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Ken Lobb - The Letters (6) - September 1955

HMS Gambia at sea - Thursday, September 1

Hello Honey,

I'd like to pinch and punch you today, maybe I will in 6 months' time. I had a disturbed night last night, much banging of guns, we won of course, and we've been dashing about madly today in all directions. What a silly lot!

Friday, September 2

A most exciting night action last night, chasing a raider at full speed in a strong wind and sea, in beautiful moonlight. For the first time we had spray right up over the top of the bridge, and the decks awash from end to end. I'm glad these exercises are ending today, I'm afraid that if they drive the ship too hard the engines drop out and then we'd be unable to get home to time which would be a calamity! It's surprising how well the ship stands up to this hard driving considering how old and decrepit she is. Anyway we've won all the battles (ha-ha!) and now we're steaming our convoy gently back to Trinco, and expect to get in about tea-time. Another afternoon's sunning on the beach missed!

Otherwise, I've little to tell you today. I may be going to the leave camp next week now to suit Cdr' L's arrangements, but they've produced such a long list of do's and don'ts that I'm afraid it won't be much of a leave, and I'd rather stay in Trinco, provided I could get out of the ship and sleep ashore. Never mind I suppose it will be a change. If I do go up next week I expect there'll be some delay in mail, so be prepared. Time for lunch now, curried beef and bananas I expect, I eat very sparingly you know. Cheerio my love, I'll finish so as to catch the mail.

Your Own everloving male. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Monday, September 5

Hello My Love,

I've an accumulation now, three letters from you and some more snaps. How brown you all look, satin smooth too (you are anyway) and Susan has come out much better too, I'm so glad. What a pity we couldn't have had this summer together. Although if I'd been home you wouldn't have been able to stay so long at the sea. It wouldn't have been much fun at Anthorn either. I think Grandad has been wonderful to go out each day, you'd better tell him so from me until I write them again. Well, you're back in Plymouth again, I hope the house was intact when you got there. I'm afraid a couple of my letters will have gone to Troon because being at sea last week I didn't know until Saturday that you were going back yesterday. Still, I expect you found one or two written in June or July on the mat when you got in. Fancy doing cartwheels on the beach! All I can do is lie in the sun, I didn't know you were so supple.

Well now, what have I been doing? On Saturday afternoon the beach, it's so restful and pleasant. It was the hottest I've known it there though, the sand was too hot to stand on barefooted, and we had to sit where the sea had recently washed the beach, it was only cool there because it was still wet. Schoolie got a bad headache, but I feel OK, except that I had to keep cooling off in the sea. Even so it's much better than lying down in the bed which is what most Europeans do here in the afternoon. I think the answer is to get out into the sun, get used to it and enjoy it. That evening we had another rowing boat expedition for crawfish, completely unsuccessful though, it's too profitless for me to go again, even if it is a quiet change. I'm afraid I'd prefer a boat with an outboard motor.

The really interesting event of the evening though was the capture of an octopus by a lad fishing from the upper deck. It was just like the ones we saw in the aquarium on the Hoe, just a baby one, it had the hook in one tentacle, and looked so funny walking across the boat deck on all eight legs with its body and silly little eyes upright. I glad I was there when it was caught, I'm sure now I'll never swim in the harbour. There are far too many queer things in the water.

I had a lot of difficult welfare problems to clear up for my lads on Sunday morning, it's so difficult when there's trouble at home and the lads are so far away, and can do nothing about it. On Sunday I had a short spell on the beach and then watched a soccer match I'd arranged between my lads and the electrical boys on the Indian ship Delhi. We won but honour was satisfied today when they won a hockey match. I don't get excited about team sports, so I suppose I'm unnatural. I asked Steve and Pat Bullen on board last night to the cinema, Angels 15, a film (a very old one) about the Battle of Britain, do you remember when we stood alone? (why can't they forget that drivel!) Pretty corny actually.

This afternoon I've been officiating as a track judge at an inter-service sports meeting. In beautiful sunshine too. I'm in a shaky state tonight though. This las week I've had twinges in my back, you know the old complaint, and this morning I slipped down an iron ladder, which shook me up a bit (and made me look pretty silly I suppose) and to cap it all, I ran for a bus this afternoon, and had a shocking twist of my back, I nearly fell in a heap, it was agonising, and I'm pretty stiff tonight so I'll have to rest. I've always said this place will bring out the weaknesses, and yet I feel so well otherwise, super-fit really.

