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Ken Lobb - The Letters (5) - August 1955
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Monday, August 1
Hello My Love,
I missed pinching and punching you this morning, such a pity too because I feel so much better today, almost my normal self, which is a good thing after several days of sore throat and coughing and sneezing, and sleepless nights. On Saturday afternoon, I went ashore for a couple of hours, looked in the Naafi shops, which are more poorly stocked than when we were here last, and had a ride on a circular bus route, and was pleased to get back on board again. There really is nothing to see or do here. The Captain had a meeting today to see how the lads can be entertained on board (what nonsense!) He's very concerned to find that even on pay-day only 150 went ashore, he's afraid that morale will drop if they just sleep about the upper deck every afternoon. At the moment that's all this climate is fit for really, and I reckon that they're probably doing the best thing by sleeping in the afternoons.
Yesterday Schoolie and I decided that we must get away from the depressing atmosphere of the ship and set off at half-past one with our grips and went to Sandy Bay where we lazed in the sun, read, dozed and tried to write, and jumped into the sea at intervals when we got too hot. It's the best way to spend the time I think. We had a nice gentle time, there were enormous rollers, the first time it's been rough there, and it was quite exhilarating.
We got back to the ship in time to change, eat and see the film on the quarterdeck, "The Belles of St, Trinians," very funny with Joyce Grenfell too. I've stayed on board this afternoon, a great mistake really, but I have a sort of guilt complex if I go ashore every day, I feel I'm not doing my bit, which is nonsense really, because there's nothing for me to do when I stay!
I'm scuppered by the Concert Party again. The Commander had noticed that I had to withdraw from the Perahera, and asked if I'd like to go up with him instead on Thursday, an all-day outing by car (which would have been wonderful) but of course I had to withdraw again because there's a concert party show on that day, curse it!
Incidentally, a grandfather jellyfish 3 feet across cruised past the ship the other day, I didn't see it, which is probably a good thing, I might never have wanted to go bathing again. A school of dolphins has just gone rolling past the ship. Coming back to the ship on Saturday afternoon I was in a motorboat with the padre, and when the boat came to go alongside the ship the throttle jammed full on and we couldn't stop, and so we just went round and round in circles. The Midshipman and the rest of the crew couldn't free it, and the padre got quite worried, he thought we'd have to stay there until the fuel ran out, but a determined wrench on my part freed it, and we were OK. Funny really!
Ashore, everyone is on holiday, August Bank Holiday, but as for Easter and Whitsun, we've ignored it, and worked normal routine. Slave-drivers they are.
I've put in a card for Susan and an old Aden one for Andrew that's been kicking about for some time, I expect it will please him, I could only get two elephant cards. This evening I must get up to-date with my washing and I really ought to write "thank you" letters to the people I met on the cruise.
Cheerio now my love, I love you.
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Wednesday, August 3
Hello My Love,
Please go and buy yourself a swimsuit! It's silly to sit by the water and not jump in it. And you did spell Gunwalloe [Cornish Village] correctly, so there! You'd want to jump in the sea if you were here it's so hot, 98 degrees [ 36.6 degrees celcius! ] in the shade on deck today, and it's getting hotter. The weather is finding all the weak spots in everyone's health too, there's an absolute spate of illness of all sorts. Out of my 54 lads there are 5 in hospital, one in the sick bay and twelve attending the sick bay. The Commander is in hospital now, another Commander collapsed today, I reckon if you've got any weak spots this place will find them.
I'm writing in my pants as usual with four sheets of blotting paper spread under my forearms and hands to stop them sticking to the top of my desk. I'm sure to keep fit you need to sunbathe and swim every day, it hardens the skin and helps against prickly heat rash. I saw a beautiful chameleon yesterday, it was about 18 inches long, and looked quite dragon-like as it ran up a tree. It's been monkeys today, long-tailed ones with grey beard, they're funny to watch. We're painting ship again, and this morning I was working in my cabin, While the Somalis were painting the ships side outside my scuttle, and they were chanting away all the time, the same old tune and words, just like the jungle films, very appropriate in this heat, makes me feel quite a pioneer.
I've been swimming these last two afternoons, I reckon it's essential to health, today it ended with pouring rain, but I'd reached the Naval mess ashore by then and had tea there in great comfort, and returned to the ship early. I've been working this evening on a radar we can't get to go, so far as I am concerned it will have to remain stopped too, for tonight anyway.
Concert Party rehearsal yesterday after tea, what a shambles it was too! I came away as soon as I'd done my bit, and went to bed at 8.30 and slept right away, I felt exhausted. It's the last performance tomorrow I'm glad to say, after which I'm having nothing to do with any form of entertainment, although I'm grateful to this one because I'd never have gone to Nairobi otherwise. It's Andrew's birthday on the 23rd isn't it? I'll have to make a card, there's nothing like that our here of course. My blotting paper is soaked through.
