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Ken Lobb - The Letters (7) - October 1955

Trincomalee - Sunday, October 2

Hello My Love,

What a delightful card from Susan, I wondered what it was going to be, I thought someone had made a mistake for my birthday or something. Well, I've had a long outing today, so nice to get away from the ship for 12 hours. I've been on a bus ride to Anuradhapura, the old capital of Ceylon (over 2,000 years ago) which was greater than greater London now is, and used to have 3 million people living there. That was when there was real civilization here in Ceylon. Later it was invaded by the Indians and laid to waste and the jungle grew over it, but much has been excavated during the last hundred years. It's wonderful really, really ancient temples (I've been taking off and putting on my shoes all day going in and out of holy places), one with an enormous Buddha lying down, 50 feet long, full of beautiful ornaments and carvings and full-size ancient scenes (like Madame Tussauds, only very old), people praying and chanting all over the place, shaven-headed orange-robed priests, enormous heaps of fresh flower petals, and above all an overpowering sickening smell of incense and burning joss sticks.

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in 2014
Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in 2014. Photo: Flickr: Adam Jones CC BY-SA 2.0

I've seen the oldest tree in the world, over 2 thousand years old, a Bo tree, and it was a cutting from the original tree under which Buddha attained Nirvana, and it is laid down that it will live to be 5,000 years old, it's certainly looking very healthy and it's an enormous tree, standing on very sacred ground; we had to take our shoes off a long way from it, and the monks gather every leaf that falls from it. I've seen enough old relics to last a long time, there's one enormous Dagaba (which is a holy place with a relic of Buddha built into it, big dome-shaped buildings over 200 ft. high) with Buddha's right collarbone in it that has a courtyard and outer wall with 430 full size stone elephants around it, a wonderful sight!

At another place there was a rock temple with a sacred pool full of lotus plants, and beautiful carp and turtles that the faithful were feeding. All this is 70 miles from here, through the jungle, and it's certainly a different world, they must have been very clever here 2,000 years ago, it's a pity it's all been spoiled and grown over.

These bus rides are jolly good, a naval bus hired for the day works out at 3s/9p for 36 people, and a picnic of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and bananas from the ship costs nothing, so an instructive and interesting day is had at very little cost. We moved in society again today! After our sandwiches the officers (12 of us) went to the biggest hotel there for tea, and suddenly up screamed a police car, detectives came in and hung around and in came the Prime Minister and sat 10 feet away from us in the dining room and had lunch. He seems to be following us around, actually he'd come to open some new building there.

I've seen lots of monkeys again, including one sitting on an ancient statue of Buddha among the trees, and lots of water buffalo, lying in the lakes, some of them with just their eyes, nose and horns showing to keep cool. And I've seen an iguana, which is like an enormous fat lizard three feet long, they're regarded as a delicacy to eat by the natives but they have to get someone of low caste to kill it because their religion forbids them to take life. I meant to tell you that the other day I followed a mongoose along a track for a long way, I thought of that old serial in the "Girl" at the time.

Yesterday afternoon Schoolie, Doctor and I took a routine Naval transport around the other side of the harbour (an hour and a half's trip) and saw all around the old wartime Naval Air Station I've always heard a lot about. It's a large place with five 3-storey permanent living quarters, not used now, but in a good state of repair, it must have been very busy 10 years ago.

Otherwise |I'm much the same, my back is OK for walking and sleeping, but I'm not very agile yet. It will come right in time. 150 days to go now, it will soon pass, give my love to the infants, thank Susan for the card, I love you dear.

Your own Daddy xxxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Tuesday, October 4

Hello Honey,

Never again! I arranged with Steve Bullen to show him and his kids around the guns and so on, this afternoon for an hour. Sure enough they turned up but his wife turned too! The problem is that it is quite unsuitable when the sailors sunbathe in the afternoons. So I decided to leave her in a deckchair on the quarterdeck which would have been OK but then the kids didn't want to leave Mummy! Apparently, they've been talking about this for days too, and actually saw nothing. I shall never ask anyone else's kids on board again. He brought a camera too, which is not allowed as an admiralty employee. He ought to know that. The final embarrassment was that he was unable to sit down either due to a boil on his bottom! Very uncomfortable. After the kids had each had a cry I packed 'em all off ashore after an embarrassing three quarters of an hour. Don't take your kids on board a warship, dear.

