24 March 1917 (?)
Dear Mother & Father
There is nothing much of importance at the moment except that it is rumoured that we are going to move on Monday.
It is quite a long time since I had a letter from you, almost a week. I think I got the Guardian last Monday. I received a letter from Tom Pilling this morning & he has transferred to the RNAS as a Wireless Observer. He did not say much about it but he is back again at the Palace for a short time. I must get to know full particulars from him and if I think anything about it I might try for the same myself.
It is bitterly cold here and I suppose it will be the same with you. Portsmouth is a very big port but there is very little of interest in it. The Dockyard is interesting enough but you cant look closely at anything as there are police all over the show. I saw some of our old Submarines A Class (now disused) a few days ago and they did look old tubs, shaped something like an egg. Our new submarines (K Class) are fine craft and they seem quite as big as a destroyer. I have heard rumours that we are for the English Channel & Irish Sea work but I shall believe it when we get to sea as all sorts of rumours are flying about. They keep us in the dark about everything but perhaps it is best. Hoping all are well
Best Love to all James
Unusually, James did not date this letter, but if it was written on a Saturday, we think it has to have been written on Saturday 24 March 1917.
‘A Class’ submarines were the first Royal navy class of submarines, built in 1903. 13 were built in all and they served in WW1.
K Class submarines were built in 1913 and were steam propelled. They were designed to be large and fast and 18 were built. However, they became known as the Kalamity Class. Of the 18 built, none were damaged in enemy action , but 6 of them sank in accidents. Only one ever engaged the enemy, hitting a U-boat with a torpedo amid ships….which then failed to explode.
K 13 sank on 19 January 1917 during sea trials when an intake failed to close whilst diving and her engine room flooded. She was eventually salvaged and recommissioned as K22 in March 1917. It is possible that this is the submarine that James saw in Portsmouth.