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19 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

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.

 
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Posted by on 13 June, '19 in About

 

12 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

12 Aug.

CHINA NAVIGATION COMPANY’S

S.S. Wanhie.

 

Fungtu.!

 

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

 

Paul

 

Presumably the Wahine

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/page/troop-ship-wahine-wrecked-en-route-korean-war

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

http://www.vablonsky.com/the-10-coolest-non-english-restaurant-names-in-new-york-city/

Wanhsien incident for which Paul was mentioned in despatches

http://www.naval-history.net/WW1xMemoir-Wanhsein.htm

 

 
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Posted by on 10 June, '19 in About

 

2 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

Aug 2nd.

CHINA NAVIGATION COMPANY’S

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

 

Paul

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hankou

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chongqing

 
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Posted by on 6 June, '19 in About

 

25 July 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

P & O.S.N.Co.

S.S.

“Macedonia”

 

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

 

Paul


http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/guides/RMS_Macedonia

http://www.navypedia.org/ships/uk/brit_misc_widgeon.htm

 
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Posted by on 3 June, '19 in About

 

11 February 1919 – Paul to Gertrude

R.N. Sick Qrs

Invergordon

 

Tuesday. 11th

Dearest Mother-

Very many thanks for your letter- You will see by my address that I am still in hospital – although my knee is quite allright – but the gash they made is just healing up and I am not allowed to walk about on it yet – till it heals – so it looks as if I should be here for another 4 or 5 days – the idea of which rather bores me – when I am feeling so well & all – but still I suppose it has to be.

I remember you having a housemaid’s knee – They wanted to put my leg in a splint!! They eventually called my disease “Cellulitis” – well perhaps it was for all I know.

Such lovely weather we are having up here – hot sun all day & practically no wind – but it’s a little cold especially in the evenings-

Yes Nance told me she was going up to Town for a bit. Someone wrote to me who had seen her the other day in Town & said she had never seen her looking so wonderfully well & fit- She seems to be thoroughly enjoying herself at Delaford – & she and Nell get on so awfully well together.

There now! I never realised Capon had been away all this time – for the minute I could’nt think what you meant about him coming back soon.- now I remember he went to see some Home did’nt he?

I had a letter from Bee Dudman this morning – congratulating me on my promotion & rise of pay.

Thank you for sending Dick’s address- what extraordinary places he gets to!

Very best love to you all

from your ever loving son

Paul


 
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Posted by on 11 February, '19 in About

 

6 February 1919 – Paul to Gertrude

R.N. Sick Quarters

Invergordon

 

Feb 6th

Dearest Mother-

Ever so many thanks for your letter – & I am so sorry to hear you have such a nasty cold & hope it is quite allright by now-

My knee never seemed to get much better on board & it was most uncomfortable there in heaps of ways – so I have been sent up to the local sick quarters – much better for me – as it is quiet here – & no hammering & noise of repairing ships etc. I knew my knee wanted cutting open again – & sure enough as soon as the P.M.O. saw it here – he dug a knife into it – ooh – but it’s done it a whole heap of good & he says I will be allright in 2 days’ time – so for correspondence you can still address me “Malaya” as I shall be back there again perhaps by the time you get this-

We hardly got any snow up here – but it is intensely cold – but really lovely days with bright sun an’ all- I’ve got a lovely fire in  my room here- & no one to come & huddle round it-

I got Nell’s letter allright – but again you forgot to put “Malaya” on – so it came very late – I am presuming she is at Delaford now – & sent my letter to her there – quite a gathering of daughters-in-law you will have.

So Dick has arrived in Assam – of course it’s just like him to take all those animals & birds with him – must be rather fun though having them-

I can’t remember whether you sent his address or not – but I suppose Cox & Co Calcutta – will find him allright –

Rosamond sent me an awfully nice photograph of herself the other day – she looks a bit solemn-

My best love to you all & I hope you are quite fit again & thank you awfully Mother for looking after my Nance-

Your loving son

Paul

 
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Posted by on 6 February, '19 in About

 

2 February 1919 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. MALAYA.

c/o G.P.O.

Sunday. 2nd Feb:

Dearest Mother-

Very many thanks for your letter. I am ever so long in answering it I’m afraid – but I have been thoroughly rattled all last week – what with all our plans etc being changed so.

It is most disappointing that we are refitting at Invergordon – instead of Rosyth- Nance & I thought we were going to have rather a cheery time there & now everything is O.P.H. & the fellows who have gone on leave are having 3 weeks & we only had 2- but I daresay we shall get another week after they come back.

I have been in bed all yesterday & most of to-day – I suddenly got a boil on my knee – which inflamed & became most painful & I could’nt walk – & I am certain the doctor cut it too soon & all yesterday it hurt like anything – It’s much better to day – so I got up after lunch & sat in a chair- I must be up for tomorrow because we go into dock & there’s lots of work to be done-

You forgot to put H.M.S. Malaya on the envelope of your letter – it rather amused me as you seemed so pleased with the new address Nance gave you & then it was wrong- Yes we are quite close to Inverness – so if I go up there any day I must look the Horsfords up – I remember her slightly – but what is their address?

Nance seems to be thoroughly enjoying herself with you & it is ripping of you to have her there. Poor dear I am afraid she is awfully disappointed about not coming up to me-

I wonder what happened to Jim – perhaps his shifting down to Salonika has made your cable pass him – but I hope he is coming home – but then he would have cabled surely? So Dick is fixed for another 3 years out in Assam – such a pity he is such miles away.

