[Postmark: FIELD POST OFFICE MR 15 45]
#53 March 13. 1945
I have heard that a lot of the ordinary mail is getting hoe just as quickly as air mail so I hope it will work this way in this case. [Most letters in this series are written on flimsy blue airmail forms, but this letter is written on stationary bearing a letter-head of R. C. A. F. insignia and enclosed in an ordinary envelope.]
We went on leave on the 2nd. Art Bellis and I spent all of it together as our crews were scattered to their various homes. London was our headquarters. It was a miserable overnight trip to London, no sleeper, no heat, and an abnormally cold night so that there was ice on the inside of the windows. We were more dead than alive when we arrived but a hot bath and breakfast did wonders as did a number of rums. We stayed at the Strand Palace this time though didn’t see much of it and never had one meal there. In the afternoon I went to my Tudor Club to see if by some quirk of fate Peter [Mallam] was on leave. Peggy, who looks after the place, said that a brother officer of his had been in to say that he had been wounded, though not badly, thank God. I think I told you that a boarding house pal of mine is over here now in the army. Well one evening I went out to West Acton to see him and he has been able to find out that Peter is not in any hospital in England which means that if hurt at all it was only very slightly. However if this is all news to you I rely on you to treat it as duff gen and forget it.
When I came out of the Tudor I ran right into Bill White who I haven’t seen since Bournemouth. We were at SFTS together and flew as partners at Summerside. He is now a F/L with 24 trips behind him. I told him of the trip I was so soon to do. Ferrying a kite out to some place like E. Africa, I wasn’t sure, then coming right back again as a passenger and out again possibly to India. It looked like being the experience of a life time.
Walking down the Strand one day I met Bob Whillis. He has been married for some time and has a flat in London.
The first evening in London we went out to see a great friend of Arts [sic], a Mrs. Alexander. As we spent much time at her apartment and with her at other times I should tell you a little about Alex. She has known all Art’s circle of friends on his old squadron for some years now and has been very kind to them giving such things as books and electric heaters for them on the station and accumulating somehow bottles of rum for when they come on leave. She is over forty but so attractive you would not say she had yet reached thirty. She works in a place that gives refuge to the men of the merchant navy who have lost their ships and belongings battering their way in convoy to such places as Antwerp and her autograph book signed by these men certainly pays wonderful tribute to her graciousness.
About the second night four of us (the fourth being Alex’s sister in law Freda) went to a night club called the Astor. This place was once the home of Lady Somebody or other and certainly must have been a magnificent place. It was much the best night club I have seen yet, and the only one to have two bands playing alternately. This affair went on until about four a.m. so we were in no mod to go to the wedding in Brighton of one of Art’s crew the next day. We missed breakfast, lunch and the right train but swept up to the church just before the bride arrived. The wedding was too small and the church far too large for there to be much spirit of gaiety (we had no spirits in any case) and I was glad when this was over. The wedding breakfast probably saved our lives as I think we had also missed supper the day before.
We got back to London about seven having had a good trip up in a warm carriage (the Southern Railway is much the best in England) and as we stepped out of the station there was a terrific crash and a flash lit up the horizon. This was much the closest V2 to date and caught us with already frayed nerves. We had struck a bad week for there was a lot of thuds at irregular intervals and also a few alerts for V1. Anyway we carried on out to Alex’s in St. Johns Wood and had the first good meal of the day. Fried eggs, Canadian canned susages, chips etc. I really appreciated that meal.
There was another rather close rocket the next day just when we were getting up and we saw the results of this one later which had landed in a market, of all places. It was anasty mess though except for shattered windows the damage seemed localized to one building which was completely demolished.
One day we had lunch at a funny little place called the Old Mitre Club. It was built in 1546 and is now so surrounded by buildings of more recent generations that only a very narrow alley leads to it. The pub was built around a cherry tree and its trunk is still encased in one corner. Another odd thing about this place is it is in Cambridgeshire so that if you were to become disorderly the management would have to call the police some 35 miles away to put you out. The pub is not far from my bank in Lombard Street and after lunch we called there and then walked on to St. Pauls [sic] Cathedral. I suppose you have been through this most magnificent building. I was amazed by its immensity and still wonder how, even in this day and age it would be possible to build such a place. We went up to the whispering gallery and the guide described the building to us from the far side of the balcony in ordinary conversational voice which we could hear perfectly. Then we walked onto and all around the outside balcony admiring the view.
We only saw two shows during the week but one, The Thin Man Goes Home was worth seeing. The two shows we really wanted to see—The Canadian Navy Show and the Lunts’ ‘Love in Idleness’ were both booked until the end of March at least.
