My father George Lockie (b. 1914, Selkirk) joined the RAF in about 1935 and trained as an Electrical and Instrument Technician. He married in 1939 just before being sent with his squadron to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force and returned through Dunkirk in 1940. By 1941 he was a Sergeant stationed away from his wife and baby, and told that he and three other sergeants, Don, Dick and Frank, were to be sent to the USA to attend further specialised technical training courses. He decided to write a daily letter to his wife, but as there was no way he could send them, he decided to keep each letter as a record in the form of a diary.
There seems to be no mention of Dick and Frank after the initial period so I assume they were sent elsewhere, but Don figures frequently.
I have edited out the more personal aspects and what follows is a record he kept of the voyage and the first part of his visit to the USA.
30 Sep 1941
We will not have much chance to send or receive letters for the next few days at least but I shall try to write a little as often as possible and send it when I have a chance.
We are leaving Wilmslow tonight. But there is no way to let you know. And we still don't know how we are travelling across. As far as we know at present we have to take the train to Crewe and change to special buses there. So we may be flying from Warrington. Hope so anyhow.
Well that must be all just now. We leave soon. I'll try to write some more of this tomorrow if I get a chance.
2 Oct 1941
We are on our way now all right. Did we get a shock. We did not go near Crewe. When we got to the station at Wilmslow we were told to make ourselves comfortable as we would be all night on the train. We four senior NCOs had a compartment to ourselves so we got stretched out. What a shock when I woke up. We were in Glasgow station. Had breakfast there and got the train to Gourock after. We got on board this ship the HMS Cathay in the afternoon and slipped off at 7:30 last night. Seems a nice ship. Very steady, not a rock yet. Perhaps I shan't be sick. We have 90 airmen on board with us and we are in charge of them. It will be something to do at any rate.
We are quite well off. Living in the PO's mess is good all right. Good food and decent company. Pity we could not have a cabin though.
There are four submarine POs with us as passengers. Going to the US to pick up a sub. They can keep their job for me. We have been swapping stories and they do have a rough time at sea. But they are nice chaps. One of them is from Hawick. His brother-in-law manages Craig-Brown's factory at home so maybe Dad knows him.
Well I think that must be all. I feel rather squeamish down here so I'll go up on deck for a while before turning in.
I can't post this so I'll keep it as a sort of diary.
3 Oct 1941
There is not much to tell you today. I still have not been sick though it is much rougher now. We did have a job this morning. Had to go down and kick all the airmen up on deck. And I literally mean kick too. They have all been sick in the night, all over the place. Sea sickness is no respecter of people or places. What a mess they were in. Did not want to move or anything. Most of them only wanted to die. Or so they said. However, we got them all up on deck and they felt better. I think it helped us too. We were so busy we did not have time to be sick ourselves. But I still feel squeamish if I stay below decks too long. However, I'm eating well and enjoying the food and these sub chaps tell me that as long you can eat you will be all right.
That's all for today. The other three have started diaries now. Should be good reading perhaps after we have forgotten all about it.
We are off for a constitutional stroll round the deck. And so to bed.
4 Oct 1941
What a glorious sunset last night. It was full of reds, golds and blue. We stayed quite a long time on deck just watching it lost in its wonder. If only you could have been there to share it with me it would have been perfect. But I mustn't get morbid and homesick.
It was rather beautiful even after dark too. Great big moon and heavy running seas. You could see the phosphorescent ripple flowing back from the bows of the ship and everything was very quiet except for a muffled order on the bridge and the occasional ring of the ship telegraph to the engineroom. There is a deep poetry in an evening like that if only I was a good enough writer to try to explain my feelings.
Two points of interest cropped up today. We had a trial at "Action Stations" and then a practice of "Abandon Ship". We have quite a lot to do it seems should anything happen. Should we have to abandon ship we are each in charge of 30 airmen and 4 Carley Floats and we have to see them safely away. I am praying now that nothing happens. The PO giving us our positions told us that the ship was almost unsinkable and we are well enough armed to take care of anything that comes along. But it is that "almost" part of it that is the worrying part.
This afternoon we saw a school of dolphins playing around the ship. They followed us for quite a long way. A lovely fish. Perfectly streamlined dark blue black back and pale blue belly. They keep rolling over and jumping out of the waves. They give you the impression that they are enjoying life immensely.
We have all got our sea legs now and perhaps it is just as well. The long Atlantic rollers are with us now and they seem to be getting longer and longer and higher and higher all the time. The sailors say we are expected to run into some heavy weather soon. And from their descriptions it must be pretty awful. But I expect they are exaggerating and trying to scare us.
We had an alarm today and everyone was at "Action Stations". But it was only one of our long distance flying boat patrols having a look round to see we were all right.
Bedtime draws near and we must have our constitutional stroll. Makes you awfully fed up pacing the same deck up and down, up and down. They have a plate on the upper deck saying that 9 times round equals 1 mile. We walk round and round every day as its the only exercise we can get. The rest of the time we read or play chess or a navy game called "uckers" with the 4 sub POs. I'm getting rather sick of the sea now.