Well I've been feeling much better yesterday and today, much more cheerful too. I'm so pleased I was getting quite depressed you know, crippling about. I had a long walk yesterday afternoon, out through the jungle to Elephant Point, where I actually bathed my feet in the sea, wonderful. It was hot of course, but I felt fine and outwalked my companion, the young doctor, who had to sit and rest twice. There were lots of my old friends, the monkeys, about; and I think I'm beginning to get over my childish delight at seeing them now, they're so commonplace really. I like the jungle noises too, it's never quiet, always a sort of screaming of cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers, really loud too, and all sorts of birds calling and whistling, and crashing of monkeys swinging from bough to bough. They've seen too many Tarzan films!

I haven't done much today, I slept for two hours after lunch, it's been much hotter again today, last night was a scorcher too, 95 degrees in the cabin. Never mind it will be winter soon, the nights have even started to draw in a bit here, it's dark by six o'clock now instead of the summer half-past six. There's very little change from summer to winter though. I've got to go to the hospital tomorrow for my back to be x-rayed, I hope they find it all there. I collect my re-made suits tomorrow too, I hope they'll be OK. I had a letter from you today, telling me all about the party preparations, so I expect the next one will tell me how they misbehaved themselves.

I hear today that when we take the Ethiopian prince back next year, all the officers are to be taken up to the Capital, Addis Ababa, and be royally entertained. I never thought I'd even go there, we'll wait and see! Now dear I'll leave you, loving you of course, 147 days to go, a mere nothing.

Your Own Ever loving,

Daddy xxxxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Thursday, October 6

Hello My Lover,

A letter from you today, I do look forward to your letters, though I know it's difficult for you with the infants playing you up, to write long and frequent letters. I'm doing well lately though, one every other day roughly. I had one from G and G too, they want to know what I want for Xmas, which is silly really because I don't want anything besides it won't seem like Xmas out here. Susan doesn't want much does she? A scooter will give you cause to worry if she plays outside. A black doll sounds easier. I shall have to see what there is up the Gulf, everyone talks of doing Xmas shopping up there.

I'm tired tonight, I was up at 5.30 this morning and I've been for a long walk this afternoon, up to Chapel Hill again where there's such a wonderful view. And also to my tailors, (ahem) the shack I was telling you about. The funny thing is I had a fitting too, standing almost in the street, in full view of the passers-by in the bazaar. He said he wanted to try on my trousers, and I had to take my shorts off and try them, I'm glad the policeman didn't come along. What a scream!

They x-rayed my back in three different positions yesterday morning, I don't know the verdict yet, but I expect there'll be nothing abnormal.

Friday, October 7

Hello Honey, I was tired last night, I just couldn't go on, I think it was a combination of getting up early, plus the long walk, followed by a long formal dinner night (absolute waste of an evening!) it all combined to put me on my back. I forgot to tell you I had a Cholera injection a couple of days ago too, which has slowly been working off.

Well, today has been a busy one too, I didn't get to my cabin for my afternoon rest (ha ha!) until half past two, and after tea I went to the "tailors" again, which rather depressed me because the white shorts and mess jacket weren't quite finished and I had to sit and wait for them, the centre of all eyes, although I was sitting on a bench and not in the dust on the ground with natives. And how dirty the things were when they were finished! I took them straight to the laundry when I got back on board. I'm wondering if I've done a good thing to entrust my good blue suit to them. I shan't rest until I get all my stuff back, and dry cleaned now. I'd hate to bring you out here for two years, it's far too squalid, apart from the climate. I must be up early again tomorrow, my boats crew are pulling before breakfast, it's a very full life you know, my footballers are playing tomorrow afternoon. It will be nice to get to sea and have a rest.

