Sat. 3.p.m., July 20/40
What a break. Due to the rain this morning the stevedores could not complete loading our ship. They are working now at it and we, the crew have nothing to do until tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. Gosh sweetheart, I wish you were here. What a great time we could have and what a lot of things we could talk about. And just think all the time I am being paid--oh boy what a feeling. Honestly Sweetheart when I review the week it has been somewhat miraculous. What do you think?
It pleases me also that after you will receive the letter yesterday, this one will come along as a surprise. It will take the rough edges off the shock as it were.
Well after writing you yesterday and failing to connect with the Stonhams, I telephoned Atlee Clarke, an old Bear River friend [Jones grew up in Bear River, Nova Scotia.] who had a lumber business here. He insisted that I go out to his home in West Montreal at once. I took a suburban train and in half an hour, it cost 15 cents, I was at his home. You had better make note of it Sweetheart, as he promised to drop you a line whenever he will hear from me. 83 Ballantyne, N. Montreal West. A. (Atlee) B. Clarke.
Well we chewed the rag for an hour or so; he prepared a bite to eat as his wife is away, and he made me stay all night. He succeeded in contacting his mother Ira, and we had a most enjoyable evening. We retired about 12:30. This morning at 6:30 he got a friend to take me down to the boat in Atlee's car. Ira had put a pair of old pants, a pair of heavy socks and an old coat in the back seat of the car. Gosh it was thoughtful of him. Well I reported at 7 a.m. as Bill Jones the sailorman. The Bo's'n (boatswain) the fellow below the mate from whom the crew take orders, kept us busy all morning taking aboard provisions including ice (2 tons), about 6 whole muttons, 2 whole creatures of beef, a frozen pig or so, 2 crates of eggs, a 200 lb. barrel of salt beef, a whole cheese and a half, ten bags of potatoes, turnips, 3 bags onions, a quantity of rhubarb, green lettuce, carrots, green onions, two large hampers of oxtails, hearts, liver, etc. frozen biscuits, condensed milk, canned butter, jam, cereals, rice, tapioca, etc. for dessert, crates of bread and a mixture of other groceries for the cook. You see we are well stocked. [Take note of this next time you have to provision a ship!]
We worked until 8:30 a.m., had breakfast of liver & bacon, oatmeal porridge, bread, butter, coffee. We then carried on loading the stores until the rain came on. We then covered over the hatches with huge tarpaulins and by that time we were prepared for lunch. Roast beef, potatoes, cabbage, rice pudding, bread, butter, jam and tea. So you see we are well looked after. I would die laughing if you could have seen me. It is really a lark for me. I think I have had about as much sea experience as anyone in the crew. The sailors are eight in number--3 Newfoundlanders, 4 Englishmen and your truly. The firemen, with whom we have nothing to do are Hindoos (8 of them). They are black with pearly white teeth and are as pretty and intelligent looking as you ever saw. They all came around me when they saw me near and asked in their limited English about how to go to New York, how much it costs, if there is much work there etc. They are as clean as wax and I believe all morning they spent bathing under the shower which they have in their own quarters. Our quarters are separate of course. [Remember, this is 1940.]Then there is the Captain, 1st & 2nd mates, steward, assistant steward, cook (all men, the entire crew are men), carpenter, 1st, 2nd & 3rd engineer. Donkeyman, 2 oilers, 3 deckhands, a cat and a chicken, which I believe belongs to the Hindoos as they are very exact in their diets. The mate was telling me this morning that the Hindoos are very punctilious in practicing their religious duties and have some very peculiar habits. The boat is all steel of course and about 3000 tons gross weight. A boat about the size of the larger lake boats but of slightly different lines.
The Darcoila by name, owned, I believe by a firm in Glasgow, but sailing now under charter of the British Government.
I shall tell you a secret now but don't spread it about as we must be careful. Our cargo consists of all kinds of building materials, lumber, beaverboard sheeting, nails and such like going to Greenland & Iceland for Canadian and British troops. We are headed for there first and then we believe we go to Bristol. Be very careful to whom you give this information as it would be extremely valuable to the enemy. From what I have told you, the enemy could easily piece together the entire British plans of what is doing in Greenland and Iceland. It is best to say nothing to anyone. I want you to know all I can possibly find out because it will give you an inside picture of things and you can enjoy deducting your own conclusions. It is the next best to you being with me. Of course once I leave Canada, I shall have to be very careful what I put in my letters because all mailing coming into Canada is subject to censor.
Here is an idea. How about a little code. When I suddenly talk about the weather, you will know we are about to sail to some port, and I shall always manage to work in the name of the port immediately after. Or the first proper name following the weather account will be the place we are headed for, the second place the one we leave. Now let me see what else is important. Oh yes, if we see any enemy submarines, or ships about I shall write about our canoe trips in such a way that you can figure it out. If it is enemy seaplanes or aeroplanes, I shall refer to the car in the garage. Of course whatever I may say about the canoe or car will not be important so don't be concerned about it only to figure out the intended meaning.
The sailors tell me we shall be about five or six weeks before we reach England. So whatever you do don't worry or let your mind become disturbed. We shall always be escorted and there is nothing to fear, but of course we may be delayed at different stages of the journey because the admiralty holds up the merchantmen until they get eight or ten of them together before they convoy them under escort.
Just to see how it works, look up a city in Greenland or Iceland or both, a seaport of course, some place with a prominent looking harbour, and mail me a letter addressed to General Post office "please hold until called for". I would love to get a letter on arrival. If you get a letter away at once I might possibly receive it. You could also put on the envelope, "if not called for within say 20 days or so please return to 45 Lakeshore Dr., New Toronto, Canada."
I have just $2.00 left, Honey. Isn't that wonderful. I want to enclose a dollar in this letter but by the time I get a cake of soap, a fork, I have a spoon & knife, another towel, a cup, towel, a tin of snap [hand cleaner], some more paper and envelops, it will leave me about enough for stamps as no doubt Canadian money will be good in Iceland. I should get a pair of old shoes to wear aboard ship to keep these for when I arrive in England. But gosh you need this dollar I know.
I am so far unlucky in being able to get the Stonhams by telephone. I feel they must be away on a vacation somewhere. If I could contact them it would be simple enough as no doubt there is a letter or two of yours at their house and I would know just how you are fixed. I may be able to get in touch with them yet before I return to the ship. If I don't contact them perhaps I had better get the old shoes from a 2nd hand dealer. Sometimes once can pick up such a thing for half a dollar.
Well, Sweetheart, it seems like a dream that I am on my way to England. I couldn't see just how it could be done so quickly but I knew it would be possible to do it, given time enough. It couldn't have been worked out better even if we had all the money we could wish for. I understand the authorities are very particular who they take to England and no doubt I would be held up.
The skipper, Capt. Anderson, has taken your name for the official records and he has your address. A copy of these records will be left here with the shipping officials. [This is for just in case . . . ]
By the way, we are paid 10 pounds, 12 shillings per month and a bonus of some sort besides, when the trip is over. I don't know how much it will be. If we are torpedoed we get another bonus. Gosh I'd like to be torpedoed fifty times if it would hurt nobody or not destroy the ship or cargo. What a bonus you would have!
Heaps of love Sweetheart and goodbye for now. Again I pray that you will not want or that you will not worry too much. Providence I believe is helping us.
Many kisses and a big hug and another big kiss.