I suppose you’ve seen our temporary rise of pay – really rather good though I think they are still nibbling with the lower deck branch. But it does make one feel more secure I must say.

Had a letter from Mrs Conway Gordon asking me to lunch to-day – but I could’nt go – still there will be lots of opportunities during the 3 weeks up here.

You seem to be having heaps of snow down south – up here it’s all slush & mud-

My best love to you all & you will take care of Nance won’t you

from your ever loving son

Paul


Boils and indeed anything which could become infected are a real threat to health and life in times and places without antibiotics. 

 
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Posted by on 1 February, '19 in About

 

16 November 1918 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. MALAYA.

c/o G.P.O.

Thursday 16th

 

Dearest Mother-

Very many thanks for your two letters – Rather funny as I got the one you wrote later before the first one.! I am pleased to hear about dear old Ted getting a D.S.O. – I have been wondering why he never got some decoration before – for all the things he has done- It is good news – Would you send me his cable address – I mean, how does one address a cable to him – same as a letter or is there anything shorter?

That was a very interesting account of his re the surrendering of the Turkish Army – I am sending it on to Nance.

My cold is much better now – though I am still rather nosy- I went to bed for one day – to see if that would do any good – but I don’t think it did really-

I am awfully sorry to hear about you having all those teeth out – such a blow to suddenly lose them like that – I do hope you won’t be kept long before your new ones are made-

It’s a pity Dreda cannot come up with Nance & stay with us. We are so hoping she would be able to – Nance’s arrangements are rather disjointed at present – but I am earnestly hoping she will be coming up here very soon.

We are giving a small dance on board on Saturday afternoon – it might be quite good fun. I’ve never seen such a place for dancing as Edinburgh – there seems to be one every afternoon and evening – I have only been to one up to date –

A most vile day – very cold & raining hard – a complete change as the last few days have been lovely – with this full moon.

My best love to you all – from your ever loving son

Paul

Don’t forget about Ted’s address – Oh – and thank you muchly for your congratulations-


Ted's Medals - the Humane Society Medal on the left, then the DSO, then his WW1 and WW2 service medals

Ted’s Medals – the Humane Society Medal on the left, then the DSO, then his WW1, inter-war and WW2 service medals

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinguished_Service_Order

 
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Posted by on 16 November, '18 in About

 

15 November 1918 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. MALAYA.

c/o G.P.O.

Friday- 15th Nov:

 

My dearest Mother-

Very many thanks for your letter – Well things seem more or less settled up now – and I think it is wonderful how we have defeated those beastly Huns – & made them grovel – It has been interesting these last few days – reading about it all – There were some very cheery orations & general flag wavings up here – must have been a wonderful sight in Town – the King & Queen driving through the streets an’ all.

We are still carrying on our war routine – I daresay you read the Admiralty message to the Navy – in the papers – Quite right I think the army should be demobilised first – after all they have had all the fighting and discomfort – so we shan’t be getting any leave yet awhile.

How lovely for Jane Murray having arrived home – I suppose they will start arranging a date for their wedding now.

Nance is back in Edinburgh again now – I think her change did her a lot of good – she is quite fit again & looks ever so much better.

We have had lovely weather up here lately – ever so calm – & lovely moonlight nights – but it always produces a fog & you can only see about 100 yds to-day.

So Dick has gone further afield again – going out to India early. I expect he will get a good job.

With very best love to you all & I hope you are very fit-

Your ever loving son

Paul

 
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Posted by on 15 November, '18 in About

 

1 August 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. MALAYA.
c/o G.P.O.

Aug. 1st

 

Dear Mother-

V. many thanks for your letter, and also for forwarding on all those others. Nance & I have had simply heaps – all about society papers asking for our photographs etc – awful waste of paper!. I’ve had several other letters from various friends which I am gradually answering. I have had a talk with Nance re Mr Kirwan – you see it’s going to be a very quiet wedding at Sawsthorpe and the date will be so uncertain – and Nance says she has 2 pet parsons whom she wants, but if Mr Kirwan likes to come – by all means but it’s a fairly expensive journey up there and back & also the uncertainty of the exact day – we hardly think, in a way, it’s fair to ask him- because perhaps he would’nt like to say no – But I’ll write to him and explain things – but will you see him too, about it.

Nance will probably be going south about the 29th – and I want her to stay a few days with you before she goes up home – but it is all rather uncertain as yet. Wish we could get some decent weather up here – it rains every day still.

I’ve just heard from Dick who says he will be home on the 25th for 10 days – I suppose Topher is coming too.

My best love to you from your ever very loving son

Paul

Sorry to hear Capon is’nt much better!-


And that’s almost the last of Paul’s letters which we still have which he wrote during the war. We hear of him from the others and there are a couple from him in 1918 and a dozen or so from him when he was posted on the China Station in the 1920s but that’s it. 

The fact that this last letter was written just before Paul and Nancy’s wedding must be significant. I suspect Nancy asked for Paul’s letters but Gertrude only gave her the ones dating from after the wedding. 

There’s the allied question of why we have only a couple of letters from Jim and Topher. Perhaps they asked for their letters themselves or perhaps we are seeing Gertrude’s partiality: she adored her eldest child Richard, and Paul and Ted were undeniably heroic, while Jim was out of the action for most of the War and poor Topher was not a great letter-writer and lacked glamour as a Tommy. I prefer to think that her favouritism wasn’t that blatant and it’s simply happenstance that we don’t have their letters too.

So let’s cry a little because the bride is so young and the groom is so handsome, throw rice over the happy couple as they leave the church, and wish them well.

 
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Posted by on 1 August, '17 in About