On the English Riveria

‘It appears to be rather a miserable place.’

In this next letter Albert tells us of his journey to Torquay, via places familiar to him from his time in RAF Calne.

Albert is sad to leave London and Joyce in particular, who he spent a pleasant evening with before saying goodbye to the capital city. I assume it was Jocye who sewed on Albert’s ‘sparks’ badges – given upon qualification as a Radio Operator.

Albert will continue his initial training at RAF Torquay, which was based at the St James’s Hotel. In spite of its seafront location, Albert appears unimpressed by the accomodation, and even less impressed by the keeness of his colleagues to follow orders!

Sunday June 7, St James’s Hotel RAF Torquay, South Devon

Dear All, here I am in Torquay and I had better say at once that as far as the R.A.F. goes it appears to be rather a miserable place. The food and accommodation are both good it is true, but the discipline is going to annoy me ‘ere long, and everybody seems frightfully keen and enthusiastic about it all.

Friday afternoon we changed our billet from Hall Road to another block of flats in Regents Park Road.

I was off to Camden Town by 6pm and as the bus runs along there I did not have the usual walk there and back. I had a good evening at Joyce’s with a nice salad for supper and left at 9.30, after having listened to the gramophone and had my ‘sparks’ sewn on my second tunic.

An example of a ‘Sparks’ badge

That was the best evening in London and I enjoyed it very much and was sorry to say goodbye, not only to my good friends there, but also to the tree-lined streets, the parks with their lovely gardens (I went into Queen Mary’s Garden – Regents Park on one evening) and even the buses and tubes, and of course the concerts and shows and new films.

Contrary to expectations, we did not leave early on Saturday morning and I had the pleasure of remaining in bed until about 9, after which I had a bath and was able to go for a short walk before our early dinner at 10. We had a little more time off and then, very hot, loaded up with all our pack and kit, & left by coach to Paddington.

As we were sitting down waiting for the coach, an ‘Express’ milk cart came along and a good many of us bought a bottle. I don’t mind a bit of milk nowadays and was pleased to drink some. Of course there was the usual waiting about attended by rather more discomfort than usual due to the heat. This June is certainly flaming.

The train left Paddington at 1.30 and our ‘party’ had reserved coaches, with plenty of room as there were only 5 in our compartment. The route was through Reading and along a piece of line new to me, Newbury, Hungerford, Savernake, Patney, Castle Cary, Taunton, Tiverton and Exeter. Just before Savernake I saw the road by the canal where I had that puncture on the way back from Inkpen. We passed Froxfield with its almshouses, Great Bedwyn and the church and went through Pursey, all of which I knew.

I was pleased to see that part of the world again, and enjoyed looking out of the window, especially as the heat in the carriage was intense.

From Exeter I was once again on familiar ground, and was delighted to see the outline of the cathedral the same as ever, and Dawlish with its many coves and cliffs, and Teignmouth.

We stopped at Teignmouth, and amongst the people on the platform I saw, first, David and then Uncle Jim and Auntie Olive. Naturally I dashed out and hailed them and they invited me there for the day. I shall endeavour to go soon, but as the buses do not start running until afternoon, will probably have dinner first. It is now 12, so I think I will definitely leave it later.

Continuing with the journey (though that is practically finished) we went via Newton Abbott (naturally) and along the Torquay branch, along which I have only been once before. The train arrived somewhere around 6 and we were taken to this hotel. I think I shall leave a description of the billet and the RAF for the next letter, as I have not a great deal of time yet, and shall want something to say.

I expect that by now you have received my parcel of socks etc. The laundry seems as if it may be quite effective so I shall perhaps try it for vest and pants, but not socks, as they are not regulation ones. This is being written with my new pen, which works very well, as you will see.

I don’t think there is much else. It is now after dinner and we have still a bit of messing about before we can go out (this is an awful place) and actually the bounds are 5 miles so I shall ignore that for the time being.

I must get those maps at Uncle Jim’s, as there should be some opportunity for walking, though not cycling as I have nowhere to keep a bike and I believe it is not allowed.

So goodbye from my new abode and love to all, from Albert

Alberts ends his letter with , ‘Arrived Teignmouth 4.15 (Posted at Woodland Avenue).‘ So he wasted no time in leaving his new billet (ignoring the fact that he was travelling out of bounds) to spend time with his uncle and aunt and his aunt’s son David.

I was pleased to hear Albert make mention of his socks, a running point of interest in his letters, along with food. No doubt he was concerned about losing his unique socks in the communal laundry; socks lovingly knitted by his Isle of Wight aunties and carefully darned by his mother, when the need arose.

8 thoughts on “On the English Riveria”

  1. You should publish these wonderful letters as a book – either as Softcover or E-book, or both. If you can’t find a publisher you can publish it yourself as a self-publisher e.g. at epubli.de or smashwords.com. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s nice to hear from Albert again! He rode the train through Tiverton, where my Purinton forebears lived. But they last lived there 300 years earlier, in the 1640s (and spelled their name Puddington). By the way, you mentioned Joan in your introduction, but did you mean Joyce?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny you should ask, because I might have, but I don’t know! During my only visit to the UK, in the 1990s with my parents, we took a train from London to Cornwall, so we might have passed through. But I didn’t know about our family connection then.

        Liked by 1 person

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