It was a matter of weeks after the loss of Turbulent that the course of the war, especially in the Mediterranean theatre, began to change. Codebreakers in England were able to decipher U-boat signals. New technical skills led to greater protection for the convoys. Allied troops made advances in Russia while Monty’s successes in North Africa enabled concentration on Italy. Germany surrendered in Tunisia in May 1943. By the September, Mussolini had surrendered. Too late for the likes of Hugh, these successes contributed to the end of the war.
In September 1944, Jim began teaching at Alleyne’s Grammar School in Stone, Staffordshire. She taught Physical Education, Geography and English. Living in digs, she sometimes went home at weekends. Her diary contains mostly school matters but in May she once again turned to war news.
May 1 The war news is excellent. VE Day near. Mussolini killed yesterday.
May 3rd Berlin fell last night
Sunday May 5th The 9pm news announced that V. day would probably be before Thurs but Churchill would make an announcement that day.
Monday 7th May Heard the disappointing news that there would be only one day’s holiday. At about 7.30 pm turned on the radio. V. Day announced. Have decided – will go home if poss – too marvellous to miss.
Tuesday 8th May Caught the five to 8 train and was home about 11am. Did the lawns. We went for a short motor-ride.
Wednesday 9th May Caught the 5.40pm and was in Stone at 8pm. The countryside is magnificent. May blossom is in full bloom and the chestnut candles. The flags fluttering everywhere make a gay scene.
Thursday 10th May Everyone seemed to have a slight hangover.
Friday [11th May] They are flying POWs over by bombers in thousands.
There are entries in Jim’s diaries for Remembrance and one for the fiftieth anniversary of V.E. Day.
1980 Nov 9th A sad Armistice Day. Where have all the flowers gone?
1992 Nov 8th Very sombre memories of War.
1995 May 8th Watched some of the V E Celebrations.
1996 Nov 10th Watched Remembrance which was very sad and impressive.
Back in 1941, one incident would have made Jim reflect on the wastefulness of war. Her fervent patriotic spirit was in conflict with a deep passion for humanity.
1941 Mar 28 Went to the farm. The farmer showed me round. A blue calf, 2 litters of piglets just like silk. Saw the horses and the rabbits. They told me about the plane down in the Blitz. The airman baled out and walked into the parachute people. Told them we had killed his wife and child in Germany.
Jim stayed for just a year at Alleynes then returned home, helping at a friend’s farm.
Friday 10th September We heard that War with Japan ended.
In the November, Jim took up a post with the Ministry of Fisheries and Food as County Organizer for Flintshire. She enjoyed the job (which included working with the Land Army) and stayed until 1948. Her desire to work in a warmer climate was realised when she was appointed to the Army Schools Service abroad. Her six years of appointments are remarkable in that they took place in the Mediterranean area where she witnessed the legacy of the war at first hand.
Locations where Hugh spent time have changed down the years.
When Hugh left Warren, Ohio, in 1940, it had been home to another brave explorer. Neil Armstrong (also with Scottish ancestry) lived there first as an infant in 1930 and twice more in his early childhood. Hugh may have been living there at the same time. The town has commemorated Armstrong with a replica of the Moon Module. Steelworkers from the Trumbull Center created it. These people may even have worked with Hugh. At the age of five, Armstrong took his first flight at Warren. This was on July 20, 1936, exactly thirty-three years before he walked on the moon (and exactly ten years before I was born).
HMS Drake now operates as Her Majesty’s Naval Base, Devonport being the only UK port where nuclear vessels are repaired and refuelled. It is the home port for Trafalgar-class submarines, successors of the T-class.
Gosport and Chatham
The submarine base known as HMS Dolphin closed in 1999 but the Fort Blockhouse fortifications are still used for military training purposes.
The Royal Navy Dockyard at Chatham closed in 1984 when the buildings, basins, dry docks, railway tracks and rope walk became the Historic Dockyard Museum. HMs/m Osiris was refitted at Chatham. Osiris is the Egyptian God of the Underworld. She then underwent repairs at Alexandria. These did not make her worthy of active service. Osiris was therefore relegated to non-operational duties for anti-submarine training with the Eastern Fleet. She was paid off in March 1945 and scrapped at Durban in 1946.
One of Jim’s postings was to Malta. She would not have known that Hugh spent so much time there. On January 23, 1952, she quotes in her diary from a letter with its military language. Roy will report at 0600hrs 28th Jan ’52 to LONDON DISTRICT ASSEMBLY. Roy will emplane flight 28.1.52 for MALTA. This was duly done and she stayed in a hotel in Malta. The word hotel she later crossed out and replaced it with barracks. She left Malta that summer but expressed her feelings about the island in this poem.
Crowded narrow streets, Washing hung out, Good-natured Maltese, Hordes of children, Out of sun-baked yellow stone to sea, Beautiful blue, white beating against yellow rocks, Grew battleships on the swell, Yes, I like Malta.
I wonder if Jim knew that one of her ancestors was, for eleven years, the first Governor of Malta. Nicknamed ‘King Tom’, Thomas Maitland was a first cousin of Jim’s great-great-grandfather William Roy’s wife Isabella and of her brother the Bellerophon’s captain.
Another famous resident was Queen Elizabeth ll who lived there for two years when Prince Philip was stationed there. Their time on the island was from 1949 to 1951, not quite coinciding with Jim! Prince William’s speech for the 50th Anniversary of Malta’s independence included a message from the Queen.
