Aboard H.M. Transport-Eastbound
[over/underwritten: “Oct” and “Nov”] 7/41
Dear Mother and Dad,
I shall write on this side of the paper as there doesn’t seem to be any point in wasting all the top of the paper. As a matter of fact this is one thing I forgot to get – air mail paper but I believe there are places where one can buy it in England.
So far this trip we have had very good weather. Except yesterday it has been very mild and comparatively calm. But today, just finishing our third day out it is starting to blow a bit and I expect by tonight it will be a bit rough. However I think that most of us are good enough sailors by now that it will not bother us.
Our accomodation is quite good though a little crowded. There are six of us in one cabin the size of Phyllis’ room upstairs at home but it is not too bad as we have our own bathroom. There are four of us Fleet Air Arm and two others, together. One of the others is an American going over to join the Eagle squadron of the R.A.F. The other is an Englishman, an art director from Hollywood, going over to do camouflage work with the R.A.F. So altogether we have quite an interesting time.
There is a big lounge, where I am right now, which is reserved for the use of the officers. So that although there is a large number of officers and men aboard we are really quite comfortable. The food is quite good (much better than we had coming back to Canada, last time). There are four meals a day: Breakfast 7:30, Lunch, 12 Tea 4 P.M. in the Lounge, and Dinner at 6. And we are always pretty hungry. We also get an enormous amount of sleep. This morning I got up but usually we all sleep right through until 10 A.M. when we have boat drill. Then we go back to bed in the afternoon, after lunch and sleep until about five P.M. We spend the evening in the lounge with a sing-song or a moving picture and get to bed about 11 P.M. Each day is much the same as there really is not much to do.
I suppose I cannot tell you what ship we are on but it is the largest we have yet been on. It is also a bit smoother riding I think. There is no vibration from the engines and it seems to me that it rides a bit better on the sea.
There has just been the morning service in the lounge here. The air-force padre read Psalm 91 and said a few prayers. There were a few hymns. It was short but rather nice.
Fortunately I got one suit of long underwear out of the trunk, mother.. I am wearing it now and it is very comfortable. I don’t even have to wear my coat at the moment. Also, instead of a shirt, I am wearing that long-sleeved sweater and that roll-necked thing, so I am quite warm enough. I had to take some of the pears out of the trunk as they were bruised and getting bad but the other fruit is O.K. and Jack should have it all inside of a week. One of the boys bought two big hams which I have in my trunk as he did not have room for it.
Well I shall write some more later. I am going to get ready for our boat drill now.
This is a good deal later as it got quite rough and I did not have a chance to write sooner. I have now changed my mind about how smooth this ship is. It rolls and rolls and rolls and never stops. It just seems to wallow around all the time. One night the Captain altered course suddenly and the ship rolled seven sharp ones and did a good deal of damage. In our cabin the suitcases and trunks were just hurled about the room. But in our cabin anyway no one was hurt. There were people on deck who were injured when stuff got loose and started to fly around.
I am finishing this letter and will get it off to you soon. We have finally arrived at Lee-on Solent and are just settling down. At the moment I don’t know where we will be going but mail addressed to Canada House will get me.
We disembarked and came down with the Air-Force to Bournemouth, got on another train and came to Lee-on-Solent. And I was certainly glad to finish with travelling for a bit.
Before I forget, I meant to get a flash-light, I knew I was going to need one but I forgot all about it. Since you can’t get them here would you mind sending me one. The ordinary size, not one of those little pocket ones and then you could send me the occasional cell, to replace the ones worn out. Another thing I would like would be a Ronson, Dad. They are very short of matches here and at times they are impossible to get. If you could do that please send one of those kits with it, you know flints, etc. You can get lighter fluid over here but not the lighters or flints. That is all I can think of at the moment.
This is a very lovely station here. We got in here last night tired and dirty and hungry. The first thing, we were given cabins. I am in a nice large room with a Lieutenant instructor. It has a wash basin, hot and cold running water, lots of cupboard space and a bureau and a nice fire-place. I had a lovely hot bath and felt a lot better. Then I had dinner, very nice it was, too. So at last we feel that we are getting more or less what we deserve. The only trouble at the moment is that our trunks have not arrived yet and we are running a little short of stuff. Fortunately I wore that turtle-necked thing most of the way over so I was able to keep a clean shirt so I am in not too bad shape yet. Another thing we found out is that officers can buy clothes here without coupons so I shall be alright
We may possibly go on leave today so I am going, of course, first of all, to look up Jack. I shall get in touch with him in any case right away so that if I don’t get leave we can contact each other as soon as possible.
Someone told me that five pages was all that would go air-mail so I shall close now and let you know again soon just what happens.
All my love to you both,
[Editor’s note: Both “Oct” and “Nov” are written as dates at the beginning of the letter. November is believed to be the correct date, as supported by the letter’s contents describing a boat voyage that would appear to be that of Gray’s transfer between H.M.S. Daedalus and H.M.S. Heron in November of 1941, and the envelope’s postmark of “27 NOV 41,”]