“Love for Mab and all the kiddies especially Nita Joan”
The following is printed with permission from (and appreciation to) Joan Riggs, a niece of Francis Peckford of Change Islands. Mr. Peckford lost his life in World War II when the vessel he was serving on, HMS Penzance, was torpedoed in August of 1940. Ms. Riggs was a young girl at the time, but her uncle would write to her mother and father quite frequently and often sent her gifts from overseas.
© Submitted photo
Land of the Hummingbirds
British West Indies
Feb. 25, 1940
My Dearest Flo (Ches):
Hurry up Uncle John you don’t want a coal (cold?).
The rest of the gunners are out in their boats;
The wind it’s up eastern and blowing quite hard,
There’s thousands of ducks out I clear to me Lard.
Ah boy would I enjoy a few mornings out when there’s a lot of birds about or out in skiff turring. How have you done with them this fall and have you shot anymore old harps? I’ve heard there’s been a lot of seals again.
Just as well begin another way. Thank you very much for your nice letter which I received yesterday. But I hope you’ll write a little more next time. Harry and I had 7 or 8 letters and nearly half of them were taken up with weddings. Suppose Skipper Keziah isn’t married yet?
No I haven’t got any stripes yet on topside or bottom. Can’t say which will be decorated first. Yes we nearly all were a bit sorry to leave the “Berwick” knowing we were going to a harder ship as we were told. Had we been going to Barracks it would have been different. But I’m not sorry now, getting along better if anything and most of all more to eat. As I’ve said before this ship runs canteen rationing and most every month we have a mess bill, but it’s not much.
Most every evening we have a bit of fun on the .22 range which have been going for a month or more. I was ashore once with a crowd for a .303 school on the police range. Didn’t do too bad for a novice. We will be going ashore every time we are in harbour for competition shoots in future.
Do you have many games of nines Saturday nights now? Do Stan come out as often as he used to since he got married? I didn’t know how to believe it when we heard about Stan.
Can’t say much more as I’ve more letters to write. Hope all the children are well especially Joan. And may it not be very far in the future when I’ll be able to see you all again. Give my love to Mab and Good-bye.
Your affectionate brother,
May 1, (19) 40
I received your very interesting letter a few days ago, needless to say I was delighted to hear from you and Mab again. Don’t go talking like a fellow of fourteen or fifteen again, for (although you may not think it) you are one of the lucky ones. If you were having the experience you think you should be yours you would then realize it, believe me.
Glad to hear things have been going well at home all the winter especially more goat for mutton again Ha! Ha!
I’ve seen by a paper from home the sealing fleet have done well. Were there any seals got at home this spring? I would give a month’s wages for a good meal of fried flipper now.
The Finns were overrun after a very brave resistance. They can no longer call themselves free now Russia has footing there. Now that they are building a naval base there the poor unhappy Finns will always be in their claws.
I did not escape much of Jack Frost this year by being down here. You at home must have had nearly a subtropical winter by what you said.
Yes Harry and I guessed the two seal hunters. I knew who Scrans horses was the minute I saw it. Harry missed the other.
The report you heard over the radio about a German prize ship being taken in Trinidad was incorrect. She was the 6,500 ton “Hanver” on her maiden voyage when war broke out, she was captured and towed in Jamaica. I was on board the ship who captured her today (for torpedo instructions). She has captured and sunk more than one and has been in several submarine scraps as well.
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I don’t expect the Tid Bit magazine can help a fellow to get (a) promotion. After I am made able seaman I’m going through for L.S. commonly called the hook, because of the anchor worn on the arm. To get made very quick needs one’s officers recommends, but I am very grateful to you for advising me just the same.
Bermuda, even though it is about the dearest place this side of the Atlantic, is a very pleasant place to live. The weather is the most satisfactory that can be found anywhere. The islands of St. George’s, Warwick, Hamilton, Somerset, Boez, Watford and Ireland form a large bay opening to the south, which is barricaded by coral reefs. The channel through them is narrow and very crooked and is all marked by buoys. It is a very dangerous place to come into in foggy weather or at night, and the remains of several wrecks piled up on these reefs are the tokens of some of its victims. The most notable wreck still on those reefs of coral is the Spanish liner mysteriously run on them in ‘37. She was on her maiden voyage bound for Central America for munition supplies. She was a Govt owned ship and it is believed most of the officers were in sympathy with the rebels. In any case, it was in broad daylight on a fine day when the captain altered course and went to his cabin leaving her in the hands of the office of the watch, off Bermuda. Shortly after he did this she walked in a notch, driving the crags up through her bottom, leaving her in perfect sailing position as she is today. An attempt was made to get her off, but it was in vain. The captain was shot for negligence when he returned to Spain. She lies 6 miles off shore and were it not for the fact that her funnel has been removed, one would think her to be proceeding on her voyage.
Looking across from the L.Y. the houses and buildings of St. George’s and Hamilton (which are all built of white stone) glistening in the sun makes a remarkable picture against the green of the palm and cedar. The great Hotels of Hamilton are the temporary homes of the wealthy Yankee tourists, and the bay itself is their yachting paradise. You may be sure they have some splendid ones too. This healthy climate, the horse and cab, the quiet and cleanliness of the place would be a magnet to draw any loafer with a pocket of dough. For my part I would do a whole lot of loading here if I was in a position to do so Ha! Ha! There are real crystal caves here too, which I am going to have a squint at later.
You are just about puffed up on all this junk I expect, so I’ll quit.
Say me to all the (Editor’s note: He first wrote dames but then scratched it out of his letter) girls that come your way Ha! Ha!
Love for Mab and all the kiddies especially Nita Joan, but all there is for you is a bit of advice: “always wear a shirt with a swanskin front every time you go to the toilet in zero weather (from past experience) Ha! Ha!! Ha!!! Ha!!!!
Yours believe me,