Give my love to the kids, let them have a good holiday, and don't do too much work will you. I wish you could see me, I'm such a beautiful brown all over, except for my little white shorts, of course. I only hope it lasts until I get home for you to see. Cheerio now my love, I love you as ever,
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Friday, August 5
Hello My Love,
It's a dark and stormy night! A tropical storm actually, rain lashing down, thunder, and the most wonderful displays of lightning I've ever seen. It's been going on for an hour now too. A great pity because I was all set to go to the mess ashore and see "West of Zanzibar," they hold their film shows out of doors, of course it's all off now. So I'll go to bed early instead, and read.
I've been to Sandy Bay this afternoon with Schoolie, very pleasant, we just wear shirt and shorts and plimsolls and take our swimming trunks, swim, lie in the sun, walk back across the rocks exploring, a gentle life, ideal in this climate. Beachcombing isn't a bad occupation really. The English sea-shore will seem very dull I'm afraid after all the life out here, all the pools are alive with fish, and they swim around in view too, they don't hide under the rocks, and the rocks are covered in crabs of all sizes, it's quite amusing to see them climbing up vertical rock faces, I don't know how they manage to hang on.
We walked our way out to the end of a long reef sticking out to sea today, and at the end (where the water was about twenty feet deep) one of our sailors was busy in flippers and helmet with harpoon gun and leather gloves, and while we watched he shot 4 crawfish (things like lobsters) only a beautiful shining green colour, and a handsome fish with the brightest of colours, such a pity to kill them really. [a picture of the fish with top and bottom green with light blue and yellow horizontal stripes.]
There were some peculiar fish out on the reef too, out of the water, they crawled up the rocks on their fins, and always kept just out of the water, if a wave came up they crawled frantically away from it up the rocks. A sea-going crocodile was sighted outside the reef yesterday. They come down the river estuaries.
I missed a wonderful show at Kandy apparently. The procession was marvellous, over eighty elephants, all decked out in jewels and fancy harnesses, with canopies on long poles held up over them by natives walking alongside. Thousands of dancers and drummers, and bands, a magnificent procession that took over an hour to pass, with all the natives watching going mad and chanting and singing too. I'm sorry I couldn't go up there. I'll have to see that the next time I come out here (maybe we'll all be here then). Incidentally, I've got a row of model elephants watching me from my bookshelf. Xmas presents will be a little late this year! They'll have to wait until March.
After our pleasant afternoon we went to the mess ashore for a quart of fresh lime juice, iced, it's wonderful after a hot afternoon with nothing to drink. And so back to the unpleasant ship. Last night we gave our last concert party performance., I'm glad to say! It went down very well, everyone enjoyed, and now we can forget all about it. They're talking about an Xmas pantomime though.
Tell Grandad a funny thing happened today. I was rung up from the shore by a Mr Buller (?) who is in charge of the dockyard here. He seemed to know all about me and from what I could gather he is related to Uncle George Lobb's second wife. Anyway, he said I'm to go and see him the next time I go to the Naval HQ and have a yarn. So maybe I'll find somewhere to go in the evenings here after all.
The other ships are starting to arrive for out exercises now, we have a submarine, ("The Acheron") and a frigate ("Loch Killisport"), a tanker ("The Wave Master") and an Indian warship, and more will be arriving during the next few days, RN, Indian, Pakistan and Ceylonese Navy ships. Then we shall lead the fleet to sea. (what nonsense!) I'm more interested in leading it into the Plymouth Sound! I'm reading a most interesting book by Howard Spring called "The Houses Inbetween", and it's set in Cornwall, obviously around Porthleven, Looe Pool and Bar and Gunwalloe. I can almost visualise the story.
Now my love I'm going to retire and read, I love you, and hope you are having a pleasant change. Love to the kids.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Maonday, August 8
Hello My Lover,
This should have been written yesterday really, I had one from you them. I'm glad you enjoyed having lots of letters at once, I expect they did take a while to read. I expect you look very smooth in your new costume, black satin eh? Get as brown as you can won't you. You'll have a long way to go to beat my tan (ahem) for the first time ever I'm just as brown under my arms as on top of them. I expect Andrew will get to like the water before he leaves there. [My mother was on holiday in Cornwall staying with my grandparents]
We had some excitement on our beach this afternoon, a young crocodile about three feet long was swimming up and down, eventually the natives convinced our lads that it was harmless, and they chased it with sticks until one of the natives grabbed it by the tail and dragged it out of the water and they killed it with rocks. I suppose where there's a young one there'll be others. The monsoon season is starting, each evening since the storm it's poured with rain, starting earlier every day and this afternoon it started while I was on the beach.
