[This letter is written on a blue airmail form. The corner with the stamp and postmark has been torn off and some of the text of the letter is missing. The missing portions are indicated by a series of asterisks. This letter had been opened by a censor and resealed with a paper sticker marked “Army Form W.3424 Opened by Censor”. The sticker and the form have been stamped with a seal reading “17May 945 PASSED BY R.A.F. BASE CENSOR”.]
RAF CENSOR 7
***marked? 204 Sqdn.
West Africa Forces
*** Victory at last! Isn’t it *** ow quickly Germany folded *** the end. Everybody seemed *** l the surrender was coming in *** last days and I was a bit sorry that it wasn’t Churchill himself who gave us the first news of the unconditional surrender. It would have been much more dramatic and our celebration more spontaneous. As it was we started the night before V-day and had quite a party. Result was all the glasses were broken putting an enforced curb on our drinking. However taking it all round the CO is surprised and pleased there was not more damage. On V night we had a spectacular fire work display with rockets, thunder flashes and very [sic] cartridges. It was really quite alarming particularly the latter because we were grouped all around the football field where these things were landing and when the ball of fire hits the ground it bounces violently about forty feet along in any direction and then may suddenly cut back on its path. You really don’t know where they are going. Afterwards there was a bonfire started off with flares which lit up the whole place, and later fed by the cane fence which was in front of the officers’ mess. People were jumping wildly over the fire but no one seemed to get burnt. It was amazing. Someone started a fire near the bomb dump some miles away but this did no damage other than to consume a few native huts. [!]
The next afternoon, yesterday, we went into town to see a football game—England and Wales vs Scotland and Ireland. The first half was very good but as the players tired it became ragged and rough. Actually we do get a very good brand of football here with several of Britain’s best kicking around. There is a game every afternoon on the station. During half time a native band put on quite a surprisingly good exhibition. They looked very smart in white sailor tropical get up and red fez’s [sic] and did some intricate slow marching. At one time they appeared to be in a hopeless mix up but came out with colours flying and were rewarded with a burst of applause from the audience.
The weather has been grand here. There were two bad days when we were away one of which kept us at the other station. We were beginning to wonder even then is we should be back in time for V day.
Of course we are all wondering what is going to happen now and how long we will stay here.
With love from
[This letter had been opened by a censor and resealed with a paper sticker marked “Army Form W.3424 Opened by Censor”. The sticker and the form have been stamped with a seal reading “17May 945 PASSED BY R.A.F. BASE CENSOR 51-9214”.]
[Postmark: FIELD POST OFFICE 537 12?? 45]
RAF CENSOR 7
Today was the end of our victory holiday though I don’t know what we will be doing tomorrow. Our crew had the squadron truck today and we went out to the beach taking a picnic lunch. An incident marred the day. We left our belongings in plain sight though at times we were some distance away and some things disappeared. Two shirts, a watch and identity cards etc. At first we thought it must have been the work of monkeys as cigarette cases and a camera close to the bush had not been touched but have discounted this as impossible. My stuff was the closest to the water and furthest from the fringe of bush so I escaped the intruder. It was very hot today and I probably wasn’t out of the water more than half an hour all the time. Yet I have a very decided increase in my tan.
I had three letters from home today, two being from Dad and a letter from Dick [Stubbs] yesterday. Dick’s was the first English mail I have had.
What a pity that the tennis club is to go. I suppose I shall find Kelowna quite different. Will it be better or worse? I did get into see Haylake but not Chester. By the way what did you say Reggie’s wife’s name was. I couldn’t read it.
The Sgt. Hamilton is Tommy Hamilton who I knew in Yellowknife. I hope you met him and Muriel. I believe they want to live in the Okanagan after the war.
I once said I would probably need things like buttons out here. I don’t so if they are not already on the way don’t bother. In fact there is nothing I can’t get or have made here.
I don’t know what happened to the parcels I left at RCAF HQ in London but they haven’t arrived nor have any cigs. Fortunately I still have a 1000 of the latter.
These letters are going free to Grt. Britain now.
I guess you will be expecting Dick before long.
With love from
[Postmark: FIELD POST OFFICE 537 ??MY 45]
R.A.F. CENSOR 7
#8 May 20, 1945.
One day last week my crew had its first official day off since arriving, though of course there have been countless other half-days. This one amounted to a half day too because we had to go to the rifle range first. It was a half hour drive to here which was quite pleasant. On the first 25 rounds one of my gunners whose name is actually Sgt. Yorke scored 122 out of 125. However he fell down toward the end and the 2nd engineer and first wap [?] tied for first.
