There are a few diary entries prior to Eric leaving the
country on the draft
Last day spent at home. Felt rotten when I had to lreave
the kiddies. I only
pray I get back for good before long to make up for the
time we are posted
5th August 1943
On fatigues until draft which is expected to be on Saturday
7th August 1943
To another camp on draft. Things are moving fast and
I don't think we will be
8th August 1944
36th Birthday. Expect to leave in a day or so
9th August 1943
Kit inspection all over again. Definitely going this
time I think
10th August 1943
Leaving tonight for unknown destination. feel glad in
a way to get away from
11th August 1943
Arrrived at P.O.E.(Port of embarkation) and went abroad
England, before leaving for North Africa
(Eric second from left)
From K Camp RAOC Donnington Salop
I have just received your letter love together with birthday
cards from mam and Glad and I must say reading the words on the
cards and reading all the little bits of news of you all at home
and also the bits mam told me in her letter made a lump come into
my throat and for two pins I could have shed a few tears. It brought
it all back love what I have left behind and I had better pull
myself up or I will feel like breaking away and coming home. I
know the feeling will soon be over and I'm glad in a way that
home means so much to me. It makes it hard going away but I know
nothing will ever change our feelings.
Well love I hope the news you received today didn't shake
you too much as I had expected it and even if I hadn't been put
on this draft I should have clicked for another in two or three
weeks time. It means uncertainty all the while and I guess love
we had better face it and trust in God and keep our spirits up
until this is just a memory we can look back upon and smile at
I'm gad your nose is about right again, also Michael's tummy.
I guess that Keith realizes more than we think just how things
are and behind his awkwardness and spasms he can be grand lad
and I can imagine him getting the tea for you like he used to
when you hadn't come home.
I see you have my photo in a place of honour and my thoughts
are always with you especially when you are altogether at meal
times or bedtime. Also I like to think you are listening to the
same voice I am on the wireless. The allies are certainly doing
well and lets hope it continues like it.
Jack Richardson will have heard from me by now if they've sent
my letter on and if I lose touch with him I shall have to ask
you to drop him a line if he writes to you for news. I've taken
a note of his new address and may drop him a line a little later
Mam tells me Glad isn't too grand some days especially with Mrs.
Gill not knowing whether to go into the Infirmary or not. I guess
Sheldon would be the problem then.
The weather has been better today love but we have been busy
this afternoon and understand our address when you stop hearing
from me here will be 10589984 Pte. E Mason RAOC A.P.O. No
5195 and if I miss more than one day writing to you (they hold
up our letters for 14 days after we leave here) you will know
I'm on my way.
You know love it will be a worrying time over the next two or
three weeks for both of us and I hope you will be able to keep
your spirits up as well as possible until we are able to write
to each other regularly again. I'm glad in a way I'm going now
instead of a year or two ago as things look bright all round.
By the way I couldn't find the PO receipt you said you were enclosing
but in any case I'm afraid its good by to that 10/-.
I forgot to tell you to tell Keith how much I liked his drawings
and little letter and tell him Daddy is ever so pleased he is
looking after you and Sheila and Michael for me.
Well love I want to post this tonight so you get it Wednesday
morning at any rate and I've still got a bit of packing to do
for parade for inspection so I'll say goodnight sweetheart and
all my love always to you and the kiddies.
Tell Sheila daddy is watching her eating her dinner and wants
her to eat it all up like you do.
Undated.On board ship 1943
I'm starting this letter so that I can give you a few of my experiences
daily and perhaps can get it posted soon after we land. where
ever that may be. I had lot of fears about sea sickness but have
only been very slightly ill once and can now roll about the decks
in approved navy style. I have stuck to my job in the Cookhouse
although sometimes the heat is over powering. Everybody seems
in good spirits and there is PT and boxing in deck for the enthusiasts.
I don't do PT owing to my cookhouse duties and never was any good
at boxing so I amuse myself by being an interested spectator.