It's quite sudden, in a clear sky, black clouds suddenly build up and then it pours. I just put my white canvas shoes on and khaki shorts, with a towel wrapped round my waist, and walked the 1 ½ mile to the jetty, and then had to wait for a boat, all in this pouring rain, I was soaked of course, I was in it for an hour, but it's the first time I've been cool for ages. The rains steadily get worse until in November and December, there's an inch of rain a day.
Now let's get my relation out here straight, when I spoke to him on the phone I didn't get his story straight, but last night he and his wife came on board to the film and we got ourselves sorted out. Tell Grandad and Grandma that his name is Steve Bullen, and his mother was Aunt May Lobb's sister, (in other words my Uncle George Lobb is also his also his Uncle George) so we're sort of cousins by marriage. Anyway, he's a pleasant quiet young chap, with a wife from Beckenham, and two young children. He does three years here and has his family here in a married quarter, and with a Hillman car, is very comfortable.
The film last night was "Caine Mutiny", a jolly good film, not as good as the book though, but never the less a long exciting film. Yesterday afternoon I called at the hospital to see Geoghegan, but found that they've been letting him out in the afternoons from one to six to go to his wife's place which is only two minutes' walk away. It's a jolly good thing I think, it must be infuriating to be lying cooped up a few hundred yards from your nice new wife. So instead I had a yarn with my other chap in there, and the Commander who passed out the other day from heat exhaustion. He's much better now, but is being relieved and is coming home.
Funnily enough one of the Naval Nursing Sisters there is Miss Foort, the daughter of Reginald Foort the organ player, (do you remember on the BBC). Yesterday I got on board just before the rain started. You'll also be astounded to know that my weight is down to 12 stones 10lbs (a loss of 2 stones) you'll probably not recognise me when I come back a lean dark brown man!
Saturday afternoon wasn't very pleasant, there was some engineering trouble as a result of which we had to shut down the generators for four hours, and were without light and ventilation and all the electrical services. The ship got unbearably hot, and I was required on board for shutting down and starting up again, so I was pleased when it was all over.
The harbour is full of warships now, about a dozen, looks quite a change, it means something now, being the flagship, we've got something to lead. When the exercise is over I get leave. We go to sea on Friday, returning on Saturday, just for exercises. We've also got 3 Sunderland flying boats too. Quite a warlike sight altogether.
Now honey I'm going to bed, to read for an hour first, give my love to the kids, I must write them some letters soon. I love you and will be glad to be with you again.
Your Own Loving Ken xxxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Wednesday, August 10
Hello My Love,
A letter from you today I'm glad to say. My cold is better now. You sound as though you're all having a wonderful summer, plenty of beach and sea, jolly good! Even if you're not having any necking on the beach! Penny is catching you up on the scales isn't she, only eight stone, dear oh dear you must be getting thin, let's see you were 9 stone 12lbs last time weren't you?
Well what have I been doing these last two days? Nothing really, the usual boring tiresome mornings, a brief swim and sunbathe in the afternoons and rush in before the rain starts. What a magnificent storm we had yesterday afternoon, I could see it coming and started back to the ship but only got as far as the jetty, a nearer jetty this time though where I could shelter. The display of lightning was wonderful and the rain was so thick and heavy you could only see for 50 yards, and it got quite dark too. It's most dramatic the way these storms blow up very suddenly they start, gales of wind and driving rain. My scuttle was open and my cabin was soaked when I got back on board.
Today was much the same, and I came back early, but met Steve Bullen at the jetty, who said come and have some tea with us, which I did, and watched the rain sweep across the harbour from their bungalow high up above the harbour with a beautiful view. I took the precaution of ringing the ship and getting them to close my window today. They have a nice bungalow, huge and well-appointed, with three houseboys, they live in great style, also a nanny.
After the rain stopped we went for a quick run in the car around Fort Frederick, where deer browse under the banyan trees, very restful. And so back on board. It looks as though I've fallen on my feet again, even in Trinco, which I tend to regard as the end of the earth.
Tomorrow morning I have some examinations to conduct for PO's so I'll have to rack my brains. I've put a couple of cards in, they were brought back for me from Kandy, don't let Andrew see because I haven't one for him.
Geoghegan, whom we all thought would be invalided, came back to duty today, the shore doctor and ships' doctors don't agree, although ours reckons he'll collapse again in 10 days. It seems hard sending him back to full duty after 9 weeks in bed. He's glad to get back though, he's tired of doing nothing. Well my love I've very little to tell you I'm afraid, life is hum-drum now, roll on our turn I'll make life hectic for you then.