I've been looking forward to having a swim soon, but the change of monsoon winds has started now (which means we're going to start the rainy season nay time now, and bathing is prohibited from today on the beaches, until next May. Of course, I'm not interested in whether it will be safe again by then! I gave your frame a good clean this morning and you're radiant again. I was going to show Steve Bullen around the ship's electrical installation this morning but he cried off, which was just as well as it turned out because I was very busy.

Well my lover, I must leave you, I'm so looking forward to being with you again, it can't come quickly enough.

Your Own ever-loving Ken xxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Monday Morning, October 10

Hello Honey,

I'm writing a seven o'clock this morning being too exhausted after an all-day's entertainment programme. I organised a party of 36, nearly all my own lads but with 8 other officers, and we had an RN coach to Polonnaruwa, another ancient city in the jungle, 85 miles away. It was an early start, quarter to seven from the ship, and a tedious journey through the jungle, but it was well worth it on arrival, an enormous lake made several hundred years ago by damming one end of a valley, and inland at one end, these ruined temples and palaces and things which have been uncovered in the thick jungle within the last 50 years or so. There is one place where in a granite cliff, enormous sitting, standing, and lying Buddhas have been carved and the workmanship is wonderful. It's just like these films you see occasionally of long lost cities, thousands of years old, being discovered in impenetrable forests. Jolly good!

We didn't get back until seven in the evening, very tired, but it was a good day, better than last Sunday really, because there was no town near these ruins, and no smells, and very few natives, and much better scenery generally. Getting back at that time there was just time to clean, change, have supper, and see the film on the quarterdeck. It was an Italian one, something about "Don Camillo", very good but spoiled for me because English dialogue had been dubbed on the sound track, which means their lips move in Italian and the noise is English which looks silly. I'd rather hear the Italian and have English words written at the bottom. It was good, but long, and wasn't over until 11.30.

Incidentally, we are the poor relations now, there is an American Navy ship in for a couple of days, so now there are stylishly dressed "Gobs" about looking much nicer in their tropical rigs and their motor boats look like millionaire's pleasure craft from Miami, and ours look like barges alongside them. A lot of their officers were on board last night looking very smooth (and crew cuts too!)

As we're leaving next week, we are giving an official cocktail party tonight to all the white people here (250) for all they've done for us (which is a good laugh) and a dance on Saturday evening for a select few. All quite unnecessary as far as I'm concerned, although some officers have done well in the last 6 weeks and have hardly spent a night on board; I'd find so much amusement and entertaining far too tedious!

On Saturday afternoon Schoolie and I explored the old part of the bazaar and town, including the graveyard, the European one that is. What an eye-opener that was! We think it's a bad place to live now, and that we've lots of sickness, but if we'd been here 100 years ago half of us would have died in the last 6 months! From 1800 onwards to about 1875, young men were dying like flies, army and navy officers, 18, 19, 20, up to 24, with an occasional "old man" of 32; they mostly "died of a fever" as it says on the tombstones; and there's one to commemorate 56 officers and men and one woman and a child, who died in 5 days! I suppose that's the price we paid for the Empire, or part of it, and we've a lot to be thankful for that malaria, dysentery, cholera and all that are under control now. It really was most impressive, though it must be the same all over the tropics.

We saw lots of interesting things, rope making, the native butcher (really sick-making chopping the meat in the dust at the side of the road, with an ordinary wood axe, and you couldn't see his hands for flies!) and the "funeral" of a native child (two men walking quickly, chanting together, one carrying a bundle wrapped in clean white cotton material, on a coconut mat!) In the Chinese bazaar, I bought a shirt for 3 rupees (4/6) and some chopsticks, and looked through most of his stock, very interesting!

All very smelly though! Give me the jungle and monkeys every time! We saw some beauties yesterday, jumping enormous distances from tree to tree, bigger ones than I've seen for a long time.