After this we drove to town for lunch and shopping. I bought several postcards but nothing else. These natives drive a hard bargain for rather inferior goods but I must get some mementos of this place. The afternoon was spent at the beach as usual and I took some photos of the natives; finishing the roll. We allways [sic] buy bananas at the beach but this time I got a pineapple as well. They seem rather scarce just now.
I spent the weekend at one of our diversion bases. It was a tiny camp with funny little buildings made of cane with thatched roofes [sic]. We got quite a surprise when we looked around the mess to see a chimpanzee sleeping on a chair under a blanket. It is quite a pet but only five months old and so too young to do much besides sleep. There was also a young crocodile tied up at the waters [sic] edge. It was about eighteen inches long.
Last night I went to a show in an American theatre at a nearby camp. First time I have seen a clear screen since I have been out here. The show was called “Roughly Speaking”. Perhaps it is quite a new one. Yesterday we spent the afternoon in town, going in on a bomb scow. It took nearly an hour to get there but was fairly interesting. The town is the second largest in this large country but still pitifully small with only two half decent stores, one Dutch one Syrian, and with nothing worth buying. There is also a missionary and, on a nearby island, a leper colony. We had a couple of natives, about 8 or 9, showing us around to their delight. At times we had many more of their friends and one of us got them singing the songs they’d learnt in school. It was very funny. When any newcomer came strolling by he or she would be roped in to sing a song.
Also had the opportunity to go over a clipper. What an immense marvellous thing it was. I had never dreamt one could travel in such luxurious splendour. Right afterwards we had to clamour aboard our lovely boat. What a contrast!
Five cartons of cigs have turned up but not the other parcels. Perhaps they went to the Red Cross in England. Archie [Stubbs] was of course right in saying I never finished my first tour before the course. I only did 8 of the 18 months. Out here a tour was 12 months and I wondered whether I would get a proportional credit for the first part. I don’t think it will matter now.
Someone had a little monkey in the mess tonight. It was quite young and very lively. Very amusing to watch. Much nicer than the huge land crab someone put in the mess bar some time ago. The doctor has a chameleon and a lizard looking after the flies in sick quarters. Someone else has a parrot. It is quite a menagerie.
With love from
[Postmark: FIELD POST OFFICE 537 ? 29MY 45]
#9 May 27, 1945
This is to wish you many happy returns of your birthday [June 6] and to thank you for your recent letters. Before I forget, do not send any further letters via Miami (if you did follow my previous advice) because they might take rathr a long time to catch up to me. I expect that very soon I shall be back in England on more leave. I looks as if I am to loose my navigator. A posting came through for a crew to be despatched elsewhere and it was decided to make it up from volunteers. I think my crew would have been chosen failing volunteers but fortunately for them (six are married and all want to go home) Canadians weren’t to be on the crew according to the posting order. Anyway there were no volunteers and it boiled down to two for the navigators. John lost the toss. Then a New Zealander from the other sqdn wanted to go so it seemed all settled and we were all happy again. Then this chap found that two pals of his who wanted to go were not to be included so he backed out and John is down in the dumps again. He is taking it rather hard. I don’t know why—he is young, single and an age group that won’t release him until about 1947. I suppose the idea of leave in England and the thought of doing something different or at least not knowing what you are going to do is more entertaining than knowing your fate. But in any case I think it likely, almost certain, that the crew will split up. I may even come home unless there is some sort of transport work to be done.
I did some shopping on our day off last week—all leather work. The natives are rather clever at covering tin cigarette cases, bottles and glasses with red leather interlaced with some sort of grass so I got a cig box, cig case, paper knife and a whip all in the same colour and design. After the shopping we went out to the beach as usual and I took five more photographs. The first reel didn’t turn out very well as the camera has developed several leaks but I have go[t] the photographic section to make temporary repairs. One young wogess, she said she was twelve, sold us some bananas and we had a long chat with her which was quite amusing. she said “You take me back to England with you—its [sic] a good little village.” So much for the missionary school teaching.
I am going down again to where I spent last weekend. We are having a terrific party to use up several hundred surplus quid and this is where we buy the supplies. Plans change very quickly. One moment I thought I was going on a trip to Bathurst again and instead of which I am going in the other direction. It keeps one guessing which is about all we are doing these days.
With love from Tony.
