28 July 1916 – Squad and rifle drill, the YMCA, food, discipline.

Friday July 28 1916

Crystal Palace

Dear Parents

Many thanks for parcel containing socks, Belt and handkerchief. The belt is quite alright but I shall have to alter the buttons and make it shorter.  If you make another make it so that I can draw it to my body with tapes.  I have now been kitted up entirely and I don’t think I look so bad.  They give you a good kit but you have to keep it in order yourself and pay for everything you loose.  We have enough brushes and they have dished us two pairs of socks exactly like those that Andrew gave to me.  I have sent on my civi kit and you will probably have received it by this.  We had two kippers each for breakfast and Boiled beef, peas and spuds and stewed apples to finish up for dinner.  You generally have quite sufficient served you but it is a bit of a bother to get a second ration.  It is not worth while as you can get things very cheap in the YMCA rooms.

We have received our pay this morning and all drew 6/-. Next week we draw 2/- and 2/- every week after.  So you will see that 2/- will not go far but I have ample cash for the present.  I shall want some when I get my leave as it will cost about 20/- to get up.  I am living very well up to now.  Of course it is not home, far from it but it is nothing to grumble at.  We have been treated very decently up to now and you would be surprised how little swearing goes on.  I have got a few very decent pals and we get on nicely together.  Now can give you some idea of what I shall require over and above my kit.  First of all send me a few Buchans and a reel of Black and white thread and needles.  A small pair of scissors would be very useful.  I shall also want a razor and lather brush & soap.  Ellen and Fanny could make me a few light flimsy bags with a draw string at the top to put my dirty boots in my kit bag in.   If you put them in with the dirt on them they are sure to dirty something. (These pens are awful).  Also they can make me a brush roll to wrap my clothes and blacking brushes in.  Any old stuff from old clothes will do.  Make the edges wide enough for me to fold over the ends of the brushes and fasten a long strip of cloth to one end.

There is a sovereign in my drawer

upstairs. Pay for things out of this

or else my allowance. I might as well have

the use of it. Tell dad to cut a lace (mill lace)

in two and send it down as I have broken

mine already. I have got a heavy right pair of boots and both pairs are a decent fit and I have felt no inconvenience whatsoever so far.  We have not gone to the Signal school yet and do not expect going for 1 month as we have to do squad and rifle drill and also other seaman duties.  Also send that suede belt you will find it in my drawer upstairs but tell dad to get 2 swivel hooks and fasten them in the two holes.  Send the belt at once.  We have not been allowed out yet but this large place is never dull.  The YMCA keep things going by concerts and arranging open air concerts.  There are also Pictures and Variety entertainments free of charge.  The band also plays for dancing and the tars don’t half have a jolly time.  You scarcely see one looking seedy.  Our Leading Seaman and Petty Officers are  quite a sporting sort  and one especially seems interested in me and he always comes  to look at me  about 9.30 at my hammocks and calls me a “fine fair headed laddie”.  He says I look fine in my togs but I doubt it.  You feel very free in the low neck & bell-bottoms and this place is entirely as a fellow makes it.  If you behave yourself you are alright but the Petty Officers can be very nasty with the fellows who try to act the Goat.  They are all powerful and the discipline is very strict.  Write as often as you can and keep me posted with Junction news and also send me a Mn Guardian.  I think this is all at present so I will close with best love to yourselves, Ellen, Fanny and John and kind regards to all enquiring friends.

I will write ***** ****

Yours affectionately

James

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