Now my love I'll leave you, loving you of course. Kiss the kids for me. As ever,

Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxx

PS I'm going on second leave after all. The others go tomorrow.

HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Wednesday, September 7

Hello My Love,

[Written in pencil] Well, I've little to tell you today I'm afraid, because this is the second day I've spent on my back, and pretty dull it is too. Not to speak of the heat! Thank goodness I've a window in my cabin and can see a little bit of sky. I couldn't move yesterday morning, my lower back had seized up completely, just like I was at Lee [Lee on Solent] that time, only more so. The Surgeon Commander says I'll have to lie still on my back for a few days, and I should be OK. Silly isn't it? I'm writing this upside down, holding the pad up over my face. The Naafi have just had a consignment of birthday cards so I've bought two, one for Penny and one for Susan even though It's a long time off. It will soon pass.

Thursday

Hello Honey, I've had a good night's sleep last night, for a change, and I can walk up and down my cabin this morning, taking very short steps, but I still have to stay on my back, and I'm having some heat rays later on this morning. What a silly business. Otherwise all I have to do is look at your photo, and read. I miss my sunshine and most of all. Isn't it funny, the last time I was ill it was during the leave period, still even though there are few officers on board they do come in and see me occasionally, not like I was before. And I can at this time. I never thought I'd be reduced to having my meals brought to my cabin though. Just like the Captain!

I've just had some fish, a leg of a chicken and peas, some pineapple (fresh) and ice-cream so I'm not starving. I hope by the time you get this I'll be up and about again. I love you and miss you now, don't worry.

Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxxx

[Just out of interest this brings us to the end of the first file of letters put into 217 poly pockets of size A5 so they can be read double sided.]

HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Saturday evening, September 10

Hello My love,

I'm still idle, lying on my back, sweating gently, but I'm much improved and I don't think I'll be lying here very much longer. I don't think I can have been having enough sleep lately because although I'm lying here all day I sleep well at night (without any dope either) and I had nine and a half hours sleep last night, marvellous, I slept until nearly light this morning.

I'm not the only invalid, poor old Schoolie had all day in bed yesterday, he was sick and feeling queer, and today another has the same complaint and is turned in, and the steward who brings my meals down says he has three officers today sick in their cabins to take meals to. As a result of doing nothing I'm eating even less than usual, just some fresh pineapple and bananas for breakfast, a couple of slices of meat and biscuits at lunchtime, and more bananas, no tea, just meat and fruit for supper. Also, plenty of iced lime juice.

The time passes slowly, reading for the most part, but I'm cheerful enough, largely because in four days' time we'll have reached the half-way mark, and will be on the second half of our time abroad. I can't think why we're daft enough to hang on to hang on to these unhealthy places abroad. Steve Bullen came on board to see me yesterday morning, and stayed talking for about an hour, and today he sent a big parcel of books on board for me to read, so I'm doing well. I'm reading a Peter Cheyney one now. Steve's a very pleasant chap, very quiet, always smiling. I expect you're really back into routine by now. I hope the infants are settling down well, so that you can enjoy your bed to yourself. I'm sure I'd rather share it with you, not as I am at the moment though! My tan is going away, always being bathed in sweat means that the skin gets soft and rubs off when you touch it. That's why I reckon it's essential to get out in this tropical sun, it dries you off and keeps the skin in good condition. Still, I'll make sure I get a good dose of sun when I get up.

I have no news for you I'm afraid dear, I love you of course, and this discomfort can't last forever. Kiss the infants for me,

Your Own Ever loving Ken xxxxxxxxxxxxx

HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Monday, September 12

Hello My Lover,

I'm still an invalid, I'm sitting up to write this though. I left the cabin yesterday evening for the first time since last Tuesday, only to satisfy a more pressing demand of nature though. I manage at the wash basin for the simpler needs. I am much better, and can walk painlessly, with short steps, but not very confidently I'm afraid, I'm frightened of folding up again! I expect I shall be up in a couple of days though. The situation is a little complicated at the moment though because the Surgeon Commander went down yesterday with sandfly fever. The other electrical officer on board has stomach trouble now too, what a place this is!

Roll on the 19th October and let's get away from here. We had a really good storm yesterday evening which cooled things down a bit for the night, but it's as hot as ever again today and very tiresome lying abed. I just lie on it, in a pair of pants of course for coolness. I had a letter from you yesterday written from Plymouth, back in the old routine. We have a Chief Carnell on board, in my division too, he's a radio rating, the Senior one.