All my love dear,
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincmalee - Saturday, August 13
Hello My Love,
The usual evening storm is on, pouring rain and flashing lightning, lighting up the fleet every now and again. It is a fleet now too, 18 ships, quite a task force. I'm exhausted this evening, after a long day yesterday and a night exercise, and going to the beach this afternoon when I should have gone to bed. Never mind, I'm not going to be up much longer.
Two letters from you today one with Penny's report and the snaps. Yes please, I'll keep them, jolly good aren't they? And how you've all altered. First of all, you look very well and handsome, [Cornish slang] especially No 6, in which you are laughing, you look delightful. I like your hair short too. And how different Penny looks, she's much better with her hair short and parted at the side, her face looks different altogether somehow, she looks well too. Susan looks handsome too, she looks taller too. Andrew looks cheerful doesn't he, and just as white-haired, though not as curly. I expect he is funny to listen to now. Jolly good anyway. I wish I had some more photos of me to send you, we don't seem to get around to taking any I'm afraid. Grandma looks cheerful throughout. What about Grandad? I presume he's OK too.
Well now, what have I done in the last few days. On Thursday afternoon I did what I should have done back in May when we first arrived here, that is sign the visitors book at the Senior British Naval Officer's House. He lives in such an awkward place at the top of a hill though, that I've have never plucked up enough energy to walk up there in the heat, and in a more formal attire than what I normally wear to the beach. Anyway, I've done it, which means I've probably let myself in for some stuffy formal function there later on.
After that I went to the hospital to see a couple of my lads in there for a bad leg, and a bad back respectively. They weren't too bad, and I had a cup of tea there. And so back to the ship before it rained, (just).
Yesterday was a frantic day, we went to sea early, escorted by a flotilla of 4 Pakistan destroyers, and at intervals throughout the day were attacked by Indian aircraft, a submarine and 4 Indian frigates. All very exciting, but pleasant to be at sea escorted by destroyers, instead of our usual business of being entirely alone, and going for days without seeing another ship. It went on into the night, with all the lights out, and guns manned, although it was quite pleasant up on the bridge, warm and balmy, and quite a dark night, until we met up with the "enemy" when star shells were fired in large numbers to light the place up. All very old-fashioned warfare though, no atom bombs. How they like to live in the past! And so back to harbour this morning, very tired as I said before, but whereas most sensible officers turned in this afternoon, I thought it would be better to get some fresh air and sunshine, so I've been "resting" on the beach. Next week we have four days at sea exercising, so maybe next weekend I'll be more tired still.
Otherwise I'm very well, and feeling quite cool at the moment, the rain has fetched the temperature down (it's probably about 85 degrees now). It's laughable really what I consider to be cool now. Snow and ice will shake me up won't it? I'll send Penny's report back in a later letter, she's done well hasn't she, I'll have to write and tell her so, and say how well she looks. I hope you all enjoy your holiday, there are bound to be some disadvantages, but it must make a pleasant change from being on your own. Give the brats my love, and best wishes to G and G and "Ninny", and of course the best of all my love to you dear. I'm longing to see you again.
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Monday, August 15
What a time we are having here! Yesterday was Pakistan's Independence Day, and today is India's, so with the Navies of both here there has been much ceremony and celebration. I managed to miss much of yesterday's entertaining because in the evening I had the Bullen's on board to the film, but today I couldn't avoid it, and I've been on board two of the Indian ships, a destroyer at lunchtime and a sloop this evening. They're an interesting lot, I'm learning a lot about India and Pakistan.
It's been a gay scene really, both days all ships have been dressed (you know flags hung out like washing like this) RN, RPN and IN and R Cy N alike, very pretty. [drawings of the ships with flags hung out from prow to stern along mastheads.] Last night the Pak, ships illuminated the ship with outline circuits of electric lights, like this, [drawing of ship outline with light dots in outline all over it.] and it didn't look at all bad, with four destroyers and a frigate done. This quiet old harbour hasn't seen so much entertainment for a long time, it's such a pity there aren't thousands of people here to see it. In fact, it's a very busy naval port now, with motor launches dashing about from ship to ship and ship to shore, and tomorrow the Indian cruiser "Delhi" arrives. We work up during the week and the whole fleet goes to sea on Friday.
It's funny to think that in a few weeks we shall have the harbour all to ourselves again. I'm trying to wangle a day in a submarine before they leave just for the experience of course. Yesterday the rain came early, just after lunch, and as it looked dull afterwards we had a ride on the bus round the harbour and town and left it at that. The film was "From Here to Eternity", all about the American army, a tough film, quite exciting though. The Bullen's enjoyed it, and have asked me up to their bungalow next Friday evening.