Now honey I'll leave you, I'm feeling much better these last few days, nearly normal now, as ever,

Your loving Ken xxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Tuesday, October 11

Hello my Lover,

My letters have reached the hundred mark at last, and there are 140 days still to go! The ship is full of rumours today, because in yesterday's Ceylon paper it says the Suez Canal will be closed between the 1st and 25th February, and we're due to pass through about the 14th! So now there's more talk of coming back around S. Africa in which case we will miss going to Abyssinia. As far as I'm concerned I'd rather come back via Singapore, the Pacific, the Panama Canal and the Atlantic, provided we still get back on 1st March! Anyway, I've been to America today, at least I was the Senior Officer of a party of six who went to lunch on the American Ship, the USS Greenwich Bay. And very pleasant it was too, beautifully airconditioned, cool, the first time I've been comfortable since the rest camp. Their ships are not allowed to have liquor on board (I wish ours were the same) and we drank iced tea, which was a novelty. Turkey of course, but I was disappointed, no ice-cream. A very pleasant couple of hours though, with drawling, quietly-spoken, friendly characters. Not the usual shouting match you get in our ships, with everyone being "frightfully jolly." I found that coming back from their cool to our hot ship, completely finished, me and I slept for an hour afterwards. Then, in duty bound I went to watch my lads play football with the Somalis, a quiet walk to watch the monkeys, and so back on board. Yesterday I collected my altered uniforms, and although I had misgivings when I entrusted them with my new blue uniform, they've done a beautiful job of refitting the jacket, you wouldn't think it had been touched. It fits now with plenty of room still for pullovers and an odd pound or two of flesh. I was very pleased to see it, and when I compared it with my other suit (unaltered) there's 2 inches difference across the shoulders, 5 inches on the chest and 8 around the waist!

USS Grenwich Bay on May 24 1955
USS Grenwich Bay on May 24 1955. Photo: R. P. Champine: Naval History and Heritage Command: Public Domain

Our cocktail party went very well last night, I've never seen so many tipsy silly people, most of them went on to a dance ashore afterwards, and there were a lot of unwell officers about this morning. I turned in a half-past nine last night, I was very tired, and in any event I had to be up at quarter to six this morning to go with my rowing team. I shall be early to bed tonight too. Well there'll be some excitement next week this time, we'll be about to leave here, and a good thing too!

You'll have to become resigned to an irregular service again my love, never mind, you'll get them in bunches and perhaps I'll have more interesting things to write about when we go to new places. The Americans have just come down from the Persian Gulf, and when they left last week the temperature was 127degrees! And we haven't got their air-conditioning!

Never mind, I love you dear,

Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Thursday, October 13

Hello Honey,

Your husband is exhausted again, after another gentle walk in the heat of the afternoon. Schoolie and I have been exploring some parts of Fort Frederick again, that's the old Portuguese fort here with the deer wandering in its grounds.

It's very pleasant inside, plenty of tall trees and shade, and beautifully still and quiet. We found some old graves again, including one of an army Lieutenant who "died of a fever that attacked him while on arduous duty in the jungle 40 miles from Trincomalee on the Colombo road." Very quaint.

Then we came to an old Indian magician by the side of the road with his tricks. For one rupee he played his pipe which sounds like a bagpipe, it has two drones and a third tube with holes in that he plays a tune on. He pushed the lid of his snake basket back and 6 or 8 feet of King Cobra came out (he said it was harmless) and at first it looked like any other snake, then when it got cross its "hood" came out on its neck, which went very thin seen from the side, and spread out like a dish when seen from the front or back, with a pattern on the back. In the meantime he had a young mongoose which he set onto it for a fight, and when it drew blood on the snake's back slid smartly off, and the old boy had to fetch it back by the tail and stuff it into its basket. Then he wanted to make mango trees spring up in the road from seed, but we'd had enough by then. What a dirty, bearded, turbaned old rascal he was though.

Yesterday I had a quiet walk on my own to watch the monkeys, quite good fun, if you're childish like me. In the evening we had a ceremonial dinner on the quarterdeck, but I retired afterwards before they started playing their silly games, to read "Journey into Space." I expect it's illegal but I'm putting in the pound you asked for to buy an alarm clock, I'd hate you to spend too long in bed (unless I'm there too!) although I know it's a mistake to send it because you'll ask for more, (as it happens I have £2). I'm joking you know.