I should like to take the same trip in happier circumstances
with you all and with Keith liking ships so much he would never
stop asking questions about what this or that is.
I hope you are not worrying about me as I feel OK. I'm
just carrying on until it is all over and I make the journey home
to you for good. I guess Sheila will have altered a bit when I
see her again but I get out our family photos and at once I feel
I am with you all again. We get pretty good food so far including
white bread. That makes you jealous, I bet. As I sit here I can
hear chaps singing in parties and others lying about reading.
We get plenty of sweets at present and fags at 10 for 5d so don't
do too bad.
I wondered whether you had any activity the other night when
I heard on the wireless about fifty German planes were over England.
I hope you didn't as you would have a job with the three of them.
I only hope and pray that you won't get any more raids and the
day is not too far distant when we can together enjoy our home
life with our children. I don't know whether you got my last letter
as I don't suppose I will hear from you until we have landed.
I shall spend our seventh wedding anniversary abroad but of course
I don't know where. Rumours are about of course as to where we
might be going but although I might wave to Bob or Brush up against
Jack Turvey, or where he was anyway.
By the way since writing this I've met a chap who asked
me where my home was and when I said Leicester he asked what part
and talk about what a small world, he lived next door to Mr Ball
at 4 Ingle Street until about 11 years ago and knew our family
well up there. His name is Pendergast. Mum would remember the
family well. I asked him to come round when he is next back in
Leicester. We had quite a long chat and I showed him our wedding
group and he knew Bill and also Jack Gill who he said used to
ride around in the milk float. He is married now and lives on
the Braunstone estate. I bet Mr. Ball would like to know of him
with being neighbours.
I'm getting nicely tanned and although it's a bit cramped
everyone takes it in good part.
All my love.
|North Africa was at first Libya
and later Tunisia. From here Eric moved to Italy being based
at Amalfi. I visited Tunisia a few years back and was suprised
to see fields and fields of old military equipment including
tanks and lorries rusting away all left over from the last
war. Without these reminders it was difficult to imagine
the war which was fought so intensively through this part
of North Africa
27th August 1943
Well love I hope that by the time you get this you will have
already received my last letter but at anyrate I am on dry land
where the sun is about ten times more powerful as at home and
you can rely on the next day being hot when you go to bed at night.
We had a good trip across although the sleeping accommodation
was a bit crowded. My legs are already beginning to go red and
sore from the unusual exposure but I expect in a week or twos
time I shall be used to the sun and a healthy brown. I wish I
could transfer some of the sand out here to you as I've seen too
much of it already. You can have 20 washes a day and still feel
dirty but I guess I will get used to it in due course.
I hope you have not worried too much about me love and as I'm
hoping to send an airgraph when we get one issued in the next
day or so (we only get one a week) and it might get home before
After landing in North Africa we came to this place but I didn't
expect to get your letters yet as we might move somewhere else
fairly quickly and I suppose your letters will be following me
on. I've managed to get some grapes both green and black also
some water melons, but don't think it is all honey love, far from
it and I'll never grumble about English conditions again.
I could do with Keith's bathing trunks on and about a gallon
of calamine lotion to dab on every little while as so far I am
burning in every place exposed to the sun, face, neck, shoulders,
arms and legs. Sheila as a baby is nothing to what I will be in
a week or two.
I hope love you are all in good health and Keith is taking my
place and looking after you all as he promised daddy he would.
Tell him to let me know how he got on in his new class at school.
Tell him and Sheila to eat all their dinners up so I can see how
much bigger they are when I come home again.
Give my love to all the relations and I'll try to drop a line
to them all in due course.
All my love to you sweetheart and the kiddies. Don't worry if
my letters don't reach you regularly as most of the chaps who
have been here for some time say there are often delays.
