward and I have been bad tempered, but now I have
had a bath and shave and ready for bed I feel a little better. Tomorrow
is the 25th. On the 25th July 1932 I joined the navy. What a detestable
thought. I must have been a bit out in my reckoning the other day as we
don't cross the line till tomorrow morning. I hope I never cross it again
darling unless it is with you sweet. I also hope that won't be necessary
unless it is a pleasure trip darling. Well sweetheart there is very little
to say today. I miss you terribly sweet. I only pray and hope this trip
brings us home sweet. Goodnight sweet one.
Sunday 26 July 1942
I didn't write last night as I had the first watch and we spent most of
the days at action stations for a practice shoot. We arrive at Freetown
tomorrow now, and a cruiser joined us this afternoon. I would like to know
what it all means darling. We can only wait and see that is all. I'll post
your letter tonight to go tomorrow in case we are not on our way home.
Monday 27 July 1942
Well darling we didn't arrive today-early tomorrow morning. God knows what
we have been doing to waste all this time in. We will only have about 30
tons of fuel left by the time we get in out of 580 tons. That's not enough
to get us out of an air raid attack if we had one. We are going to Gibraltar
after so I'll most likely send you a wire to say send airmail and not to
send airgraphs. After Gib home, of course we may be at Gib a couple of weeks
first. You would be more happy if you knew all this now darling, but sweet
I'm not saying a word till I'm sure. No false hopes this time darling. The
heat is getting a little too much now, too sticky at night. Goodnight precious
Tuesday 28th July 1942.
Today has been rather full and confusing in its way. We arrived at eight
thirty, we went to the oiling jetty, the three of us ( the flotilla we are
in.) We must have knocked a hole in the oil tanks! At eleven thirty the
captain of the flotilla spoke to us. He said we are going back to Gib to
work and that the Lightning stood a very good chance of getting home for
our refit. He said from now on he isn't going to say we are going to do
this or that until he has the orders in his pocket as he has been let down
too often. So I have sent a cable to you to say send airmails as before.
I hope you will gather from that that we are back again and gives you more
faith darling. We had a mail today, but I didn't get any in it sweet, still
there is another arrive which will be ready for us tomorrow so I have hope
left still dearest. It seems we are to work with the carrier Indomitable.
She is a first class worker and has a quantity of hurricanes which are very
good, the best carrier fighters there are. Goodnight dearest heart.
Thursday 30th July 1942
Well dearest I got two letters from you yesterday and I answered them too
sweet and they go today or tomorrow sometime. It seems so very uncertain
as to what is happening. They had a party aboard last night. They means
the officers! About 10 ATS girls from a troop ship Empress of Japan. They
had a rare old time, got the girls nearly tight, to the silly stage anyway.
The girls had a trip in a boat of course and it was funny getting them into
it afterwards. It was a rough and dark night and would those girls pay attention.
It was a wonder I didn't have to go in after one. One girl just got hold
of my hand and said she couldn't get any further. Just before they went
I had a little chat with the Captain about things, houses?? and entertaining
mostly. It has rained now for the last two days nearly all the time day
and night. When we were here before the temperature was 109'F but now this
afternoon it was only 72'F, just nice really. Tommy Handley was good yesterday
he is very funny. The news is very serious darling. I hope it doesn't alter
our movements. The news is on now, six o'clock GMT. Two hours behind your
time. I've been writing this for three months darling. You had a raid last
night and the other night too darling. I hope it hasn't affected you very
much sweet. Everytime I hear you have raids I get that old feeling. It wasn't
so bad when I used to get my mail daily, but as we are I don't like it,
but so far they say no bombs were dropped. I hope its true darling. I just
had read to me the official report of the channel action. The sort of thing
Ron said he would tell you of after the war of the Bismark action. I'm rather
disgusted at the fact that they were ready for them ten days before. Why
I feel that way is because the force I was in could have been there in less
than four days also that we were in the St George's Channel at the time.
Six destroyers were in it-six of our ablest destroyers! Why they got through
was because they did it by day and we were ready for a night encounter.
