Monthly Archives: June 2019

18 September 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Widgeon

c/o RNO


Via Siberia


18th Sept.


Dearest Mother,

I simply really have not had a moment to write any letters for about a fortnight- I expect you have heard all about our Bombardment at Wahnsien and I can’t give you any more news – except that it was a “merry little battle” – & a great tragedy that we lost those officers & men – we did’nt get a single casualty in Widgeon – so all is safe and present – since then I have had a fleet of 5 Gunboats to compete with – masses of reports to write up – & heaven knows what – and I am very weary – but thank goodness the Admiral has arrived up & taken over.

I have had 2 letters from you. 25th July – 1st Aug – and a 16th Aug from Nance – so am fairly up to date – though I never knew Joan & Paddy had an operation – & don’t know what it was – & poor wee kids with whooping cough – but N says they are very cheery in spite of it.

Must send a line to N now – just got a few minutes to spare.

My bestest love to all – & I am quite alright –

from your ever loving son




Posted by on 27 June, '19 in About


7 September 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

Sept 7th



Dearest Mother.

Daresay there is something in the papers about our show on Sunday – at “Wanhshien” – really a terrific battle – and I am allright – but I fear we had a few unfortunate casualties altogether- My short spell out here has been full of incidents & I have not had a moment’s peace – and am terribly sleepy- so excuse a short letter – which is just to tell you I am fit as a fiddle-

Don’t like this country though-.!!

Hope everyone is well at home.

My bestest love to you all – (must do some more work).

Your ever loving son


The Wanhsein incident was a messy incident in which Paul’s command, the Widgeon, was an active participant.

Chinese soldiers boarded two British merchant vessels, one of which was the Wahnsein, taking Britons hostage. Two Royal Navy Ships, the Cockchafer and the Widgeon, attempted to regain control of the merchant ships, and there were considerable Chinese casualties. China lodged a formal complaint with the League of Nations and there was a period of anti-foreign agitation and riots across China, accompanied by looting of European businesses and attacks on individuals.

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Posted by on 24 June, '19 in About


2 September 1926 – Paul to Gertrude




2nd Sept


Dearest Mother-

I have had a letter from you dated 7th July – & only that one – so all others must have been burned in that ship-

Very bad state of affairs out here I am afraid, & I cannot say how it will end- It is all very warlike and unpleasant – and to add to my difficulties & troubles – I unfortunately ran the Widgeon ashore on a rock – but we got off allright & are safe enough- This river is dreadful – but apparently most people do it sometime or other – so I am not altogether in the best of moods- I am simply hating life at present – but I do hope things will get better – does’nt look like it at present however.

You must excuse a short letter – but I have masses to do & see to.

My very best love to you & everbody & God bless you all

Your ever loving son



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Posted by on 20 June, '19 in About


22 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

Via Siberia.

H.M.S. Widgeon



West China


22nd Aug


My Dearest Mother-

Still no letters – but we heard a few days ago that 35 Tons of mails was lot in a steamer coming up the river – she caught fire & was completely burned out – & 2 bags of ours were there – so that’s that – dreadful I think losing mails. I am sure there must have been a whole heap of letters for me. – Now this filthy river has broken its banks lower down & flooded the country & no steamer can run – so will be no mails for ages.-

I had quite a cheery week end – I went and stayed up in the Hills with some people – really rather nice up there – but an awful nuisance getting there and back – you get carried up in a chair – by 4 coolies. The Widgeon played the Community at Cricket on Saturday – & we beat them easily 146 to 5. An apology for a ground – but great fun. I made 68 – very rattled to start with as I was expected to make runs – but it was’nt very difficult.-

Troublous times ahead I fear – these Chinese seem to be continually waging war & another one is in sight – I am going up the river this week sometime – to show the flag & try & suppress some boycotting & commandeering of British ships – but they do it all over the river – so I really don’t know where to go to help.

I’ve been riding again & playing tennis – & this place would be very nice if it were more peaceful – it’s rotten at present.