5 Oct 1941
Gosh, what a day we have had. Rough weather was right. It was awful when we got up this morning. The waves were breaking all over the bows of the ship and we were pitching up and down. Up so high we thought we would never come down without capsizing and down so far it seemed impossible that we should ever come up again. It is an awesome sight to stand on the foredeck. At the top of the wave you can see right out over the sea from an awful height and at the bottom in the trough you see a wall of water 40 or 50 feet high in front of you. Then the wave breaks over the bow with a thunderous crash and the whole ship shudders. Finally gets her nose up again and climbs the next one. You can hear the screws come clean out of the water and the engines race on the top of each wave. But we are not so badly off. The small destroyers are having a terrible time. They are so small and heavy that they simply plow through each wave. There is one close to us on the port side and we have only seen the tip of the funnel and masts all day. The rest of her seems to be under water all the time. I'm glad we had our sea legs and had got used to the ship before we had this dose. It is bad enough as it is. They have all the deck rigged with life lines to hold onto as you walk and you need them too. The deck is on a slant of 45 degrees one way or the other all the time. Dick has had to give up writing as he can't hold the book as well as the pen and ink bottle at the same time. Everything keeps sliding and moving around. But it is good fun as well as being a real thrill. We tried to play darts but no one could hit the board far less any particular number.
We had a real scare this afternoon. The attack alarm went and we all repaired to action stations. Some Hun aircraft had been picked up on our detectors. Very luckily there was a heavy sea mist on the horizon so we altered course and went into it for cover. Looking out now you can't see a thing and it should still be light. It is like being in a wet blanket. Every sound is muffled and the whole world seems hushed. Rather a thrilling experience cruising along all on our own yet knowing that there are all these ships round us. 34 merchant ships, 12 destroyers, 2 cruisers, and an aircraft carrier and we can't even see or hear any of them. I only hope they keep out of our way and we don't get in theirs.
Well I think that must be all for today. No walk on deck tonight for me anyhow. It is far too dangerous the way we are pitching and rolling. Don and I are turning in. Wish the voyage was over. I sincerely hope we fly back. And the sooner the better.
6 Oct 1941
I am rather surprised that we are still here to write this. For nearly 24 hours it has been awful. We expected the finish any minute but the sailors say it is nothing really. We got very little sleep last night. It was hard work trying to keep in bed at all never mind sleep. But in the early hours of the morning it all quietened down and we got an hour or two's sleep. When we awoke this morning everything was just the same as before the storm.
It has been a rather quiet uneventful day. Nothing new and nothing exciting. We are quite used to the sea now and it has got very boring. We are all feeling rather tired too. I expect with the loss of sleep last night.
I, for one, am going to turn in early anyhow. Au revoir.
7 Oct 1941
I have a little more to say today. At least two things happened to break the monotony of the trip.
First of all, just after lunch at about 1 pm, we went up on deck and we were just in time to see the rest of the convoy leave us. They are making for somewhere down South now while we are still headed due West for Canada. It was a lovely sight to see. All at once all the ships hoisted flags and a minute after all the ship's sirens went. Then all those for the South turned away from our path some passing in front of us, some behind us, while those on our port side just turned away. Then at about half a mile distant they formed into a new convoy and headed away from us. As they got formed up and began to pick up speed they each gave us a farewell blast on the siren which we answered. By 3 pm this afternoon they were out of sight and we had the whole sea to ourselves. There are only three ships with us now. It gives you such an awful feeling of loneliness to look out to sea now. Nothing to be seen but the waves and more waves. I shall be glad to see land again.
Tonight the crew of this ship ran a cinema show. They have a small projector and only small reels so they have to show the picture in several parts. With a wait between each while they rewind the spool. But it was quite amusing, passing the time well as well as being an experience. It was queer at first to be watching the screen and feel what should be the floor of the cinema pitching up and down. After you got used to that it was just like an ordinary cinema. But it wasted two hours and that was a help. I can see the idea of that song now, the one with a line that goes "we were much too busy looking at the ocean and the sea". You can get awful sick of the sea when you have had nothing else for a week. We have been scouring round asking when we get in and where, and it seems we dock at Halifax on the morning of the 10th. The sooner the better.
I must have a stroll on deck and then some more bed. Sea air makes you hungry and sleepy. I have eaten more and slept more than I can ever remember.
8 Oct 1941
This has been a very uneventful day. But we have been a little disappointed too. Maybe that is making us even more fed up. When we went out on deck this morning one of the sailors told us that we had been standing still most of the night. One of the other ships had engine trouble and we had to wait until it was fixed. So we shall be later getting into Halifax. But we are making up a bit of lost time now. The whole ship is shaking and we are flat out. Faster than she has ever gone before in her life I think.
And that is absolutely all that has happened today. Rest of the time we played uckers, chess, darts or read books. A very easy life indeed yet we are always tired and yawning.
I think I'll go to bed.