Why our destroyers got away with it was also a similar surprise for the
enemy; they expect a big force instead of a small one and weren't sure there
wasn't a big force even then. That's how things are run for us. Actually
I'm sure we rather shouldn't read the reports!! Goodnight dearest thinking
of you always.
Sunday 2nd August 1942
We left Freetown yesterday morning and the news they gave us was the same
old cry just another job. We are going to meet up with a big fleet and also
an operation in the Med. Well that's that. The Med in its present condition
isn't a very pleasant place to spend a few days. I came off watch last night
at eight, had my supper and was just diving in a bucket of water for a bath
when there was a lot of noise and shouting. At first I thought it was action
stations and I hadn't heard the bells. It was pitch black and some of the
chaps were saying, "there they are." Anyway I asked what and they
said three lifeboats. We put a searchlight on and there was sure enough
three boats sails up, they looked like ghosts. We picked them up, not the
boats, just the occupants, 39 altogether and a lovely dog. The whole crew
of a torpedoed Norwegian tanker. Seven days they had been in the boats.
They left Freetown just over a week ago for Trinidad for oil, after three
days out they got it. They were seven days and six hours in the boats, very
good lifeboats and plenty of food, and water as it rained most of the time.
They were sailing back to Freetown and would have made it in a couple more
days. I think we are going to Gib now, if so I hope they let us send some
airmail as I hope it will give you an idea where I am. If it doesn't it
ought to darling. One of the men is 64 years old. We work it out to be about
52 survivors we have picked up altogether. The dog is a beauty, I think
they are going to let us have him. What this Med action is to be I don't
know, but I cannot see it being very cosy darling.
Monday 3 August 1942
Yesterday evening we sent 16 of our survivors to the cruiser that is with
us as the food situation is not so good as we are to spend 14 days at sea
this trip. I was under the impression that we were going to keep them till
the operation was over but we are not. About two days from now we are to
fuel at sea and then get rid of our survivors. At 11.20 last night we got
a signal from the carrier that their lookouts reported shouting in the water
and told us to look for survivors. It was too dangerous to put any lights
on and we looked for an hour but found nothing. My watch finished at midnight
but I'm afraid I just had to hang around till I knew they had finished the
search before I turned in. The whole force for this op consists of aircraft
carriers, cruisers and destroyers so I think it must be an air raid of some
sort in the Med. They will tell us I suppose as soon as we have got rid
of our survivors. Today is Aug Bank Holiday as you know sweet that doesn't
mean a thing to us. Our food has been lousy for the last week or so. The
bread is off before it's made, well nearly everything is off. The stoker's
mess deck has bugs in it and our stupid (officer) just laughed when they
told him, but the skipper didn't laugh when they told him, he was mad at
the (officers). Goodnight dearest one.
Tuesday August 4th 1942
Well darling very little has happened today, just another day as usual.
We fueled from the carrier hundred tons went off on time no trouble. Had
a practice shoot again tonight. If what they say is true about us not calling
at Gib, I don't like the idea of these practice shoots as our ammunition
is getting low. We will need it in the Med. The news seems to say each day
that you get raids each night, so long as they keep on saying no bombs were
dropped I don't mind much darling. Our Norwegian friends are getting very
bored I think. Like us they don't know what is going to happen to them.
Goodnight my precious one. I wonder if we shall meet before the month is
Friday 7th August 1942
I haven't written for a couple of days so I'll tell you what has happened
up to now. Yesterday at dawn we joined up with the main force, 4 Aircraft
Carriers, 9 Cruisers, 10 Destroyers, a good force really but we still haven't
been told what we are to do. We are to meet a convoy with 5 or 6 treble??
destroyers so it looks as though it is to be the biggest convoy ever to
go to Malta! If so darling it won't be so cosy as it has been in the past.
