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1943 November, Convoy to Italy

Dear Annilea:

This is being written as I travel the high seas & what seas they can be. Starting at the beginning I will say that I left one evening & traveled by train to a port where we embarked. After seeing that all the men were fed & settled, Art Dyer, another officer & myself had a few games of forty-fives which we all enjoyed very much. Turning in to sleep at about 10.30.

Naturally, I can’t mention the port, but we were taken by smaller boats away from the wharves out to the waiting larger ones. It was an American convoy we traveled on. Talk about breaks, yours truly was definitely in luck. It happened that in out party, there were only eleven officers & a number of men. At the dock, owing to some last minute arrangements & changes, only two officers went with the men, the remainder of us going on another boat. Why I say we’re lucky in this: Naturally in war time, traveling space is crowded, but the boat we went on was about what you’d call a spare & although there were quite a number aboard it was or I should say as nothing to what I imagine is on the other boats traveling beside, fore & aft of us. Let’s forget numbers etc, except that Captain Crouse, who is head of our little party, got aboard before the rest of us & managed to get a cabin for the lot of us, nine.

You’d think that nine in one cabin was quite a crowd, but even with all our equipment we seem to have loads & loads of room, not that I’d want another nine packed in on top of us. We have our own bathroom & toilet which is really very nice even if we do have to pack shaving & washing into a few minutes each day, but I’ll explain that later.

And now, to give you a short insight into what to me was the most dramatic, thrilling thing that has happened to us in a long time, & that, my sweetheart, is what women think is the quickest way to a man’s heart. Yes, you’ve guessed it by now, his stomach. Don’t get me wrong, darling, in thinking that we didn’t get lots of good wholesome food in England, but after all, rations are rations, with meat lacking in quantity, plus so many other things & then to suddenly walk into a dining room with tables heaped with all good things to eat. Talk about a bunch of grown up men (officers in the army, majors, captains, lieutenants) acting like a bunch of kids at a birthday party, or better still some rich man having a group of poor kiddies into his home at Christmas time. If you can take this in part, you’ll begin to get the idea. Without a doubt it was the most enjoyable sight we had seen for a long time, & we had a number of British officers with us also & they could hardly believe their eyes.

Darling! Take a picture from one of the Saturday Evening Posts. The way food is prepared, color & all & you have it exactly; a four course dinner. Soup, roast beef, chicken or pork & pie, even had ice cream three times & together with white bread, white rolls, jams, butter etc we have certainly been eating like kings.

PS, Do you think there’s any likeness? A


My sweetheart!

I wish you could have been with me today, it was heaven. I woke at 6.30 & instead of lying in bed & making a dash at 7 for breakfast, I got up immediately & took a stroll on deck. It was perfect. The water was as calm as it is possible on the Atlantic (there is always a certain swell). It was a rich deep blue, & although the sun was an hour from rising, it was almost daylight. Yours truly was dressed in light karki slacks & an open shirt & it was just like mid-day June, the sun so warm & invigorating (remember this is sometime in November).

Breakfast, as usual, was the usual variety of cereals, oranges, bacon & eggs, toast & white rolls & jam of different sorts. A short stroll on deck for a smoke & then down for a shave, wash & general clean up. (We all make our own beds & we don’t make a half bad job of it for officers who are supposed to have batmen to look after us, at least lots of people think of us as helpless.) Up on deck then, on the highest point with a book, a true detective story, where I remained until Art dragged me off to P.T. at 10.30. That over & a half hour of deck shuffle-board, then I slipped down to the cabin to do a bit of washing. Yes! We’re learning plenty aboard here & tomorrow I expect to do a bit of sewing also.

Lunch over & I nabbed a blanket & headed for the deck. Give you three guesses why? Give up? O.K., after reaching the desired part of the deck, I proceeded to strip off to the waist, I was now in shorts, & take a real good sunbath. One hour on top & one on the back & I proceeded to cloth again- after all, why over do it the first time out. I would definitely have hated to have been going on a route march this afternoon so you can have an idea as to the heat, when I say that I have never felt the sun as hot at any time while in England. Had another game of shuffle-board & now I am writing these few lines.