This afternoon I had a quick swim and then watched a display by a Danish gymnastic team of 15 men and 15 girls who have been touring the world for 2 years giving exhibitions. They were excellent too, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but had to leave before the end to shave, change etc. to go on board the "Gomati" the Indian ship. I'm very tired again, don't get enough sleep you know, at least I don't think the sleep does as much good out here somehow, it's restless sleep. Oh well, only another 197 days, I've got it on my calendar now! I'll put Penny's report in too.
Goodnight now dear. I love you, kiss the infants for me.
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Tuesday, August 16
Hello My Love,
A letter from you today, jolly good. Otherwise it's been a ghastly day! We've been at sea, storing and refuelling all afternoon from shop's alongside, and manoeuvring with RPN ships this evening, and finally we've anchored outside the harbour, so I've put the wrong address at the top really, I wasn't thinking.
I'm glad Andrew likes the water at last, I think he's a funny little man. I've been unable to get him a birthday card, I even had our coloured Chief Steward on it today, he goes ashore in the mornings, and I thought that if they were there he'd find them, but no success, so I'll have to draw one somehow. I don't feel very inventive tonight though, in fact I'm exhausted, and I can't turn in yet because the crane won't work, and I'll have to stay up till it's fixed, and up again at six tomorrow, it's a hard life!
I'm putting in the two snaps taken when we had our picnic in the Seychelles. The group includes all my six-footers, I'm the little boy in the middle. The lad (they're all 19, 20, 21, not very old) with the towel round his neck is the one who jumped out of the boat and couldn't swim. The very dark one in the shirt is a Pakistan rating, that's why he's so sun-burned. The other one was taken while I was walking round the island, and shows some of the lads in the background, and our two whalers and between them a launch which has nosed up on the beach and some people are getting out, they lived on the island apparently. I have a set of 12 photos of the islands taken by one of our lads, a good set of views, which you'll see when I get back. A "tropical paradise!"
I must leave you now my love and finish this off tomorrow.
Goodnight dear xxxxxxxxxxx
Hello there, I'm still tired after an early start, much firing of guns this morning. I've just drawn a birthday card for Andrew, using the back sheet of your Valentine card to give it a professional touch ("Valentines greeting cards" on the front) it was the only suitable paper I had, and only two coloured pencils too. I don't know whether he'll have any candles, he's too young I suppose. Susan could blow them out though.
A dull rainy day today, very warm though, you can tell how important it is to sunbathe every day, at least it's important to get your clothes off, I haven't done since Sunday, and I have a prickly heat rash on my tummy today, curse it! I have to attend an official reception to the Indians and Pakistanis tonight too, I'll get over it. Cheerio my love, I love you.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Saturday, August 20
Hello My Love,
What a hectic day we've had, at sea for four days. It's made the time pass quickly tho' even if they have been long days. Only 192 days to go now! Yesterday's exercise was quite interesting though, the whole fleet went to sea to practice replenishment, that is fuelling from tankers, and storing from a store ship, the sort of thing that would happen in war as fuel is used up. The fleet would meet its tankers and then oil from them. We steamed along as in the plan overleaf, a screen of frigates out in front to detect submarines (two were attacking us) destroyers hanging around to depth charge them, and we all oiled in turn whilst steaming alongside the tankers, one each side, and then while we laid out as above two lots of aircraft attacked us, and the subs penetrated the screen, and got into the middle of our task force and fired torpedoes at the position marked x, so I'm afraid what with that and the aircraft we wouldn't have stood much chance.
[The plan Father drew shows the formation to be Five miles wide. There are five frigates across the front and two destroyers down each side. In the middle were a tanker, a store ship and a tanker line abreast, each with a destroyer on each side refuelling or taking on stores. Behind this, but still inside the formation are an Indian cruiser on one side and on the other HMS Gambia. Lastly, inside the formation are two x's to mark the submarines which have penetrated the screen of ships.]
Still it was interesting and nice to be part of a task force of 19 warships, and good to be the flagship directing it all. It looked very fine, spread out over several miles, but I'm afraid my interest was with the aircraft which made repeated "bombing" and "firing" runs over each of the ships in turn, and would have shaken them up badly if it were the real thing. Anyway, one atom bomb would have done the lot in! In other words and old fashioned exercise on last war standards; always living in the past they are!
Yesterday evening I had roast chicken with Bullen's and spent a nice quiet time on their verandah, where it was cool and beautifully peaceful, away from the bugles and fan noises of the ship. They asked me to go boating and picnicking with them tomorrow, setting off in the morning, but we have an official lunchtime party on board, so I couldn't go. I'll have to go with them during the first leave period I think, when I shall be my own master.