It's only 138 days to go now, and it can't go too quickly. I'm glad Penny is settling down again at school, she never takes very well to new teachers until she gets to know them. I hope the other two are not such a burden now, they must be improving if you can take them down to the town shopping. Life will be easy when they're older won't it? Now my lover I'll leave you, wishing I were with you, as ever,

Your Loving, Daddy xxxxxxxx

P.S. My X-rays were OK, they show that I've got a flattened disc, but there's nothing else wrong. Otherwise I'm coming along fine.

Trincomalee (but not for long) - Sunday, October 16

Hello My Lover

Sudden panic, I've run out of airmail paper, which means this one won't fit into your folder (if it's still going strong). Well I'm flabbergasted! In their last letter G&G said how well the car was running and that it will last for a bit yet especially as things are so dear, and now I've had a letter saying they've got one of these tinny new streamlined cars! Jolly good! Though I'm sorry they didn't wait to sell their old one to us for £100, because at the rate things are going our new one we're scraping and saving for will be a dream. Don't forget to write and tell me how nice it is to ride in.

The Suez Canal business is a lot of nonsense, and it's been confirmed that we'll be home by 1st March. Well what's been happening? It's difficult to remember from one day to the next. I went to the Chinese Store again on Friday and got some Hong Kong silk shorts, cut on the same style as Yankee pants you know, for 3/- a pair, and I'm wearing them now as pyjamas, jolly good in this heat, just a thin pair of shorts, having tried it I'm going to get a couple more, because they are really intended to wear as pants, and I'll probably end up wearing them by day as well. I looked at some pyjamas while I was there, and some had a slit down the front and some didn't, so looking at one with the slit, I said, "I see there are for married men," you should have seen the old Chinese boy laugh.

Saturday evening they had a dance on the quarterdeck, to which I invited the Bullens. (I'm going to supper with them tomorrow evening incidentally, which will be a change, I haven't been out of the ship for weeks and weeks, the last time I went to their place for supper in fact.) (It's too dark for me to venture among the natives!) Of course, dancing is no good for me, nor to Steve, but we had a gentle chat while I arranged for Schoolie to join us and take her on the floor, which suited him because he hadn't asked anyone. I asked them to the film tonight too, which was "The Dambusters", and a jolly good film it was too, I'd no idea of the interesting story behind blowing up those German Dams.

Today's big event has been my boating outing; we took an enormous launch with about 60 hands away outside the harbour mouth to a beautiful sandy, deserted beach fringed by jungle, in burning sunshine (to start with) and after a couple of hours swimming and walking and jumping around generally, got a driftwood fire going and boiled up an enormous kettle of water, and had tea, and tinned pineapples, a good time was had by all. The tea was only just finished in time and then it came, a real tropical storm, blinding, stinging rain, a rough sea, all whipped up in a few minutes. Everyone was soaked, which didn't really matter, I only had swimming trunks on anyway, but we had to get back to the ship because the wind and tide were inshore and we'd have had trouble keeping on our boat from washing up the beach. What an interesting trip it was! Half an hour of rolling and pitching in quite dangerous circumstances. I really enjoyed it, standing at the back (the steering end) of our 50-foot launch, and felt super fit when we got back, nothing to shelter from either.

When we came into the lee of the ship there was absolute confusion, 3 boats tied up at our boom had broken away and they were trying to secure them, 4 sailing dinghies were lost and had to be found (one was found capsized with the chap hanging on to it, the others had run up into the sheltered bays and beaches), and getting my lot out of the boat and up the ship's side was quite exciting too. I'm glad to say that apart from an odd twinge my back behaved well throughout, and I feel much better generally now. A jolly good afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed it! These sudden storms and heavy rain will set in here now though, with the change of the monsoon, and it's just as well we're leaving on Wednesday. Goodnight now my lover, I'll leave you, loving you as ever, it's very late.