I'm reading a lot of books, trash mostly, but it passes the time quickly, I can't really believe I've had a week of this. I've just had a Dettol rinse to try and stop the itching all over, and to get cool. I shall appreciate some winter weather when we get back. I have nothing to tell you about the beach, it will be a little while before I can walk that far. I'm looking forward to getting up in the hill in the cool next week, all I intend to do up there is rest too. Your photo is smiling as cheerfully as ever, and it is a source of much consolation at the moment. I love you dear, don't worry I shall be well soon, give my love to the infants,

Your Own Ever-loving Daddy xxxxxxxxxx

HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Wednesday, September 14

Hello My Love,

The great day has dawned at last, at midnight tonight we'll be at the halfway mark, so it should be a swift downhill run now (we hope!) They let me get up for two hours yesterday evening, and what a rousing reception I got in the mess, a great cheer went up when I crept in (and crept is the write word too!) and people were pressing drinks on me, quite a homecoming! I was very weak though after my sojourn, quite shaky on my legs and light-headed. It was a day for celebration though, the Senior engineer had a telegram to say he's got a new son, so it was quite a cheerful dinner party.

The Surgeon Commander proclaimed at the table what a good patient I'd been to lie still for so long, and said how impressed he was that I'd remained so cheerful in adversity throughout. Little did they know what an effort it cost though! Anyway, such a warm reception did a lot to make me feel better.

Today they let me get up at teatime, but I shall turn in early; he wants to get me up a bit so that the journey up to the leave camp on Saturday won't be too sudden for me (12 hours by road) and I shall complete my convalescence up in the cool. Poor old Penny, I hope she soon will get to like her new teacher, it seems to be a queer school, they've all got their own ideas of how to reach. Sending them off in a corner doesn't seem a very good idea. You'd better tell me some of the things Susan thinks I'm going to bring home, otherwise she'll be very disappointed when I do come. I'm expecting her to be very shy you know, I don't suppose she'll have anything to do with me at first. And I know you'll be bashful!

There's a wonderful storm building up again, much flashing of lightning going on outside.

What a lot of letters I've had from you lately, I expect you've had more time whole you've been away. Thank you for the driving licence form, I must write off for it tomorrow. Goodnight now my love, my next letter will be from the cool I expect.

Your Own Loving Daddy xxxxxxx

HMS Gambia at Trincomalee - Friday, September 16

Hello My Love,

I got up to breakfast this morning, a very late one, but still it's the first time I've been up to breakfast for a long time. Then I was back to bed again after lunch for 5 hours. They're determined to get me out of the ship on leave to the rest camp anyway and I'm going up tomorrow with the leave party, although they've been trying to arrange for me to go separately by car. The journey is a very tiring one over poor roads, mountainous for the last half of the journey. I expect I'll survive though. I shall be glad to leave the ship anyway it's so hot, and I'm beginning feel depressed. My pen isn't writing well, I've just had it to pieces and cleaned it, and it's watery now.

I had a letter from you this morning, what are you going to do with your £36, is that going towards my new car? (ahem). I suppose now you won't have to pay so much insurance. What have you done with Beauty? made a pie? [I haven't a clue about this bit. A rabbit?]

The first leave party are back and have all enjoyed themselves, and are looking very brown. I'm afraid all my brown skin has rubbed off and I'm looking quite pale again, still 10 days away should set me up. Maybe I'll start eating more too if it's cooler. I'm taking as little clothing as possible away with me. I shan't be able to join in any of their organised entertainments and games so I shall be able to relax completely. I wish it were a real leave though, and I could share it with you. Except that I would be frightfully dull company with a shaky back.

I'm afraid I've very little to tell you honey. I love you of course and wish I could nuzzle your neck. Love to the infants, as ever,

Your Own Ken xxxxxxx

Diyatalawa [A very beautiful place when Googled] - Sunday, September 18

Hello My Love,

Well I'm up in the mountains, and feeling much better too. I had a very long day yesterday, up at five o'clock, breakfast at half past, and ashore by half past six with my walking stick and pillow to rest my back on in the bus (coach really) for the long journey. It was a long journey too, we didn't get up here until quarter past seven last night! The doctor travelled up in the same coach and he didn't think I'd make it, being weak and over appalling roads, but actually I felt better on arrival here than when I left the ship in the morning. I think that is because it's so much fresher up here, although it's possible that the vibrations of the journey did me good. I didn't realise until I woke up this morning (after 81/2 hours sleep without moving) how nice it is to be cool and dry skinned again, and how great an effect the tropical heat had on me lately.