Hope everyone is very fit at home.- my best love to you all

ever your loving son



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Posted by on 18 June, '19 in About


19 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

My address!





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’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.


Posted by on 13 June, '19 in About


12 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

12 Aug.


S.S. Wanhie.




Dearest Mother,

Am gradually getting nearer the Widgeon. We are well up the River now – really only a day from Chnngking- where the Widgeon is – but we have to stay at anchor down here as the river is so high & flooded that we can’t get through the rapids – we might be here for days!!-

Most interesting & impressive trip this has been from Hankow – and the magnificence of the scenery – in the gorges and rapids far exceeds anything I read or was told. It really is simply marvellous- the river is very turbulent – full of whirlpools etc etc. All dark brown muddy colour – & in the gorges the mountains rise up to about 3000 feet – right along side – & the colouring is so beautiful- The pity is that I shall only see this all once more- when I come home – because it is all below my beat- If you ever get hold of a map – my beat is between Chunking and Wanshien – & occasionally higher up than Chunking- It has been terribly hot all the way up the river  -but here it is not so bad – as there had been such masses of rain.

I have been ashore at one or 2 places- Hankow was very Englishised- a large sort of Country Club there – & I watched a polo match. I’ve met several Gunboats & heard all the news- a terribly unsettled country this – & all these passenger ships are continually being fired on with rifle fire – by odd soldiers.- We have been lucky so far – only a few stray bullets- Apparently it’s our job out here to endeavour to stop this sort of thing & write threatening letters to the local Chinese Generals – but it still goes on – And our Foreign office are loath for us to go along fire back – but I can see a balloon going up one day-! I am feeling quite fit again now – having had a wee bit of exercise now and again-

Hope you’re all very fit at home- expect you are away at Seaview or some place. Don’t forget to put “Via Siberia” on your letters – they get here about a fortnight sooner-.

My best love to you all

from your ever loving son




Presumably the Wahine

Number 8: “Fung Tu” means “Wind and soil”.

Wanhsien incident for which Paul was mentioned in despatches


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Posted by on 10 June, '19 in About


2 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

Aug 2nd.


S.S. “Shanking”

Nearly at Hangkow.


Dearest Mother.

Well I am getting along gradually – and am now about 500 miles up the River – I spent about 4 days in Shanghai – & met one or two friends and also one of my “Gunboats” – so I was able to glean a goodish deal of information about the upper River. I left there on Thursday on this ship- very small river steamer – but quite comfortable – full of Chinese – and I and another passenger are the only British passengers – dreadfully dull – but the sights and scenes on the River are most interesting really –

We have stopped at a good many places – but I did not go ashore – they all looked so filthy. We arrive at Hangkow tomorrow morning – where I change into another smaller steamer & go about 500 miles in her & then change again into an even smaller one, I suppose for our last 500 miles.!! I hear the Widgeon is at “Chunking” – about another 10 days!! I am getting terribly bored with this travelling & living in suit cases-

I hope it does not get any hotter than this – really it’s been terrible – and no wind to cool it down – though an occasional very severe thunderstorm-.

Hope everyone at home is very well. I find it difficult to write letters these days – having had no home news. Tell Ruth & Jack I am collecting a few matchboxes now and again – when I remember!!

My best love to you & very many happy returns of your birthday – though I fear rather late.

Your ever loving son



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Posted by on 6 June, '19 in About


25 July 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

P & O.S.N.Co.




25 July


Dearest Mother-

We hope to get into Shanghai tomorrow – but I expect it will be at least another fortnight or so before I find the “Widgeon”.

Great excitement when we were nearing Hong Kong last week – as they had a Typhoon – & so we had to turn back and steam away – we arrived safely in the end. I met several friends of mine – who showed me round

A mere handful of people left on board – and it is rather lonely – and very hot.

Hope everyone is very fit and well at home. I am wondering if there will be any letters tomorrow for me on arrival at Shanghai-!

My best love to you

from your ever loving son



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Posted by on 3 June, '19 in About