One afternoon in the Tudor Club I met four Canadians who seemed to be having a wonderful time—An army captain on crutches, a WREN and two air force officers. They were all cousins and after much planning had finally arranged this reunion. They were all from Vancouver with the name of Lamb, one being a brother of Tom, Henry Hobson’s friend. Later we all had supper together.
I meant to do quite a bit of shopping but never got round to this. I talked every day about buying some half Wellingtons but it wasn’t until back passing through Glasgow that this was done.
On the last day I met a chap who had come on leave just after us and learnt how nearly I had been recalled. Apparently plans for my crew alone have been changed for reasons I cannot fathom and I shall be going out by boat. So I am off to another station. We have a few days to get there and this constitutes the leave I mentioned in last letter.
On Saturday afternoon the four of us went to Stanmore in London’s suburbs to meet Alex’s people. It was an interesting day. Her brother is an artist and also a keen photographer and we saw all his work including some excellent enlargements of pictures taken in Switzerland, on the Rhine and in the Scottish highlands.
But we were to see better work. His best friend is a talented Chinese, Chiang Yee. He has written a lot of books—a series ‘A Stranger looks at London’ or some other place and also a series of stories for children about the Panda. All these books are illustrated in colour by him and we went through all these equisite [sic] originals done in his oriental style. What originals he has sold fetch about £40 each and there were scores and scores of them. Autographed copies of all his books were here also.
When we got home we had another meal of eggs (supplied by Freda) mushrooms (supplied by an odd little restaurant we had discovered) lamb chops (supplied by our ration allowance) all cooked by Alex in the smallest kitchen you could imagine.
Freda works in the Admiralty and on Sunday she obtained passes for us and took us around. Part of the building is very old and we saw the room where Lord Nelson lay in state before the funeral, also the original model of his statue. Saw also a display room where all the best photographs of this war can be seen. Some of these prints are enormous, three by five feet, so it was interesting.
Soon after this we had to catch the train here but it was a good trip for we had managed to get third class sleepers and we slept all the way.
This is my longest effort. I hope it doesn’t get lost.
With love from
Ontario Services Club
SPONSORED BY PROVINCE OF ONTARIO CANADA
VISITORS’ WRITING ROOM,
22, REGENT STREET,
I hope you got my last long treatise. I believe I finished up by saying I expected about four days leave before reporting to the new yet temporary station. Well, naturally the crew were in a feverish rush to get away so I had to work like mad on the clearances. Our little station, I should explain, was only a satellite so I had to go to the main base some miles away to do it. The officers got away one afternoon but the NCOs were held up by a pay parade so I stayed over. Lucky I did too. I think because adjutants accountant officers, CGIs, etc all were in bad temper about this special work for our benefit. However the boys caught the train very early the next morning leaving only me. Well when I was actually on the railway platform at noon the CO phoned me to say that we didn’t have to report until April 6. This meant a hurried change of plans as I was only going to Manchester were [sic] Ken Reid is staying so I gave my new address and the CO shipped down a new travel warrant to the station. Result I am back in London.
When I called into the mess on my way back from the station there were three letters, one from Peter [Mallam]. Quoting from memory ‘after pulling out disabled tanks for 12 hours under hellish fire and on the last one we backed over eight mines. Killed two, wounded six, and blew three buildings down.’ Peter was blown accross [sic] the road and had his eardrums ruptured. He can hear O.K. but has a continual telephone buzz. He ought to be over here soon and I have written him to write to Moreton as I am going there about Tuesday.
It is over six months since I did operational flying. I really wonder whether I will again because I won’t be in any position to for another three months at least. No use worrying about that though, but if I had stayed on the sqdn and refused the captains course I would be just about finished now. I saw a pilot yesterday who came to the sqdn after I did but who is now on the way home. It was an unusual case though.
I had a good trip down this time as I got a sleeper. I went immediately to the King George & Queen Elizabeth Dominion Officers Club where I am now staying. Only 5/6 for bed and breakfast and I have to be more economical this time after the previous ten days leave and the thought of this new and longer one. I have a terrific bank balance, over $1000 I guess but I want it to remain high.
This club is in Grosvenor St. W and is the same place that I went to a dance last year with Alan Mackenzie. It was a magnificent house at one time. I have never seen anything like the carved panelling which is in all the main rooms. Even the bathroom off my room is enough to give you the willies, that is if you had a tough night previously, as each tile is gaudily painted with some quaint Chinese figure.
