Neil – Mother: 5 Aug 1917

Somewhere else
Sunday 5th Aug
Dear Mother,
We shall reach our destination in about a fortnight or less so we are just getting into the region now where there are mines growing on every other waveand torpedoes sliding sliding along every other hollow.  This is my third letter.  Our second port of call was much more interesting than our first.  It is the biggest town I’ve seen but when I come to think of it there does not seem to be anything interesting enough to be worth putting in a letter – except that mandarins were ridiculously cheap there and I ate more than was good for me with the easily guessed results.  I did not write from our third port of call because a letter from there would have taken longer to reach you than one posted like this at our destination.  We were not allowed any leave from our third port, because, Rumours Agency  says, the girls wear nothing there but a hairpin.  The officers got ashore alright but thats different.  The sun is just due overhead at noon there this time of the year and so we just lay out in the harbour with the tar in the seams melting looking at the shady trees on the shore and wishing we had commissionxxx.  We are now practically through the tropics.  The church parade today was very serious.  Nobody seems inclined to take any risks with the temperature of the next world after what they have just experienced in this.  Even without a hairpin on it was insupportable .  And they (the knowing ones who seem somehow to have done everything before) say that we had rather a cold trip.  If it is a hot trip coming back you will see only half of my present 14 st 6 again – the other half will be washed off the deck by the ships hose and committed to the deep.  The time has slipped away fairly quickly since leaving our second port.  I have been playing chess practically every afternoon and evening with the commander of the boat – I mean the Naval Commander not the Military one.  We are very even and he is as keen on chess as I am.  We ended up 46-45 in my favour.  I shall get his signature on the magazine I send you home with this.  You’ll probably recollect his name.  He is of South Pole fame. (Added in pencil)  Did not get is sig. Forgot. It was Lt. Comm. Evans.   

I have received no letter from you yet of course.  I suppose there will be quite a budget waiting for me at our destination, having taken a shorter route.  They don’t give you much chance of getting drowned on this trip.  A man without his lifebelt on on board here now, would create a far greater sensation than a man without his trousers on in Queen St.  The ship is in complete darkness at night and smoking is cut out after dusk.  You stroll along the deck to get a bit of tasteless air before turning and something suddenly hits you a sickening smack in the mouth and loosens three fillings and then you remember that they’ve just installed a smoke screen apparatus where you used to be able to walk without fear of being personally torpedoed.  You say a few things that you had only a nodding acquaintance with before joining the army and then you realise that after all the authorities mean well and you let them off further cursing.

Trots finger had an argument with a porthole screen, but I expect he will give you all the gruesome details himself.  It was nothing very serious considering we had been watching what 12 inch naval shells could do the day before and it got him out of quite a lot of work.

We have had an epidemic of measles on board, but so far it has passed me by.  Two men have died.  I assisted at the burial at sea of each.  It is not a very pleasant experience

Monday 6th
I am getting a bit sick of all this business and wouldn’t refuse a return ticket if they offered me one.  The bread is very sour – not what you would call sour but real Sour – and it has given me a touch of indigestion.  One of my teeth is aching & I have a bit of a stone bruise or rather deck bruise on my heel.  There are quite a lot of other little things like that to add to the cheerfulness of the voyage.

Sunday 19/8/17
In Sling. – Cant write what I think of it – they wont allow explosive matter to go through the post.  Ther’s not an occupant of Sling who   (the rest of this letter is missing)