A recent link with Malta occurred in September 2020 when I gave a digital talk to Malvern Family History Society. I was thrilled to receive a message from a member who had served in the Navy on Malta. He kindly sent me a cap tally of HMS St Angelo to which Hugh was attached in July and August 1941.
My thanks go to Scott Ritchie for the enthusiastic way he has helped with this story and been gracious enough to allow me to unfold it. For suggesting lines of research, I am grateful to Deryck Swetnam, Jean Evans and Polly Rubery. At the RNSM I acknowledge archivists George Malcolmson and Debbie Corner for their interest and accepting the original letters. Lastly, I am indebted to Colin for supporting me in using his aunt’s memorabilia, accompanying me on all the trips which have made this project come alive, for proof-reading and for supplying me with tea and coffee.
For Roberta, it was a matter of deep regret that she and Hugh failed to meet when he was at Holy Loch. She kept in touch with the family she had known for so long and visited Hugh’s mother and siblings several times after the war. In his box of family mementos, Scott found newspaper cuttings reporting Hugh’s death. There were American addresses and evidence that at least two of Hugh’s siblings visited Roberta in Scotland.
Just a month after my first contact with Scott, he traced one of Hugh’s nephews and sent him copies of the letters. This fulfilled our aim to return them the family. The story behind them will hopefully enrich future generations. Much later in life, Roberta remarried and both planned a trip to America which never took place. Scott also found a very old picture of Roberta’s family home looking as if it is decorated for a national celebration.
It was in May 1943 that Jim received a letter from Ray Richards working with the Intelligence Corps in Trinidad. Jim did not record her reply but she probably told him about Hugh. Again, Scott’s research paid off. He found a newspaper cutting from the Ottawa Evening Journal entitled Raymond S Richards Leaves The Journal To Serve in Britain. It was dated August 24, 1940. Ray was described as a popular member of the editorial staff of The Journal where he had worked for over four years. He had come from a newspaper job in Kingston, Jamaica. Determined to help his homeland, he decided to return to Britain. His colleagues applauded him for this and presented him with an engraved silver cigarette case. Scott also discovered that Ray had left from Avonmouth for Jamaica in 1934. He married Joyce Truslove in 1946 and died in Worthing in 1988. We have not returned his letters to his family – yet!
Jim’s taste for adventure, together with physical challenges, stayed with her for life and may have contributed towards the stoical manner in which she endured the wartime years.
Her career continued at Secondary Schools in the Wirral alongside a busy life teaching Keep Fit, Drama and Swimming in her spare time. Tragedy struck when her mother died in 1958 and her sister in 1962. Jim then lived alone but remained active, teaching until she was sixty-five. Even in retirement, she lived life to the full, coaching pupils and keeping physically active with her beloved dogs. It had been her life-long ambition to study for a degree and the establishment of the Open University fulfilled this wish. She enrolled as one of the first students in 1971 and became a Bachelor of Arts in 1975. She attended her graduation ceremony at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. After a year free from studying, Jim embarked upon converting her degree to an Honours one and achieved this in 1980. The courses were in English Literature.
Jim’s love of literature is borne out in the fact that she always had a book on the go. Her pupils enjoyed her teaching, especially at higher levels. A past pupil contacted me via this website and spoke of the joy she conveyed.
I had great enjoyment collecting the books mentioned by Hugh. Wherever we travelled, I would seek out secondhand bookshops and occasionally had success. Others I ordered online or as e-books. Some stand out as appropriate to Hugh and Jim’s stories.
Hugh’s copy of Housman’s Last Poems, with its poignant lines, is in Scott’s possession.
The authors of All Passion Spent, Eyeless in Gaza and Fame is the Spur use quotations from Milton. Sackville-West and Huxley quoted from Samson Agonistes but Spring’s lines are from Lycidas. Here, two of Jim’s articles are relevant. They survive in newspaper cuttings. One is from the Birkenhead News, Saturday August 1, 1936. Headed Parkgate in Olden Times, it contains this paragraph:
On the sands below Parkgate, Milton’s Lycidas (Edward King) was drowned while on a voyage from Ireland in 1637. He was a brilliant scholar and this tragedy inspired Milton to write his beautiful elegy, a poem which seems so apt in Parkgate that no doubt the poet visited the spot.
The source of the other cutting is unknown but the layout suggests it is from the Liverpool Echo. Entitled Parkgate Personalities, Jim’s facts do not quite tie up. This is what she says:
August 10, 1637, on the sands below Parkgate, Edward King, son of John King, Secretary for Ireland, was drowned on his passage from Chester to Ireland. His death was bitterly felt by Milton who commemorated it in his elegy Lycidas. ‘Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep closed o’er the head of your loved Lycidas?’
I am writing these last lines in the week that the second lockdown begins in England. In announcing it, the Prime Minister said,
Christmas is going to be different this year, very different.
In December 1941, Hugh wrote,
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.
In corresponding with Hugh, Jim had found a kindred spirit with whom she could talk about a wide range of topics. She described the minutiae of life whilst he speculated on what would happen to the industrialised world after the war. They both expressed enjoyment of the outdoors, Jim experiencing it in the Wirral whilst he felt sea air every few weeks. She went on to take Mediterranean holidays, especially in Greece, and never forgot her epic trip to America. Neither did she forget Hugh. The very last words must go to Jim.
1996 Jan 14 I watched a submarine film on TV and thought about Hugh all those years ago – he and the other brave submariners.