God bless you all and keep you safe for me
5th September 1943 North Africa
Well love as you see I am still in the same spot a few days after
writing my last letter to you but as I said before, I might get
moved any day as I am not in a proper job yet.
I walked down to the road outside the camp last night with
one of the chaps and he bought a water melon from an Arab after
a great deal of arguing. I had one or two slices of it but didn't
have too much as I didn't want to upset my stomach again.
I have been into a town with another chap not too far away
as we got a lift in the lorry and I spent most of the time just
watching the population walk by. We had to queue for and hour
and a half for a cup of tea and a cake at the local NAAFI and
then came back.
I understand that I might be here for two or three weeks
so I am hoping to get a letter from you before I move on. I am
thinking of you tonight, love, wondering if my first airmail has
arrived yet to give you a bit of peace of mind. I guess you must
feel don sometimes with all the kiddies to look after besides
our separation and I wish with all my heart I was at home beside
you. Still I look at our family photographs every time I feel
lonely and there we all are. I'm glad we had it taken and I often
sit and imagine how much bigger the baby has frown, how brown
Sheila is and how Keith likes his new teacher.
Did you get many beans from the scarlet runners and how
did the potatoes turn out. I expect that Harry Quinn will be having
a busy time with both allotments. I think that I mentioned in
my airgraph . I expect to see more of him in the next few days
and give him the ARP news..
The sunshine here is endless and I'm on my way to rivaling
Sheila as a baby. Remember how brown she was ? Well Olive, I haven't
asked yet how you are but you know it is not through forgetting.
I know what it must be like for you and I will make it up to you
when we are together again for good. We'll keep faith and always
keep our minds on the day of reunion. This part has to be finished
first but as long a we can keep in touch with each other if only
by letter we will find that the time will soon pass.
I couldn't find anything worth buying in the town but I
will find one of two little souvenirs before I leave.
I've not written to Bob yet but if I can get a spare airgraph
I'll send one to him. I expect by now he knows that I am on
this side. Well love I will have to close. All my love to you
and the kiddies. God bless you all and keep you safe for me.
Well love as you can see I'm still here and hoping in the next
few days to hear from you in reply
to my first letter saying I'd arrived safely. I've seen
two pictures this week first 'Hazardous Journey' on Tuesday and
'Tarzan's triumphs' last night. They were shown on a screen in
the open as soon as it got dark enough and I was surprised how
clear the talkie was and everyone kept real quiet and it was like
being in a real cinema. Before last night's picture was shown
it was given out that Italy had surrended and I found everyone
guessing just as I expect you were in England as to where the
lads would go from there.
On the way back to camp we had a slight dust storm nothing they
think anything about out here
but enough to fill your eyes with sand and dust and make it difficult
at times to see which way to go. Still we landed back OK and managed
to get a good night's sleep. I had a bar of chocolate with my
rations last week and forgot it for a day of so and it meant trying
to eat it with a spoon but most of it had to be thrown way.
I had a wash day on Sunday and you should have seen me scrubbing
away using my hairbrush to scrub with , stripped to the waist
and still too hot to be comfortable trying to get the sand and
dust out of my tropical shirt and shorts. They dry out the same
day that's one thing and there's no shouting across to Mrs. Brown
that it's raining and a scramble to fetch the washing in from
time to time.
Now Italy is finished we don't know where we will end up next.
One chap says he would like to have Christmas day in Paris and
next Easter back home for good. He may be right but I'm not making any forecasts but just living for the day I can walk
in to home and be with you all
without having to go back.
I miss you terribly love, all the things I took as a matter of
course now mean such a lot and , god willing, we will make up
for every moment lost when the world is at peace again. I hope
you are getting over the first feeling of parting which we both
had and keeping your chin up as usual with the kiddies well and
not causing you a lot of worry. I know Keith would like to play
with all the sand out here. He would also like all the grapes
and there is one thing it wouldn't hurt his shoe toes and he could
draw plenty of train lines in the sand. Still we will have a real
holiday all together when we're together again and then get back
to work again.
