30 July 1916
We had a good day in London yesterday. We got away from the Palace about 2 and proceeded to London by rail. We saw Westminster Abbey and then went along the Embankment to Temple Bridge and got a glimpse of the captured submarine. We went along the Strand, saw Buckingham Palace and the Mall. We also saw Cleopatra’s Needle and Hyde Park & saw a few riders in Rottten Row. We saw several motor vans of wounded soldiers come into Charing Cross. The people showered flowers into the vans. Today we paraded for Church and each chap is allowed to go to his own church. Quite 3 or 45 hundred went to the Wesleyans and I have been again tonight. I have met an old school chum of mine A J Dodson. It quite cheers you up to see someone you know. I have also seen 2 other old Grammar Boys. Dodson was practically stripped and he looked a treat doing fag for Cooks on the Mess Decks. We never thought we would come to this but never mind it is a happy life. No one is downhearted. We go into Drill & physical training school Monday morning.
Send on the things I want as early as possible as I might want them at any time. Hoping you are all well.
Love to all
The German Submarine in the Thames
In this letter, James tells his parents that he got a glimpse of the captured German submarine. This was SM UC-5, a submarine that the Germans had launched in 1915. In its short carrer it had sunk 30 ships and damaged a further 7 vessels. But on 27 April 1916, it ran aground on a sandbank off the coast of Suffolk. The German crew attempted to scuttle the submarine but it was captured and initially brought into Harwich, before being displayed on Temple Pier, on the Embankment, London..
Vast crowds came to see it, which is why James probably only got a “glimpse”, and by July, when James saw it, it would still have been a very recent arrival in London. It was later taken to the USA and displayed in Central Park, New York.
There is a horrible irony that the submarine that was to end James’s life was SM UC-17, an identical sister ship to the one that James saw on this day.