Memories

Sunday Dec. 14th 1941.

Dear Tim,

In your last letter – which I have before me – you were reminding me about our trip across the Atlantic in the Samaria last year. Strangely enough I had just been trying to decide a few days ago the exact date, when we left New York, but to no avail. Looking back on it now it certainly was a pleasant voyage.  I’ve wondered several times about the acquaintances I made on board and what they are doing now. They were a rather mixed lot and it would be interesting to know where they are now. It has been a very exciting year for most of us and one that has passed quickly for me at least. It seems as if it were but yesterday since I landed in England. The most interesting and exciting year in my life!

The date Hugh was seeking was September 6.  The only evidence of Jim keeping in touch with people on Samaria is her short correspondence with Raymond Richards. She kept his letters all her life. The two seem to have been kindred spirits. On September 9, 1940, she wrote letters of thanks to people in America and one to George Lawrence. Hugh and Ray seem to have been prolific letter writers. Ray’s first is written just days after landing in England and sheds more light on disembarking from Samaria.

Sept 9, 1940

Dear Evelyn,

      Here I am in ye old home town, in an atmosphere of felicity and peace. I do hope those beastly planes haven’t been bothering you again down there.

I did appreciate tremendously your kindness in putting me up for the night. I just caught my train by the skin of my teeth. I left myself ample time but an air raid alarm sounded just as I reached the station, and they proceeded to lock up the left luggage office where my trunks were stored and I had practically to break the place open before I could get them out. The old Scotsman was on the same train. He’d missed the right connection because an air raid warning sounded and they bunged him into a shelter and kept him there! But apparently McKinnon, McKay, Annie and the rest of the Scots contingent got away all right.

I almost feel like writing a special letter of thanks to the Cunard people for arranging for you to travel on the ship. A charming blonde in the right place has an inspiring effect on me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

I present myself within the next couple of days before the military people and will let you know my luck. Please write and let me know how things are going in your part of the country, and what your own plans are. If you’re going to London, let me know, and it might be possible to arrange a reunion with the doc. I don’t know myself at the moment when I’ll be going down, as I suppose I shall have to be guided by whether or not the military people want me right away.

Please give my warmest thanks also to your mother and Mary for their hospitality. I hope you’re all in good fettle. I haven’t heard a single good story since I came up here, I’ve only had one Bass and I go to bed before midnight. I guess they’re trying to make a reformed character out of me. But I shall never be Respectable if I live to be 100.

I’m looking forward to a letter from you, my dear. Don’t forget to write and tell me all about yourself, and I do hope it won’t be long before I’ll be able to persuade you to overcome your scruples again and have another Tom Collins with me.

       Wishing you the very best, Ray

Annie also appears on Samaria’s Passenger List as follows: Brown Annie Third 26 Lochgelly Scotland, Waitress, USA, Scotland

On September 12, 1940, Jim wrote: Had a letter from Ray – quite a nice one.

Described as a journalist on Samaria’s Passenger List, it was as a clerk that Ray travelled to Canada in 1937. On arrival home, he was not called up straight away and took a job with the Scottish Daily Express as a stopgap. He wrote again in October 1940 from his home in Clarkston, Glasgow, to tell Jim that he had been branded B category because of poor eyesight. He was waiting to hear about training for the Field Security branch of the Military Intelligence Corps. This necessitated a trip to London where he had met up with Dr Wyse and bumped into our friend Lawrence in one of the Lyons Corner Houses. Jim already knew about the latter meeting as she had had a letter from George Lawrence a few days earlier.

News of great import

A few days ago I heard the news that America was at war with Germany and Japan.  It was hardly unexpected but still it made me feel uneasy.  Perhaps it will bring the end of the war nearer but one has the feeling that the world must have gone mad. One can’t think of a major power that isn’t at war with someone at present. Japan seems to have taken the States a bit by surprise to start with but things will be evened out in the end I think. It would be interesting to know how the American public will react to the war. Different than in England I think. There is such a mixture of peoples – some loyal some not so loyal. There probably will be more fifth column activity and certainly more sabotage than in Churchill’s Island. America’s industrial output should be fairly well geared up by now which will in the end beat the Japs I think. I wonder what the “Great White Way” would look like in the blackout? I hardly think New York would stand up to the bombing that London has received.

This was indeed significant news for both Jim and Hugh. It was the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7 which hastened America’s entry into the war the next day. Jim might have felt that she had some personal influence on the matter!

1941 December 9th Politically the news is very exciting indeed because on Monday it was announced that Japan had bombed Manilla in the Philippines, also Honolulu in the Hawaian Is. The American fleet and Air Force have suffered losses and also USA have declared war on Japan. The Japs now threaten Singapore and have captured Thailand (Siam) and bombed Bangkok. Australia are feeling nervous and all countries seem to be mobilising men and women power.