To come back to the journey, the first hundred miles was through the jungle, and very monotonous, plenty of trees and monkeys and pretty coloured birds, and occasional clearings and villages with tall fences and wire nets around to keep the elephants out. This wasn't too bad because by starting early it was cool then, and by the time we came to the heat of the day, and into the second hundred miles we'd started to climb out of the jungle plains into the hill and it was cooler anyway.

At midday, we stopped at Kandy, which is the ancient religious centre of Ceylon, where they were installing a new Buddhist high priest later in the day, and were preparing; the streets were all decorated and full of monks with shaven heads and orange robes, and we saw the elephants being led in, with huge bells on them, although for the ceremony they would be beautifully decorated, and accompanied by 200 hundred dancers. It's a pity we couldn't stay to see the procession, which would have been very colourful by torchlight after dark.

We had picnic lunch, ham and beef sandwiches, a hardboiled egg, a small Cornish pasty, three bananas and an apple each, all fresh too, wrapped in banana leaves to keep them moist. I haven't eaten so much for a long time. Maybe that's why I feel better already.

After this we came to the cultivated areas, miles of terraced rice and paddy fields, you know, all wet, with natives working in them up to their thighs in mud. Very picturesque, just like the pictures in the encyclopaedias, and the first time I've seen it.

Then miles of rubber and cocoa plantations, with the trees slit, and the white latex running down the cuts into coconut shells hung on the tree trunks. All clever stuff, once again, just like the encyclopaedias. And finally, as we came to higher ground, to the tea estates, miles and miles of them on the hillsides as far as you can see, with the pickers moving along between the bushes with baskets slung on their backs throwing the leaves over their shoulders into the baskets. The we stopped for tea at a rest house and came after to the worst part of the journey, up the mountains over the Ramboda Pass. Wonderful scenery, sheer drop all the way on one side of the road, hair pin bends, real mountain roads, in bottom gear, waterfalls, beautiful views, up in the clouds, and eventually into pouring rain too.

The top of the pass between the mountains, was 6,542 feet (that is well over a mile high, a mile and a quarter actually,) and very relieved we were to get there. It was dark when we got here, so I got out early at seven this morning to see what it's like. I'm in a senior officer's cabin here, very large armchairs, tables, desk, everything I need, even a deckchair to sit on the verandah, very pleasant. It's run just like a county club really, we wear plain clothes all the time (I've no uniform up here at all, just shorts, slacks, shirts and one lounge suit) and do just as we wish. My door opens onto a verandah, with a wonderful view into the mountains, and up here the scenery is not at all tropical, it could be hills and peaks of the Lake District or Scotland, there's bracken, gorse and fir trees and birds that look like sparrows. In fact, it's wonderful to be normal again and to be cool.

My back is much better today, no good for bending, but tolerable for walking, and I've had a nice gentle stroll along the most level stretches I could find. Now I'm going to have lunch, and then lie down and sleep. It's been a sunny, warm morning, but the clouds have closed in around us now, and it's raining gently. I'm afraid I shan't want to leave here and go down to Trinco again, I know I shall feel worse as soon as I do.

I don't quite know how this letter will get to you, it's the first one I've posted outside the ship, I expect it will be OK though. Now my love I must leave you, I'm sure I shall get well quickly up here, so don't worry. I love you of course, love to the kids.

Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

P.S. Address your letters to the ship as usual.

Diyatalawa Ceylon - Monday, September 19

Hello My Dear,

You'll be pleased to hear that I am much better. I've accomplished marvels today, I've walked between 11 and 12 miles, my poor legs are aching but my back is much freer. I've just managed to have a bath (although it took a long time) and I've managed to cut my toe nails by bending my legs up backwards somehow, so I feel very pleased with myself.

This morning I got up early, and had breakfast at 7.30, then sat in the sun for a while and at quarter to nine decided to set off slowly across the hills with my stick. And do you know I walked for 3 hours, very upright, very slow, but nevertheless good exercise in the sun and wind, carrying my shirt in my hand. The views are wonderful here, and the scenery is very varied, down in the valleys, along way down, rice is growing, and it looks tropical, and then some hills have tea, and right up are fir trees and just rock, the view up and down is wonderful. I selected a route as much on the level as possible over springy turf, but later in the week I shall try to reach the higher spots.