By the way, I have written to Aunt Beck as I promised her I would
and have now to get up to
date with other letters. Once I start getting mail I shall be
OK but it is worrying until your letters
start to come through as I haven't had anything since I left the
Mob centre in England. I know
they will come in a rush when they do start but I sit at night
with the family photographs and
wonder what has happened at home since I last heard how you all
are, how Mam and all the
others are and how the garden is, if the grass seed grew and all
the little things which didn't seem much at the time I was at
home to see them but now will make it easier to picture my proper
life at home. I've not been able to get a snap of myself yet but
shall have one when I get the chance. I have plenty of francs
which I can't spend except on small quantities of grapes, melons,
cups oftea at the YMCA and cakes.
12th September 1943
Well love, here I am still on a nice hot Sunday trying to get
this away while sweat is oozing from my body and I could just
manage about six icecreams or two or three fans whirling around
to cool the air a bit.
Actually I have been working inside for the past week but even
out of the sun it is much hotter
than good old England. Well dear I'm still awaiting my first
news from you and once I've had that I will be more content. I
was out the outdoor pictures last night (The film was 'Beware
us girls')and about 9pm I sat down for a few minutes , closed
my eyes and thought what I would be doing at home with baby in
bed, Sheila and Keith still shouting things down from upstairs,
the news about to come on and you just thinking of laying out
the supper. It all seemed so real and I think I missed quite a
bit of the picture while I was day dreaming. The chap I went with
asked me if I felt OK and I had to admit that my thoughts were
We did have a break yesterday as we managed to get a bathe and
you will no doubt say how
lucky I am to be able to lay down on the edge of the waves while
they washed over me. I have
not felt so clean for ages. I thought of Mablethorpe and how the
kiddies would love it.
By the way love, guess who I bumped into yesterday. You remember
the plumber named
Richardson who fixed the porch door. He is at present two tents
away from me and has seen
Palestine and Sicily since leaving England. He is fit and well
now and has lost his shyness. When he does the next job for us
he will be chattering away all day. If you can, tell his parents
we have met.
One of the chaps working near was an engine stoker before being
called up and I straightaway
thought of Keith. Does he still want to be an engine driver ?
Tell him there is a lot to learn if he
is going to be one.
While on the beach I managed to pick up one or two seashells
which I hope to save to bring back as momentoes. I'd send a bagfull
home if I could but we are only allowed to send a parcel every
three months. I am not spending a lot of money except a few francs
on grapes, tea and cakes but when I get somewhere civilised I
may be able to buy something worth sending home to you. I hope
love you are getting my mail at any rate and your mind is easy
about me. The news is good and perhaps sooner than we think the
whole lot will be over and all of us will be given a free passage
Tell me all the news you can when you write and especially about
yourself sweetheart and the
kiddies. You all mean so much to me and I want to be able to feel
that I know just how you are getting on.
Well love I guess I've come to the end of my letter today so
I'll say goodnight. Don't forget I'm
with you night and day so chin up and keep smiling,
All my love to you.
Here love is my usual weekly airmail and although there is not
much in the way of news I am still hoping in the next day or two
to start getting mail from you as I know you had my first airmail
and other letters I've sent since I've been here. By the way I'm
numbering the airmails and airgraphs to you in future so you'll
know if any are mislaid in the post. I'm marking this letter AM3
and the next airmail will be AM4. The next Airgraph I will mark
AG3 and then follow on in the same way.
I think I have sent more than two airgraphs so far but
anyway it will be a check in the future. I hope sweetheart you
are all well at home and having plenty of fun and have had peaceful
nights free from air raids or alarms. I expect by the time I get
home there will be all sorts of alterations with the house repainted,
the lawn all laid out differently, baby toddling about and Sheila
twice as cheeky. You had better start at once any alterations
you are thinking of making or I'll be home before you have finished.
