Quibbles and Bits

Going to Hong Kong

British Land Forces, Hong Kong
29th August, 1949

Hello Jock,

Trying to keep a promise. I thought now would be as good a time as ever. Firstly because we are just about half way to Hong Kong, and secondly there’s bags of time to write. Now, I don’t suppose for a moment you’ll be worried about the reasons, and the why’s and wherefore’s, so I’ll just get down to it and let you know how things are going…and how.

Right! We left Woking on Tuesday night at about 7pm for London. When we got there – at least the whole company – it was about 9 o’clock, the reason for this being we were split into groups and dispatched at half-hourly intervals. We all met at the Deep Air Raid Shelter in Goodge Street, off Tottenham Court Road, had a meal, after which we were allowed out till 11 o’clock. The next morning we were awakened at 3:30am, washed and shaved etc, had breakfast and by 4:30 were ready to move off. We marched to Euston Station and after a lot of confusion boarded, at about 6 o’clock, the troop train. Once on the troop train we weren’t allowed off. Anyway, we left Euston Station at about 7 o’clock and got on our way.

We stopped at Rugby Station for a few minutes and were met by W.V.S. with cups of tea and a cake.

After a couple more stops, more or less to let faster trains past, we arrived at Liverpool. There we were again given a cup of tea and a wad. We then after the general Army routine embarked on this effort – H. T. LANCASHIRE. According to rumours which are floating around, it’s the last run it’s making as a troop ship and believe me, Jock, it wants to be.

Anyway, that’s evading the issue. I’ll describe it as I go on. As I was saying, we embarked at about 12:30, and at about 5:30 left the landing stage and started on our way.

Just as we were leaving the mouth of the Mersey it started to rain and a high wind arose. That was a good start. This bloody thing started rocking about just like a cork. It was horrible, and believe me it took some stomach to keep steady on her but I managed. It took us 12 days to reach Port Said, and hell what hectic 12 days they were.

No kidding! I bet 9 out of the 12 were in rough waters. That Bay of Biscay, hell, I thought we’d had our chips time and time again, but so far the gallant 32 year old trooper H. T. LANCASHIRE has stood it. The ship herself is no good, Jock. Firstly, she’s too light for heavy seas, and secondly the entertainment and sleeping accommodation is lousy. All the entertainment consists of on this boat is “Housey Housey” and bags of red tape.

The boys were allocated 3 hours shore leave at Port Said, but as I had already seen the stinking place I stood in for a bloke on duty. We left Port Said at about 3 o’clock on the Friday morning, 22nd, and it took us about 24 hours to get through the Suez canal into the Red Sea. You already know what it’s like in there but I wonder if you experienced anything like we did. We weren’t allowed to sleep on deck and were compelled to sleep below. To tell you the truth we were like a lot of cattle and the stench was horrible. Now we are through it and have passed Aden and are in the Indian Ocean on our way to Colombo.

Well Jock, I’m sorry I haven’t given you a more detailed account of the journey, but you know how it is. Anyway, lad, I’ll write later, so until I do,

I remain the same as you,
an old member of the Branch.

Joe