After lunch I rested for an hour and then set off downwards, with one of the other chaps to visit the Valley of Flying Foxes, another 3-hour jaunt, and I was able to walk more freely, they're all amazed at my progress. This time we went down to the level of the paddy fields, all wet, to a valley of tall trees, and they were thick with flying foxes. They are large bats with black wings and brown furry bodies, fruit eating they are with ears like foxes. They're huge too with a wingspan of 2ft 6inches and a body as big as a rabbit's. They hang upside down in the trees by day and feed at night. Do you know there were thousands of them, a most peculiar sight, and I shouted and whistled to make them fly about, which some did making the most awful screeching noises.

Now I'm exhausted, but pleased with my progress. My skin is all taut, dry and burning with the sun, a lovely feeling, so different from the oozy sweat of Trinco. Tomorrow morning a Standard Vanguard estate car is calling for 4 of us on a tour of a tea estate and factory, to see what goes on. That should be interesting, I'm hoping it's a long way off, so as to have a good ride. I'm sitting in my pants, but will have to dress now and have some supper. The food isn't very good here, not nearly so good nor such a choice as we have on board, which is silly really as I'm paying 10/- a day here. But then again, where else could I get such facilities in a mountain guesthouse for 10/- a day? No fares to pay either! I've had a letter from G & G, telling how much they enjoyed you all being down there, and what good times everyone has had on the beach, so I've written thanking them for looking after you all, and telling them what a good place this is. Now honey I must go. I wish you were sharing my bungalow and verandah, we could have a fine honeymoon here. Give my love to the kids, as ever.

Your Own Loving Daddy xxxxxxx

Diyatalawa, Ceylon - Tuesday, September 20

Hello Darling,

I was a wreck this morning, acing all over, really stiff and awkward, muscular stiffness really though, not due to my back. Of course I did too much yesterday, I walked too far for an invalid, Nevertheless I got up at 6.30 and shaved and then sat on the verandah in my pants to get the benefit of the early morning sun, and it was wonderful, really hot, and everywhere nice and quiet, and the valley looking blue and misty. The boy looked surprised to find me there when he brought my tea at 7.30. Incidentally, I'm a rich golden brown now, a hard smooth tan, much different than Trinco brown, a real mountain tan. I'm quite prepared to spend the rest of my foreign time here. The Vanguard to take us around the tea estate didn't arrive until half-past nine, it was held up by a military parade here, the Ceylonese army train up here across the valley and the prime minister, Sir John Coltellawa (I think that's right) [Sir John Kotelawala] has been up here reviewing them yesterday and today. What a magnificent American car he has too.

The trip around the estate was quite interesting, but I was too stiff to enjoy it. We came back to lunch, when the weather broke, a fierce storm, so I went to bed, and had a pleasant sleep until tea-time. Then Schoolie and I had a quiet walk (though incidentally when I got up all my stiffness had gone.) He wanted to try and find where he had stayed when he was here 10 years ago, because the camp we're in is all new (1951). It was dark, just after sunset, as we came back across the golf course, and we saw all the flying foxes going out for the night, it was a wonderful sight, thousands and thousands, right across the sky, and they were flying over for about 20 minutes, apparently, they all go back to their perches in the valley just before dawn. After dark up here, the night is alive with noise, a continuous singing or humming from the cicadas or grasshoppers and crickets, and croaking from frogs, quite a pleasant lullaby. Now I'm going to change, have supper and then early to bed, hoping for my early sunbathing. Goodnight dear, I hope some mail will catch me up tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21

Hello My Lover,

I had a letter from you last night, with the 3 snaps, I think the one of Susan with her clothes up is funny, you must have caught her in an embarrassing moment, laughing like a drain too.

This morning I was up at 6.30 again and had my hour's sunshine before breakfast, after which Schoolie and I and Mr Gee (the junior electrical officer) went for a long walk across the hills in beautiful sunshine. We've walked for 3 hours and tired ourselves out again, I'm not stiff today, my back is no good for bending but it's OK for upright walking, and I feel fine otherwise. On the top of one hill was a thing made of bamboo poles, just a framework about 8 feet high, with grass and bracken tied to the poles, and white flags on the corners and top, and in the middle a pile of earth with tree branches and big stones on the top. We thought it was some shrine, and asked two small boys who followed us (you always get native boys following you wherever you go hoping for money or cigarettes) and they said it was a small boy buried there yesterday, and they pointed to another place nearby (without a framework) and said his father was there. What a peculiar business, just burying people anywhere out on the hillsides. You never know who you're going to walk over next!

We've just had an enormous downpour, so much rain that you could only see about six feet, and thunder too, and now it's stopped (my pen has run dry) [in pencil] the valley is a wonderful sight, it's completely flooded, and water is rushing down in all directions from the hills and mountains, and across the other side of the valley there are huge waterfalls, all carrying the flood rain water away. It's amazing how changeable the weather is up here.