9 Oct 1941
I feel much more cheerful tonight. The initial journey part of this lot is nearly over. This will be our last night at sea thank goodness. It will be a pleasant change to sleep in a bed tomorrow. And to eat from a steady table should be really enjoyable.
Now that the journey is so near over I hope we get on with the course, shove that behind us and get back. The sooner the better it can't be too soon for me. Don has a bad dose of home sickness too so we are ideal companions.
I think I'll say goodnight. It is really glorious out on deck. Clear moonlight, all the stars out and just a nice snap in the air to clear the stuffy atmosphere below decks from our system.
10 Oct 1941
Knights of Columbus Hostel, Halifax
Good night. Rather a queer way to start but it is bedtime now.
I have far more to say tonight. Better start with this morning and see if I can recapture the mood.
When we went on deck at first it seemed just the same as ever until a sailor drew our attention to a smudge on the horizon. That was our first view of Canada. By 10 am we were very close and from there until lunch we were sailing up a narrow bay to the mouth of a river. I have never seen such a sight in my life. The colouring is so rich, so vivid. The dark green of thousands of trees mingled with the paler green of hillsides, the silver of birch trees and the glorious red of the Canadian maple. And the houses, scattered at first and growing more common later are designed in colour too. The whole bay is one glorious splash of riotous colour. Just after lunch we drew into Halifax and passed several quays on our way to our particular one. They are busy enough here. There was a whole convoy getting ready to move out, on one huge quay. Another was blocked with complete aircraft and aircraft parts all ready for shipping to Britain and everyone is flat out to help us.
I had the honour of being the first to go on shore in Canada. I had to lead the men we had on board to a place where they dumped their kitbags and cases. And I managed to find out from the Canadian authorities just where we are going. All the men with us are going to Calgary on the first train out and the four senior NCOs are going to Toronto.
Anyhow when we were all ashore we had a minute to spare and were able to get a cable away. There was such a rush that we could only send one each so of course mine was to you. Hope you get it soon.
Next we handed in our gas masks and drew two blankets for the train journey. That rather surprised us at first. We looked up Toronto on the map and it did not seem far. So we asked a service policeman on the quay and he said it was quite near. Only a day and a half by train. When we gasped at that he told us that the last crowd had gone across to the other side of Canada and it was five or six days train away. Distances are terrific over here. We have no conception of it at all. Makes you feel so small too.
Anyhow we found our train leaves at midnight and we could do as we liked till then. We were paid 15 dollars Canadian and all our English money taken from us. After all that we went and wandered round the town. Rather a dead place resembling Liverpool. Dock town of course and therefore not so good. So we finished up at this hostel for supper. It is the same idea as our YMCA and caters for troops. Quite a nice place and cheap.
You would have laughed if you had seen us in the town. We all went for the one thing that we wanted and could not get at home. Personally there was only one thing for me. I had 6 bananas. For only 6 cents (about 2½d). Queer how they make me think of you.
Well our train will be off quite soon now so I must finish. I shan't be able to post all this so I'll keep it as a sort of diary letter and you can have it when I am back. I hope and pray that won't be long now.
12 Oct 1941
No. 1 Manning Pool, Toronto
Well, at last I can write to you again. And I have quite a bit to say. I did not have a chance to do any writing last night because we spent it on the train. It has been an experience by itself. We have had two nights and one day on the same train, in the same compartment. But it gets terribly boring after a while. They think nothing over here of spending five or six days on the same train. Rather different from our journey down from Scotland.
But they do make distance travelling very comfortable. The seats are only for two and pull out to make a decent bed for one. The other sleeps on a bed which pulls out above the seat. We did not have to move even for meals. A table fixes in front of the seat and all meals are brought to you. At night you put your shoes down in the passage and during the night a car attendant cleans them.
Anyhow, we reached Toronto about 1 pm and pulled right up to the Depot here, just in time for lunch in the Sgts Mess. And what a lovely mess. And the meals. Gosh, I feel a pig to think of you at home doing on so little while I stuff myself with all they have here. We are well treated too. All the airmen have to stand to attention to an NCO and Sgts are like little gods. We have just arrived today and we already have an invitation out tomorrow. It seems that some of the people in town, when they hear of English chaps arriving, phone the CO and tell him how many they can take out. Then he selects those he thinks should go. He gave us the first chance, once again because Sgts come first, and we jumped at it. So we are off to Niagara Falls at 9 am tomorrow. I never thought I should see them but I am going to. They are only about 100 miles from here and 100 miles is just across the road in this country.
Toronto seems very nice though we have not really seen it yet. We were too tired to have a look round tonight. I think I'll turn in now after all that travelling. Just think, my bed will be steady for the first time in nearly a fortnight.
