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Ken Lobb - The Letters (4) - July 1955
HMS Gambia at Dar-es-Salaam - Saturday July 2
Hello My lover,
We arrived here yesterday afternoon at two o'clock, and when they sorted our mail out I found I had a letter from you and one from Penny. I'll answer Penny's separately tomorrow, and yours now, including a second letter from you which I got at midday today, posted on June 29th, so that's jolly good really. I'm afraid your second letter seemed rather depressed, you must be having a rough time with Susan unwell, and it looks as though Andrew is about to get measles too, (Oh no I didn't!). I notice you say you haven't heard from me, and I expect I must be busy, But you mustn't worry if you don't hear from me, and I'm never too busy to write, so if there are delays it's because we're on the move, not because I've stopped writing to you. Incidentally after we leave this place mail is going to be difficult because we're going to the Seychelles islands, where there is no air mail, and mail boats only call once a month, so it's quite possible that all mail will be saved up till we get back to Trincomalee in which case there may be a fortnight with no letters, but then you'll get a heap all at once.
I'm sorry I'm not home to make a tent for the kids, wigwams look OK in the drawings but actually there's never much room in them because they go up to a point, the other sort are the best but they're always a nuisance with poles and pegs. The easiest way to make a quick one is to hang a rope up in the garden from wall to wall and put an old sheet over the top (if you've got one!) with loops of tape sewn on at the corners and pegged down. Penny's getting quite a stay-out when she goes swimming isn't she.
Dar-es-Salaam means "Haven of Peace" but I don't think it will be for us with the tremendous programme we have for the next week! We're in Tanganyika here, we left Zanzibar yesterday morning early, and as if we weren't already exhausted enough, we closed up to Action Stations during the five hour trip here, and exercised the six-inch guns, and fired a torpedo. Once we arrives we had the usual round of official calls, and planning and arranging the details of our programme here, followed by our official welcoming cocktail party to which 250 locals came on board.
Among them was an ex-naval officer I'd met up in Nairobi who insisted that I changed and went ashore with him and his wife to supper and a quiet sit in his house by the sea-shore, very pleasant, but it was after midnight by the time I got back on board. It's very convenient here, it's a deep water harbour and we're moored only a 100 yards offshore, where there's a magnificent modern promenade sea-front, so travelling to and fro isn't difficult. Again, although it has its native quarter and once out of the modern area you're right back in primitive Africa. I intended to sleep this afternoon (I've had such short night lately) but no sooner had I settled down than they found some electrical troubles to worry me with and I had to dress again. Also this place is lousy with mosquitoes, and they all sleep under mosquito nets ashore, and I was surrounded by swarms of them yesterday evening ashore. I got some shocking bites too, and I only hope my daily dose of paludrine keep malaria away.
This afternoon I've been ashore to the Town Hall, a magnificent new building, only finished a couple of months ago, to the Mayor's official party. There I met the sister, and her husband, of the wife where I stayed in Nairobi. He's the bank manager here, and I asked them both to the ship tomorrow night for dinner and the film show on the quarter deck. I was hoping to be able to repay them in some way for the hospitality I had at Nairobi from the sister, but it's quite hopeless, because these people promptly arranged to take me on a car trip tomorrow afternoon, swimming and picnic tea, and also suggested I slept ashore at their flat every night while we're here, which I can't do, although I probably will on Wednesday after we've put on our two concert party shows (matinee and evening performance) when I shall probably be glad to have a good sleep in a decent bed.
They ended the evening by carting me off to the Dae-es-Salaam club for chicken dinner, where by the end of the evening most of the Shop's Officers, including Mr & Mrs. Admiral had gathered, and by the time we got back to the ship it was one o'clock! There's no doubt there flag waving cruises with the official parties and all the hospitality that's showered upon us, makes a naval officers' life a very hard and sleepless one. The ratings are enjoying themselves too, all sorts of entertainments are arranged for them and there's even a super modern cinema with cinemascope! It's so strange to find a small piece of civilization set don on the middle of native territory.
The stamps here are the same as in Kenya, so there won't be any to send I'm afraid; Tanganyika, Kenya, and Uganda are the East African territories and the stamps are all the same. I'll get some postcards on Monday though, when the shops open. Penny says she'd rather have animals. Now my love I'll have to go to bed, it's ten past two! I'd much rather be snuggling down with you than in this silly little cabin. Keep smiling dear, I love you and miss you very much.
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Dar-es-Salaam - Sunday, July 3
Hello My Love,
What a hectic day! Enjoyable but tiring. We've been out to yet another tropical beach fringed with palm trees. I can't think why anyone wants to live in England when there are all these nice places abroad. I admit there are disadvantages though, for instance the roads we travelled on this afternoon were shocking, just tracks, shockingly bumpy, cars don't last very long out here, you certainly don't see any old ones. We went in an Italian Fiat car rather like a Hillman, and which the Carnell's said I must borrow and see things for myself! We swam and had a picnic tea and then back to the ship in time to shower the salt off and change for the evening's cinema show on board.
It was a shocking film called "Executive Suite," all about American Big Business, very boring, which was a pity really because we had the record number of 154 guests on board for the show. These people I asked said they enjoyed it anyway because it brought back memories for him, because he was a Lieutenant RNVR during the war, he's a banker now. It really is amazing how many people out here have naval associations, it's probably why they're so anxious to entertain us though.
Oddly, we have one scandal developing on board, a young lieutenant, the one who was at the Captain's Supper Party that night with the tall fair wife, plunged heavily for a married woman up at Nairobi, and got himself hopelessly entangled, much to the annoyance of the rest of us who gave him a dog's life over it. He managed to wangle himself an extra night up there, and now we've come down here has actually flown up there this weekend (it's several hundred miles too) at his own expense. We're all a bit worried about it, because it's not the sort of thing to have happen in a flagship, and could well cause a lot of trouble, apart from the moral issues! I think these chaps are mad because there is plenty to do in seeing the country and scenery and natives besides playing the fool. I'm glad I'm a happily married staid old man!
I'll stick to the museums and more cultural activities (ha-ha!). I've started to collect a few curios, but I'm not going to tell you what they are, I expect there'll be some excitement when I come home and start turning out though. By then Andrew will be old enough to have his share too. The people whom I had on board last night think he looks wonderful in that photo, they're expecting a baby in a few months and are hoping for a boy. Do you remember the way we used to call ours Oswald, they call theirs Charlie after a carved coconut native head they've got hanging on the wall! It struck me as very funny, I thought we were the only daft ones like that. And so to bed. I love you.