The other thing is that the ship is full of bugs, another mess is debugging
now after a style, so we are lousy! We are on about the same latitude as
Gib but about 12' West and Gib is 6' west so we are about 300 miles from
it. It got dark about 10.30 last night. Like you sweet I couldn't help thinking
what a waste of time all this is. Here we are short of food and water as
a few things need repair to our vaporation system. God knows how we will
make this trip. Lousy too to put the finishing touch to it sweet. I wish
they would tell us what we are to do instead of working on all these rumors.
I wrote the above before lunch; since then we have been trying to oil from
a tanker and the sea is too rough and so far it has been unsuccessful, the
time is six thirty. We managed to get enough oil to get us to Gib. The oil
hose broke and drowned a lot in thick black oil. It cost £17 a ton
and thousands of lives to get it home. I feel sure darling if nothing happens
to us we shall be home very soon. Our guns need re-rifling and if they aren't
done soon the guns will be useless.
Saturday 9th August 1942
Well darling how do you think it feels to hear the Home Service after five
months? Just like that sweet. Ambrose is on now. We left the others this
morning." We" is three destroyers and "Indomitable".
We are on our way to Gib at 25 knots and should get there by midnight, after
dark anyway, and leave before light. I posted an airmail just in case they
let it go. I put in it that we would be busy in the blue waters, also "Give
mother the news"; as if you cannot see I'm in the Med, Mother should
see through it; if you both fail I'll give up!! Our survivors are, so they
say, going to a concentration camp till the operation is over. We will see
anyway tonight. We shall get some ammunition too I hope as we'll really
need it for the Med. Max Bacon is doing his stuff he's good. It's good hearing
these programmes after so long. Well sweet they may tell us tomorrow what
we are out to do. It must be a big job as we have 5 carriers now. We work
with the best one thank God. Goodnight precious one.
Sunday 9th August 1942
How would you like to get up at four in the morning. No! I thought so! But
when there are 4 letters and two airgraphs for you it isn't so bad darling.
One airgraph is from Mother. We got into Gib at about 12.30 and left at
4.30 this morning; in those four hours of night we got in oil, spuds, meat,
ammo and mail, the captain took our mail and got what was for us personally.
Nice work! Mother got me guessing in her letter, but as I haven't June's
mail I didn't understand, but I think she has let the cat out of the bag
for you darling, so of course now sweet I want to know more about it. If
we get home after this operation I shall not worry you much about it sweet,
but I'll promise to worry you if we don't darling. You're a lucky girl and
I'm a lucky boy too darling. I posted you another letter tonight darling.
I've been in a trance all day sweet. I've hardly eaten; in fact I've been
miles away with you sweet one.
I'll just tell what's what. So far 22 destroyers 8 cruisers 5 aircraft carriers
2 battleships to convoy 15 ships-to Malta I presume! We oil again tonight
and change some Pom Pom ammo which is the wrong kind. If we are coming back
we should be back by next Saturday darling or thereabouts. In just over
a fortnight I shall be 26 sweet. I hope to be in England then, hope sweet
is all and everything I suppose. Goodnight sweet one.
Tuesday 11th August 1942
We left Gib early Monday morning. The convoy is going to Malta. One aircraft
carrier stayed at Gib and one other is ferrying Spitfires for Malta. They
have gone now; we flew them off this afternoon. I'm not very happy darling
as things have started a lot too soon this time. We have been at action
stations since one this afternoon when we had a concentrated attack by submarines.
It was B. awful; a carrier was hit and sunk in less than 8 minutes. I saw
it go. She just rolled on her side and disappeared. What an awful feeling
it gives you in the pit of your stomach. Torpedoes and subs were bobbing
up all around. We stand a much better chance in a destroyer but that doesn't
stop you from being frightened. Actually we didn't expect much till tomorrow.
I think we shall be lucky if much of this convoy gets through; anyway we
expect to be busy for the next three days. We should get back Saturday night
or Sunday morning. All is well I had to stop a while as the bells sounded
air attack. After the attack we took a chance and oiled and something has
I heard on the news that you had an alert again last night also that the
new Waterloo bridge is open. The two boats that picked up the survivors
of the Eagle. I don't think there was many, we haven't any news yet of how
many were saved. It must have been also for those trapped inside. I've got
my wallet in my pocket with £4.15 and a door key in. Also I carry this
pen around with me; of course I always wear my watch. I had to stop at watch.
