25 July 1916 – James’s first letter, leaving Manchester, via Liverpool to London, Crystal Palace

DIARY: Proceeded via Liverpool to Crystal Place. Drew days pay, 9d, abroad HMS Eagle, Liverpool.


In train en route for Crystal Palace

(I could not get the post last night)

Dear Mother & Father

I think I had better let you know all the incidents that have happened so far. The old engine driver saw me off at Junction and uncle Jim waited at Victoria for me. I got to the Recruitment Office and we were all given a white card with all the particulars of ourselves on. We then marched 4 abreast to Central Station and entrained for the Naval depot at Liverpool (about 40-50 of us). I have picked as that fellow Berry from Middleton and he seems a decent sort also the lad I told you about and another chap about 25 years of age.

We marched from the station to the Liverpool Depot and they took us on board an old tub HMS Eagle. We went down a flight of steps and were lined up to receive our first days pay. 9d to it. Everyone got 6d & a 3d bit which I am keeping as a momento of this memorable occasion. We had to sign for it and were taken on shore by the gangway and lined up along with a ***** draft about 50 of them. We here received our first instruction in drill. Form fours etc and we were then marched to Lime St Station through the principal streets of Liverpool. The people were quite interested. We had special compartments reserved for us and the people waved us all off in fine style. We went through Crewe and we stopped to get something to drink at the Refreshment room and nearly missed the train as a result. We have a naval Instructor with us and he seems a decent sort, no bombast at all.

We then passed through Rugby and then on to Euston. We then got on the tube to Victoria and so on to Crystal Place. We all had a most pleasant surprise for on leaving the train at Euston the Instructor ordered us to Right Wheel into the station Café where we did full justice to a good tea of boiled ham. Better than Army that.

I am now writing on a wall in the Palace grounds at 5.45 AM. We were given fresh identification cards and you must write to me during the next weeks as under Seaman J Simpson

No. MZ 1831

RN Depot

Crystal Palace


After getting our cards we were served out with a hammock and a very short towel and a piece of soap. Then we adjourned to the Mess Room where another meal was waiting for us. The pots looked like old jam jars without handles but everything was clean. They put a large cottage cob of bread for 4 of us, cut your own and two slices of polony and a portion of margarine each. We did full justice to it and though a bit rough it was clean and wholesome. It is now reveille and we recruits parade at 6.15.

We have slept in hammocks those who could sleep and it seemed very novel but it is much more comfortable than the ground. The Hammocks are substantial and you sling them up to rails running along the room heads together. You get two big blankets and with these you have ample to keep you warm. I should be glad if you could get me a small belt to wear near my skin to keep my cash in. They tell you to sleep on your cash wrap it up in your blankets. I don’t want a big one just enough to put my purse in without being cumbersome. The sandwiches mother put up were very nice and put us on nicely till we got fed at Euston. We shall be very decently treated here so don’t worry about me in the least. There are heaps of nice fellows about quite superior to the average infantryman. I am quite satisfied I have done the right thing and I am glad now I could not get in the Cavalry. I am trying to transfer to wireless if I can. I shall be quite alright here and I shall try to play the game like any decent person should. Will write again soon.

With love to all


Written on inside of envelope:

It is beautiful country here but about 15-16 miles from Wembley.

We came through Wembley on the train.






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