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“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.

Francis Peckford


Last ‘o May/(19)40


Dear Mab:

I was delighted to get another of your very interesting letters a while ago. Don’t try to change your feminine style of writing, as you call it, for you would be making a mess of a good job.

Give Ches lots of congratulations from me for the position he has obtained in the Church. He must be getting religious, has he given up pleasures and vanities etc, etc. and begun to wear a long face? Ha! Ha! But I suppose it is too late to rub it in much for the excitement of it has died down by now.

I felt ashamed when I heard Mother and Father had a book dedicated to the Church in my name. For if the books had only been given in the names of those who deserved it, mine would have been left out.

Thanks very much for the snaps. The one of Nita Joan was beautiful. I have them all in my album in which I’m putting the photograph of the various places and things we visit.

You said you missed me for housekeeping, but you don’t miss me any more than I miss the quiet hours I spent at your place alone with my books. Here in the ship there is always a crowd chattering and no place to be alone. Only the officers have private cabins.

Ches, you said, had things on his letter you didn’t like. But surely you know how much arm he meant by it, if he didn’t have a few old jokes he wouldn’t be himself at all. Harry and I had a great laugh over it. It’s no use to have a long face in times like these. Even if a fellow is in the dangers of war (which) we are not now, a serious letter would do him no good.

Tell the girls, if you see them, that they shouldn’t go school teaching now, it’s the Land Army they should join (Ha! Ha!)

I would like for some of you to be near sometimes when I go to a theatre to take you in. You would enjoy it immensely, for there have been some marvelous films on the screen this year.

We are now revising our course in seamanship. Next week we will have a test. If we score very high we will be rated Able Seamen very shortly.

I get (?)10 per month extra in place of grog every day. When I get AB’S pay, it will amount to nearly 5 (pounds?) per month altogether.

Do you hear from the Taylors now? I had a letter from Dudley last mail. He said Cyril was in Toronto training to be a pilot, Lonz went over with the last naval contingent and Hugh is in England with the Forestry Unit. I would like to meet up with Lonz sometime or other.

I can say now that for a whole twelve months I have not seen a blossom of snow. The weather we are getting here in Bermuda now is about the same as the warmest days we get home in the summers, but of course there’s no chill in the air first in the mornings as there is at home. It is not quite as hot now as it will be, about June 21st the sun will be overhead. At night in the tropics the air is not a bit cool and refreshing as it is in a temperate climate. It is always close and warm and walking fast or hurrying would cause one to perspire freely. If we go south again I expect to peg out, it was bad enough all winter, now it will be much hotter. But after another year we will be acclimatized or nearly so, the north will be nearly as bad as the south is to us now.

Are all the schooners gone to the Labrador yet. Have father and them got back from St. John’s, hope they don’t have any bother as they did last spring?

Have Bruce been going to school yet, and have you had him to the hospital as you intended. Hope Roy and Eddie are doing well at school?

I get an occasional letter from Mr. Sparkes. He says when we get back to St. John’s again, they will make it a matter for rejoicing.

The next time we get in from sea, Harry and I are having a look at the crystal caves. We will also take a few pictures, so the next letter I write there will be a snap or two along with it. Thanks again for the ones you sent. Please write again and tell me everything.

So best wishes for a happy summer.




“At Sea”

June 20/ (19) 40


My Dear Mab:

Many thanks for your kind letter of May 26 which I received two mails ago. The cookies did not turn up when your letter did and I have been looking forward to the mails very anxiously since you may be sure. Last mail the package came along O.K. and also 3 letters from home, one of them from Ches. I appreciated your sending me the cookies very much, they were wonderful, not broken up or anything. It certainly did remind Harry and I of the feeds we used to get at your place. Needless to say they soon vanished. Ha! Ha!

The letter I had from Ches was begun April 14 and finished June 6. Ha! Ha! I know what it’s like when one is always working like him, in no mood for writing in the evenings. But this don’t make any difference, I enjoy letters from home just as much no matter when they are written.

Since you got your last letter from me Italy has come into the war and France has been overwhelmed. But serious as it looks I don’t think there is anything to worry about, for the Huns have merely trampled over a lot of ground they won’t be able to keep. When the materials and supplies they have captured are expended and their reserves are depleted (and I shouldn’t imagine them to be very great) there won’t be much they can do. One thing certain, they will never be able to capture Britain, however much they smash it up, for the Navy is still supreme.

Italy is not able to send much supplies into Germany, because now that she is in the war she needs it herself. And with her fleet bottled up as it is in the Mediterranean importing from the outside isn’t all fun. Nobody seems to worry about it all, everybody seems quite confident we will be victorious in the end.

There must have been some misunderstanding about what I was saying of the pleasures of Bermuda etc. Apart from a couple of dances I haven’t been communicating with either woman ashore there. The ships company is having a dance at the R.N. Canteen on Friday (tomorrow night) and I’m not even well enough acquainted with anyone to invite a special guest. Of course there will be a dance for everybody, but that method is not always satisfactory is it?

Harry and I had some snaps taken a while ago but they are not very nice. One was taken near some royal palms and Harry paid more attention to them than he did me with the result the picture excludes my legs. Nevertheless I’m sending a couple and may have some better ones later as I’m getting a camera of my own as soon as possible.

Tuesday we had our final exam for AB’s, a written and oral exam. Everybody said it was a hard test for the sort of training we have had — in fact nearly equal to an L. Seaman’s exam. We all passed except one, the fellow from Little Bay Islands. But the captain was so pleased with it he allowed him a pass even if he didn’t have a sufficient percentage. We will be getting some back pay later as AB’s pay will begin from a certain date and not from the time we are given the rating.

The latest news I’ve had about Father and the crew was they were not even back from St. John’s. But surely they are not so far behind and have got away before this time, hope so anyway?

June 22. Didn’t get time to finish the other night as it was too near “pipe down”, but anyway the mail hasn’t closed yet.

The ship companies’ dance went off last night. Quite a crowd attended, officers and all, but it wasn’t so hot — not for me anyway. You can well imagine what sort of a hand I make at Fox trots, Waltz, Paul Jones so on and so forth. Ha! Ha!

All the St. Margaret’s girls are determined to be teachers apparently. It will be alright for the W.I.T. crowd, the coming generation of them won’t be so dumb as their forefathers Ha! Don’t tell the girls, they may take offense.

The wheels of time seem to be turning a bit faster at home since we have been away. More deaths more splices — which means more new stock I suppose.

It’s funny where one will come across Newfoundlanders while wandering around. At Hamilton a while ago a man and his wife came on the jetty one evening asking to speak to the Nfld boys on board. There were a pair from Lamaline came here at the close of the Great War. In fact the fellow had served in the Navy until 1918 when their ship went to St. John’s where he amongst a crowd, skipped it and never went on board again. Since then I’ve discovered there are several Newfoundlanders living in Bermuda.

It’s very hard for the English people having to evacuate their children out of the country altogether, right across the sea isn’t it? Last night the B.B.C news said there are 400 going to Newfoundland.

There’s much more. I can tell you now and I must write a few more letters. Thanks again and again for the beautiful package of cakes. Write again as soon as possible.



Organizations: Bay Museum, Land Army, Forestry Unit

Geographic location: Change Islands, Russia, England Europe Britain Bermuda Twillingate Barracks Canada Australia New Zealand South Africa Port of Spain Trinidad New York West Indies Jamaica Somerset Ireland Italy Central America Taylors Toronto France Germany Little Bay Islands Lamaline Newfoundland

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