I've just been over to see how the lads are doing, and they're having a wonderful time, plenty of comfort and relaxation and above all plenty of good food, as much as they can eat. In that respect they're better off than we are because our food is poor, with no choice which is a pity because I have an enormous appetite here, and was hoping to get fit up here; as it is I'm sure my waist is still the 29 inches it was when I Ieft the ship. Still I can't afford to be fat when I go back to Trinco or I shall suffer from the heat. Some apple pie and cream and pasties would be just the thing! I hope you ate my share of cream when you were in Troon.

Now I think I'm going to rest for a couple of hours, it's so wet everywhere, and then probably have another walk after tea. It's an aimless sort of life without my wife though, roll on the first of March, and let's hope their Lordships don't muck me about too much after that. I shall be due for 5 weeks leave then! Cheerio now honey, I love you,

As ever Your Own Ken xxxxxxxx

Diyatalawa, Ceylon - Friday, September 23

Hello My Lover,

I'm looking pretty silly now, all the skin is peeling off my forehead and face and my lips are in a terrible sun-blistered condition. I think it was the hard day I had yesterday. Four of us set off early in the morning in warm sunshine to walk up to the top of one of the heights here but found that that area was being used for an exercise by our Marines who were firing live ammunition, grenades, mortars and rocket launchers in dummy attacks. So instead we explored a system of valleys with a small native boy as a guide.

Actually, I think we did too much, especially for an invalid, we had to cross streams and paddy fields, and I met the leeches for the first time that I've read so much about in jungle stories. We passed through some areas that were thick with them and they climb your stockings and legs and hang on, and are shocking to get off. I even had one in each shoe. The professional trick is to burn them off with a cigarette end once they're firmly attached to your flesh. Our antics to get rid of them must have been funny to watch. Eventually we walked up to the top of a hill (solely to avoid the leeches on the low ground) where we could watch the marines attack developing, and when they knocked off for lunch we started back the easy way. By then the weather deteriorated and a real tropical downpour started, so we sheltered in a shack with a car in it, which turned out to be the village taxi, a wonderful stroke of luck, because it took us back to camp, and we didn't get wet.

I was feeling tired though, and after lunch went to bed, and slept until the others came and woke me at 7,30, they were afraid I was going to miss supper! I was amazed to sleep so long, I must have been worn out. So I got up then and had supper, and then went to the camp cinema, to see Westward the Women, a cowboy film of the old tough pioneering days. Even after my 5 ½ hours in the afternoon I slept all night. I've been lucky again today with the rain, which started earlier, about 11.00 this morning. I'd been for a long walk with one of the subs, up to a high road where he could take some photos of the hills, we'd been walking over 2 hours, and when the rain stared it looked as though we were going to be soaked, because there was no shelter anywhere, and at that crucial moment an RN bus came along the road, and brought us right back to camp, which was wonderful. That's two days we've been lucky. I expect tomorrow I'll be soaked.

My back is OK for walking, but no good for bending at all, still I'm sure it's improving all the time. I'm putting a few more stamps in for Penny, I'm not sure whether she's got these or not, if so she can use them for swaps or give them to Susan. I hope you are all well my love, I don't think I shall get any more mail now until I get back to the ship, (there's no ink to be brought up here either!) Cheerio dear, I love you,

Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxx

Diyatalawa - Saturday, September 24

Hello My Love,

I had a letter form you last night, poor old Penny and poor you everyone in tears again! I used to worry terribly over my schoolwork, even when I was older, and even now occasionally. I dream about doing things wrong at school. I'm afraid Penny must be the same. My back isn't lumbago, I'm afraid. In fact, now I seem to be getting better. I can tell you that I've been very fashionable and had a slipped disc. Really. I've known from the start, and those first painful days of lying on my bunk were very gloomy ones because a PO who had it on board has been in hospital for 3 months.