10 Oct 1941
It is two days since I wrote anything and I have such a lot to say. We had a wonderful day yesterday. At 9 am we were introduced to Dr Murray and his wife and they were the party taking us to the Falls. Awfully nice people who could not do enough for us. We went all round the shore of Lake Ontario, a beautiful drive in itself, and stopped for lunch at a friend of Dr Murray's who has a fruit farm. To give you an idea of the size of the place we asked how big it was and he could not tell us. But straight across the farm from one side to the other is nearly 80 miles. It is so incredible. After lunch we visited all the historical spots on the way to the Falls and we finally reached there about 2 pm. I can't even begin to describe what a wonderful sight it was. The Canadian side has been preserved as a national park and is well kept and lovely. The other side is our first view of America. Of course we were not allowed across. The Falls themselves are almost unbelievable. I never knew so much water could fall so far. At first I was rather disappointed in the height of them but we went out on a small steamer "Maid of the Mist" right close nearly under them and you get a real idea from there. They go close enough that they provide each person with a coat as a protection from spray. And you need it too.
But I'll tell you more when I get back. And I have several photos by which I can explain it better too.
We had dinner at the hotel in the park and saw the Falls illuminated before we left. I have never seen anything so beautiful. After watching for a while we finally left about 9.30 and came back, singing to the car radio. When we got to Toronto again they had us up to their house for some supper and a drink and the Dr showed us some movie films he had made with his own cine camera. Of a camp he has up in the hills. They were very good. After all that he drove us back to the Pool about 3 am. What a day we had. If only you could have been there to share it with me it would have been perfect.
Today has been rather hollow. We hung about all day waiting for orders and nothing happened. We are going out to have a first look at Toronto now. We are rather out of the city here but we can see the skyline and cars run from here to the centre of the town. It looks a nice place, very clean somehow. I suppose that is one of the benefits of central heating. There are no chimneys sending smoke all over the place. But inside the rooms it gets awfully stuffy at times.
Well I must say au revoir now.
15 Oct 1941
A little more has been happening today. We got our passports and they gave us back our English money that we handed in in Canadian dollars. But no orders have come through yet and there has been no mail. I had hoped to have heard from you by now but no luck. I wonder how you are getting on. I've started to worrying anyhow. You have no idea how much I miss you.
I only wish this course would get started, get finished and let me get back. That is all I long for now.
Toronto is a very nice place indeed. We had a good look round and finished up by seeing Walt Disney's "Fantasia". Personally I did not think a lot of it but Don pretends it was great. It is supposed to be high brow music changed into colours. And as Don pretends to be high brow he had to like it and pretend to understand it. Perhaps my taste is low but I only liked two parts of it. And so did Dick and Frank who were with us.
Tonight we intend going to see a stage show but I think I'll come back early. I feel rather tired. I've been used to quiet home life lately and I prefer it to going out every night.
16 Oct 1941
Here we are again. And we haven't any news yet of when or even where our course is going to start.
We spent all day just waiting for news and nothing happened happened. I'm beginning to get fed up. I was browned off last night.
We went to a show and it was quite good but when we came out and the others went for supper I came back to bed. I had a grand dream but it was to find I was alone when I woke up. I am not going out tonight. Think I'll start a letter to you.
17 Oct 1941
I'm afraid if this goes on much longer I'll have to stop this diary because there is nothing to say. Today has been just like yesterday.
I rather like Toronto. We took some time off in daylight and strolled along the shore. It is rather lovely. But I can't enjoy it alone and I shall always be alone unless you are with me.
18 Oct 1941
I'm getting very worried over this no mail racket. I only hope you get mine. It seems rather silly to go on writing letters if I am not getting them. Because perhaps you aren't either.
As soon as we are settled on this course I'll cable my address and hope for an answer.
At this rate I can only wonder when, if ever, we'll get back. But the sooner we do the better I'll be pleased.
Well, at last something has happened. We were sent for and have got our orders. We leave here on Sunday. For Bendix, New Jersey. We are to have a month's course with the Bendix Aviation Company. So at last we do know something.
The place is not far from New York I believe so we may have quite a time. The places I had to see over here were the Falls and the skyscrapers and I may see both yet.
Now that we have got started we shan't be long getting finished and home again. And that is all I am longing for. I'd better stop now.
20 Oct 1941
Gosh, what a time we have had since I wrote last.
We were to catch the 9.15 pm train out of Toronto so until then we checked our luggage through to New York and had a last stroll round. Then we got aboard the train but were advised not to go to bed as the Immigration Officers would be round to check on passports etc.
Can you imagine the shock we got when he came to us and refused to allow us into America. We were about an hour out of Toronto then and on an express train. Some hitch in our papers made it impossible for us to go on. The only thing we could do was go back and find out what could be done about it. So we had the train stopped at Hamilton and the only train back held up to wait for us. Then we had another shock. Our bags had been sent on by the previous train and would be held in bond for us in New York until we claimed them and had them examined by Customs.
So there we were 1½ hours from any place we knew and not even a bed or bedding to go back to. No luggage so no decent hotel would take us in and nothing but the clothes we stood up in. And at 11 pm too. We did feel lost and lonely.