Monday, July 4
American Independence Day today, but I don't care! I've been to the tourist information centre this afternoon and read the books and pamphlets about Tanganyika, I shall be quite intelligent after all this you know! Then I went to the museum, where there's lots of guff about Dr. Livingstone and Stanley, and letters written by Livingstone to the Captain of a Naval vessel asking for help. There was a tank too, with two live baby crocodiles, about 18 inches long, they looked like toys. There were lots of native drums, canoes, spears and so on, and some fearsome masks and witchdoctors clothes, including dress worn by boys and girls for initiation ceremonies, and the rough tools used to circumcise the boys. Revolting!
It was really hot this afternoon, burning sun. This evening I went to dinner with the Carnells and another ex-naval couple, and afterwards to a film (after the shocking one we had on board last night), a glorious Yankee musical in technical colour "A Girl and 3 Sailors", corny, but amusing. And then back to the ship by native boat, carefully avoiding the drunken sailors on the jetty, one of whom was in trouble, couldn't straighten his bent leg and for whom the MO was called. They take their entertainment seriously. Now my love I'm going to turn in, hoping you're coping.
Your own Loving Daddy xxxxxxx
HMS Gambia at Dar-es-Salaam - Wednesday, July 6
Hello My Lover,
This is no "Haven of Peace!" I decided to have an early night last night, and was determined to turn in early. I spent the afternoon on board tidying up the details of the concert party shows today, and at tea-time had two ex-naval officers on board and gave them a tour round the ship for an hour and a half, just to bring back their war-time memories, it's surprising how eager all these war-time chaps are to get on board a warship again, and how nostalgic they get. Afterwards I changed hurriedly, very smooth in my white dinner jacket, to go to Government House to meet the Governor of Tanganyika and wife and so on, all very formal, and being announced at the door in a loud voice by the Aide-de-Camp and after a gentle hour there (having consumed 3 lime squashes) I set off down the drive, ready to return on board for a long sleep, and then I was kidnapped!
A car drew up with one Robin Blacklock in it, an ex-RNVR type (who was blown up by a mine in 1942 in Falmouth bay) who offered me a lift back to the jetty. Once in the car however he set off in the other direction and said, "You don't want to go back to the ship, you're coming home to dinner with us," and he tore off to his bungalow and I was finished for the evening. We went on afterwards to the most magnificent here, with cinemascope too, the first I've seen, and air conditioning and saw a magnificent epic all about mutinies in India, in the Khyber Pass. It's a good job you weren't there, you'd have pinched and squeezed my arm black and blue, with all the suspense. It's most funny really, there we were, he in black evening dress, me resplendent in white, his wife in a backless evening thing, others in the audience in shorts and shirts and the majority of the audience were all black Africans and Indians, in nighties and all sorts. It's a funny country! And eventually back to the ship in the Port Officers launch, at midnight. It's a strenuous life.
Today is concert party day, and it looked on Monday as though there'd be no show! The cast all reckoned they'd thrown their hands in, and refused to put any more shows on because they suffered by not being able to enjoy themselves ashore, what with normal duties and concert performances. I had to jump into the breach (ahem) and handle what was a mutinous situation so that they all appeared at rehearsal this morning, and the show will go on tonight. Joking apart though, it was a near mutiny, and the Captain got to hear of it, and sent for me and said that the situation had been very well handled. So I shall probably get a medal now (ha ha!) I know one thing though, I shall withdraw from this at the next opportunity; it's too great a strain controlling 60 angry sailors in addition to my normal work.
I'm having supper after the show at the Carnells and staying the night afterwards, it will be nice to sleep in a bed. I had half an hour bargaining with the natives on the streets at lunch-time, for native carvings. Very amusing, but nothing like the amount of bargaining I expect I'll have to do with the customs at Plymouth when I come home, I'm told there's a 100% import duty to be paid on wooden carvings and goodness knows how much on ivory. Still, the chances are I shall never be in this part of the world again, and I should be sorry to leave with nothing to show for it. I hope you're OK dear, I haven't heard for a few days, but I expect I'll get a couple at once. All my love.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxxxx
p.s. My visitors on board thought your boy's photo was wonderful!
HMS Gambia at Dar-es-Salaam - Thursday, July 7
Hello My Lover
I'm glad you've had some letter from me at last. Well, the two performances of the concert went off well enough last night, we're all heartily sick of it though, and would like to think we've done our last show. There were some shaky moments, and the greatest trouble is keeping the lads from drinking, they seem to think that if they're half-drunk they do a better job.
After the show Schoolie and I went off with the Carnell's where we stayed the night although it was a very short one because the show wasn't over unto midnight, and by the time we had sandwiches and coffee and went to bed it was half-past one. It was the first time I slept under a mosquito net, necessary ashore here though, and I had a good night, and returned on board at eight this morning.
An Arab dhow came in this morning, from the Persian Gulf, it looked wonderful sailing in, and when it anchored men ran up the mast, just like monkeys, to get the sails down. I have a nice photo of one, they're very picturesque. It's surprising to think that the Arabs sail them down here from the Persian Gulf to trade. The natives here use small dug-out tree-trunk boats for fishing, called ngulaus (pronounced "ingle-layers"). The have plank out-riggers each side to stop them toppling over, and a mast and triangular sail, they look crude and primitive but crack along at a smashing pace in a good wind. There is a very modern cargo boat in here, American I think, think super-streamlined, with a dummy funnel which is used for the Captain's quarters and has portholes in it. I hope Andrew doesn't get measles.
Well, I'm tired it's two o'clock on Saturday morning really and I'm anxious to finish this because there is a collection at 3, which will be the last mail sent to England for a long time, none will be sent from the Seychelles which means I shan't hear from you now until we get back to Trinco on the 27th July and no letters will leave the ship until then. So don't despair dear, everything will be OK, and you'll get an awful lot at once, probably at the beginning of August.
Well yesterday afternoon I had to drive the car, very pleasant, and we went swimming, and sunbathing, the usual white sand and palm trees, it's getting so commonplace now! After tea Schoolie and I dropped off to sleep in comfortable armchairs for an hour and then bathed and shaved and changed and had a peasant dinner to which the Carnell's asked another ex-N.O. and his wife, quite a pleasant affair, after which we retired to our armchairs and talked and finally went to bed, sleeping ashore once more.
I like the Carnell's, they're much more relaxed and natural, the people I stayed with at Nairobi were far more formal, I'd never have thought of sitting in an armchair there and dropping off to sleep. This afternoon I've been swimming up the coast, at the bungalow of another ex-Naval family, it was very pleasant, a long walk across the sands, swim and dry off and tea on the veranda. This week has been almost like a week's leave really, leaving the ship practically every day at midday, I feel quite guilty about it in a way, and I'm only consoled by the thought that everybody else, officers and men, are also ashore as much as possible, and it's part of this cruise to get about, see the sights and meet the people.