Your Own Ken xxxxxxxxxxxx

At Sea - Wednesday, October 19

Hello My Lover

What a shambles! I've had 1 ½ hours sleep since yesterday morning, our crack cruiser is cracking up! We've been in harbour too long, nothing works now. We've had a good 24 hours of trouble, affecting everyone I think. Yesterday it poured with rain, and in the middle the crane broke down and was repaired, then the engineers found their engines weren't running right and they had to work through the night; the radar stopped, and I didn't turn in until quarter to four, and had to get up at quarter past five to leave Trincomalee; then the crane broke down again, the motor failed and it dropped one motor boat on top of another one, we've been working on the crane ever since and now I'm ready to turn in, they'll be working on the damaged boats all night.

This afternoon we stopped at sea to lower a lifeboat for exercise, by hand from its davit, and the rope gave way and dropped it upside down in the ocean, men overboard and everything, and another one had to be lowered by hand because the crane was out of action, a wonderful start to our autumn cruise! A good pantomime really, they all get so cross.

Now, what have I done? On Monday evening I went to the Bullen's, a quiet pleasant evening, they're very lucky to have such a nice house, they don't seem to like it out here very much though, the climate doesn't suit them. I showed them our snaps, they're very interested, and gave me one to send you that he took outside the dockyard the day they brought the kids on board. He took two. That's Pat Bullen holding "Nicky" (Nicholas) and the other one is "Chrissy" (Christopher). The exhausted looking chap in the middle is me! Yesterday afternoon I took my last walk ashore in Trinco and bought some odds and ends, and saw Steve, went to tea with them. I've got a letter from Pat to give to her cousin at Kuwait up the Gulf, she's married with two kids and her husband is at the oil refinery there, so I've one contact already for the cruise. I'm dopey, I can't really collect my thoughts, I know I have to tell you the mail will be irregular for a few weeks now, but I've told you that already. I'm looking forward to seeing Colombo tomorrow, there are real shops there, I'll write tomorrow night and tell you about them. I'll have to leave you now honey, I'm so tired, quite well otherwise though.

Goodnight my lover, from your ever-loving Ken xxxxxxxxx

P.S. Give my love to the kids, I don't suppose they'll recognise my photo.

Colombo - Friday, October 21

Hello Honey,

Trafalgar Day today, so of course a lot of ceremonial, with firing of salutes, and an official reception for 200 on the quarterdeck. A lot of nonsense, but the civilians seem to enjoy it, I've had two letters from you in the wo days we've been here, so I can't complain, I'm afraid after this one you'll have to go about 10 days before you get the next one, there's no mail between here and Bahrein, which we don't reach until 1st November. I hope Andrew and Susan are well, these symptoms are very worrying but they soon perk up don't they. There's nothing I want for Xmas my love, except you of course, but you'd better save yourself up until I arrive I think.

Well what a busy two days these have been! The weather hasn't helped, we came in during a storm yesterday morning, and it rained all day, all this morning, though it brightened up this afternoon. The harbour is most impressive, an artificial one with breakwaters about 1 ½ miles long and it's packed with ships moored to buoys in straight lines, all sorts of ships, tankers, cargo vessels, liners, a wonderful sight. We have the best berth 50 yds off the passenger jetty and customs pier, though we still have to use our boats for going ashore, no big ships can lie alongside the wall. This means that all the ships here have to be unloaded into lighters and barges moored alongside, and the scene is one of furious activity, with tugs, lighters and launches tearing up and down all the time. And then there are the natives in their bum-boats trying to sell all sorts of things to the people on their ships.

We had a big Italian liner next to us until this evening, full of emigrants going to Australia and they lined the rail all day (I don't suppose they were allowed ashore) buying things from these boats, letting down bags and baskets on the end of ropes to get their purchases up from the native's boats. This morning I took my rowing boats crew away for half an hour and (and pulled along the dotted line), [Here there is a map of the harbour showing the moorings. The boat rowed out around a large part of the moored ships.] and it was most interesting (even in the rain) the sea outside was very rough and enormous waves were breaking over the sea wall into the harbour, and it was fascinating passing along the lines of ships of all nationalities.

