H.M.S/M. TURBULENT C/O G.P.O. LONDON 12TH JUNE 1942.
Returned from patrol to find three letters, two airgraphs and one book, all with a Cheshire post-mark on them. This was surely a record bag for me and how pleased I was! It is hard to know where to begin to answer them all.
In my last letter to you I believe I told you of my change of address. It is a later type of boat than the last one and a much better boat all round. We had a very successful patrol this time and you will probably be reading about it in the papers one of these days.
As I sit writing this letter to you it is late evening, and still very warm, and I read in your letter that you just spent your Easter holiday in North Wales living in a caravan. You do build such lovely word pictures of Spring! Pale green grass dotted with primroses and white violets; lambs playing in the warm sunshine; sitting around in the warm, peaceful quiet of a familiar countryside. It all seems so remote and it is hard to believe that it is still there and hasn’t changed much. Anyway I’m so glad you had a good holiday. I sometimes think the reason the English can stand those dreadful winters is the knowledge that spring and summer will compensate for them. Out here there seems to be only two seasons of the year – summer and winter – in the winter it gets a bit cooler but that is the only apparent difference.
I recall reading xxxxxxxxxxx descriptions of spring in the xxxxxxxxxx and they were colorful to say the least. I have never had the opportunity of going into the xxxxx so… The constant sunshine and the chance to go swimming when in harbour are two redeeming features on this station. I enjoy swimming. I’m no Wiesmuller but I manage to paddle around a bit and it is good exercise.
So you have been reading Mann’s ‘Magic Mountain’? I read it some years ago and liked it very much. Mann’s Germany is gone forever I’m afraid. His books leave one with the impression that he was aware of the coming catastrophe years ago. He and Spengler – another German – kept reminding the world of an approaching crisis that would end in social suicide. Mann evidently wished to make use of the past as an example for the future and to save all that was good; Spengler preached the necessity for a dominant nation of supermen – preferably engineers and scientists – and he delved into past history to prove that the Germans were historically the chosen people. Many of Hitler’s ideas today are based on the works of Spengler and another racial historian called Chamberlain. Spengler is interesting reading though a bit depressing for these times.
Since I last wrote to you I have read very little that is worth mentioning. One small book that you have probably read – Thornton Wilder’s ‘Bridge of San Luis Rey’. Wilder has had a couple of very successful plays staged in New York. You asked me if I had read Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. Yes, some yearxxxxxxxxxxxx the time I enjoyed it very much though at the time it seems rather complxxxxxxxxxxxwith too many chaxxxxxxxx .
You were asking me about life on board a submarine. Well, to make a rather weak wisecrack ‘it has its ups and downs’. It is quite an interesting life with a bit of excitement once in a while. Living accommodation is very limited as can be easily understood. This means less discipline than on surface ships and a chance to know one’s shipmates better. Any sort of clothing is permitted while at sea and combinations of civilian and service clothing are common – anything that’s comfortable in fact and the less the better. Such a thing as bathing is out of the question and even washing and shaving if indulged in too often is frowned upon by one’s messmates. One finds a notice on the board stating that there is far too much water being used, and that washing once in four or five days is sufficient for health reasons! In a submarine the normal day is reversed. Sleeping is done in the daytime when the boat is dived, and most of the activity is at night when on the surface. Breakfast is about six in the evening, dinner sometime near midnight and lunch around six in the morning. When the boat is dived during the day everything is quiet and still – quieter than your own home almost – and one is inclined to sleep more than usual. The favorite pastime in submarines are reading, cribbage and a purely naval games called ‘ukkers’ (an elaborate form of Ludo). The games are usually run off in tournaments and cause some excitement at times.
Most submarine ratings are inclined to swagger a bit because they are in submarines and there is very few of them who would go back into general service. As I told you before submarines are much safer than most people think.
I have just finished three days leave – the longest leave I have had since I left England. Usually it has been forty-eight hours leave at the end of each patrol. Just think, three nights in a row sleeping in a bed ashore with nothing to disturb one! To lie in bed until ten oclock in the morning, then bath and have breakfast when you feel like it. I went swimming every day and absorbed some much needed sunshine. I also had the good luck to see the film ‘Forty-ninth Parallel’ which I thought was first rate. Don’t you think it is time Hollywood made a few more good films? They have proved several times that it can be done and that good pictures are very acceptable to the public. There is certainly no lack of material or technique in Hollywood.
The mail from home has been coming more regularly in the past couple of months. Everything at home is just grand and my brother seems to be quite happy if his letters mean anything. The states are beginning to take this war very seriously now that it is practically in their own back yard. Things look a bit brighter all round don’t you think? We appear to be on a more equal footing that we were this time last year.
Thanks so much for all the letters and books. You have no idea how much they are appreciated. It is really very kind of you. I’ll do my best to repay you one way or another.
Good-bye and good luck