The Surgeon Commander is an orthopaedic specialist and has explained it all to me, and mine was not a complicated slip, but nevertheless it will take time to be completely normal, and even so I mustn't even take any violent exercise, lift heavy weights, or do anything stupid. He said that undoubtedly that was what I had before, and that it may occur again, but as you get older the likelihood of it happening gets less, which is peculiar really. Anyway, he said it needn't affect my life too much, I'm not likely to play rugby or go in for boxing, and although he can't guarantee it won't happen again, a normal quiet life shouldn't bring it on. Of course, it was falling down that brought it on this time. When it happens, complete rest is essential. I seem to be getting better each day, I can walk OK now anyway, and bending will come soon. Once again, I think I've been extremely lucky to get away with it, I only hope my luck holds in case I get more serious things happening to me. So it looks as though you'll have to continue to be the dominant partner! The silly thing is that I look a picture of health, I'm well-tanned and feel superfit in my legs and from the waist up, and I feel full of life. My waist is down to 30 inches, I'm in wonderful condition! No-one would believe I'm an invalid. Never mind, I'll be superfit by next March.

This morning Schoolie and I and one of the subs had a gentle walk to Haputale, 7 miles away, up on the ridge, with a wonderful view when we got there, and all the way there too, climbing steadily all the way, at a nice gentle pace with frequent stops to admire the scenery. We took sandwiches and bananas which we ate at midday, intending to come back at tea-time, but the usual downpour started so we gave up and got a train (lucky again) most of the way back, and a lift for the remainder, so we got back in time for me to turn in at two o'clock for my afternoon sleep and rest. It's out last day tomorrow, and in a way I'm glad, because it's boring here when it rains, which it has done every afternoon lately, on the other hand though it wouldn't worry me if I never saw the Gambia again at the moment. Goodnight now my lover. I'll finish this off tomorrow,

Diyatalawa - Sunday Midday

Hello dear,

We've been to see the flying foxes again today, but it was a much more tedious walk, there's been so much rain that the steep paths are very slippery. I was anxious to go again though to see how much more agile I am because when I went last Monday it was quite a struggle for me. I am much better today though. Well this afternoon I shall rest and Schoolie and I are thinking of going to the local native cinema just for fun, to see what it's like this evening. And then early to bed because we have that wretched all-day trip again tomorrow back to the heat and unpleasantness of Trincomalee. Did I tell you there's a magnificent radio gram in the mess here? It plays 11 records straight through, including the long playing 20 minute ones, so you can fill it up and it will play automatically for 3 ½ hours. I enjoyed myself the other night with 12 Eartha Kitt records, and some Doris Day and Dinah Shore, as you can imagine the Eartha Kitt records are very popular. Oh, I played Marilyn Munro singing After you get what you want, you don't want it, too. They're the sort of gramophones I like! I haven't told you about all the wonderful flowers and butterflies up here either; one of our chap is a butterfly collector and he goes around all day with his net and specimen box. There are lots of beetles too, of all colours. On the whole I think there's much more livestock than you'd like. Cheerio now my love, my next letter will be from the ship. Keep smiling.

Your Own Loving, Ken xxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Tuesday, September 27

Hello My Love,

Another letter from you today, with the driving licence OK. It's nice to get frequent letters, I noticed when you were in Troon you wrote more often, and I was afraid that when you got back to the hurly burly on your own again you wouldn't have so much time. You're doing fine though. I'm glad you found your watch. I shouldn't bother with your little alarm, I should buy a big robust one (with a loud bell!) You can get quite a nice Smiths for about £1. (I'll send you the £1 if necessary, ahem!) It's a good thing that the kids were quiet for your evening out. I'm afraid Susan is going to be disappointed when I don't bring all those animals back with me.

Well, we had quite a good trip down yesterday, at least as good as you can expect over such roads, I was propped up on my pillow again, and it took just over 12 hours. We had half an hour's stop at Kandy, and the walk there loosened me up nicely. I was lucky there, I found a bookshop with plenty of elephant postcards so I'll be able to send them a few at a time to the infants. I've got 10, which is an awkward number, I didn't think of Andrew at the time.

It's not quite so warm down here as it was, it's been dull and cloudy for a few days, with a lot of rain, and it's cooled the atmosphere down, although the ship itself is still very warm. It was peculiar to come on board, the handrails and everything else felt warm to the touch, and when I unpacked my bag which had been packed up in the cold, all the clothes were cold, wonderful, they've soon warmed up though. I had an early supper and was asleep by 9 last night, and slept through until six this morning. I was exhausted by midday, and my back was aching, it's far more tiring walking about on iron decks and going up and down steps. I turned in again and slept from 1 until 3.30, and had some tea, and a walk ashore for an hour and a half just to loosen up. I intend to take things easy for the next few weeks. I didn't go to the native cinema after all on Sunday, Schoolie and I were invited to the CPO's mess instead, and couldn't very well refuse. They sang lots of songs. Some of them sang solos, Sonny Boy and lots of pub songs, many of them being West countrymen.