It is ten now and we have just finished. Just at the change of light they
came. Did we put a barrage or did we. Talk about blitz over London. The
sky was black all over the convoy. I think our fighters broke them up before
they got in. One bloke slid over us but gave the game away because he dropped
a bomb before time which between us and the next destroyer. We were in the
lucky place tonight, west side of the convoy, so our side was the lightest
so they attacked the dark side. One plane down, one probable. The rumour
goes that it was announced on the Italian radio at eight this morning that
a big convoy was on its way to Malta. I don't suppose I'll have much time
to write tomorrow. I'll do my best though darling. Goodnight sweet.
Wednesday 12th August 1942
I'm just about all in, they just about gave us twelve hours of it today.
I've had no dinner, tea or supper-I'm sure glad to be alive sweet. They
started on us at about eight this morning (10.30pm now) but the morning
was quiet compared with the rest of the day. We ran into more U-boats and
got rid of two. We were the next on the list for dinner at 12.30 when they
really started coming at us, that lasted till 2.00. They bombed us, a 1000
*** but as I'm writing this you can see it missed - 20 feet away-they tried
a torpedo, but the captain was too good for them and dodged it; he made
a good show of dodging bombs, as they sorted us out in the screen of destroyers.
We were in a very bad position, also the light was with them. It was a beautiful
day but just hazy, so they flew very low and you just couldn't see them
till they were on top of you. The last attack was made with Stuka dive bombers.
Two came for us and about six went for the Indomitable and got two on her,
one aft and one forward. The for'ard one knocked out her port gun position,
two twin turrets they just blew up. She looked bad at first, but she is
O.K. and they say she will be OK tomorrow for flying off aircraft again.
Only one Merchant ship was damaged by near misses so they opened her seacocks
and scuttled her. It seemed funny out of 50 ships they tried for us so many
times! The convoy has gone on with about 15 destroyers and some cruisers.
We are with the aircraft carriers Rodney and Nelson and a couple of cruisers.
We have nine destroyers. I'm writing this at action stations as we are remaining
at them all night. What I would like is a nice bath and go to bed! We picked
up one of our pilots and he said he was fighting the Stukas and caught one
of our Pom Pom shells. That was just before they turned in to dive on the
Indomitable he was above them. He is an Indomitable pilot of the 13th squadron.
He said he got one of the Stukas and we got one of the two that attacked
us. Our Pom Pom claims two planes and one probable! Not bad darling. Our
ammo is very low, we could just about stand four or five attacks but no
more. The state of our guns are bad, one the 4" HA is useless worn
out and the left gun of "A" turret is worn out also it could almost
take a 5" shell now. My eyes are very sore darling so I'll say goodnight
to you my precious.
Thursday 15th August 1942
The believed official information is that one cruiser sunk, two hit by torpedoes,
one of them is returning, the other is carrying on. One destroyer was damaged
and is also returning. Apparently they had a nest of U Boats waiting for
them. They also had a dusk raid just after nine last night. The Indomitable
commit their dead to the sea at dusk tonight, killed 6 Officers, 60 ratings,
wounded 55. Five of the convoy were sunk too so that was a very costly convoy
altogether, but as Malta is our base for Libya I suppose we'll have to expect
to do it. The Captain said we were attacked as we were because our gunnery
was bad! Maybe!
We claim three and a probable. I've just heard on the news that you had
bombs in the Greater London area and some people were killed. I'm wondering
if they will say anything about the convoy to Malta! 9 o'clock news Eagle
sunk. They made light of it, just as though it were nothing. I'd like to
have some of those people on one of these trips in my magazine. I'd like
to see 'em change colour as we do when each bomb drops.
I've had a nice bath and shave and am in my pyjamas. I feel very tired though.