The first day I went to the bank, did some shopping (new raincoat and shirt) took in a news theatre and went home. Then I met a Canadian who had just arrived so after a few at the clubs [sic] bar I took him down to the Tudor Club. From there we went to a club that has just been opened. I wasn’t a member but I knew one of the girls who worked there (she was one of those who took Peter and I to lunch a few years ago). We had supper here, a wonderful meal—about half a roast pheasant each.
The next day I saw in the club register that there were three chaps staying there that I had only seen a few days ago at the main station so I arranged a rendezvous with them at 2:30. The night before they had met a Canadian Red + girl that I knew from Vancouver so they were to find her again. Then I went to lunch with Freda (from the Admiralty) and she gave me two lovely pictures of my aircraft.
At 2:30 I got to the club where we had arranged. It is supposed to be a members club but seems to be open to all Canadians and the place was decorated with huge RCAF signs etc. Anyway they were all there in fact it was difficult to get near the bar. I first met Helen at the Flying U and saw her a few times afterwards. She works just outside London and had to go back about 3:30, however we are going to arranged [sic] a future meeting under less crowded conditions.
Next Jimmy Miller (one of the three just arrived) and I went to a show (Meet Me in St. Louis) and then on to supper same place as night before. From there to a dance at the Overseas League where we just missed several 10/ notes in a raffle.
This morning I was practically blown out of bed by a rocket. It scared me—its [sic] the first time I’ve found myself wondering where to duck. It landed in a park very close to where I stayed last year but did very little damage. I saw the results.
Then I walked down town along Constitution Hill and the Mall and so to here where I had lunch.
Just off to see the tower now I think.
With love from
[Postmark: MORETON-IN-MARSH GLOS.?? 11:45AM 29 MR 45]
March 28. 1945
I have been meaning to write this letter for several days now but we farmer folk are too tired at the end of the day to think about letter writing. Anyway I wish you many happy returns of the day. Next year it should be possible to give these wishes in person.
It is going to be difficult to get a photograph of Valerie [Freer] – she just won’t be taken. However I am going to the races at Cheltenham on Sat and may find the opportunity then.
Today Val upset the apple cart. She was throwing mangolds onto the cart by herself. Sam (the horse) never likes this particular job and someone usually holds him. Today he started to move, got one wheel in a rut, the other on a bale of straw, tipping it over. This in turn due to the two shafts tipped Sam over and he found his legs were pointing skywards. Then the dog joined in, thinking it was defending Val most likely. Quite a time it must have been but all but the cart is none the worse.
I certainly do enjoy staying down here. A fuller account of the leave will be forthcoming in due course.
With love from
CANADIAN PACIFIC TELEGRAPHS
World Wide Communications
7VR RU 15 GLT MAR XCA
LONDON APRIL 4TH/45
TONY AND PETER LONDON ALL IS WELL CELEBRATING LOVE
ALEX MARGERY ALEXANDER
835A APRIL 5TH/45
[Postmark: WEST KIRBY CHESHIRE 9 – AM 7 APR 1945]
55 April 6. 1945
I just got back from leave today so I ought to be able to settle down to catching up on my mail during the next few days. I wish now that I had found the time to write at the time because it is hard to think back.
I left off I believe just when I was setting off to the Tower with Jimmy Miller. Well it was worth seeing but spoilt rather by having the rest of the armed forces on leave there at the same time as us. Saw two show the next day. The first was a revue ‘Strike It Again’ which we thought was really excellent—quite surprised us, having been spoilt I think by so many rotten ENSAs. The other shows ‘The Years Between’ was a bit too heavy to be interesting but Clive Brook was very good.
Went to supper with Alex and Freda that night I believe so perhaps that is when I got my two large photographs of my type of aircraft. I’d intended going to Moreton the next day but bumped into a fraternity brother I hadn’t seen for about five years so stayed over an extra day to have lunch with him. In the evening I went on a party with Jimmy, his skipper and a Canadian nurse. There were supposed to be more nurses but only one could get away. I took them around to my usual haunts and made them members of the Tudor Club.
March 21 Left for Moreton in M[arsh]. I had a grand time there and didn’t work to [sic] hard though I had to get up earlier than Dick [Stubbs] usually does. They have breakfast about nine but Dorothy & Valerie [Freer] get up at 0630. Uncle G. [Geoffery Freer] and I usually spent the mornings going around the farm taking roll call and feeding the animals but there were always lots of odd jobs like hauling hay and straw or mangolds, fixing fences etc. They have a lot of electric fences now and you have to remember which ones are in the circuit because they work it on a zone system. I got fooled once.