However, we came back and no one could have done more for us than the people on the depot. Fixed us up with beds, blankets and everything and we could even have had a meal in the mess. But by then it was nearly 1.30 am so we decided on bed. The police took a note to report it to the officer concerned and saw that he got it.
He sent for us at 9 am so we had to get out of bed to see him. He apologised and told us he had phoned the Air Commission at Washington and that they were finding out whose blame it was. So we have to stay here.
We phoned Dr Murray and he had us out to lunch today. At his club (the Kiwanis). It is a lovely place. We are going up there for a farewell dinner tonight (to his house I mean) so I shall have to get on and clean up as best I can without anything to do it with. Must have a shave at the barbers and a shoe-shine. Borrow a towel and soap from the chap who loaned them me this morning I suppose. Oh, this is an awful existence. Hope we get on our way soon.
23 Oct 1941
I have such a lot to tell you I hardly know where to begin. I have not had a chance to write for several days, there has been so much doing. Better start from where I left off.
We had a very nice time at Dr Murray's and finished the evening by the Dr taking us to his club bowling alley. Bowling at skittles is very popular over here and we all did well for our first game and thoroughly enjoyed it too.
On Tuesday afternoon we were sent for and told that word had arrived for us. We had to leave that same night. The chap to blame was the officer on the train. It had been arranged that we were to get through but he had not read his orders. He came round as soon as the train left. Probably so that he could get it over and get bed sooner. Anyhow we hurried up and got away. No hitch this time. We had sleepers and slept well the whole journey.
Arrived in New York Central at 7.15 am. Gosh, what a station. It is as beautiful as a cathedral. Clean, quiet and comfortable. The trains actually come in below the station and you can't hear them. The station hall is all in marble with only Information desks round the sides and a board in the centre which lights up the track number of the next train in and the place the next one out is going to. You simply can't go wrong.
We had breakfast in the station grill room and then rang up the Bendix firm. They knew about us coming but they did not know when. A chap from the firm had been down to meet us two days before when we should have got there so he came down again.
While we waited for him we collected our bags and got them passed by Customs. Then the chap, a Mr Kindle, arrived and took us over to Bendix by car. The firm is still in Greater New York but it is quite 30 minutes away by car. We crossed the Hudson by the George Washington bridge and got our first sight of the New York skyline. Gosh, it is marvellous. I've never seen anything like it before.
When we arrived at Bendix we were introduced to most of the heads of the firm, most important of whom was Mr Houseman who designed most of their gear. A very nice chap, most unassuming. He took us over the plant after taking us to his club for lunch. During the wait before lunch we had a shower and changed into clean clothes and civvies. You have no idea how good it felt after three days to have your own gear back and to feel clean again.
It is a huge plant and they are doing grand work but I must not put any more than that on paper.
It seems we are to spend the month at their aircraft plant at East Orange. Not far away. We were brought over by car and introduced to our bosses, Mr Lewis and Mr Leeming. Two very nice chaps.
We were taken then to the Orange YMCA where we have got rooms for the month. It is nice here too. No one can do too much for us. They say the rooms are the cheapest in the place and they are very nice but I still think they are expensive. Approximately 30/- a week. And that is without meals. However, we shall see if we can find anything else later. We have taken them until Saturday at least.
We had a very strange thing happen to us last night too. After the bosses had left us and we had washed and shaved we went out to find somewhere to have a late dinner and have a look around.
We were walking along the main street looking lost I suppose when someone behind us asked if he could help. We told him what we were looking for and he first of all took us to his home and gave us a drink. Then he got the car out and took us to a super restaurant call Pals Cabin. A roadhouse is the technical term I think. Anyhow we had a really grand dinner and the dining room hostess was very attentive and showed us all round the place afterwards.
We were in bed early, and started our work at 8.30 this morning. Had rather a job finding the factory again. We have to get a street car about a mile and a half down main street to Grove, then a cross town bus for nearly a mile. But it will be easy in future.
Had quite a good day at work and I don't think it will be very hard. Well, we have started now, and the sooner we finish the better I'll be pleased. I wonder if you got my cable. Should get a reply tomorrow. Hope so anyway.
24 Oct 1941
It is not too bad now that we have got the course started. We look on each day as one more day nearer the finish and home. The work is very interesting and I don't find it hard. Our teacher is Frank Leeming nice chap and knows his job. We shall get along all right with him.
Had rather a queer letter today. And I'm keeping it as a memento. From the British Air Commission containing a check for Don and my own wages and a covering letter appointing me paymaster for the two of us. We are having the check cashed through the firm as that will be least bother.
Frank took us out to see more rooms this afternoon. They are nearer work but they are dearer and still do not include meals. It seems everyone eats out here. Less bother I suppose and no waste of time washing up etc. It seems we can't get anything cheaper. Everyone tells us the YMCA is cheapest and best and we are very lucky to get in.
Had a phone call when we got back from work from Lannon Holmes, the chap we met the first night here. Then he called for us with his car and took us to a private house where he was to play tennis indoors. A Mrs Sage. They have a marvellous indoor tennis court and a beautiful home and are very nice indeed. There was Mrs Sage and a Miss Thompson with Mr Walker and Mr Holmes made up the foursome and they were all good players. It was good to watch. We are invited to afternoon tea there Sunday.