I am very cross, my atlas has disappeared from my cabin, which has been locked until yesterday morning, it's the one you gave me many years ago, I shall have to make strenuous inquiries. I'll finish now my love, only 154 days to go, I love you as ever,

Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Wednesday, September 28

Hello My Lover,

I expect you're clearing up the debris of Penny's birthday party now. I had another letter from you today, what a quick one too, postmarked at Plymouth at 7 o'clock on the evening of the 24th and I got it at noon today, less than 4 days! Someone produced a snap of me today taken at the Seychelles, I'd forgotten all about it, it's so long ago. So, I can send all of you a picture today, I look nearly bald, I'd just been in the water and my hair is smoothed down flat to my head.

I had a tiring morning again so I had 2 hours on my bunk this afternoon. Oh incidentally that's Schoolie on the right with glasses, and the chap the other side is the South African I was telling you about who was there with his wife for a month's holiday.

I went for a walk again this evening, with another 2 ½ who said he's like a gentle stroll, and we followed an old track through the jungle out to a high point overlooking the whole harbour and the surrounding countryside and right out to sea in the other direction. A wonderful view, well worth the hour or so's walk. It was the site of a gun battery during the war, and all the old emplacements are there on the top of the hill, and the foundations of living huts and so on, all grown over by the jungle now, it's surprising how it's all covered over after less than 10 years. The walk was interesting too, monkeys and lizards, tree rats and chameleons, and beautiful anthills, 3 and 4 feet high, made in mud and as hard as granite. On the way back a patrolling police truck came along and gave us a lift back to the jetty, which was fine, it was getting dark, and we'd have been tired walking all the way.

Fancy G & G coming up again so soon, they must've been lonely or else they think you are. Now I'm going to have supper my love, I hope you all like your pictures.

Your Ever loving Ken xxxxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Friday, September 30

Hello My Love,

Another month over, another payday towards our car. I'm rather disturbed to see that if anything cars are slightly dearer now than they were at the beginning of the year. I'm going by the adverts in Autocar and Motor magazines which we have on board. Most of the cars I want are around £550 - £650 so it looks as though it will be a long time before we have a good one. Never mind, I expect we shall have a wagon of some kind. I meant to tell you the other evening that Schoolie has a couple of good photos of me, taken in colour, but they're not developed yet, he has the negatives, and the colours are wonderful. He's taken some movies too, but they've been sent back to England to be developed. It's a very expensive business but they have no family of course.

Well, it's been warmer here these last two days, very hot today in fact. I went for a walk yesterday afternoon which was a mistake, it was too hot, I felt terrible. In the evening we had a full scale formal dinner, in the Captain's honour, on the quarter deck, for the first time. It was very pleasant too, comparatively cool, followed by silly games (in which I took no part) with golf balls and clubs, which ended up with all the balls in the sea! We have to wear our blue uniform up the Persian Gulf, so yesterday I tried a suit on. My goodness, I was completely lost in it. I couldn't possibly wear it as it is, so I've decided that I'll have to have one suit remade, so today I've been to the native tailors to find out what they're capable of. For a start, I've taken one white mess jacket, and one suit of full whites, which they are going to rip down completely, re-cut them and make them up anew to my present measurements, by next Wednesday! All for 18 rupees (27/-) which is slave labour if you like. When I see what sort of job they make of that maybe I'll trust them with a blue suit. They're a funny lot, sitting cross-legged in their skirts, with one treadle sewing machine, in a little wooden hut about the size of Grandad's garage (his old one). They'll make a suit complete (including cloth) for 35 rupees, about £2, 10s. I can see that I'll end up with two lots of clothes, fat and thin for UK or tropics. What a business!

I walked back from the village along the beach, which I haven't seen for a month, and found it covered in enormous flowers growing from a scrubby sort of creeper that seems to thrive in the sand. Quite a sight, I'll have to take up going to the beach again next week. I'm frightened to go in the water until my back is better though. From there I came back along the jungle edge and came across an enormous troop of monkeys which I watched for a long time, moving gradually until I was only 6 feet from one old man with an enormous tail 4 feet long, and a black face surrounded by grey hair and beard. They were funny, and there were lots of young ones too, I like watching their antics, what a pity Susan isn't here to see them. They're nice until you notice their bunches enormous multicoloured devices hanging down as they swing in the trees, disgusting! I've been feeling better today, I suppose I shall be OK in time. I hope you and the infants are well, not too much trouble at school either, I love you.

Your Own Daddy xxxxxxxx

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