We're leaving in the morning at six, so the town is rocking tonight with celebrations of all sorts, but we've spent a quiet evening, dinner at the Carnell's followed by another Cinemascope film, and then a snack, a yarn, farewells and back to the boat by native-boat. There I learned that there had been a serious motor accident this afternoon, the driver being killed, and three of my ratings seriously injured in hospital ashore and we'll have to sail without them.
Tomorrow morning we have an exercise, and all guns will be firing and so on. I've enjoyed Dar or DSM as they call it locally but I'm determined to get more sleep at the Seychelles and not have so many late nights. It's half past two now and I have to get up at five, so I'm going to leave you, loving you more than ever, and wishing you were here, Cheerio my dear, for two or three weeks I'm afraid.
Your Own Loving Ken xxxxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia in the Indian Ocean - Sunday Morning, 10th
It feels very unreal to be at sea again, I could cheerfully have spent another week at Dar. I'm feeling a bit more lively now after sleeping 3 hours yesterday afternoon, another 3 after tea, and then turning in at nine and not getting up until quarter to eight this morning! It was a tiring week, followed by getting up very early yesterday and then gunnery exercise.
It was just like a ghost ship yesterday afternoon apparently, bodies lying about sleeping all over the place, only the watch keepers awake. I feel I shall turn in this afternoon too, if my bunk is dry! It's quite a choppy sea, with a strong wind and although I only had my scuttle open an inch my cabin has been showered with sea from a big wave. On Tuesday we are going to refuel at sea from a big tanker and hope to pass some mail across to her, to go back to Trincomalee for flying to UK, by about 25th July. I hope it comes off otherwise it will be a long time before you hear from me.
I have heap of irritating mosquito bites around both ankles, which I must have got ashore at Dar. You have to keep as much of your body covered as possible during the evenings, and although I wore a long-sleeved shirt and my tropical trousers, they've attacked me between the turn-ups and the tops of my nylon ankle socks. They're enormous red bumps and they certainly itch! I'm not looking forward to the Seychelles. I don't think there's a very large English population there, although there are many people of French extraction. It has a bad name, one of the sayings is "coconuts are ten a penny, and women are ten a coconut". Our official guidebook says that "even the most well-behaved ship's companies have been known to go astray, as there is every opportunity for unlimited vice of every description."
So I shall limit myself to some quick sightseeing and maybe curio hunting, and a swim if there are any safe beaches. I can't understand why we are staying a week at such a place, it would have been better to stay longer at the East African posts where life is more civilised. Still I suppose high politics are ignored. Life is going to be very dull and tedious at Trincomalee when the cruise is over, I'm afraid the time will drag terribly. I'm looking forward to life at a Naval Air Station.
Hello My Lover,
I went to the cinema yesterday evening "War of the Worlds" from H. G. Well's book of how we were invaded by people from Mars. It was quite good too, up-to-date, even the Atom-bomb didn't stop them, the invasion failed though, they all caught flu or something similar.
My bed was soaked when I came to turn in afterwards, from the wave that came in earlier in the afternoon. It's surprising how rough it is really, a very strong wind blowing and the ship is wet all over on deck, drenched in spray. She's riding very well though, not rolling or itching excessively, or maybe I'm just used to it. It will be interesting if it's like this for our refuelling at sea from a tanker tomorrow, it will take some time 5-6 hours, with an enormous pipeline rigged between the two ships, which have to steam close together or the pipe pulls apart and showers oil everywhere.
I must write to Grandma and Grandad tonight, I don't think I've written since I got back from Nairobi, time seems to pass so quickly, I've already forgotten what I did at Dar-es-Salaam. I shall certainly have to re-read my letters when I get home. I hope the infants are well again, life must be very tedious for you, and tiring. It's interesting to note how much more often people are talking about getting home, and how relieved we all are that we're not going to be out here for 2 1/2 years. I'll leave you now dear, loving you more than ever.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia in the Indian Ocean - Tuesday July 12
Hello My Lover,
Quite an exciting day today, we've been refuelling from a tanker the "Wave Prince." It's been rough too, and it's quite a hazardous operation really, two big ships steaming along, side by side only 30 yards apart for several hours, with a pipeline suspended between them from a derrick on the tanker. With both ships pitching and rolling the apparent motion between them is enormous, at one moment her bottom was showing and then she was down with her well decks covered in water, it really was a fine sight.
We had the Navy's usual demonstration of efficiency with about 15 officers on our bridge, and 200 ratings rushing about on deck, and the old tanker was carrying on with one officer on the bridge (and he didn't stay there all the time) and about 15 hands on deck tending the lines. Sometimes the Navy seems to be trying to find work for itself.
It's been beautifully sunny today, I managed to get an hour with my shirt off after lunch. I was thinking of how you'd like to see me now looking so brown and super-fit! The major operation in today's fuelling so far as I'm concerned was transferring our letters so that they can go straight back to Trinco for air-mailing.
You'll be sorry to hear that Geoghegan, my writer who married the Ceylonese girl, is very unwell. He's had thrombosis in his legs and has been nearly 4 weeks in bed in the sick bay. He got up for a couple of days, but had to go back again, and they are talking of invaliding him out of the Navy when he gets back to Trinco. That will be a big blow for his wife, as things are he can't stand.
I've just been talking to the ships company over the broadcast, telling them of all the joys of the Seychelles. We like to have a talk on each new place on arrival, but I couldn't get anyone who'd been here before to do it, so I talked for a quarter of an hour and read extracts from a book published by the Seychelles Tourist Office. Next time I come out here I shall be able to do it from memory (ha ha!), I don't expect there'll be a next time. Apparently, I've had plenty of offers to give a talk on Plymouth when we arrive. It'll be action I'll want not words!
Wednesday, July 13
Well that's another hard day nearly over! We arrived at Victoria this morning at seven o'clock, that's the capital of the Seychelle Islands, on Mahe the largest island of the group (there are 92 islands altogether). The islands is most impressive rising straight up out of the sea, mountains covered with bright green foliage, white beaches with palm trees, lovely light blue water, with lots of small islands dotted about, covered in palm trees, and coral reefs all round. There's so much coral that we have to anchor about a mile offshore (which is a nuisance) and the town is so small it just appears as a few buildings at the water's edge. A tropical paradise they call this place in the guide book.
This afternoon I've been ashore to look around, and that doesn't take very long, it's a proper shanty town of hut with tin roofs, except for one or two buildings of the local granite. In fact I would say there's nothing else to see in Victoria for the rest of our week's stay. I've been to the Post Office for some stamps (enclosed) and to the local curio shop, which isn't very startling, and visited the botanical gardens to see the giant tortoises. They all speak French here (rather like Mauritius) even the black natives, who speak Creole, a sort of debased French dialect.