Following her acceptance of the Scholarship, Jim received a letter from the ESU advising that holders were expected not only to receive but to give, which latter is, we are told, an even more blessed state. An extra page for 1940 was added warning against anything which might be interpreted as propaganda. The understanding was that scholars should use every opportunity to put the facts to the American people.  Jim interpreted this advice in her speeches.

Jim had met many people during her stay in America and the question of whether the States should enter the war was often a topic for discussion. In July 1940, she found no one who thought America would enter the war. Their participation in the Great War had left Americans bitter about War Debt and there was a reluctance to repeat the exercise.

Various speeches saw her going into detail about the war on the home front and suggesting what the Americans could do to help. At her ‘first public appearance’ , as she called it in her diary, she detailed conditions at home. Circulars explained how to recognise planes. In the countryside, Local Defence Units, later The Home Guard, ripped down signposts and camouflaged landmarks. Farmers left machinery in fields and cricket pitches to thwart airborne invasion. Wealthy landowners loaned their guns to the government. Vegetables grew on former lawns and church towers became watchtowers. Coastal areas saw the installation of hidden gun emplacements. Fishermen joined the Navy or worked on minesweepers.  Above all, people lived with the fear of sudden death.

Once home, Jim’s spate of articles for newspapers, possible inspired by Ray’s work, included American attitudes to war. She acknowledged the American love of all things British but was surprised at their neutrality. They expressed interest in sirens, barrage balloons and gas masks but did not want to enter whole-heartedly into the war.

Amongst reasons, Jim gave a good life-style and concentration of the youth on education. She ended with ‘The Americans are sympathetic, generous and friendly to the British, but it is not their war, and if they can stay out of it, they are going to.’

Hugh was a notable exception. He volunteered to fight. As a result, he became a hero. With his family in America, the news of America entering the war was of great concern. He copes by speaking only of enemy tonnage sunk.

You have probably read about the activities of the submarine service in the Mediterranean.  The tonnage sunk by our submarines is enormous and makes one wonder if Italy can have much left.  We have just been credited with one more Italian cruiser to the already long list of victims. Being attached to the submarine service makes one inclined to swagger a bit at times. We are hoping now that we may have an opportunity to get a crack at the Japanese.  This is highly probable by the look of things now and it certainly would be a pleasure.  The theatre of war seems to have moved to the Pacific and places such as Singapore and Hong Kong will probably be in the news a lot in the near future.

Hugh’s reference to the Pacific followed news of the attack on Pearl Harbour a week before he wrote. Hugh was obviously very worried for his family at this development. He was thinking about the effects of the conflict on life back home in the States.

In telling Jim about successes, Hugh would have been referring to the whole fleet operating from Alexandria. Osiris had spent the time since Hugh’s last letter moving about within the harbour for painting and cleaning. Osiris sometimes moored alongside Torbay. Commissioned early in the year, she had operated from Alexandria since April. The day after Hugh wrote to Jim in October, Torbay had left harbour for her 6th Mediterranean patrol, a special mission which entailed landing a member of the army in enemy-held territory in Libya; Torbay performed many successful missions and survived the war.

The goose is getting fat

Christmas is but eleven days away at this writing but somehow it doesn’t seem like it. I find it hard to think of Christmas without snow and cold. One thinks of Christmas as a time when all of one’s family are under one roof and all are happy and contented, but I’m afraid this one will be different for me – much different. It is the one day of the year when I always managed somehow to be at home. I suppose in England Christmas is Christmas war or no war. I hope you had a good Christmas and that your brother was able to get some leave.

Hugh was right to use the past tense as it was many weeks before Jim received this letter.

By the way I’m sending you a small gift I picked up rather cheap. It isn’t much but I couldn’t think of anything else that would be fitting. I thought of silk stockings (knowing how scarce they are in England) but thought you might be offended. Anyway I didn’t know the size or color and it would be rather embarrassing buying them. This is the only means I have of showing my appreciation of your goodness in writing to me so often despite the fact that I write so irregularly. Each time I write to you I try to avoid writing about myself but somehow when I re-read my letters there seems to be an excessive repetition of the first person singular. This is rather hard to avoid as there is a limited number of subjects to write about (room for a smart quip here) as you know. At least I give you time to recover, between the irregular intervals separating my letters. Anyway I’ll keep writing until you scream to stop it and I’ll still be looking forward to your next letter.

Yours,

Hugh

For Jim, the family tradition was to attend church on Christmas Day and 1941 had been no exception. Three days before Christmas, Jim and her mother met Guy at Chester station. He had recently been transferred to Attleborough in Norfolk and travelled from there. Times had changed though and the family missed the fun they had had when Jim’s father was alive. There were so far no small children to lighten the mood (although both sisters-in-law were now pregnant) and Jim spent the time reading and walking her dog in the sunshine.

When he wrote this last letter of 1941, Hugh was preparing to go to sea again.