- Letter Writer
- Naval Intelligence
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1989 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
May I comment on Max Thomson’s admirable article, The War of Words. Being an onlooker (with a keen eye at times) during the two Great Wars (both wars to end all wars — wars come in various disguises) I agree with him in part, and also mildly disagree.
Censorship is a must in wars to try and stop the thoughtless idle words. And it would be doubly necessary here should we be involved in another one — heaven forbid. We must try to save our brave servicemen.
But Mr Thomson is so right in writing that the public should know what our men are doing, and yes, what really did happen to our Sydney. The ‘drama’ of Tobruk, the ‘Ferry run’, etc. Our men should not be expected to give up their youthful years in slogging work, and even dying for us, without us knowing the facts. And I don’t think our boys got due credit when General Macarthur came into our area. I, for one, am grateful to him and his men for what they did for the war, but Britain, others and us, held the ‘battlements’ until we were so war weary. Often we take well earned credit for our Anzacs at Gallipoli, and we tend to forget young British sailors, some as young as sixteen, died in their boats and ships at that time. A generous credit should be given to all, but it is up to us to see that our servicemen get the credit from both wars — and not for us to pick out the few weak patches to discredit so many who should have our undying gratitude. Let our enemies do that if they can!
Still, I think censorship is necessary with long distance mail in wartime, to save our men. My young son went on the Queen Elizabeth and I had trouble finding out when she was leaving, I did not want any or everybody to know where the large convoy was going, but selfishly I wanted to wave my fare-you-well, though my mother’s heart was breaking. He and I had a small code: yellow for Singapore and gold for the Middle East. I did not see him but he threw a letter over to someone in a small boat, with the word on it, Gold. It gave me some comfort to know where he was. But — later — he/we had a naval friend aboard the Queen Mary. I think they were RN on the bridge. This man, in the true old fashioned generous Navy style, asked his Captain for permission at Fremantle to go across to the Elizabeth to see my son so that he could let me know how he was settling in to A.I.F. life. Such gestures in wartime are so precious. Later I accidentally met the Captain of the Mary but didn’t gather my wits quickly enough to thank him for allowing one of his men to see my son. But we were reliable loyal people who would not boast or gossip.
However, later, I made a ‘blue’. I helped entertain at a small club for servicemen and there among so many I met a merchant sailor who told me we wouldn’t be seeing the Queen Mary out this way for a very long time, if at all. I answered, you can’t know that. He then said, I know I can trust you. I have a brother aboard the Mary and she’s going to lay up at Trincamali for a rest and clean up. I wrote to our friend aboard the Queen Mary, knowing of his tiredness, as many were, and told him they’ll be having a spell at Trincamali. And what else I said I can’t remember now, but unlike my cautious self I must have said plenty, and it wasn’t a love story. He received my letter of two small pages with Dear Jack at the top, and best wishes, Melinda at the bottom of the second sheet — not another word. They were to lie up at that place but did not after my letter. The men would have been angry had they known it was me, but I may have saved them. Who can say. They would have been sitting ducks had they been caught there.