The way the war is going with the Allied armies doing so well
also the Russians.I only hope that things may continue to go well
so that the day is not too far away when the boat takes us all
back home to our loved ones.
Most of my free time is spent in writing letters, washing
out clothes, queuing at the canteen for a spot of tea and a bun
with a bunch of grapes sometimes and about four nights a week
sitting under the stars watching a film show.
On Friday night I went with the chap I'm working with to
see 'Manhunt' and last night we went to see 'Judge Hardy and Family'
with Mickey Rooney in the lead and both were good pictures.
It certainly helps to cheer the lads up if that were necessary
as everyone out here is full of confidence and knows it's only
a question of time before it's all over for Jerry.
There's one thing with cigarettes so cheap we don't have
to stint ourselves and chaps always pass them around to each other
freely. I've not been able to have another bathe since last week
as I've not had the time off but hope to do so in the next day
or so. The weather is still too gloriously fine and so each night
our shirts are damp with sweat. They always are damp in the morning
and seem to give me a bit of a cold which the Zubes I brought
with me are coming in handy for.
I've managed to get hold of four or five airgraph forms so can
send a few more greetings off in the next few days. If I get replies
to all I've sent I should have a whole pile when they do come.
I still can't realise that I'm so far away from you and I'm glad
I do feel like that. I see many things that make me think I'm
in England with swallows and a few butterflies around in the day
and bats flying around as in England at night. The moon also reminds
me of England and home and I often lay awake at night while it
is shining down on me thinking about you and the kiddies. You
know dear, it's at night after dark that I miss you most and yet
somehow feel closest to you. I expect that it's due to me in peacetime
generally being with you in the evening and knowing just what
is happening at certain times. On the pictures I saw a chap and
a girl eating chips and it took me straight back home and me asking
you to make a few for supper.
Well sweetheart I'd better close now or I'll never get the family
Well love I had a good day yesterday as I had your airmail letter
(which I have marked A.M.6) also an airmail from mam. I've not
had my airmail letter from the coy. Yet but will write it in the
next day or so. am glad you are all well and I should have
plenty of kisses to collect from your left cheek besides all the
others you are saving up for me.
About where I met Albert Silver is about 50 miles further on.
He is I expect back with his unit now. I see you are getting a
liberal amount of Guinness and don't get into bad habits.
I don't want to have to stay in with the family at nights after
the war while you and Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Woodcock and Mrs. Saunders
go down the Blackbird.
I see Harry Quinn is still doing good work and hope Mr. Saunders
doesn't find it too hard going digging. I am myself getting used
to conditions now. I went to church last night and had Holy Communion
after. It is dark now at 7.30pm and last night we were all in
bed by 9pm.
It has turned colder and we have had a shower or two. Well sweetheart
I will write more in the airmail in a day or two. All my love
to you and the kiddies.
Well love I haven't had my airmail from you yet this week so
am sending this in the meantime. I thoroughly enjoyed the church
service on Sunday evening and took Holy Communion afterwards.
One of the hymns was " Holy Mother in thy Mercy " and I could
imagine you close to me during the singing. It is certainly a
I went to see a film show again last night " Holiday Inn " but
I didn't get the enjoyment out of it like I did the first time
I saw it with you.
The weather turned much colder yesterday and with a strong wind
and rain it was much more like England except in the way of clothes
as shorts rather let in the wind. It's certainly cold at night
with only one blanket over you.
It is nice again now and I am told it doesn't get really cold
until after Christmas. Still I'm hoping by then the Allies and
Russians have about put paid to Adolf.
I hear the news each day from an Army paper called Union Jack
and the war is certainly going well. Well love I hope the cleaning
up after the sweep wasn't too much for you and I expect little
Miss Sheila helped you in her way. I hope keith will soon get
the letter I sent him and tell him he's got to send me one back.
All my love to you sweetheart and the kiddies, God bless you
all and keep you safe.
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