Otherwise there was nothing very exciting, except the fishermen with their catch, fish of all colours, red, green, blue, some with stripes, all of which are edible, and fish is the main food of the natives here. There are lots of enormous spiders too, in webs in the trees and on the huts, with bodies as big as brazil nuts and legs three inches long. We saw a native funeral too, the body on a sort of handcart, with about 200 hundred natives following it, all dressed in white!
This evening we've had our official on-arrival party on board, and once again I've struck lucky, meeting a French lawyer who is coming to take me along to the French Consul's party tomorrow (it's July 14th, France's National Day) and although he's working on Friday afternoon he's put his A40 at my disposal to tour the Island, and on Saturday I'm invited to his bungalow at Beau Vallon, the bathing beach here that's world famous, and perfectly safe, and he'll fix something else up on Sunday.
So there we are, beautifully organised, and I'll team up with Schoolie Wright, and we'll have a jolly good impression of the Seychelles when we leave. Tomorrow evening I'm having dinner with the Governor; it's a wonderful life! I can see I'll be tired out again by the time we leave here. Well my love, I'm going to write some postcards for the kids now (including Andrew), I hope they are all well, and cheerful. I love you of course.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxx
[I feel sure that Fathers ability to speak French fluently must have made him very popular, not like most Englishman abroad at that time]
HMS Gambia Port Victoria, Mahe - Friday, July 15
Hello My Lover,
Another stroke of luck today, a liner, the RMS Kampala, called in here for four hours en route from Bombay to Mombasa, and so she's taken some of our mail, which will be flown to the UK from Mombasa and may even reach you before the last letters we sent by the tanker. Tomorrow another ship calls in here on the way to Trincomalee or Colombo and will take some more mail (including this letter) so the three weeks I was afraid you would have with no letters, will be broken up a bit. The only thing is that I'm getting none from you, because after leaving Dar, all our mail is being sent to Trinco, so I should have a lot when we get there.
Well what a busy day yesterday was! It was July 14th, which is the National Day of France, and as all these people are French it's a big day for them, and the Consul gave a party at 11.30 in the morning, which I attended in my long white uniform (which makes the second time I've worn it since we've been away!) and I wouldn't have missed it for worlds. There were about 300 people there, the elite of the Islands, and a band was playing martial music all the time, those very quick French marches you know. One of the local dignitaries gave a long speech in French (I understood every word!) * all about the greatness of France and all the old stuff about De Gaulle, and how Churchill saved them during the war; he was followed by the French Consul who said much of how Great Britain is and what a jolly good queen Elizabeth is, and finally the Acting Governor (English) gave a very poor speech in terrible French about how great America is and what a jolly lot the United Nations are! Each speaker proposed some sort of toast, which we all drank in champagne (I had a tumbler full!). It ended with the playing of the Marseillaise and the Queen. How peculiar it all was though, to be in a British Colony at a ceremony where they were all talking French and celebrating France's Day!
Well that started my day's entertainment, and in the crowd there was a Mr & Mrs Jensen from Rhodesia who are holidaying here (they've spent 25 days of a two month holiday cruise here) and didn't understand a word of what was going on, and I translated some of the speeches for their benefit. They left on the boat today for Mombasa, so yesterday was their last day, and they said how sorry they were to be leaving when the Navy was here and would I spend the afternoon with them at their luxury hotel at Beau Vallon, Which of course I did after going back to the ship to lunch and change, and a car picked me up on the pier and off I went. The beach at Beau Vallon is a magnificent tropical beach! White sand and blue sea, and palm trees right down to the sand, and absolutely empty except for a few native fishermen.
The sun was burning, and I had a magnificent afternoon relaxing and talking. They were an interesting couple, in their sixties I suppose and they haven't had a real holiday since before the war, so now they've saved everything up for a two-month luxury holiday, but they were so enchanted with this place that they stayed as long as 25 days, and they're very reluctant to leave now.
Well I went back on board, and had dinner, and decided to go ashore with the rest to the evening celebrations for France's Day. The long trip from the ship to the shore, between a mile and a mile and a half, is a terrible nuisance, particularly in full mess kit, in a choppy sea, with the boat rocking furiously and drenched in spray and I think we shall be lucky to get away from here without any serious boat accidents, particularly at night in bad weather.
Last night our RM band left in a motor boat to go ashore and play in the festivities and after some time the boat reported by signal lamp that it was having engine trouble. We all thought that they'd landed the band and were on the way back by then, and no-one worried unduly, but it transpired that apart from the engine trouble which started their troubles, it happened on the way in, they then ran into a coral reef and in their efforts to get off, smashed their propeller and ruined the rudder. They then started drifting out to sea, and eventually another motorboat had to find them and tow them back to the ship. The band then had to set off again in another boat. It must have been a harrowing experience for them to start an evening's playing which went on until four in the morning.
Ashore I met my lawyer acquaintance here, Monsieur France Morel, who with a Christian name like that, it turned out to be his birthday, and so at once more champagne flowed freely. I gave up the unequal struggle at half-past one, and returned on board leaving them all to it, (another unpleasant boat trip) and the stragglers form the festivities returned on board came off at 5.30 this morning and didn't appear for breakfast.
This afternoon France Morel collected Schoolie and me and took us around the island in his A40. What a wonderful trip it was too! It's a veritable "Treasure Island," just like the film Penny and I went to see, it's got everything here, tropical vegetation, beaches, mountains, and terrible roads! On the western side there is wonderful surf, and we called in at a friend's of his, a Scotch agriculture expert, who provided surf boards, and we went in and had a wonderful half an hour, brought to an end by a tropical downpour, really heavy rain and wind, all the palm trees stood like this with their leaves blowing the same way [see drawing of palm trees bent over]. The rain lasted some time and it completely changed the appearance of the place, while it looked wonderful in the brilliant sun, it looks really depressing in a downpour, all the leaves drooping and dripping, but then I suppose everywhere does. We completed our drive after a shower and dressing, and returned on board at half past seven for an early night.
I mentioned all the spiders here, the other things are lizards, or geckoes, they're all over the place, in the houses running up the walls and across the ceiling, all sizes too, they're good really, they eat the flies. One place I was in last night, the "Seychelles Club" there was at least two dozen scattered about the ceiling, it must worry the drunkards. Well my love, I shall be glad to have some letters from you, I love you, I hope all is well with you and the infants.
As ever, Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[I was a little mystified by this comment until I thought about it a bit. My Father had never been out of England before to my knowledge so much of his language acquisition was through his education. I think whilst he was clearly gifted in this area he was genuinely surprised and "chuffed" that he understood every word. It clearly worked!
Never one to steal my thunder and modest he never mentioned to me that he had surfed; even though I was a surfer and wind-sailor.]