Quite a good day but I still miss you.
26 Oct 1941
It is rather later tonight. I have just said goodnight to you. But I want to write a letter tonight as I missed last night. Otherwise my diary will get all behind and I don't want to give it up as Don has done already.
We worked all day on Saturday. There is quite a lot of work to get done but I do not think it is hard enough to warrant a full day's work on Saturdays.
Finished nearly 6 pm and by the time we got back, cleaned up and had dinner it was nearly nine. So we had a quiet evening and went to a movie. Did not get out until 11.30 and as we came out saw a place with a flashing sign saying "Tony Galento's Club". So we had a look in. He is rather famous as a heavyweight boxer. Nicknamed Two-Ton Tony. Lives up to his nickname too. He is the most massive bulk of flesh I ever saw. But his club was rather a dive so we had only a nightcap and went to bed.
But it was late then so I had to miss writing to you. That is how I consider this diary. As a personal letter to you.
I love writing to you. It seems to bring us nearer.
Sunday we went to Mrs Sage's. Queer idea they have here. All friends meet Sunday about 5 pm, have cocktails or tea, talk and then go their separate ways to dinner. But we met some very interesting people and have several invitations out.
Stayed till nearly 7 and then Lannon took us out in the car. Took us through Llewellyn Park to Hasbrouck Heights where they fought one of the battles during the Independence war. Had dinner at a roadhouse and came home early.
So now, back to work tomorrow.
I must say I am rather enjoying it here. People are grand to us, no one could be nicer and they try all they can to make it pleasant for us. If only you were with me I'd be happy.
Well, I must get some sleep, so goodnight.
27 Oct 1941
Had quite a good day for a change. Still would rather have you here with me. Still, work was quite easy and pleasant.
Lannon called for us when we had dinner and we ran around the country a little while. Then he took us to some friends of his, a Mr and Mrs Paterson. It seems he was a Colonel in the last war. Really nice chap though and not a bit of side. We are invited to dinner there some night. Spent the evening talking to him and his wife and daughter. Nice girl, seems very fond of Lannon. Her friend came in later, a Miss Jones, who also seems very nice. She was "finished" in France and knows Douai and Peronne well. They all seem to have plenty of money and the Paterson's is a lovely home.
But I would far rather have been in our rooms than here. I showed them your photo and they think you are so lovely.
28 Oct 1941
We have had rather a queer evening and it is just our time so I shall not have time to say very much but I do want to get this down while I still have it to hand.
We had just the usual day at work, nothing fresh to say about that but this evening when we got back there was a letter in our mail box. I was thrilled by the thought that it may be from you. However it was from a Mr TJ Morris who is a big official in the Welfare Association. It is a scheme of collecting money for the YMCA and other good causes like that and this year their big drive was also Aid for Britain.
He heard we were in town from the RAF and asked us if we would like to see what the Association was doing. He also said that we would be a big help in the Aid for Britain drive. We phoned him and he called for us after dinner and drove us round to the Orange and East Orange branches. They are doing grand work and were so very pleased to have us there. It is their last week of the drive so we have promised to do all we can to help this week. He is taking us out to the Maplewood and further out branches tomorrow evening. It is rather tiring but in a very good cause so we don't mind doing it. Poor Don had to make a speech tonight so I suppose it is my turn tomorrow.
Well, I must say goodnight again.
29 Oct 1941
We have had a hard enough day today. At work was not too bad. But in the evening we went to Maplewood and Paterson branches of the Welfare as well as two boys clubs. We are nearly heroes it seems. Very thrilling at first but one gets very sick of it all.
Had to make speech at one of the clubs and also at Maplewood.
Friday night they are checking the totals and the people who have done best are to get Victory badges. Morris wants us to present them. Suppose we can't very well get out of it. We are having our photos taken first and then going to all the branches with a police escort to save us time.
Well, I'm awfully tired and think I'll go to bed. It is time I did.
30 Oct 1941
We have had quite a time tonight. And I don't know how to tell you. I have been out with a girl. What do you think of that?
Seriously though. We had just got cleaned up when we got a phone call. From Miss Paterson. She wanted to know if we were feeling lonely and and nothing to do. Because they were making up a party to go to an English picture and if we liked to come we would be very welcome.
They called for us in the car, Mr and Mrs Paterson, Miss Paterson and Miss Jones. I found myself escorting Miss Jones. She is very interesting and we had quite a talk about France. The picture was one of the best I've ever seen though Don and Miss Paterson nearly spoiled it criticising the acting. They are both in amateur theatricals.
I said goodnight to you in the picture.
We all went to the Normandie for supper and a nightcap after. So it is very late now.
And we have quite a day in front of us. So I think I'll go to bed.
31 Oct 1941
Forgive me if this is short but I'm dog tired and it is gone 11 pm so I think I should turn in.