I hadn't had anything to eat for two days except for two sandwiches. I had
a cup of water but the tank had a good shake up by the gun fire so the water
was lousy so I put some Andrews in it, boy did it do things to me. I was
glad we weren't at action! We had a good dinner tonight. Well sweet I must
stop now as my eyes are too tired. Goodnight dearest.
Well dearest they have arrived all four out of fourteen convoy. One still
in tow that might get there. Our losses Eagle and Manchester they announced
on the news. The Cairo and Foresight we sank ourselves as they were damaged
and we couldn't keep off the air attack on them as the escorting vessels
ran out of ammo. We are all on our way to Gib and there is a U boat concentration
waiting for us along the coast somewhere. I haven't time to write anymore
darling as I'm on at eight. Goodnight sweet. The wireless is playing You
and the night and music.
Sunday 16th August 1942
We arrived at Gib last night, but the bastards didn't give us long in harbour
as we left again at four this morning, a plane ferrying trip to Malta. It
took us two months to get from one end of the world to the other to do this
job. We didn't even get any ammo. There were 920 survivors from the Eagle
it seems impossible but only 25 are missing. Five ships out of the 14 got
to Malta! the last one to get in was a petrol tanker; they towed it at 5
knots for a hundred miles and were repeatedly attacked, but they got her
in. Now that we have all been together some of the tales are incredible,
we should not have lost so many ships as we did.
I received two airgraphs yesterday darling for which I thank you. Next time
in I may get an airmail if you get my wire OK. You don't seem to have got
my other wire but I'm not sorry darling. I hope we can get the Spitfires
off tomorrow; if so the sooner we shall turn back. The carrier may go home
after so we may take her. If's and but's darling. Goodnight dearest.
Monday 17th August 1942
We flew 32 Spitfires off this morning at starting out at seven. Two crashed
but I think they got the pilots OK. I haven't heard how many arrived at
Malta. We may hear later on. We have been speeding back now and we should
get in late tonight. I've heard some very funny stories today. The stewards
say that the officers know when we are to dock and where. I have heard that
we shouldn't have come on this trip but I refuse to believe anything till
we are actually on our way, and the captain has told us too! I should like
to see your face when you get a telegram to say I'm in England; I bet I'm
nervous too when I send it. Anyway we'll wait till that time comes darling.
I've to go to the Military Hospital for my eye test. The chap I saw before
is on the Indomitable, but she was hit with four bombs as I said before.
They scored 27 to 5 up to when they were damaged.
We should arrive in soon after eight tomorrow morning. Goodnight dearest
Tuesday 18th August 1942
I've been ashore today, elastic was in my mind and I got 18 yards. I thought
perhaps that may go around your waist - may be a little short. I also got
you a little present, I don't know if you'll like it, it is good and you
ought to darling. I think our fatal day is Thursday night. We leave for
home. If it isn't that it'll be to Mombassa. Oh Boy! I may have my 26th
in England. That will take a few years off me instead of adding one darling.
I went to the Military hospital today to see the ophthalmic specialist.
He said I was lucky as if it had been right in my line of vision I would
have been blind in one eye now. Did that shake me!
Wednesday 19th August 1942
I wrote you a letter tonight sweet. I don't like leaving anything to chance.
I should hate to leave here and not go home and then cuss myself for not
taking advantage of the mail services. It won't hurt to arrive home the
same time as the mail or before. I think we shall be leaving here on Sat
or Friday. Anyway by what the lst Lieutenant said tonight I judge us to
be at sea on Sat.
The news was fairly good darling: that raid on Wed. sounds as though it
was a big do. I suppose Lord Louis wanted to try out some new stuff and
ideas. They also announced the last of the Cairo and Foresight. We had a
notice put up on our board yesterday that Syphret told all CO's that the
navy claim 60 planes by gun & fighters. The full account on the news
was fair enough, I thought. Still it is over and nearly forgotten.
Thursday 20th August 1942
Today I played hockey, not deck hockey the real thing, and the sun was very
hot but I enjoyed it. You always get a fairly good crowd play, most of the
officers play and the captain of the flotilla always plays on the opposing
team. I'm very tired now sweet. We haven't left yet. I still think it's
Sat. The airmail came today but there was none for us so I take it they
have diverted ours to stay home so we will get it then. Pity as I could
have had one today. The next ship has a lovely monkey and is she funny.
