26 July 1916 – James’s 2nd letter; settling in at the Crystal Palace Training Ground

Letter No 2

July 25th – 26th 1916


My Dear Mother & Father

I suppose by this you will have received my first letter & you will see how I have fared so far. As we were coming along we saw an aeroplane and a Balloon and this place is full of RNAS men and many aeroplanes and parts of aeroplanes.  We have had splendid grub so far and very nice treatment.  No army for me give me the navy.  There is no comparison.  The palace is a magnificent structure and is alive with men.  The grounds around are simply glorious and there are several Tennis courts and bowling greens.  I have seen the great football ground tonight and all, the place is grand.  We strolled round the palace and were struck by the sound of music and we went in a YMCA Concert free of course received a good entertainment.  We have not been allowed out of the grounds yet and we have not seen all by any means yet.  As regards the food they serve the fodder rough but it has all been good wholesome stuff so far and more than you can eat.  They serve tea from a big watering can without a rose.  At dinner time a cook hands you three or 4 spuds with jackets on.  We had roast meat, new potatoes and haricot beans today and then a jam tart.  The haricots were splendid but the tart was nothing to shout about.  I have again been before the doctor and have passed A1.  The doctor said I was a “Splendid fellow”.  They have rejected several of the signallers and they have now to serve as seamen because of poor sight.  The eyesight test was very strict.  I have been in the YMCA restrooms and refreshment rooms.  They are the best things ever provided for us lads.  You can get anything to eat in fruit and cake line.  I had a plate of banana custard and I can tell you it reminded me of Ma’s but I don’t think it was quite as good but almost.  I think I have been successful in getting in the wireless.  We have done no serious drill yet and I am still in civis but expect to get my full rigout tomorrow.   There is a chap just playing Home Sweet Home on a YMCA piano.  We have drawn our bedding kit which consists of two Service hammocks, 2 Bed sheets, a mattress and a large size blanket.  We keep all kit when we quite the service and bring it home with us.  We sleep in hammocks and they are very comfortable indeed.  You will see that there is the name Victory VI on my address.  This is not necessary on letters to me but all Naval men have to be attached to a ship.  The whole Crystal Palace is supposed to be HMS Victory VI and we are supposed to be on board.  Even to go out of the palace grounds they say that it is either Starboard or Port Watches night ashore.  I expect getting leave after being here 4 or 5 weeks.  The conduct of all the officers here is highly praiseworthy and I have heard very little bad language here since coming down.  The Chaplain addressed us this morning and advised us for our own sakes and the sake and good name of the service to play the game and live straight.  We fairly cheered that Chaplain when he left us.  I made out my allotment paper the other day and the least I could allot was 2/-.  Of course the balance will not be much and you will have to send me a bit down.  But don’t send cash down until I let you know and then only about every 3 or 4 weeks.  The meals today have been fairly good and I had the biggest mutton chop that I have ever had in my life at dinner time.  We finished up with a sultana roll (boiled) between 8 of us.  They slapped it on the table in the rag just from the pan and we had to eat it from the same plate with Blackpool sauce.  I am enjoying the life so far and I am amongst a most fine set of fellows scarcely a low classed one amongst us.  There has been a captive balloon up this afternoon and it was fine.  Every night the naval band plays and immediately the Tars start dancing and it would do you good to see them.  They don’t half enjoy themselves.  There is also a grand organ and there are organ recitals given occasionally.  The only things that are any thing like dirty are the knife, fork & spoon.  I shall no doubt require other things including bobbins & cotton ?? but I shall be able to tell you better after tomorrow when we have drawn all our kit.  Let all good friends know how I am going along and don’t worry about me at all as I shall be alright down here.

Best love to yourselves and Ellen, Fanny and dear little John, Grandma, Auntie Emma and Uncle Jim.






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