The Air Force are quite good to us. Received our check right on the dot again. Work was just as usual.
We have had an evening though. Had our photos taken with the Welfare girls and then went the rounds. All the high officials about 8 cars and a police escort with sirens screaming. Reminded me of some of those American gangster pictures.
We presented Victory pins and made congratulatory speeches at goodness knows how many places and finally were presented with Victory pins ourselves. So I'm keeping it for you.
Now I must go to bed. But I should get quite enough sleep. We do not start till 9 this Saturday. So we shall have a lay in.
We are going up to New York tomorrow afternoon to do some shopping. Must get you and babe something good.
1 Nov 1941
What a grand day we have had. Started off well. Got to work and was handed a letter from you. As long last. Wonder if you have got any of mine yet. This one has taken exactly a month to get here. I am going to sleep with it under my pillow tonight.
Went up to the city but was rather disappointed. The buildings and everything are most impressive but the whole atmosphere is so very inhuman. Nobody cares for his neighbour. They push you out of the way and hurry past. We did not get any shopping done. Went in several stores but could not find any really good thing to buy. And the prices. When one needs to be a millionaire. Besides none of the shopgirls wanted to help us out. They could have served us but would not assist us.
Had a meal in one of the Automats. Put your money in the slot for what you want. Most inhuman too. No waitresses cashier or anything needed. Everything given over to speed. Did not like it at all.
We got some souvenir photos of our visit as I don't think we shall go back.
Now I'll read your letter again and go to bed.
2 Nov 1941
Had a very quiet day. We spent all the morning in bed, sleeping and reading. Got up for lunch.
Wrote to you in the afternoon and then went out to Mrs Sage for tea.
On the way back we went to a new place for dinner. And we made a new friend there. The place is owned by a Mr Lansdale from Manchester. Very nice chap indeed. Keeps a very nice place and served us with English tea. And that is hard to get over here. We are going there again.
Finished up with a quiet evening at the pictures. And so now to bed.
3 Nov 1941
Saw our pictures in the local paper when we got back from work tonight. Plus a long interview which we never gave. Oh, it makes me mad to think that blighter Morris was taking advantage of us. We are not allowed to give any interviews and if this got to Washington we would be in plenty trouble. I'd like to get hold of him now but I don't suppose we shall ever hear from him again.
Lannon came round after dinner and as there was nothing to do he rang up some friends. We were told to come out to the Patersons if we had not anything better to do.
We sat and talked and played the radio for a long time and then Lannon drove us home. Stopped off at the Normandie for a nightcap.
A very quiet day and evening.
Got back just a little late, night.
4 Nov 1941
Same sort of day at work. Nothing very new on hand to understand. It gets rather boring.
We went up to Mr Teesdales for dinner and were introduced to his wife and daughter. We were speaking of the shopping we tried to do in New York and they want to help us by coming with us next Saturday afternoon. It should be a big help with two women who know their way around and we shall have their car to get around in too. It is very good of them.
It has been a very quiet day again. Seems rather a waste of time and money to send us out here but of course we don't know what is to come yet.
Well I must get some sleep in so goodnight.
5 Nov 1941
We have had quite a nice time today. At work Frank Leeming told us he had written to West Point the US military academy (like Sandhurst) asking for permission for us to be shown round on Sunday. I hope that comes off, it should be very interesting.
When we came back at night we found a letter from Mr and Mrs Paterson asking us to dinner on Friday night. So after dinner we rang up to accept and thank them. We found only the daughter and two friends were in so we asked them to come to the pictures with us and Lannon who was calling later. Had quite a nice evening, saw a good picture and paid back a little of the hospitality we are receiving from them. Incidentally, they have all seen your photo and think you are beautiful.
But it is late and I must say goodnight.
6 Nov 1941
Another easy day and an interesting quiet evening. Lannon called for us just after dinner. He was going to Mrs Sages to play tennis and took us along again. Met Mr Sage. His father has been very ill and he has been away looking after things for him. Very interesting chap. Big game hunter. He showed us some grand photos of where he has been and some really great ones of animals. Seems rather sorry he has settled down. They have three children now. We are also asked to drop in any time and not to wait for an invitation. The people are grand to us here. Make us feel at home.
If only you were with me it would be perfect.
We are early tonight. I expect I shall be late tomorrow night so I think I'll get some sleep in now.
7 Nov 1941
Well, I have quite a lot to say this time. And it is quite early so I have some time.
Yesterday at work we received our check as usual from the British Air Commission and Frank had a letter from the Army saying they would be very pleased to have us and would provide a guide to show us round. So we are going to West Point on Sunday. Frank is going to bring his wife along and drive us there. We are to meet them in Hoboken.
In the evening we got all togged up and went to the Patersons for dinner. Their car called for us at 6.45. Made us feel quite grand too I can tell you. It was a lovely dinner, perfectly prepared by their Chinese cook and served by manservants. They must have plenty of money. It could not have been done better.