HMS Gambia in the Seychelles - Sunday afternoon, July 17
Hello My Lover,
What a peculiar day I had yesterday! First of all I had to stay on board until eleven in the morning, although I should have gone to the theatre to get the stage electrics ready. I eventually did get there by about quarter to twelve, to find that I'd missed the excitement. One of our stagehands was wandering about under the roof and stepped off the joist and right through the plaster-board ceiling of the place and fell into the hall, on the seats! Luckily it was at the back where the floor sloped up, and he only fell about 12 feet, onto his front, and had to be taken off to hospital. We seem to be leaving casualties behind in every port.
I left there to meet France Morel du Boil, the French lawyer at the Seychelles Club, and with another lawyer friend of his, and Schoolie, we drove around the other side of the island to the Seychelles Hotel at Beau Vallon, where France gave us a most sumptuous lunch. So wonderful that we retired to his bungalow next door and slept for an hour! Then swimming trunks and walking straight out of his bungalow you're on the beach, the usual white sand, palm trees and so on (it's so commonplace now!) after which we had a quick tea, and a drive to see what parts of the island we didn't see on Friday, ending up with driving up to the highest place a car can get, which gave us a magnificent view of the sea, with all the differing colours of blue and green depending on whether it's coral reefs or sand, or seaweed under water, and a view of all the other small islands dotted about. It's typical "Treasure Island" country here.
Curiously enough "Mad Mullah" as he was known * as he was known, he's now dead, had a space levelled up there, and gardens and terraced and laid out, with a fountain and a swimming pool, all of which is still there, but fallen into disuse. He must have been mad to make such a place halfway up the mountain. They call it a mountain but really it's only about twice as high as the Malvern Hills, but much more picturesque!
It was our intention to go back to the ship then, as we did on Friday, France insisted that we stayed for dinner, which meant only the three of us, because the other lawyer had to go home where his wife had tonsillitis)you see they get these things even in a tropical paradise) also we only had shorts on, and couldn't go into the hotel during the evening, so he had dinner sent over to his bungalow to be served by his black servant.
Well, from then on the evening deteriorated although it was very comical really. You see poor old France had had far too much to drink, and decided to have nothing to eat, and all he could do was play his gramophone, and sit stupidly listening to it, occasionally just breaking a record, for fun! We couldn't very well withdraw, so we had to sit, because it was over three miles, over shocking tracks to get back to the jetty. It was so laughable though, because the black boy didn't really know how to serve dinner, and we had fish OK, followed by steak which we ate on its own, followed by pancakes, after which the boy tried to serve us chips (which should have gone with the steak really) and then when we didn't want any, brought more plates and tried to serve greens (which should also have gone with the steak!). We were tickled, and our sadly our host was so far gone that he didn't notice anything wrong! I don't know, we do have some queer experiences, persuading him to drive us back to the jetty, and the nightmare ride there, was another devastating experience I can assure you!
So far as I can see these people live on a wonderful island bur there's very few of them (about 200 white people, mostly French) and they have nothing to do, and consequently they start drinking about eleven in the morning and are helpless by suppertime. It's a great pity, but most of them are the same. Well we've decided to let France recover for a day or so, and I've asked him to the cinema on board tomorrow night, he should be OK by then. Today we've had Divisions, and the Captain has addressed the Ship's company; and I'm resting this afternoon, in preparation for the Concert Party tonight. Now my love I hope you are all well and I'll leave you, loving you as ever.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxx
p.s. A few stamps (all the same I'm afraid) of the coronation issue, which France gave me for Penny.)
[This was not the "Mad Mullah" but Mohamoud Ali Shire exiled by the British.]
HMS Gambia in the Seychelles - Monday, July 18
Hello My Love,
I slept yesterday afternoon, because we have 4 cinema projectors and some loudspeakers to repair for the local education people here. It's so isolated that they can't get ant difficult electrical work done, and to send a projector to Nairobi (the nearest competent place) to be repaired takes 2 months and costs about £200. I really ought to have made a start on something but I'm afraid I was too tired. Anyway, immediately after tea I went ashore to the theatre (and every boat trip ashore here is quire and adventure, and generally very wet) and did the final touching up to the stage electrics, had supper at The Pirates Arms, which was rapidly filling up with rowdy sailors, and so on with the show.
What a performance too! The usual business, most of the cast were drunk, one of the band passed out just before the start, and most of those on the stage were getting on the same way, private fights were breaking out behind the scenes, and stage hands were at each other's throats, a real shambles! Curiously enough all the audience thought the show was marvellous, but then they only have one show a year, so what else can they say? I got the Officer of the patrol and two patrol ratings in the bar eventually and stopped the cast drinking during the show, but they'd all had too much before they came.
After the show Schoolie and I were invited to the Seychelles Club by Mr & Mrs Le Geyt, a very English couple (curiously enough with a name like that), he's retired from the South African Police, and she was very old, but talked most interestingly, mostly about her two cottages at St. Ives, which she hasn't seen for some time because they've settled here now. There are some queer old fogey's living here, retired for the most part, enjoying a quiet old age in delightful surroundings; some of the queerest being Lord Percy, a dissolute aristocrat, weak chin and everything straight out of a book, Lady Nethersole, another comedy character, and the uncrowned King of the Seychelles, Harry Savi, who has a controlling share in every activity on the island, and is reputed to have 82 children, although he is unmarried! And eventually back to the ship at 01.30.
Today I intended to stay on board all day, but had an invitation to lunch with the Director of Education and his wife, presumably because I was organising the repair of the education department's equipment. I couldn't very well refuse, after all we are all ambassadors out here on these cruises, so I skipped off for two hours and thoroughly enjoyed it. They're both highly qualified, and he's the Director of Education and she's the Inspector of Schools (they're both English) and they have an official bungalow, a magnificent place and lots of native servants. I therefore lunched in great style, having been collected in their car, and been shown round the teacher's training place, and was returned to the jetty to catch my motor boat back to the ship.
It's surprising how much I've learnt on this cruise through meeting bankers and lawyers and school masters and discussions about local conditions always spring up. I've worked on their gear from half-past one to half-past six, and it must be finished by tomorrow afternoon for we leave at 06.00 on Wednesday morning.
France came to the film show tonight, throughout which he was well-behaved and abstemious, and he also brought along two young nieces (or something) to the great delight of some of our midshipmen who'd met them at the dance the night before, and were duty tonight and couldn't ask anyone to the film themselves.
The film was "A Doctor in the House," a very funny one which I'm sure most of the Seychelles' audience didn't understand, although they all laughed dutifully. It was nearly spoiled because the Admiral and his party were 20 minutes late and we had to sit like goons waiting for him, before we could start. There's little enjoyment inviting people on board to the cinema when that happens.
