21st August 1943

On board ship in the Mediterranean

My Dearest Olive,

 The days are slowly passing and soon we should be on land again. It has been quite a pleasant voyage, better than I anticipated in many ways, but nevertheless I will be quite glad when we eventually arrive at the port of destination.

 There is not much I can tell you about the start of the voyage beyond the fact that everything went very smoothly, and the organisation certainly was extremely good. The second day out, we ran into quite a heavy storm and had rather a bad time on board. I was perfectly alright beyond a slight queasy feeling at dinner. I felt no ill effects but my three cabin companions were not as fortunate.  Jerry Aubrey was prostrate and could not rise from his bunk and McConnell was nearly as bad only coming down for one meal and then beating a hasty retreat. Paddy Myles was rather better than the other two but he was sick on occasions. Of the other three in our party, young Ellis who has never been to sea before was as ‘fit as a fiddle’, O’Brien who has done a lot of sailing was fit but Glennie had rather a bad time of it. There were many vacant seats in the dining saloon only about half turning up to dinner.

 The men, of course, had an even worse time of it, crowded down below. Many of them were very sick and it must have been ghastly for them under such conditions. Some of my lads were rather badly knocked about. At night time, they are not so badly off for, although crowded, they sleep in hammocks which sway with the ship. One officer per section has to sleep with his section each night. We have six unattached officers lent to us for that purpose – otherwise Glennie and I would have to be doing it on alternate nights. I slept below the first night in a hammock and found it quite comfortable, except that it was difficult to enter and this was made worse by McConnell trying to help and at the same time splitting his sides with laughter. It was very hot in the men’s quarters, made worse by the fact that everyone has to sleep in their clothes, but otherwise I had quite a good night. The following day, there was still rather a heavy swell. Aubrey and McConnell were still fairly bad and a lot of the men looked very green but the next day was much better and most people appear to have gained their “sea legs”. So far, we have had scarcely any sun but we should soon be striking warmer weather. The atmosphere is certainly becoming hotter.

 Contrary to my expectations, there is a considerable amount to do on board when one is in charge of a draft. There is plenty of administration and training is supposed to be carried out during daytime. Naturally, there is no room for proper training so it really means keeping the men occupied with PT, talks, competitions, etc. We have had several discussions and quite animated they have been.  Interesting points that emerged were the strong feeling of sympathy towards Russia, the fact that, while everyone strongly desires the downfall of Hitler and his gang, there does not appear to be a vindictive spirit towards the German people. The fact that they are going out to fight seems to have sharpened the men’s interest in affairs.

 I have developed rather a sore throat and a slight cold. In addition, I am very constipated which is most unusual for me. Yesterday, I felt very heavy and had a bad headache, but today I feel rather better although still heavy in the head. This, however, is a common complaint and probably due to lack of exercise.

 It is strange to think that it is only ten days since I left you, darling. In many respects, it seems much longer. It would be marvellous to be with you and Valerie again but I set my face against indulging in daydreams. The time will come when our separation will end and then we will certainly make up for all the time apart. I am terribly anxious to hear from you, sweetheart, to know how you are getting along. I hated to leave you with so much responsibility upon your shoulders and am desperately anxious to know how affairs are progressing. Write as often as you can and keep me in touch with how affairs are going with you. Try and let me have as many photos as possible of my darling Valerie.  Have as good a time as you can, I know it is difficult, but I would very much rather you got out and about whenever it is possible. That is why I hope you will be living where you are able to occasionally have someone to mind Valerie. I know she will grow into a most lovely child and she is very lucky in having such a fine mother as I am in having such a grand wife.


Read the letter of 23 August 1943


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