This afternoon Schoolie and I went to our usual beach, but decided to push on around the coast to the next bay, coral cove, where no-one goes usually. We had a hair-raising walk there up and down cliffs and through jungle paths, very warm going too even in shorts and plimsolls, but it was worth it when we arrived. It was deserted when we got there and we beachcombed, among all the coral fragments washed up on the beach, and it was very interesting. I found some beautiful coloured shells, and coral branches, and two of my shells had hermit crabs in, although I didn't know it until they started walking off with the shells on their backs. The place was alive with ordinary crabs of all shapes and sizes, running all ways as you walk along.
Then 10 natives in 3 dugout canoes paddled in from the sea, and dropped three sticks of dynamite in the bay, and as soon as they went off, the surface of the water was covered with wriggling fish, and they just scooped them up with nets, and dived into the water, down deep and fetched up bags of big ones stunned or killed by the explosions; they were still fetching them up and hour later. Most interesting, especially as this form of fishing is illegal and is only carried on in the quiet out of the way spots. As we were witnesses to it we were rather worried in case they threw a stick at us before they left!
We got most interest from a crowd of hawks though, which were attracted by all the dead fish on the water, they had a wonderful time swooping down and grabbing fish in their talons, and eating them on the wing, they're very clever. We found a sort of track into the jungle from the beach, and decided to try and get back that way rather than the hazardous way back across the cliffs, and this was most interesting, beautiful flowering trees and cacti, and monkeys crashing through the trees, and in one place we came on a fish that one of the hawks must have dropped, and there were two columns of enormous ants concentrating on it, from 20ft on either side of it. The ants were six to ten abreast travelling towards the fish. The fish was covered in ants, and those that had eaten were filtering slowly back along the advancing columns, which were twisting about along the best route. It was just like two armies marching up to the fish. These ants are wonderful, I wouldn't want to be lying where the fish was though.
Eventually we found a road, and so back to the ship at 6.30. A most instructive afternoon really. We've decided to do some more exploring along there tomorrow afternoon if it's not too hot. If it's hot we shall go to the usual beach and lie! Schoolie weighed himself yesterday, he's lost a stone!
Our next cruise programme has been worked out, leaving here on the 19th August, for Colombo, Bombay, Karachi, and then to about ten places up the Persian Gulf, of which the only ones I've ever heard of before are Bahrein and Abadan (the oil place), and back here on the 19th December in time for Xmas. That will make a nice break, just at the time when the weather is worst here too, heavy rains all the time, the monsoon period. Then, after that, leaving on the 1st January we go up the East coast of India to Madras and Calcutta I believe, after which it will be time to start back home! We're all counting the days now.
I had a letter from you yesterday, and one from G&G, which I must answer soon. You all seem to be doing well, and getting your share of sunshine, let me know when you're thinking of going back to Plymouth, then I'll be able to have a letter waiting there for you. Now my love, I must leave you again, loving you as ever of course. Give the kids my love too.
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Monday, August 22
Hello My Lover,
I have to think quite hard to decide what I've done these last two days, life is so ordinary. Yesterday afternoon started fairly late for me, because we had an official party on board at lunchtime for the "Delhi" Officers, the "Delhi" is the flagship of the Indian Navy, very dull the whole thing. So I didn't set off until half-past two, and then only lazed gently on the beach in the sun.
In the evening we had our usual film show, quite good too, 'To Paris with Love," a story of a father and son going to Paris for a fortnight, and each trying to get the other a girlfriend, and getting hopelessly mixed up in the end. Quite funny, I like my films to end happily for everyone though. Today I managed to get smartly away at half-past one with the doctor, and we had a pleasant afternoon on the beach, swimming in enormous rollers today, sunbathing and making a most intricate network of tunnels and bridges and double tunnels in the sand. He was loath to come away and leave it, and spent quite a bit of time chasing the native kids away from it.
Then we went to the hospital to see a couple of my lads in there, there are 25 in there altogether, and one of my chaps said that if the food on board was as good as in the hospital there'd be no cases for the hospital. The duty sister was a sour old thing called Sister Hannah. I told you didn't I that one of the sister's here is Reginald Foort's daughter?
From the hospital to the Naval mess ashore for some fresh lime juice (I was so thirsty I drank a quart of it, wonderful!) and so back aboard at six. I'm President at dinner tonight which means I lead them in and bang on the table for the Padre to say Grace. It's ruined my evening really because I normally go in early to supper at quarter past seven, now I'll have to wait another hour.
We have a big programme again this week, at sea tomorrow all day, oiling at sea, in harbour on Wednesday when I have some examinations to conduct, and at sea Thursday and Friday, with a night exercise and fuelling at sea during Thursday night and "atom bomb" attack on Friday. Very exciting! Next week is the last week of these exercises, and the following week I shall start my leave, which has now been altered to the first leave party.