Not spiteful and everyone's friend, she is very clever. She was playing
with the two dogs and the cat. She had them all beat. Well darling there
isn't anymore I can say today. Goodnight precious.
Saturday 22nd August 1942
It gives me great pleasure to get this pad out today. I've been very tired
as I played hockey again yesterday and I was too stiff last night to write
and there is so little to write about. But tonight it is quite different.
I have just received five letters from the sweetest girl in all the world
whom I hope to see before the month is out darling. You write me such beautiful
letters darling. I love you so much darling, but I don't seem to be able
to put it in letters as you do darling. I would like to make one excuse
sweet if I may. My letters are censored by the Doctor and it is rather hard
to let oneself go. Still I hope to give you this feeble attempt very soon
darling. Well, I've to go on watch now till midnight, so I'll say goodnight
to you precious.
Sunday 23rd August 1942
What am I to do sweet when you write me such sweet letters darling? Two
more again tonight! Do you of course you know how I feel! We leave tonight
for UK. We went on patrol last night I didn't tell you last night that we
were going. It was awful as we went to action stations at one in the morning.
But something told me nothing would happen to us when happiness was and
still is darling so near. I was ashore tonight for the last chance of shopping.
I got lemons and sweets darling and of course for a great charge about four
whiskies. You will soon know darling that there is no need to worry for
a little while darling. God willing, and great hopes on my part. I can't
write more when I feel as I do. We have waited so long for it sweet. Goodnight
Monday 24th August 1942
We arrive I think on Friday morning at 7 o'clock at Liverpool. I'll send
a wire then darling. The sea is rough now sweet, but who cares, we're on
our way home. We left at three this morning. We are taking the Indom to
Liverpool and we, I think and hope darling, are to dock at Chatham yard.
It will be very handy for me if we do that's why I hope sweet. We had to
wait for the Indom to be patched up for sea, otherwise we may have left
for home before.
I'm very glad I wrote this as I'm sure I shall be dumb when I see you dearest.
I couldn't sleep last night I only had four hours but I could not make any
plans so I hope you have darling. You see sweet we haven't the faintest
idea what will happen till the last minute. I'm afraid your seven letters
won't get answered darling not until I see you sweet but I'm sure you don't
mind darling. I don't know what will happen if the weather keeps up as I
think the last stage of our journey we are to go fast and that may be impossible
if it keeps up. Good night my precious one.
Tuesday 25th August 1942
The captain has just spoken. He said, "We arrive Liverpool am Friday
and from there to Chatham." He is not sure how long we shall be at
Liverpool but he thinks only a few hours. We shall do a couple of days at
Sheerness for de-ammo ship. The ship's company will be split into three
to give us the maximum leave.
He said the least it will be is a fortnight, but more to the mark is a month
each. I shall send wires and Friday if we leave Liverpool quickly and arrive
Sheerness about Saturday night I shall be off Sunday and come home. Also
on Tuesday I wish I knew things definitely. I'll warn you in the wire what
to do. One lot will go on full leave the others will have the same but get
it split into two whacks. I shall be more fortunate being a watch keeper
as we will either work twenty four hours about, that is every other night
ashore, or two days on and two off. But the others will only get one night
ashore out of four nights. Thank God it's Chatham as I can get home when
I'm off. The weather cleared up last night but it is getting lousy again
now. We are to do 27 knots tonight. I think I'm a bit out when I say tonight
it may be tomorrow night. Tomorrow I shall be able to tell you what position
for leave I'm to have. I think maybe I'm to stop aboard for a couple of
weeks then go on a month's leave. OH BOY! I don't suppose I shall do much
sleeping tonight but I'll say goodnight to you darling.
