The 3/6d more than covers the damage and is guiltily but gratefully received. The stuff was meant as a gift actually but if you feel better sending me half-a-dollar as a kind of counter-gift – well, O.K. But remember 2/6 is ample for half a pound of ‘tea.’
To ease your mind, there is no censorship of my letters. Say what you like and how you like – it’s O.K. with the navy and with me. Since we now pull into Newhaven and are granted leave, it is the easiest thing in the world to post packages ashore. At Portsmouth one has to take a risk. Dozens of special police give you the once-over when you walk out the gates. They look at your gas –mask for any ‘ominous bulge’ – they’re a suspicious bunch – I can’t think why-!
I sent a parcel home last week – going out one day with a parcel of dirty washing and leaving it in cold storage in the sailors’ home, then going out the following day with a half-bottle of rum in my sock and packets of ‘tea’ stowed about my person. When the cop looked at my card and said ‘O.K. Jack!’ I felt like saying ‘That’s what you think.’ I got the parcel of washing out and, wanting to add the ‘milk’ and ‘tea’, I took the darn thing to the only place possible to do the packing in secrecy. Well, while I was sitting there with socks, cigs, rum, matches and shirts all about me, a guy pulls open the door and when he sees me his eyes nearly pop out of his head with astonishment. ‘That’s O.K.’ I said, ‘I always do my washing down here.’ He beat it.
How am I doing?’ you ask. Today – not bad at all,- it’s Sunday, I’m ashore in Pompey, I’m going to have tea soon and then see a movie (bang goes your 3/6). Tomorrow we put to sea and then starts the fun. There is a lot, Arthur, that I do not put in my letters to mother. I will not tell her of the body (not the first) we picked up yesterday – it had been in the water a long time. When a body is found we are supposed to identify it – search for papers, etc. – the seamen do the dirty work. This fellow was a German pilot – he was headless and limbless.
Nor do I tell of this new mine menace – we picked two mines up yesterday, an hour after sinking the body – they’re a new type entirely – he’s using a lot of new mines – some they call acoustic mines – the sound of propellers is enough to explode them.
When we left Newhaven on Friday night the Skipper ordered everyone on deck with lifebelts – five mines were in the harbour but we got out O.K.
Last week two trawlers were sunk on this patrol by German destroyers and another trawler is missing completely.
Gerry got to know that Eastbourne is an open(?) town – whilst laying off there each day we were subjected to about three raids a day, on one occasion being bombed by what we took to be a British seaplane because he dropped our own recognition flares. When, however, he dived and dropped a bomb by our bows, we knew we had been mistaken. I shall never forget the Junkers that let fly with a whole stick of bombs – you could see them leave the bomb rack, hear the awful screech and then see the great spouts of water that shot skywards. We are a hard target. So it’s not all beer and skittles.
Tuesday evening - at sea.
I meant to mail this last Sunday or Monday, but the Navy decided otherwise.
So here I am feeling quite weary after two days ‘sweeping’ and another two days to do ‘ere hitting harbour. Actually the sweeping is being done by the other five trawlers – we follow up and lay the dan buoys – marking the course swept – then we pick the damn things up again. Sounds easy but it’s the hardest work I’ve done since I left the good old A.T.M. Quite a change. I’m certainly not overburdened with work on this ship. It’s just a series of monotonous watches – standing and looking at the sea for hours on end or maybe holding onto the wheel for the same period. The air raids liven the proceedings somewhat and although we have seen no action for a week now, we certainly had our share of bombs during those days off Eastbourne.
It was that bloody bell. The first week back from leave when the blitzkrieg started in earnest was pure hell. Until we got used to being awakened by that alarm bell we were all a bundle of nerves. The funniest thing was when we got ashore. I was in a pub with the gunlayer – a bell rang and we both jumped up – just shows the way it gets you!
That’s too much about me – it’s not really a tough life – it’s easy, dead easy – the only thing that occasionally gets me is that there is no escape from it. When I try to imagine what five, six, ten years of this sort of routine will be like! Hell! Of course the commonsense thing is to develop an ‘artistic outlet’ – a hobby. I wish I was crazy about astronomy or fishing or knots. Too bad the only thing that held my interest was acting – not much chance of doing any of that now. I had thought of becoming a kind of recluse, living in books studying drama and dreaming of the days to come when the war is over and I’ll be all loaded up with so much knowledge that it’ll be a push-over. But it doesn’t work out that way – or does it?
When I return to harbour, Stella’s letter may be awaiting me – I hope so. She mentioned on a sheet of your own letter that she intended taking the children to Greenbank Park and it strikes me as being a good idea. It’s a good idea for everyone to get into the country these days as much as possible. The other day I took a walk from Newhaven to Lewes. I can honestly say that I forgot the war for that one day – it was grand. It took me ‘right out of myself’. So did the film I saw last week - the funniest film for a long time. Title – ‘THE GHOST BREAKERS’. The story doesn’t matter but the stars are Bob Hope and a negro called Stepin Fetchit.
Now that’s all for now – I’ll send another half pound of ‘tea’ soon. Tell me – does the potato keep it fresh? I’ll probably send the next lot in its original tin.