Incidentally your photo is the is the subject of much favourable comment on the part of various officers who visit my cabin from time to time. It's resplendent in a fine frame made by the Admiral's joiner (nothing but the best!) and it does much to hearten me in my duller moments. Cheerio now my love. Roll on the 1st of March.
Your Own Loving Ken xxxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Wednesday, August 24
Hello My Love,
It's ten to twelve, at night, but I must write this because the mail closes at 5.30 in the morning. What a day it's been and I've still got some exam papers to mark too. I had a letter from you yesterday, I think it was jolly good having a ride to Falmouth and a boat trip to St. Mawes, fancy the kids behaving well too! I'm surprised you haven't gained more than a pound, aren't you eating your share of cream? We spent yesterday at sea, fuelling from a tanker for 5 hours too, we seem to practice that an awful lot, it looks as though in future wars they expect to keep all our ships at sea for ever, and not come in for fuelling even. Last night I prepared some examination questions and all this morning was spent at examining. In fact it went on so long that I couldn't go ashore until half-past three so I've missed my dose of sun.
I had a quick visit to the beach though and then went to the hospital to see my lads that are languishing there, including one that was taken ill with appendicitis at sea yesterday, and rushed into hospital and operated on as soon as we got back to harbour. He was still dopey today, but he's OK really. I had a yarn with Geoghegan and his wife this afternoon too, they'd come down to the beach. She looked wonderful on her wedding day but today she looked like a proper native girl. A most surprising change.
This evening while I was in the middle of supper they exercised "crash darken ship" which meant all the lights went out, absolute panic of course, but we came out of it very well, we were the first ship in the harbour to manage it. Since then I've been puzzling out some tricky electrics and we've had a radio fault that's now clear, so I'm nearly free to turn in. A big day tomorrow, at sea all day and night and Friday, another big convoy exercise, more oiling too, at nigh this time, we should have fun.
I don't mind as long as I can get some sunshine at the weekend, although I have to go to an Indian ship to lunch on Saturday, and we're having another formal lunchtime party on board on Sunday. It makes me so cross, absolutely ruins my afternoon's sun tonic.
Well I haven't much to tell you, and yet life seems so hectic somehow, the time passes very quickly anyway. I still haven't written to G&G, I must do so, I don't seem to get time though. The urge is not so great as writing to you. Don't say I said so! Cheerio now my love, enjoy yourself, quietly, of course.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Friday, August 26
The radio is playing "West of Zanzibar", which takes me back to the last cruise. I never did see the film though. A letter from you today when we got back into harbour, with the snaps. What happened to the eighth one? I see there's a back view of Grandad cutting the hedge in one of them too, he looks thinner, or maybe it's the angle of the camera (ha ha!) Susan has come out a lot better this time especially the one with her hair right back off her forehead. Andrew is a tough little boy isn't he? Jolly good! Of course now you've told me how your hair's done I'm anxious to run my fingers through it!
I feel dopey tonight, tired and it's very hot, everything is an effort. My sleep wasn't too disturbed last night after all, although we were in action stations four 12 hours. They managed to kill a seaman on one of the Pakistan ships during transferring stores from one ship to another, at speed, and in total darkness. So today there's been the funeral (you can't keep the bodies long out here!) and flags at half-mast. It's funny because in one Indian ship on the way here, they lost one man overboard, and electrocuted another. Life is not held in high esteem it seems.
We didn't get back into harbour until three o' clock this afternoon, but even so at quarter past four, I went ashore for a quick swim, I felt so hot on board. It's funny as soon as I step onto dry land I feel full of life, and the hot sun is pleasant, I think the hot iron decks on board make life unpleasant.
Well, what a hectic day! I spent most of the morning examining lads for advancement, and then had to go to lunch on the "Delhi", the Indian cruiser. It wasn't very interesting, (in fact I wasted half my afternoon!) and as I don't like curry it was wasted on me really, I had some fish and spam instead. After that I crept out to the beach for a swim, but the best sun of the day was gone then, so my tan is going off too! I went up to the hospital afterwards to see my three inmates, they're looking much better too. And so back to the ship, and an early supper.
Then we went fishing. Commander L, myself, and six of the electrical lads took a whaler (a pulling boat) and we've just got back three hours later, the plan was to pull over around some rocky islands (in the dark) and go close in, and shine powerful lights in the water and when the crawfish came up to see what was going on, spear them with some spears we had made this morning. Well, I think three were seen and one had a leg knocked off by a spear, but none were caught, so it was wasted effort really. It was nice and quiet away from the ship though.