There's been quite a stir today, one of my young Pakistan ratings came and said he wanted to get married. I was ashore at the Concert Party, so I didn't get it to deal with immediately, it went to Commander L. who promptly passed it to the Commander who didn't know what to do about it, and so nothing was done. This morning when I was told, I got him along to my cabin for half an hour, and gave him a cigarette and let him talk. He's 20, she's 15, they met on Saturday, he's Pakistani and knows no French, she's French and only speaks a little English, and her mother has arranged it all, bought everything and so on. He'll never come here again (he's only here now because he's in a RN ship) and doesn't want to live here in any case, and she doesn't want to leave. What a mess!
Eventually, after I'd talked to him about the Seychelles (where there are about 10 women to every man!), and the way they live here, and the improbability of his seeing her again, he decided he wouldn't get married (in any case it's not legally possible, but I was afraid they'd trick him with some sort of ceremony) and so the trouble was averted.
In the meantime the Commander had told the Captain, who sent for the Padre, who went back to the Commander who still didn't know what to do, and so the Padre came to me, and I had to go and tell the Captain it was all solved, and he was very pleased. What a lot of nonsense about nothing! The Navy afloat!
Goodnight my love.
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxx
[Disclaimer: it should be noted that the views expressed my Father are his and his alone and that I cannot be held in any way responsible for his opinions stated more than sixty years ago.]
HMS Gambia in the Indian Ocean - Wednesday, July 20
At sea again, and I have the feeling that the best part of our commission is over, we're now going back to Trinco and it awful, sticky heat for two months, and I'm sure the bare sandy Persian Gulf on October will be deadly dull compared with the marvellous country in East Africa. Still, it brings us closer to home in England.
Well we've left the place, one deserter remaining behind in the tropical paradise, which incidentally has given 85 of our lads VD, five of them among my lads, and no doubt in the next few days several more cases will develop. It's hard for the young sailors really, although the known brothel areas are put out of bounds, they still end up with the native girls among the palm trees, and as my Chief says "it will draw them further than dynamite will blow them." It's different for us Senior Officers (ahem), especially the intellectuals like Schoolie and I, we only go ashore with the most respectable citizens, consuls, lawyers, Governors, bankers and Directors of Education but the poor sailor only has the waterfront honkytonks and the local tarts.
Whereas the officers spend very little money and are entertained by the local gentry, the sailor ends up by spending his hard earned pay on some wench and getting drunk on inferior liquor. Many of the senior more worldly-wise ratings, rarely go ashore in these places because after on walk around they find there is nowhere for the average respectable family man to go, and as ratings they're not allowed into the best club, which is "officers only." So there it is! I consider myself very fortunate.
Yesterday morning was spent at work, and in the afternoon I took a picnic party of 15 of my lads to a small island, St. Anne's. We had early lunch on board at 11.30, and left at 12, taking bread, butter, tinned salmon, and tinned peaches, a 6 gallon drum of water and sugar and lime juice powder, and went in a motorboat towing two other small boats behind with 10 sailors in each. The problem came when we reached the island, it was a smallish rocky island covered in palm trees, with a white sandy beach all round, but coral under the water, and they were afraid of damaging the boat, and refused to go nearer that a hundred yards to the beach.
That meant that the small boats had to row ashore, and then one man bring them back to fetch the remaining 16 of us from the motor boat. To save time I said we'd all swim ashore, and told my lot to take their shorts and shirts off, put on their trunks, put the clothing + food in the rowing boats, and then jump. Sure enough, blindly obedient they did this and after they'd all jumped in, I jumped in too, and told the motorboat to go back to the ship. And then what did I see but one of my tribe just coming up to the surface for about the third time! He couldn't swim! And was miles out of his depth. But never-the-less he's carried out my order and jumped with the rest. If he's been in the American Navy he's have got a medal! As it was I had quite a job with him, and had to get him alongside the boat, and he was lifted back again.
However, once ashore we had a wonderful afternoon, beachcombing for shells, swimming, and a long exploratory hike through the trees and up the cliffs, all in really hot sun. I'm a wonderful colour. And above all there were coconuts! There were two Pakistani lads with my lot who showed the others the knack of climbing up the trees and twisting off and throwing down the nuts. They're really large you know, like a football, and green. The coconut as we know it is inside, surrounded by a hard fibrous outer shell, all the same as the tuft you get on the coconuts. Getting the actual nut out is quite difficult, but they're wonderful eaten straight off the tree and bang full of milk.
Needless to say we gorged ourselves on coconut. And finally tea of salmon sandwiches and apricots (which worked out at one large tin between 4, wonderful!) and lime juice which I mixed. The motorboat came back for us and as the tide had risen, it came further in, and we were able to wade out and climb in, so our non-swimmer was OK.
Once back on board, I found that the final touches had been put to the equipment I'd undertaken repair so I then organised for that to be taken ashore (and I finally was given £8.00 to share among the lads who'd done the work, by the grateful people ashore!) which brought us to the last evening, and France Morel had asked Schoolie and I to dinner, at seven we set off! After a magnificent dinner at his bungalow, served properly this time, we went into the Seychelles Hotel, where a farewell dance was being held for the officers, practically all of whom eventually arrived, the young ones to dance, some to drink only, and some like me , watching benevolently and talking to the various people I'd met during out stay. As the night wore on, more food arrived, and coffee, and France had already ordered a bottle of champagne, this time to mark our departure. He did us jolly well really, and obviously enjoyed doing it, largely I think because it was a change of company for him. It must be terrible to grow up in the same small community of 200, and spend your life with them.
Eventually after all of this, a most touching thing took place, and the only time it's happened in the cruise incidentally, which shows how well the Seychelles people entertained us. At 3 o'clock in the morning, only three hours before we were due to sail, nearly all the ship's officers were on the jetty bidding farewell to our hosts, and as the harbour launch which took us back to the ship was called "Alouette," we drew away from the jetty, all singing "Alouette" most tunefully. It was most interesting, clearly we were all sorry to go……. "And so we said farewell to these islands, a veritable tropical paradise," just like the newsreels.
Then I made the mistake of going to bed then, and what an effort it was to get up an hour later! To make things worse we've had a gunnery firing exercise this morning, and how nice it was to have the afternoon off and get 3 hours sleep. Trinco by next Tuesday and MAIL, the first for three weeks, I'm so anxious to know how you all are. Cheerio my love, I love you, and am getting anxious to see you.
Your Own Lover xxxxxxxxx
[The Colonial Secretary was severely criticized in Parliament for the shocking administration of the Seychelles in 1956 – see Hansard.]