[Postmark: FIELD POST OFFICE 537 ? ?? JU 45]
I have now received both your letters mailed on May 18. The one via Florida arrived today—the other on the 28th.
I went on another transit trip last week. On the way to Bathurst we stopped at a French town to pick up a load of fruit. It was a very neat little town with fine modern buildings and some streets with four rows of leafy trees down them that met in a shady arch at their tops. There was a much more clearly defined white district than in British towns but their stores were pitifully stocked—rows and rows of bare shelves which was such a contrast to the stores themselves and the generally neat appearance of the town. One chap wanted to buy the shoes off our feet at 2000 francs or £10 officially but £5 locally. They are so short of things that it is surprising they can offer such fabulous amounts for shoes. It was bad luck that my navigator was unable to come on the trip because he knows the language. As it was we had a difficult time trying to remember a few words. I got out of the place a few postage stamps and one drink at a sidewalk cafe (typically French). We left after lunch and had a very dicey takeoff. This port is exposed to the sea except for a breakwater and so always has a swell. Add to this a strong cross wind and various steel barges and buoys to dodge and you have excitement. Also the breakwater was too short so that when we skimmed past the end of it we hit the open swell which really threw us around. Fortunately the flight commander, our best pilot, was doing the driving.
Next day in relatively calm water we called in for another load. This time I acquired 300 francs but by the time the transaction was accomplished all the stores (I had previously seen some ivory that I wanted) had closed for their lengthy noon siesta. So I still have the francs. The crew spent theirs on 10 bottles of muscat. I flew the kite home and on arrival found a thunderstorm at base. I didn’t waste time in a normal circuit, but made half a circle at 500 feet and came in. Even so I came all the way down to 200 ft. before you could see it would be clear enough to land. Immediately afterwards it really closed in—the rain just pelted down. We were just in time.
That night there was a big mess party using up our surplus funds in free drinks and food. It is a long time since I have seen such a spread. A long table down our lengthy dining hall covered with great plates of cold chicken, anchovy eggs, asparagus on toast, radishes, pineapples, bananas etc. The mess was decorated with palm leaves and many whole pawpaw trees so quite like a jungle clearing. For music we had that same wild band that we met at the transient camp on our arrival. It was quite a show.
Recently I had my first glass of coconut milk. It is queer tasting stuff and looks more like water than milk. I like the meat too even if I never liked shredded coconut.
Yesterday we went to a different and particularly beautiful beach. To get there we had to walk through a village and I was impressed by the cleanliness of the place and neatness of the huts. A lot of the natives were on the beach so it was something like a Sunday afternoon at English bay [sic] on a smaller scale. Here I got checked out solo in a native canoe. It was great sport but extremely hard to balance being round bottomed and only just wide enough to sit in. You have to use the paddle to balance. My boat was about twelve feet long, very light and thin walled though axed out from a single log. wonderful workmanship.
I got some material today. There’s about six yards so if 3 is really enough for a dress I’ll give the rest to Freda. I would like to get something for Valery [Freer] but don’t know just what she would like. I asked before I left and she said silk handkerchiefs for pa. I haven’t found any decent ones yet. I am very glad to hear Dick Ford is back in England. Uncle Geoff [Freer] says that Tom [Freer] was very well treated after the first month. I haven’t heard from Peter [Mallam] since I have been out here.
With love from Tony.
[This letter is written on a blue airmail form. The corner with the stamp and postmark has been torn off and some of the text of the letter is missing. The missing portions are indicated by a series of asterisks.]
***ls recently arrived *** 30 and 31. The two *** in perfect shape. The biscuits when opened were crisp and fresh as when baked but after four hours in this climate they had lost every bit of crispness. The canned food has come at a very opportune time for it will augment our flying rations. I had a bit of trouble with ants attacking the candy despite the fact that as soon as I opened the parcel I made a shelf which I suspended by string from an iron-framed window. It took them three days to find the way and now I have moved the shelf to a similar window on the other side of the room. They are baffled to date, after three days.
We have been very busy lately getting clearances and packing. We are going to load tomorrow. I have got two hundred pounds of kit but fortunately only two others are higher and some have less than eighty.
One of [my] friends managed to get down to Lagos and bought loads of ebony stuff. Out of it I got some king [?] ebony bookends and a pair of small ugly statues. Also bought a cig case engraved with the squadron crest and my aircraft. Our Eyetie collaborators here make them from bits of aircraft and they are a very good job. I have got a bottle of rye also, which I am going to save until back in England.
Have air tested my kite a couple of times and we are all very pleased with it.
