Remembering those who came back, this is a transcription extracted from a letter written by a 20 year old, whose experiences with the Royal Navy in World War Two took him to the Far East.
Singapore, 14th Sept 45
Just a few lines to let you know I am still ok and in good health. The Censorship regulations have now been lifted so I shall be able to let you know what we have been doing during the last few weeks.
On leaving Aden in the middle of July we went to Colombo in Ceylon where we remained for a month. We spent this time exercising & generally messing about. We had one or two good runs ashore there. There wasn’t much in the way of entertainment, one cinema, but there was plenty of food. You could get a slap up meal for 2 rupees, which is 3/- in English money. We had two runs ashore [in Bombay] both of which were much better than any of the ones we had at either Colombo or Port Said.
It was here we acquired the ill fated parrots “Effie Clinker” and “Charlie McCarthy”. It was funny the way we came by them. Taff had spotted the man selling his parrots as early as 23.30 pm in the afternoon and was offered them for 20 rupees a piece but we continued our tour of the bazaars telling him that they were motheaten, that they would never talk & furthermore in our opinion they were not worth 5 annas for the two including the cage.
About teatime we were back again at the same place and the price of the parrots had dropped to 10 rupees each, including the cage. We were still not attracted by his proposition and continued on our way to tea. Eventually we found a place in bounds to H.M. Forces, for every place in bounds there are 20 out of bounds (the food is probably poisonous to Europeans). If I remember rightly we had pineapple fruit salad.
I have not yet seen the Indian rope trick performed but we saw some fakir perform a seemingly impossible trip. He started off by putting his subject into a trance (his subject incidentally was a Hindu girl of about nine or ten). This being accomplished, he then took a 14” knife & passed it round for inspection. There was no doubt about the genuineness of the knife: I personally inspected it. Then with one terrific downward stroke he plunged the knife through the girl’s neck so that it protruded 4 – 5” out of the other side. He then went round with the hat. After he had collected his 2 annas apiece he resumed his performance. Incidentally the wound did not bleed to any great extent. I should say that the total loss of blood did not exceed ½ a cup full. He then removed the knife and again passed it round for inspection. He then brought the girl out of the trance and she got up apparently none the worse for her experience. Very grisly but very interesting, quite puts Maskelene in the shade.
Anyway we have wandered from the subject of the parrots, to which we shall now return. We were returning to the ship around nine when we again met up with this bloke who approached us with the offer of the pair for 10 rupees assuring us that they were the best India had to offer; he was very persistent and assured us that they could both swear in at least seven languages, a very creditable performance. Anyway to cut a long story short we finally got the birds & cage for 5 rupees. We hadn’t had them aboard many minutes when the cat had a crack at them but he got a piece lopped off his tail by Effie Clinker for his pains – he retired in disorder & from then on apart from a few envious glances he gave them a wide berth.
Eventually the Captain found we had them aboard and we had to get rid of them. The grounds he gave were that they carry disease but with injections for Typhoid, Typhus, Diphtheria, Yellow Fever, Cholera and Mepacrine tablets etc etc we ought to be proof against all the diseases known, & then a few more besides. Anyway they had a fine funeral. We got them both drunk on rum & then weighted the cage & dropped them over. We lashed the cat up to a tot at the same time and it slept for 24 hours.
Since coming to sea last we have all become chess fiends & spend our time playing innumerable games to pass away the time. I usually lose my Queen about the third move but hope to improve in time.
We have all been busy today applying for our medal ribands. I am entitled to four, the 1939-45 Star, the Atlantic Star, Burma Star and Defence Medal. One of the blokes in the mess put down the following at the end of the list:
AWARD REQUESTED: “Agnes Weston’s” Temperance & Purity Medal.
REASON FOR DEMAND: Tot stopped Sept 45.
We talk about the Yanks – they have got nothing on us now.
Well, I think I have told you all the news up to date so will close now. Will write again soon.
All the Best