With love from
[Postmark: WEST KIRBY CHESHIRE 9 – AM 7 APR 1945]
56 April 6. 45
One day Valery went fox hunting and this hunt went over the farm. They have several acres planted to fox cover and while the terriers were down the holes we went over to look. Bowler hatted and red coated as in the days of yore. It was a fine sight. Too bad they couldn’t tempt any foxes out.
Valery had a very charming girl staying there. Dick has met her. She was Anne Foster then, but is now married to the brother of a girl who was staying there the first time I went there. There is also a Mrs. Jamieson, the doctor’s wife, who comes about nearly every afternoon to help on the farm so there is quite a gang when you remember Horton, once D’s mothers [sic] chauffeur, Albert the groom, and Old Jim not to mention Uncle Reggie. The farm is getting quite mechanized with two tractors and their implements, a stationary engine in the barn to drive the grinding machine, another for the power plant, another to drive the hay stacker.
On Saturday evening I went back with Uncle R. to stay at Oakham. It is quite different there for N. likes to have everything in its place. It was no good trying to help clear away the plates because certain dishes are washed in the pantry, others in the scullery, depending on whether they are needed for the next meal. Very confusing. I was introduced to Marie Tidmarsh who comes in during the day. Do you remember her—she remembers ‘Miss Kathleen’.
Believe it or not they got me to church the next morning—it was the longest service I can remember too. Don’t suppose I would have gone had you not been married there but it is a beautiful old church and I’m glad I went.
Afterwards we had lunch with the canon, his wife and daughter-in-law. Then we drove home and went for a walk out to that circle of stones (I forget their name) that date to Stonehenge period.
With love from Tony
[Postmark: LIVERPOOL 1115 AM 7 APR 1945]
57 April 6, 1945
Uncle Reggie’s place is quite attractive with a pretty garden, swimming pool, tennis court, very good squash court, and the house, though not large, has three bathrooms.
Sunday evening Uncle R and I had a game of chess which lasted all evening. I was ahead all the way which is no doubt why the game took so long but I was finally beaten by the sudden onslaught of two queens.
The next morning we went back to Ditchford [Geoffery Freer’s farm]. I meant to leave on Wednesday, was persuaded to stay until Thursday and then the races came into the picture. On Friday a wing commander with his car arrived to stay a few days, so on Sat we took two cars to the races. Henry, Valery and I in one and G. D and Anne in the other. We went early to get programs and Henry who is quite an authority on races showed me everything a race goer should know (except how to win) and later Dorothy took me down to get a good spot just beside the last steeple (or is it a fence). Between races we would go up to the paddock, see the horses and make our bets.
But despite my well informed escorts and who was handicapping [Uncle Geoff, presumably–see cutting below] I lost on every race and so did Henry except for breaking even on the first. Still it was a wonderful day and I enjoyed it immensely. I wouldn’t be a steeple chase jockey for anything. There were four tumbles in the last races.
I was supposed to catch the train right after the races as I had half promised my navigator to visit his people at Ramsgate. This fell by the boards because I didn’t leave until Monday morning. Henry came as far as Reading as he was off to try and get his money back at Ascot.
Except perhaps for Aunt Nina who isn’t too strong everybody was in very good health. I don’t think they have to work quite so hard now which is a good thing though Uncle Geoff has a heavier than usual racing season ahead of him with no petrol allowance this year. He will be away several days each week. By the way, I never got a picture of Valery. Even an attempt would have been too dangerous and probably would have caused a rift somewhere.
With love from Tony.
[Postmark: WEST KIRBY CHESHIRE 6 – PM 7 APR 1945]
58 April 7. 1945
I got to London about noon on Monday 2. and soon after lunch I went along to RCAF records near Harrods. This is when the big coincidence occurred. By mistake I got off the bus two blocks too soon and so was walking along Knightsbridge. Suddenly I saw Peter [Mallam] accross [sic] the street. I couldn’t believe it was him but recognised the girl he was with so I let out a yell and pushed over narrowly missing a fleet of taxis. Peter himself wouldn’t have been on the street for long. He had gone to the Papomac [?] club to cash a cheque but it was closed so they were strolling back to the nearest pub. He had his kit with him meaning to catch a train shortly so we were lucky. Mutual letters to each other had gone astray so it was a big surprise all round. Peter has two months sick leave, then hopes to go back. He can hear O.K. though his left ear is the best and the noise is still there. In the ensuing few days he told me a lot about his experiences and I can’t see why he would want to go back. I hope he is not still in London as the quiet of the country would be better but I think he has less inclination than ever to be away from excitement.
