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19 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

13 Jun

My address!

H.M.S. WIDGEON

CHUNKING.

SZECHUAN

WEST CHINA

Via Siberia

19 Aug

excuse pencil – I am writing on my quarter deck – It’s cooler-

Dearest Mother-

Well I have arrived at last in the Widgeon – got here about 4 days ago  – after a good deal of excitement & trouble – The whole country & especially the province of Szechuan is seething with riotous & unlawful soldiers etc – & on my way up we were fired on now & again – however no damage & I arrived safely. My predecessor was in a great hurry to get away so more or less threw things at me – said he did’nt envy me my job & left!- and since then I have been trying to get hold of the situation – & have had little time for writing.

The place Chunking is more or less the capital – & we have a consul here – with whom I work- the whole thing is endeavouring to protect the British trade up here & the Chinese will try & boycott all of it – & we are not allowed to take any drastic measures – so all one does is to write letters to Chinese generals & protest-

At present during this hot weather all the European community live up in the hills!! & I have been taken round by No 1. calling on them- the so called roads – are only very narrow paths and hundreds of steps – & you ride (on a very small pony) up them – most extraordinary really & the coming down is the dangerous part- The people are all very kind & ask you to stay up at their bungalows & I have been up already – but it’s an awful job getting there – And the method of progression is – “Chair” – a sort of wicker chair carried by 4 men – & it is very amusing – swaying about on these small paths – with a precipice one side & a high wall the other – I don’t think I’ll do it again – Tomorrow I am donning my full uniform & calling on several high Eminent Chinese – one has to talk through an interpreter – most awkward-

We play tennis & cricket (sic) out here & all the Widgeoners are very keen. So I can get plenty of exercise- I am going up River next week – there is a hot bed of wars & rumours of wars further up & I think a gunboat might quiet matters down a bit – The gorges & rapids out here are really marvellous & the scenery in several places too wonderful for words – but the Chinese are perfectly dreadful, I am not looking forward to my 2 years out here at all-

Hope you are all well & flourishing-

I am feeling much better-

My best love to everyone – yr ever

loving son

 

Paul


Paul’s “beat” was Chongquing to Wanhsien, which is now Wanszhou.

China was never painted red on the maps of the British Empire, and it’s long forgotten now that the British had a presence deep inside China’s trade routes. China was a sovereign territory. Having Chinese or Russian gunboats moored in Oxford after coming up the Thames gives no sense of the distances involved. A better equivalent might be foreign gunboats stationed in Vienna on the Danube, or in North Dakota having come up the Missouri.

One has to wonder how they got away with it.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on 13 June, '19 in About

 

2 responses to “19 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

  1. Priscilla Jones

    13 June, '19 at 20:25

    They got away with it because the Chinese empire was crumbling then and for a long time after. How fascinating even the end of these letters is – I have never heard before of any non-diplomat Englishman being there at the time.

     
  2. Family Letters

    20 June, '19 at 15:24

    It’s astonishing, isn’t it! And not just one Englishman, but entire blumming boatloads of them!
    x

     

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