Submarines: ‘put up with caster’

This is one of many letters sent by staff of the Great Western Railway Audit office at Paddington who had enlisted to fight in the First World War. (RAIL 253/516)

Donald Stewart Wharton Hambly, 3 December 1916, Felixstowe, England. Born: 9 March 1865 in Plymouth, Regiment: Royal Naval Air Service, Rank: Lieutenant; Captain, Died: April 1 1930


Dear Mr Wood,

I was very glad to get your letter. Hope your hand is under better control now, although I must say your writing shows little evidence of ‘intractability’.

From what you tell me, I shall be too bashful to enter the portals of Room No. 13 when, if ever, I return. It will be filled with little things in petticoats, with a grey beard or two to keep them in order. I can almost see mirrors on the wall at the end of every desk and tea cups by the side of every ink pot. Dear, dear! What are we coming to!

So far, over here, we have not felt the results of the submarine menace, but we have been told today that we shall not get any more loaf (beet) sugar, but will have to put up with caster. With the exception of this slight hardship, we can hardly complain of our commissariat, and I cannot yet describe to the rigors of war!

A man in the corner of the Mess is playing ‘Home Sweet Home’ on a Japanese fiddle, accompanied by his own grunts. He is a pathetic figure, but I would like to kick him. I have borrowed a fiddle for tonight and then revenge!

Yours sincerely,

Donald S.W. Hambly

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