Well after the meeting I collected my mail except two parcels which I had forwarded on here and reported back to the pub. Then the three of us drove to the Dominion Officers Club, picked up some of your jam and peaches as I won’t have an opportunity to use them now and went on to see Alex.
We all had supper at the Spotlight Club and stayed till it closed about eleven. Then our party, now about seven, went to the Aster [sic] until it closed about four. The next day must have been rather quiet because I cannot remember anything particular happening until I met Freda at six and we went to the RCNVR “Meet the Navy” show. She had got very good seats which just made the finishing touch because it was the best stage show by far that I have ever seen. The songs, the dances, lighting and sets—all were perfect and we were enthralled.
Afterwards we met Peter and Alex who had been to a cinema and we had supper together at the Hong Kong Cafe.
With love from
[Postmark: WEST KIRBY CHESHIRE 6 – PM 7 APR 1945]
59 April 7. 1945
Peter moved into the Dominion Officers Club with me on Tuesday. We got up Wednesday in time for breakfast (eggs supplied by Dorothy) and then spent the morning playing billiards and packing my kit ready to take to the station. Just when we finished Alex arrived so we all went to the station and that is when we sent the telegram. I hope you got it alright. Afterwards I got some tickets to a musical revue and we spent the afternoon in the Tudor Club. The revue I had seen with Jimmy Miller had been so good I thought this would also but the four of us were quite unanimous in thinking it hopeless. The caste [sic] was only 12 and they all seemed to be the same. Funny it had good press reports though. It was ‘Sweeter and Lower’. We had supper afterwards at Kempinskis—good food but expensive. The day before (I forgot to mention) Peter took us to lunch at the Regent Palace. He knows the head waiter which helps a lot as we were able to walk right passed [sic] an enormous queue and later have his personal attention at our table.
Thursday morning started off with eggs and snooker again. Then we walked down town and met two troopers who Peter knew in the 9th Armoured I think. One was from Kelowna—Wid Thompson’s son. We took them to the Tudor and stayed quite awhile—in fact missing lunch. Later we met a naval lt. friend of Peters [sic] and we went to another club. About six we went round to the Admiralty and picked up Alex and Freda and went to the Spotlight for supper staying there until it was time for me to catch the train. Freda and Peter came down to see me off and then went on to the Aster (I heard today.)
My train left at 2345 but fortunately although it arrived soon after four I was allowed to stay in the sleeper until seven. I needed the sleep. Well that just about covers my leave. I did most things I meant too [sic] but never got to Ramsgate nor met my Red + girl again. Also meant to see Ken Reid who is still on indefinite leave and staying in Manchester, though this may yet be arranged.
With love from
[Postmark: WEST KIRBY CHESHIRE 230 – PM 11 APR 1945]
10/4/45 60. F/O R. A. Stubbs J26815
Yesterday I went into Warrington to see Ken Reid. He is on his way back to Canada having completed his tour. Actually he has only about 100 hours more than I but his tour in Ceylon is only a year and starts from the day he left England. Do you remember that he got my posting?
The two parcels that I left in London to be forwarded have not arrived yet and I am afraid they may arrive just when I cannot handle them—that is after I am all packed. The odd thing I will need in the future is such things as buttons (shirt and pant) as I will have these khaki things made up. Also shirts with epaulets like the one I had that I think Mary lifted to work in the orchard.
Had a letter from Helliwell Mac. & Co. giving the rehabilitation plan and wanting to know whether I am coming back. I said yes. The plan is to combine the last two years of study I have to do into a one year course. As I have forgotten everything I should have thought it would take about three years. I hope my office wasn’t damaged by the ship explosion you mention. [On March 6, 1945 a fertilizer explosion aboard the freighter S. S. Greenhill Park broke windows in Vancouver, including those of the Marine Building where Helliwell MacLachlan & Company had their offices.]
You seem to be really going in for the jig saw puzzles these days. I should think these 1000 piece ones must be rather scarce.
Funny thing, when I first told you I had heard from Peter [Mallam] was wounded I immediately wrote to him. He was wounded the day after he received this letter. I think my rumour must refer to an incident when a jeep crashed into his conveyance at the time and Peter split his head open on some piece of iron
Glad to hear your water supply is pure. After all I didn’t always used to bother to filter it for myself. And that is one habit I have got to change now.
Peter also told me that Dick Ford was missing. I hope that there has been some good news by now.
What a pity it looks as if you’ll have to wait for the tractor awhile. Quite apart from its obvious benefits it is so annoying to have set your heart on something that doesn’t happen just when you had planned.
With love from