HMS Gambia in the Indian Ocean - Friday, July 22
Hello My Love,
We've been having fun and games today since 9 o'clock this morning. We crossed the equator again today, and had our official 'crossing the line' ceremony, a much more elaborate affair than the one we had about six weeks ago. Even the Daily Orders were written in a comical way, with the heading 'Special Equatorial Routine', and at nine this morning the order came over the speakers, "hands to Dance and Skylark." The Marine Band and guard was paraded, only the Major was dressed as a Sergeant, and the Lieutenant as a Corporal and were part of the guard, the officer of the guard being a Corporal.
Neptune (a little tiny fellow) and his wife, (an enormous fat chap) arrived with their guard and band, and what a funny lot they were. There were comical speeches from them and the Admiral, and medals were presented, and finally they all adjourned to the forecastle for the initiations, which started with the officers, midshipmen, CPO's and PO's and so on down to the boys. Do you remember seeing it at Anthorn last year? Well, I decided to go to it early while the canvas water tank was still clean, and before they got too rough, and having changed into bathing trunks and plimsolls I let the bears take me during the first five minutes, and was duly lifted into the chair, lathered with a sticky mixture of flour and water, prodded by the "Doctor", shaved by the "Barber" and then tipped backwards into the bath to be fiercely ducked by the bears. All jolly good fun, quite harmless, and of course the lads really enjoyed it.
Some superior officers decided they weren't going to play, and one who retired to the Wardroom to read a newspaper was found by the "Policemen" and dragged away, and shaved and ducked complete in his uniform, as was a young midshipman who was taken from the bridge even though he was on watch! All good clean fun for the kiddies, and it went on 'till 12 o'clock, after which a "Make do and Mend" was awarded, which means I've had my camp bed up on the quarterdeck all the afternoon. Incidentally, it took me some time to get clean after this morning's effort because the flour and water all formed a paste which eventually had to be combed out of my hair and off my hairy chest! What a to-do!
We had a big damage control exercise yesterday morning, pretending to be damaged by enemy action, and trying to mend it, and we have another one to come on Monday including atomic nonsense too. It all takes a lot of planning though and I've quite a lot to do this evening. I've got four letters to post to you now when we get to Trinco, but I haven't addressed the envelopes yet, I'm waiting to get your first letter to see when you'll be in Troon, I'd hate you to sit down there with all your letters going to Peverell Terrace. Now we're back at Trinco there won't be as much to tell you about, and no view cards or postage stamps, and we don't start off up the Persian Gulf until the 22nd October.
I'm afraid the next two and a half months at Trinco are going to be terrible. Also, as we're getting nearer, it's getting hotter, and the ship is quite unbearable again below deck. It's a very peculiar sea today, just like it was in the "Ancient Mariner" story, dead calm, not a ripple on it, really smooth, and yet the ship has a shocking roll on. To emphasise that last remark, I just laid my pen down, and it shot right across my desk onto the deck!
I'm going to wash some pants and socks now, and I'm afraid also sever my last connection with Anthorn, because I shall be using the last of my Lux Flakes, which have lasted me since we left England, and which in fact I brought down from Anthorn, a large Magnum packet that somehow got packed in with my stuff after you'd all left and I found it in the kitchen. There you are, another link with the past broken!
I believe I get some sort of certificate for today's crossing, a comical thing signed by Neptune, another souvenir, I shall want another cabin soon to put my souvenirs in. Cheerio now my love, all my love to you, and some to the kids.
Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxx
HMS Gambia in the Indian Ocean - Saturday, July 23
Hello My Love,
Doris Day is singing "Ready, willing and able" now which is how I feel now, such a waste being out here when I could be with you. I should be brown too after another afternoon on my camp bed on the quarterdeck. Not entirely comfortable there though, due to the shocking rolling of the ship (still on a flat calm smooth sea!) and soot which blows down from the funnel. I've had a very busy evening though, auditing the mess wine accounts, luckily there's a magnificent adding machine on board, that, and a ready reckoner, certainly simplified things. I wonder this morning why my Marine shook me a six o'clock, and found that unbeknown to me, the clocks had been put on an hour in the night. A dirty trick losing an hour's sleep, it's a good job I have my occasional afternoon on the quarterdeck.
25/7 Monday Evening
Do you know I did it again this morning! They were only put on half an hour this time so it wasn't too bad. It's much hotter again now and we've nearly got back to Trinco, not only hot but sticky. I spent yesterday afternoon on my camp bed lying in the sun, that was quite enjoyable, but the early evening was ruined because the Commander decided he wanted the cinema on the quarterdeck which was very difficult because there was a strong wind, and a heavy roll on the ship, so rigging the screen and projector was difficult. The film was "Run-away Bus", with Frankie Howerd, and I'm afraid he's awfully dull in films, and although there were some bright spots, Margaret Rutherford was in it too, in most places it was dull.
One bright spot was when a flying fish flew up onto the deck in front of the screen, no doubt attracted by the light. It was blue like a mackerel, about a foot long, and when it wings were stretched out it looked nice. We threw it back into the sea.
Today has been a normal working day (the first since last Thursday) and had dragged, especially as I've had a lot of writing to do this evening. Ceylon is in sight now (at least it was until it got dark) and we're creeping around (because we're ahead of time as usual, and must always arrive dead on time at Trinco at half past seven in the morning.
They say our mail will be sorted out by lunch-time and I can hardly wait! As it's over three weeks since I had my last letter I should think I ought to get 10 at least tomorrow! I've lots of letters to write really, to Grandma and Grandad, Penny and Susan, and half a dozen "thank you" letters to the people who've looked after me during the last two months. It all seems a very remote dream now.
There's great jubilation on board tonight among the Staff Officers, they live with their families at Trinco and have only been with us for the cruise, so tomorrow is home-coming for them, and they've given a small party this evening, and have all been very merry. I'm very envious of them, I'd love to come home to your loving arms tomorrow! It will be all the more exciting in seven months' time!
Incidentally it's the Surgeon-Commander's birthday today and it was celebrated by the new total of 100 VD cases on board, which means that 1 in every 7 sailors is affected. They're a silly lot! I've been sleeping badly these last few nights, probably because it's getting hotter, and I've had too many afternoon's on my camp bed, so last night I read until 2 o'clock, but I don't think it did and good, I still had a restless night and I was tired this morning. It will be nice to get into a really cold bed again, my bunk always feels warm to get into, and I've taken to sleeping with just a sheet and no 'jamas. Now my lover, I must wrap up for today, I love you of course, and send a kiss each for the infants, I shall learn how they are tomorrow I hope.