Only 185 days to go now. I shall be so pleased when the half-way mark is reached, it won't seem so bad then. I hope Andrew likes his engine, although I suppose there'll be some squabbling over it when Susan sees it. Do they still play well together? Let me know when you're going back to Plymouth won't you, I expect you'll have a job to get in the house what with all the newspapers in the hall, and milk on the step (Ha Ha.) Never mind, my lover, I have to pull your leg sometimes. Now I must go to bed, Divisions tomorrow, curse it! I love you.
Your Ever-Loving Ken xxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia in the Indian Ocean - Tuesday August 30
Hello My Love
You had a salt water shower this morning, and I had a rude awakening! I'd left my window wide open during the night, and it got rough and at half past six this morning we rolled heavily and the sea rushed in and swept me off my bunk! It was absolute chaos, I didn't know where to turn first, everything was awash, with the water running from side to side across the floor as the ship rolled, and over the sill into the flat outside the cabin. It took an hour to get the cabin straight, and an emergency intake at the laundry of my bedding, and everything hung up on to the upper deck to dry off.
Quite exciting, but it will be a long time before I have my scuttle open again at sea. In the middle of it, standing in the sea water I happened to touch the frame of my electric fire (which was switched off) and I got the most almighty shock! One thing after another. Anyway, all is back to normal now, and your photo has been washed off and polished, and you're still smiling.
I had a letter from you on Sunday, I'm glad you liked the snap, I'm not younger really, it's just that I'm thinner and sun-burned, and I'm sure you'll look just the same, although I'll see a big difference in the infants. You're all enjoying yourself I'm glad to see, beaching and cinema-going and ice-cream going, jolly good! Enjoy yourself, we shan't be able to afford it when I get back and we run a car again. Although there's talk of increasing our pay again. I shan't refuse!
It's interesting to see that the evenings are drawing in and it gets dark at nine, because the days don't alter our here, it gets light at half-past six in the morning, and dark at half-past six in the evening. This week we're at sea all the week, non-stop convoy exercise with submarine and air attacks and attacks by the Indian cruiser playing the part of a fast raider. We went to sea yesterday afternoon, but didn't get very far because the Pakistan tanker had flooding in the engine room lost power and nearly went aground outside the harbour. What a panic that was! At the same time a Pakistan destroyer broke down, so we anchored there and sent parties to help them, and repaired their break-downs (they're a useless lot!) and eventually went at half-past one in the morning, so I didn't get a lot of sleep last night.
Incidentally. I went aboard the Loch Killisport yesterday, one of the modern frigates, specially fitted for the tropics, and it's a great improvement on the Gambia! Much smaller but new and beautifully clean everywhere, and air-conditioned throughout, so it's cool. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that the small ships are best, although they don't have Lt Cdrs in the electrical branch on board, so I'm doomed always to be on big ships I suppose, unless I get several little ones to look after. Still I don't want another sea job for about six years.
On Sunday afternoon I went to the beach and it was quite crowded (for Trinco) with lots of sailors, and civilians with their kids, in fact it was so noisy that I must have imagined I was on an English beach because I fell asleep there for the first time! We had a funny film on Sunday evening Laughter in Paradise with Alistair Sim and Joyce Grenfell, and many of the goons who were in Happy Ever After, all about four people who were left £50,000 each provided they fulfilled certain conditions. It was a riot of laughter from beginning to end.
Today we've collected our convoy today and refuelled from a tanker (in the middle of which incidentally, the enemy sub came up in-between two tankers and torpedoed the lot of us!) All very exciting but we're getting used to plating at war now that it's getting boring. I'll finish off now my love, I'm expecting a disturbed night. Could you send me a renewal form for a driving licence, Grandad will know what I want, I thought I had one but I can't find it. Cheerio honey, 182 days to go, I love you.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at sea - Wednesday August 31
We're still in that old Indian Ocean, steaming like fury to intercept the enemy, all in the dark of, not a light showing, intolerably hot below deck, rocking gently. I had a disturbed night as expected and in theory we expended 360, 6 inch shells (all of which hit the target of course, Ha-ha!) and the dawn saw our convoy of three tankers and 1 store ship quite intact, with its screen of twelve destroyers and us.
I got up early which was just as well too, because at seven o'clock we were attacked by aircraft. Luckily the enemy all withdrew this afternoon, and we rested, I took my chair onto the quarterdeck in the sun and basked while we rolled along with our convoy, zig-zagging all the way to fool any subs watching. All good last war stuff. I've seen so many films, and read so many books though that it all seems so commonplace. I'm going to try and turn in early again tonight in preparation for being disturbed about midnight. Goodnight dear.
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