Wednesday 26th August 1942
I was wrong last night we have been doing 24 knots since before midnight
last night. We are going around the top of Ireland, and nearly up to the
top of it now. We may get in Thursday night now. My leave is split. I have
to come back when half of it is over. Still it doesn't matter darling I
get it just the same, and I'm not far from Chatham. So I shall be on leave
sometime next week darling. Goodnight dearest one
Thursday 27th August 1942
Well sweet I've spent most of the day thinking of words for a wire which
is going to make you happy. Also I sent a parcel to mother with three hundred
cigs in two towels and 15 lemons. The first articles shouldn't be in it.
Friday 28th August 1942
I didn't finish writing last night but it doesn't matter now. Last night
we eased down as the fog came down which made us late and we didn't arrive
till past one this afternoon. We are away to oil now that we have dropped
our passengers from Malta and Gib. I got a lovely letter today from you
today sweet. As I've said before dearest you write me the sweetest of letters.
I only wish mine were the same to you darling. I didn't like to tell mother
that we were in the Malta convoy as I know she worries more now about me
and thinks a great deal more about. For the same reason I don't want to
say too much about it and it will be harder still in future. We should know
what we are to do very soon. I hope they don't give leave here as I want
to get down south as quickly as possible and if I go ashore I may be too
late to phone in any case I'd try Gerty.
We left at six tonight and are steering for Scapa at twenty four knots.
They are caning us to the last. We are taking an officer to Scapa and then
going down the east coast. I think there is something on in the Channel
so we cannot go that way. I think the wires were late in going so you may
not get it till Monday but if you go to 158 over the weekend you might know
dearest. I'm wondering if Ron has said anything to you as he may know a
thing or two, but those people usually say nothing, but he might give a
hint to you if asked. This letter has got me guessing darling by a lot of
things you say. Why I don't know sweet, anyway it won't be very long before
I shall know sweet. Goodnight dearest. I don't think I shall see you Sunday
now but hope to Tuesday darling.
29th August 1942
We arrived at Scapa at 5 o'clock this evening and left again at 8 o'clock
(the nine news is on now). We would have left before but the captain was
too pleased with his orders. The east coast is tricky and we are to arrive
at Sheerness Monday morning at 1 o'clock. The description of the Duke of
Kent's funeral. I had to think of the splendour of it compared to those
chaps that lost their lives in the Med and were lucky to have a funeral
at sea. Well dearest this letter won't be much longer. This air is damn
good after that rotten heat some 6000 miles away. Goodnight sweet.
Sunday 30th August 1942
Somehow I don't think you know I'm on my way home. The weather is lousy
down this coast we passed the Tyne about noon today. We arrive at eight
tomorrow morning. Tonight we are spending at action stations as we are not
familiar with the happening of this coast at night, there may be raids and
E Boats too. I noticed that some of the convoy escort were in Scapa, we
also passed the new battleship "Howe" on our way in. She was doing
her tricks. I've been trying to think what you are doing today, but I think
the telegram arrived too late for you, Saturday I should say so unless you
are with mother you don't know. I'm glad in a way that it worked out like
that, save you thinking I should be home today. By the way Commander Russell
is the bloke that spoilt our trip by wanting a ride to Scapa. You had better
look after your family. This time last week I was saying I shall be home
this time next week, now I'm saying I shall be on leave this time next week.
Monday 31st August 1942
We arrived at Sheerness just after 8 o'clock this morning. "E"
boats were active last night laying mines. We didn't ask for trouble we
went around them. I'm twenty four hours on duty now and hope to get off
tomorrow at 1.15 there is just a little doubt about it in my mind as we
may go to Chatham at high tide tomorrow. Anyway I sent you a wire to say
I shall be home if not we start leave Wed or Thurs. We are here darling
that is the main thing and it's ground darling after so long dreaming.
Tuesday September 1st 1942
We are now on our way to Chatham and when we get in I'm going ashore to
see you I hope sweet so I'll end this here by saying it has been a pleasure
to me to write it sweet, an outlet for my feelings to someone I love and
understands me. So I hope it
gives you a little bit of pleasure too darling. See you soon love.
Here is a photograph of Alan and Vera, taken at their wedding
on 21 September 1942