Just before I close for dinner (or supper), I’d like to say something about the water. It is really a much different blue from what we get at home or England. A deep purple describes it perfectly, & to stand in the forward part of the ship & lean over & watch the prow cut through the swell is a thrill not easily forgotten. Looking off to the sides & seeing all those large boats moving along together is another thrill. Immense floating castles is the only way to describe them because that’s exactly what they are unless you call them hotels. If you don’t look at the water close at hand you’d swear that they were all anchored in a harbour, not sailing the high seas. Not a cloud in the sky all day, & summer weather. It’s hard to believe that danger lurks anywhere in these beautiful waters.


No. 3

Well my love!

It’s another day now & we’re sailing along the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, but before I describe it I’ll slip back a day. A beautiful morning, cloudless again & still no sight of land. Dinner over & we were standing on deck & everybody looking through glasses to see who would be the first to discover it & of sl the people yours truly was the first, me with glasses to help my eye sight & no field glasses. The reason was, I think, is that I was looking for a specific object & I found it, the light clouds above the horizon & suddenly a faint darker line below them.

Even a couple of the navy officers with glasses wouldn’t agree until the Captain took a look & wanted to bet a quid I was right, but no takers. After all, as one of the navy lads said: “If the Captain said it was, his word was law on board boat.” Gradually, the mountains took form & just after supper we came opposite to that great rock that has been so much a part of the British Empire & the one spot you always look for when looking at a map of the world, that greatest of all fortresses, Gibraltar.

You could feel the tense expectation as it first showed its rearing nose to us & gradually loomed up to us in all its stately grandeur. We must have passed it about 5 or 6 miles off shore but even at that distance it showed clearly, as if only a few hundred yards from us. Really a thrilling sight when you think of how an important part it has played in the making & keeping of the British Empire.

On both sides, through the strait, of course, are high mountains & you would never dream to sail through it, that it was anywhere near as wide as it is. Numerous fishing boats dashing here & there. Spanish, I imagine, & we passed quite close to a large ferry with a large Spanish flag painted on its prow, the rest of the ship being painted all colors of the rainbow.

And so another event in our life was passed as we left the rock & sailed into the beautiful Mediterranean. The sun began to sink & although I cannot describe the grandeur of it all I can safely say that it far surpasses any-thing in natural splendor that I have witnessed before.

Really, sweetheart! I’d have given a year of my life to have had you here with me to enjoy it all. That sun, going down in a blaze of glory, just one big ball of fire sinking below the horizon directly out the centre of the strait, & gradually the few clouds above turning to all colors of the rainbow & on each side those high range of mountains stretching as far as the eye can see silhouetted against it. Gradually the night set in & those high mountains became but a dark line. Never again do I believe I’ll ever witness anything quite so breath taking as last night & it will live in my mind as something so picturesque & immortal as hard for the human eye to conceive of in all its natural soft splendour & beauty; & so with regret it was fond adieu.

But another thrill awaited us & again it was something we won’t forget in a hurry & that was lights of a city. That may sound the least strange, but to fellows who hadn’t seen street light for nigh on 5 years, it must have given a gladdening feeling that here at least was one part of the world untouched by the realities of this great war. Here in Spanish Morocco was life as it should be, gay, free & happy, & one sometimes wonders at the uselessness & horrors of war. Those lights did give us a thrill, especially when two or three boats passed us all lit up from top to bottom, & although there was plenty of talk aboard that night, it was in a quiet secluded tone, mostly of home, the past & the future.

It is really funny, even with all its grim realities, that here we are sailing along peacefully on a beautiful cruise with not a care in the world (out here at any rate), & yet knowing full well that it is the sense of security one gets only from those Destroyers plodding listfully through the water on every side, ever alert to any danger that might confront us.

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