It was a nice crowd at dinner too. There was Mr and Mrs Paterson and their two daughters Margery and Joan. A Major Graves and his wife, Miss Jones and Miss Thomson. The men were Mr Walker, Lannon, Don and I. We had a very interesting evening after dinner too. Mr Paterson is an ex Colonel and Major Graves is an ex Army man too. Mr Walker is a laboratory research worker. Incidentally Joan Paterson goes to Vassar the famous American Girls College. It must cost something to send her there but she is very well educated and very clever and intelligent.
We just sat and talked with an occasional drink and before anyone realised it, it was after 12.30. Lannon drove us back afterwards and we can really say we had a grand evening.
8 Nov 1941
We went to work until 12 but for all that we did we may as well not have gone. We had lunch at our usual place before coming back. Incidentally we are well looked after there. Nearly every day they insist we have a drink on the house. Today the chap who runs the place was asking if I had any family. When I told him about my daughter he asked me to let him know a couple of days before I left as he would like to send her something. He has a daughter just a little older. I thought it was very grand of him.
Anyhow we got back and cleaned up and Mrs and Miss Tweedale called for us. The son was driving the car. He had a weekend from the Army and came along to meet us.
They took us to Newark, a suburb of New York where they say the best stores are and we did our shopping at Bamburgers. It is a huge place, 27 stories high but although they sell some grand stuff I am rather dissatisfied.
I got you two sets of silk underwear. But they do not sell in sets over here. You pick a slip or panties and they try to match them with the other garment. I did get one perfect set but the other is not such a good match. I hope you will like them. I also got you half a dozen pairs of stockings. They are really good.
We went up to the toy department but the only thing I got was some floating ducks. I could not see anything she might like that I could pack though if she had been over here there were a million things I could have got. But I think she will like them and I may get something else later.
We tried to give the Tweedales a small present for being a help but they would not allow us. However, by a wrangle we managed to pay for the tea which we had in the store. We had waffles and maple syrup for the first time. They are lovely.
We were back about 6.30 and spent a very quiet night. I started a letter to you as I shan't have time tomorrow, then we had dinner, took a stroll round and now I am writing this.
We are due for a long day tomorrow so I must say goodnight.
Monday 10 Nov 1941
I have rather a lot to say again and not much time to say it tonight.
We had a grand day out yesterday. Left at 10 am and got the train to Hoboken. Met Frank and his wife there. She is rather lovely too. Then we got in their car. They had their dog with them. A nice spaniel called Soot. We went all along the Palisades overlooking New York and had a grand view of the city. But the whole scenery out to West Point was grand.
When we arrived there we went straight to the reception hall and our guide was there to meet us. He was one of the cadets there in his 3rd year. So he was able to show us the place well and also give us all the information we wanted. They have rather a hard time. Only 11 days leave in their first year and no more for the next three. And they are not allowed to marry until they have been out of the college two years. But it is a grand place, a whole town in itself. Completely military of course.
They have a visitors day every Sunday and their girls may come to visit them. A rather curious custom is that no cadet is allowed to spend any money on visitors day. So the girl must stand treat for both of them. She may take him out to dinner but he must not leave West Point. Still the complete place is nearly 12 miles long by 7 miles and the grounds must be lovely in summer.
But I'm rather surprised to see how many girls do come to take them out. Knowing that it will be from 2 to 6 years before anything can come of it. Of course they will all be officers and they are hand picked, from the best families. The senator of each state in the USA can send three men there each year. And that is the only way anyone can be an officer over here. Hard luck on the rankers. We saw everything including the cookhouse and the barracks. No one is allowed in the barrack rooms normally but we had permission got for us by this chap from the CO as we were RAF.
He told us after that there was great competition for the chance of guiding us and he got it because he was top in exams that week in the whole 3rd year students. Quite an honour for us.
Got some photos as a memento on our way back and we stopped on the edge of New York for dinner on the way back. A grand dinner at a grand restaurant. Mr and Mrs Leeming have been very good to us.
When we got to work this morning we found mail for us. From the British Air Commission telling us to go to Scintilla, Sidney, NY next Sunday for a week's course. Rather a blow as we thought we might be coming home now.
We had an idea right away of holding a little dinner for those who have been so good to us here. And this evening Lannon drove us out to the Meadowsbrook which is the best place near here and we have it all arranged for tomorrow evening. We phoned and asked our friends. There will be Mrs Sage (unfortunately her husband is away at his fathers again), Mrs Leeming, Miss Paterson, Miss Jones and Miss Thomson. The men will be Lannon, Mr Leeming, Mr Walker, Don and I.
Lannon also had an invitation to us from his mother for Wednesday night to dinner. She has got us a chance of visiting Edison's on Friday. The grand-daddy of all electricians and she knows his wife. Of course he is dead now but he must have been a great man.
Well, it is very late I'm afraid. I finished my letter to you before I wrote all this. I wonder if you are getting all my letters? I have only had the one from you. I shall send another cable next week when we know our address.
[And there the diary ends abruptly.]Return to top of page