In spite of the rain I went ashore yesterday afternoon for an hour and a half to poke around the shops. Quite a change to see trams and buses and hundreds of super modern cars again in the modern parts, and the customs halls were good fun too, full of travellers of all nationalities being examined and waiting about. It's jolly easy for us, we just say "Gambia" and walk straight through, no formalities at all. The Pettah or native bazaar is enormous, street after street, all narrow alleys, with a jostling throng of natives, all trying to sell you something. I walked through there (filthy and running with rain water mixed betel juice they chew and spit, and banana leaves and stalks) Hindu temples, people trying to change your money at illegal rates, touting postcards, dirty book the lot; they all run after you tugging at your sleeve, showing you toys, silverware, carved elephants and begging for money or cigarettes. All most cosmopolitan, I walked for an hour without seeing another white face! All very dirty, smelly and squalid though!

This afternoon at lunchtime (that reminds me, I worked all the evening until 11.30 at a useless radar set and finally cured it!) we had an official reception after which Schoolie and I (he had to supervise an examination yesterday, that's why I went ashore alone) went to see a precious stone expert. Ceylon has mines for every sort of gem, and he wanted to spend a lot of money on sapphires, so we went to the top man, and had a very interesting time looking at his specimens, but it was all too dear, and in the end he just got one or two small unmounted things (rubbish the expert called them), which he'll still have to have mounted at great expense in England. Anyway, the ride there, about 6 miles out was interesting and we saw all the main buildings and gardens.

We didn't have long because of our official reception this evening, which was diverting too but two receptions in one day completely muck it up from a sight-seeing point of view. Now my love I must finish off to catch the mail. I love you, and will write more about this place during the next few days, in which we'll be at sea.

Cheerio my lover,

Your Own Ken xxxxxxxx

At Sea - Midday Monday, October 24

Hello My Lover,

It's quite comfortable on board today, real English Channel weather, pouring with rain, from a dull grey sky, and beautifully cool! Someone just said, "I expect it will be a little like this the day we get into Plymouth." Who cares if it's raining. You asked about my Gillishave the other day, I can't remember whether I told you or not, but I haven't used it at all yet! You see it's not recommended in warm climates where the face is hot and sweaty all the time, so rather than spoil it I haven't used it.

On Saturday morning I had to supervise a load test of the crane (after the fiasco the other day when one boat was dropped onto another one), but everything worked well, and it stood up to 9 tons OK. We sailed at tea-time, but Schoolie and I went ashore for an hour during the afternoon, it was such a beautiful sunny day, and had a wander around the bazaars; on the whole though I was glad to leave Colombo, it's too busy, noisy and smelly for my liking. Quite a few of the lads were robbed ashore, pay books and money, I think two days there were quite long enough. And now we face a week at sea; yesterday was quite nice, very warm and sunny, with a shocking roll on the ship, I spent a very pleasant afternoon sleeping on my Camp bed on the quarterdeck, and got very sunburnt, this sea air is very strong! We put the clocks back half an hour, a sure sign that we're travelling west, and had our cinema show on deck, cool but not very satisfactory otherwise there was too much noise of wind and waves, it was a job to hear the film. It was "The Inspector Calls" with Alistair Sim, which I'm sure we've either heard before on the radio, or seen on the TV. A miserable sort of film, I'd much rather see a funny one or a musical, but our selection committee don't approve of that sort of entertainment.

Tuesday, October 25

We're rolling along on a perfectly smooth oily sea, rather an unnatural calm really. I remember we had a day like this on our last cruise. One good thing, it allows me to keep my window open, which is a good thing because it's warmer today. We'll have another nice long evening because the clocks go back an hour at half-past six. The trouble is finding a profitable way of spending the time. I've mapped out a quiet studious programme for the rest of the Commission which I've been working to the past few weeks. I think this sea going navy is a shocking time-wasting business really. If I have to do many more Commissions like this I reckon I'll have to start correspondence courses in something! Or make a rug. That silly song has been on my mind all day today, "How can I live without you, how can I let you go", it keeps reminding me of the way we used to sing it.

