Aug. 29th 1941.
At last I have settled down to write to you again. It is so long since I wrote to you that it really takes some courage to sit down and pen you a few lines. I have your last and most delightful letter in front of me now and note with some misgivings that it is dated May the nineteenth. I hope you will forgive this long delay in spite of the fact that I have no excuse to make.
Your letter seems to bubble over with the beauty of Deeside in springtime, and reading it out here in this torrid climate gives one a touch of nostalgia. Spring is but a memory now, and summer is almost over, but somehow I feel you at least have enjoyed each day to the utmost. You – quite obviously – have a zest for living. It makes me smile to hear you say you wish the days were longer and one didn’t have to sleep. It reminds me of a book of Margret Rawlings – I’ve forgotten the name of it now – about a lad who was brought up in the hummock country of Florida who always regretted the sun going down and the coming of night. By the way this woman has a rather sympathetic understanding of the psychology of a boy growing up.
You were telling me about a young pilot who had the good fortune to take you to see ‘Major Barbara’. I wonder if such an idealist would really make a good pilot? I feel that the good healthy animal type who didn’t think too much about the job would be more suitable. I think Ian Fraser – with all due respect to him – would make a very capable bomber pilot. One who thinks more in terms of machines and horsepower rather than in terms of the human lives involved in it. In my own case I have found that at the time one is at ‘action stations’ one thinks more in terms of thousands of tons destroyed rather than of the men who lose their lives. And to think that at one time I had pacifist leanings! It would be interesting to know what your pilot friend’s reactions were to his first bombing.
Now to write about something more congenial and a subject in which we apparently have a common interest – books. I’m still voicing my old complaint about not getting enough to read and having lots of convenient time for reading. Here are some of the books I have read lately; G. D. H. Cole’s ‘Socialism in Evolution’, Thackeray’s ‘Henry Esmond’, J. B. Priestley ‘Midnight on the Desert’, Shaw’s ‘Unsocial socialist’, H. Spring ‘Fame is the Spur’, Vicki Baum’s ‘Nanking Road’ and one called ‘Wind, Sand and Stars’ by a French author whose name I’ve forgotten.‘Midnight on the Desert’ is an Englishman’s appreciation of the West – the best I have ever read. Vicki Baum’s ‘Nanking Road’ is good and the last written in poetic-like prose by a contemporary French author and I enjoyed it very much. Come to think of it it would make a good present for your pilot friend. These three books I think you would enjoy reading.
You accuse me of writing rather discretely about my job in the Navy but this is so out of necessity and I hope you will not be offended. Most people have a rather hazy idea about submarines and submarine life. It consists mostly of long monotonous periods of watching and waiting with short intervals of quick action and high excitement. The submarine itself is rather interesting from a mechanical point of view and could be likened to a submerged factory – full of machinery with miles of pipes and wires and hundreds of valves all over the place. Inside it appears very intricate and imposing but it really is much more simple than its appearance would seem to indicate. It may surprise you to know that a person who had never been on a submarine before would be unable to tell whether he was on the surface or submerged. Also they are much safer than most people think. Oddly enough, men who have served on both submarines and surface craft prefer the former. There is much less discipline and a more friendly feeling among the crew as a rule. Pay is higher and food better – two attractions for the average matloe. One disadvantage is that submarine life doesn’t improve one’s health to say the least.
I am glad to hear that England has been having fewer and fewer air-raids this summer. Jerry seems to be busy elsewhere just now. I hope you and your family are well and happy and are not suffering too much from the rationing of food and clothes. I’m looking forward to getting a letter from you the next time I get in. It may interest you to know I have had no mail at all since I left England but this time I feel sure there will be something.
Next time you go walking in the hills think of me.