Your Own Everloving Daddy xxxxx
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Wednesday, July 27
Hello My Love,
What a glorious couple of days these have been! Only because I've had 10 letters though, and 8 of them from you! (Don't worry, the other 2 are from G and G.) They range from the 5th to the 23rd of July, so I'm right up to-date now, and I must comment on some of your news:
Poor old Andrew, I guessed he was having measles from the last letter I got from you. You must have had a shocking time on your own. I'm glad Susan has got over hers. I'll have to start sending her stamps now I suppose. I'm glad you think I'm enjoying myself, I resolved long ago that I'd only write about the pleasant parts, because life must be dull enough for you without reading my worries too. You may well hear your name whispered at night, though because I miss telling you my troubles, and some parts of practically every day I'm reduced to the blackest despair. But as you say, "it will pass."
It's funny how much more everyone is talking about coming home though. Even the Commander was saying the other evening that he'd like to see a board with "days to Devonport" on it, so that it could be changed every morning, and we'd seem one step nearer. I glad you've had some fine weather, and what a clever clock mender you're getting (or are you?). I've never heard of "Unchanged Melody" we're very backward in this part of the world. I shall have to stop writing to Troon if they're going to publish my letters, they're not very good I'm afraid, nothing like the care and thought that go into yours!
I'm glad Penny's school reports are good, there's no need to mention my polio, it's things like consumption they're after, hereditary ones., that the children too. I'm afraid that we are being robbed in that house, but what can we do? I don't think you'll be able to rent TV. The cost will be enormous because they won't put it in unless you guarantee them 2 years hire, and we can't do that. Also the owner of the house would have to agree to having the aerial put up, and there'd have to be insurance too, in case it fell down and damaged anything. Please don't rush into it, ask the Bank Manager to advise you if necessary.
Do have a swim while you're away, otherwise I shall begin to think you're past enjoying a holiday by the sea (mind your perm though!) It would be a change for you to go to Leicester, the journey will be rather long for the boy I suppose.
Well Trinco looks very dull after the exotic tropical islands we've been to. I remember two and a half months ago, it looked wonderful here, bright green foliage, but that was just after the rains now everything looks dried-up and the heat is unbearable. The harbour and beaches are full of jellyfish, I've never seen so many, great big ones 9 inches across, and all colours. Dead ones lie rotting in great heaps along the shore, and the smell is revolting!
Yesterday evening I was asked out to one of the officer's bungalows ashore, up on the hill in the jungle, it was very pleasant sitting on the veranda. There were "geckos" or lizards running up the walls catching flies, and a big bat circling round inside catching flies around the lights, and all sorts of bugs about, they take it all for granted though. His wife is a Vera too, they've two boys 9 and 6. The monkeys come in from the trees and take food from the table, and they've even had one in the bedroom in front of the mirror powdering his nose. I've been to watch my lads play football this afternoon, they lost, not surprising really, with three in hospital in Dar es Salaam, two in the sick bay and five with VD, it's a job to find enough to play football.
I sent all my letters off to Troon yesterday, I hope none get landed at Plymouth, there's a chance you'll get one on 28th or 29th there, posted at the Seychelles, but I expect it will keep. Now my love I'll leave you for some sleep, loving you as ever, I've some elephant cards to send to the kids tomorrow, Indian ones of course. Goodnight Honey.
Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxxxx
P.S. I'll write to G and G tomorrow.
[My Mother and Father had a very strong marriage forged in wartime and this letter shows how they encouraged and missed each other. In later life it was this resilience that kept them together in their own home into their eighties and nineties.]
HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Friday, July 29
Hello My Lover,
I'm in a bad way! Everyone reckons it's been the hottest day we've had yet today, and guess what! I've got a cold! These last 3 nights I've slept very badly and woken with a shocking sore throat in the mornings, very hoarse all day, and today it's broken with coughing, sneezing and a running nose. I feel so stupid! I'm sitting bathed in perspiration, in just my pants, scuttle open, fan going, and it's running off me.
I've had a busy few days too, one of my lads with trouble at home, wife and three kids (and one on the way) being turned out of their flat, life is so difficult, I'm afraid I can't recommend life in the Royal Navy to anyone, least of all anyone with a family. I don't know how the sailors manage, they have so little money. I had a letter from you yesterday that was posted before the one I got the day before, and it's filled in a few gaps I couldn't understand. One, or possibly two of my letters will have gone to Plymouth, you'll be able to tell by the numbers, and our mail should be regular for the next two or three months while we're here.
I was expecting to go to Kandy for two days next week to see the Perahera, an annual religious procession and festival, but the Captain won't allow both Cdr. L and I to go, so that's that. Roll on September when I get 10 days' leave, to spend at the rest camp up in the hills at Diyatalawa. By then I'm sure I'll need a rest from the heat, and in any event, I regard that as the halfway mark in our eleven months away from England, and the end will be in sight.
Three of the officers are coming home next week, Tom Pearce, the pilot who had to do six months sea time and two subbies who've finished their training. They've had the best of this trip, and we all envy them. Various ratings are coming home too, a couple being invalided, one of my chiefs to become an officer, and some who've misbehaved to be punished. They're flying one man home so he can marry the girl before the baby is born! When I was talking to the Captain about my chap who was in trouble he said that we should have lived in sin and then we would have been flown home. Instead we got married and had families so that now we have to stay here. Similarly, the lads sentenced to detention for misbehaviour are immediately flown away. Only the simple law-abiding ones get the rough deal. I managed to get ashore to the beach today (the first time since we arrived.)
……………. A small interruption, a midshipman just stared to come in my scuttle feet first, so I told him to clear out, and out he went, I expected him to fall in the water, but he managed somehow, then another one tried and was ordered out, followed by a sub who couldn't get back and had to come through my cabin. They're having a celebration tonight, some have had their final exams today, and part of their celebration seems to be to get down the ship's side by rope and into the gunroom scuttle (next to mine) and some of them are getting in the wrong one. All in full mess kit of course, which seems to stand up to that sort of thing quite well. I've shut my window now, so I hope they fall into the harbour…………. As I was saying, I went to the beach and it was such a relief to get my clothes off, in any case it's never so hot ashore, although I didn't feel like swimming, what with jellyfish and a cold. They're singing their silly heads off!
We had a real tropical downpour yesterday afternoon, heavy soaking rain that couldn't run off the decks quickly enough. And afterwards great clouds of mist and steam rose from the jungle. I've heard of 'steaming jungles,' and I saw it mildly in the Seychelles, but yesterday here it was remarkable. I prefer East Africa!
Have a good holiday my love, jump in the sea if you can, and relax generally. I want to find you sleek when I get back! How nice it will be to get into a cold bed. Goodnight my lover, I must write to the others tomorrow, tell 'em I'll write soon,
Your Own Loving Daddy xxxxxxxxxx
Ken Lobb: Introduction | April 1955 | May 1955 | June 1955 | July 1955 | August 1955 | September 1955 | October 1955 | November 1955