We may get one more chance to go out to the beach, one last chance to get a good sun bathe.
With love from
[This letter is written on a blue airmail form. The corner with the stamp and postmark has been torn off but most of the detached portions are folded in with the rest of the letter. The stamp is a Sierra Leone Three Pence issue. The postmark is almost totally illegible but is that of a field post office.]
#11 June 23, 1945.
I have mentioned before how quickly [things] changed here. Well, now [we] are going back by boat. They are going to drown my stately white ship with its four new engines. What a criminal waste it seems!
I told you we were going to load one day. We got all our baggage as far as the pier before we were told we were not to fly. This order was later cancelled and remade several times for such is the efficiency of the liaison between AHQ and Air Ministry. If we were sorry there was one reprieved from the scaffold. That was our boy, who, with a face wreathed in smiles, and with unnatural energy, moved our baggage back to the security of our rooms. Great then was his downfall yesterday when we moved out to a transit camp. He would hardly [s]peak to us and looked very u[nhapp]y only momentarily cheered by the gifts of kit we left behind.
Our flight commander who had been acting as CO was the last to go by air, so I as the senior of the remaining two crews held this honoured position.
This place we are at now, though closer to the sea is on high ground, a cooler and more healthy place than our old station which a few ago [sic] was a swamp. There is a beautiful view out over the sea from here and the long verandah of the mess with its restful chairs looks out onto this. I shall miss it.
I saw in a Canadian paper the other day a schedule for repatriation. I think there was 173 groups and I figure I am in the 80’s and Dick about 30. I wonder if they will be able to keep to the timetable of everybody home for Christmas.
I got some material for Valery [Freer] but as she didn’t say what colour or what it was to be for I had to trust to luck.
My engineer has been very busy in the carpentry shop and has got three mahogany tables and a nest of trays. These with large numbers of towels, sheets and materials will practically stock his future home. All of this is put in a mahogany box and then crated so that the whole must weigh over two hundred. A wog carried it out on his head to our amazement. I am wondering how the customs will view this treasure chest.
Many happy returns of your birthday. [July 6]
With love from
[The cover is intact but the stamp and postmark are missing.]
July 7. 1945
I forget when I last wrote—time seems to stand still lately—or at least drag heavily. We are still waiting in a transit camp for a ship. All the N.C.O.’s have gone but so far there has been no accommodation for us due chiefly to civilians from South Africa, those people who left England in its dark days. It annoys us more than somewhat! On one boat there was lots of room as we were quite willing to sleep in one of those large rooms fitted with about sixty beds in 3 tiers but the O.C. of the ship thought (can you believe it) that some of us would have been in West Africa too long top conduct ourselves in proper decorum in the company of the numerous single women returning to England. We have since found out that the boat was so empty NCOs were in cabins. Some of the boys are getting away in a small transport ship, selection for this being on length of service here. Others are slipping away via B.O.A.C. or transport command. Choice here seems to be based more on time away from home so I would have a fair priority but not wanting to get separated from my trunk I am in two minds.
The rains are really upon us now, sometimes continuing all day and is most depressing as there is nothing for us to do but watch it. I have been playing a lot of chess lately but have got tired of it and turned my attention to bridge. I play with three other Canadians, sometimes putting in as much as seven hours a day.
We saw a good football game played in a very slippery field between RAF and Army. Most of our best players have left so it was particularly surprising to see a goal scored by us in the first thirty seconds without the opponents so much as touching to ball. Final score was two all.
One day I saw a game between two all black teams. It was a really good game to watch for they are exceptionally fast and exceedingly tricky. Also although most played in bare feet they could kick harder than the average player on our station teams.
This station has the best food I have met anywhere. The C.O. who is also the P.M.C. is a gourmand (and looks it too). Supper is always a four course meal and sometimes five. Six if you count cheese and coffee. What I hate here is the harsh discipline of the natives, much the hardest on the coast he proudly proclaims. Some of the boys have had hardly any pay for months and for the slightest offence are put on fatigues, working all day at the double so far as possible, driven by a black who never stops yelling at them for more than a minute at a time all day it seems. It gets on our nerves as they are often working close to our billets. I am sure it is not the way to handle them anyway.
We caught and kept for two days a chameleon about nine inches long. A fearsome looking beast but quite harmless and I took a picture of him on someones [sic] arm.
Long ago when I thought I was flying home I wired base P.O. to hold my mail. Result is all I get is the odd letter from England. Last from you was #23.
With love from Tony