Wednesday, October 26

It was a wonderful morning this morning when I woke up, I felt beautifully fresh too, and got up early, cool, sunshine and a lovely blue sea. We have a few birds on board, just for the ride I suppose, although there's nowhere else they can go, we're well away from any land, and there are no other ships about.

We've had an exercise today in war conditions, even to wearing our gasmasks, a tiresome business, I'm hoping that's the last one. Our programme has been changed slightly today, we're going on to Bahrein a day earlier because there's some sort of outbreak there, and it looks as though we may have to chase the troublesome Arabs away. It's all very hush-hush though and I expect when we get there it will prove to be nothing, these things generally get exaggerated.

Schoolie has been studying his guidebook and says there is a very old Arab village there we ought to try and visit, the oldest of its kind in existence, and of course I want to ride on a camel, so we'll have to map out a programme when we get there.

Friday, Octobe 27

Hello My Lover. I've been adrift in the ocean in an open boat today! Well we stopped to let the Somalis paint the ship's side, and as it looked quite calm, I went off in a whaler with my 5 oarsmen and had a pleasant twenty minutes pull around. I was lowered in the boat too, the one that fell in a heap last week, it was OK today though, as I say we had a pleasant pull round (not me, I steer) stripped to the waist in the burning sun, although the swell was rougher than it looked, and it wasn't until we got back on board (up a rope ladder) that we saw three sharks circling round, and although the mids put out a line with a hunk of beef on it, we didn't catch any.

It was wonderful last night, a real Arabian night's atmosphere, there's something peculiar about it, the sky seems to shine all around the horizon after dark. We've got some big seabirds following us that swoop down and catch the flying fish as they skim over the water, very clever! Tomorrow we're having a landing exercise, sending large armed parties ashore all day on a lonely island to exercise in case a display of armed might is required next week. I expect a lot will get hurt landing among the rocks and cliff climbing, they'll certainly get hot! I do not expect to accompany them. I'm getting brown again after a week at sea, I generally have an hour in the sun at lunchtime, and at sea we go barelegged so it does us much more good than in harbour. It's a pity we have to come so far in this direction of home only to go back again afterwards though.

Sunday Morning, October 30

Hello My Love, what a day yesterday was! Up at five o'clock and anchored at daybreak in a narrow channel at Khor Kuwai at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. What a desolate spot! Barren rocky mountains rising straight out of the sea, sun-baked and dry, and perfectly quiet. The island has the remains of our old wartime checkpoint for examining all ships passing in and out of the Gulf, and only has 5 Arab watchmen there now, just to watch it rot away. I had my boat out again for half an hour in the morning to pull around the Channel and examine the place, plenty of fish in the water, all shapes and sizes. Very hot sun of course.

In the afternoon the motor boat took a party of us to a beach where there was coral, and we had to jump out and wade ashore, and Schoolie and I decided to explore so we climbed to the nearest high point on the island and had a magnificent view of the surrounding barren landscape, and a wonderful view across the blue sea of the Gulf, well worth the hour's climb. From there we had a couple of hours rough going over rocks and sand (proper hot desert stuff!) to the end where we'd had two hundred ashore in the morning for armed manoeuvres, and eventually met up with the remains of them and came back to the ship in their boat.

We got rather worried in case we missed them and got left behind but all was well in the end. Actually, one chap was thought to be lost ashore, and the ship was searched later on, and he was asleep in some corner. We enjoyed our expedition, tiring though it was, what a barren place though, we only saw one lizard, and a snake four feet long, there was nothing else alive.

I expect the papers at home are full of stories about the tension out here with Arabia, we're told to expect trouble, and are prepared for it, it's hard to imagine though in such calm weather and warm sunshine, and this barren sun-baked sort of country (even if there is oil in it) seems hardly worth getting fussed over. [It didn't quite work out that way.] We're hoping to have some mail tomorrow, so I'll finish this off to catch the collection. I love you dear, look after yourself and the kids.

As ever,

Your Own Loving Daddy xxxxxxxx

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