Sailors – leave, rations and scams.
Today my Dad’s memoirs include a trip to London and an attempt to scam the Royal Navy.
Thousands of American troops were stationed in and around Southampton at that time and we British were not endeared to them. Strangely though, we did get on reasonably well with American Negro soldiers. At that times the whites and blacks were segregated. There were several battallions of Negro troops in hutted camps on each side of the road between Swaythling and Southampton. Under no circumstances would white American troops walk down that road with black soldiers lounging about outside their huts as you passed but we never found there to be a problem walking amongst them and they were always most cordial to us.
On occasional Saturdays we visited Southampton but there was very little to do apart from spending the afternoon in the Park and then going to the cinema or the pubs in the evening.
Ginger Jackson and I had remained close friends and we had one weekend off when we decided to go up to London. You were allowed so many free travel warrants per year and we could travel up to London by train from Southampton. Proper application had to be made and was granted and were issued with emergency food ration cards to cover us for the weekend together with a travel pass.
Arriving at Waterloo, we first visited the Union Jack Club where we could have a bed for the night for about a couple of shillings. We got something to eat at a cafe or a fish shop (you didn’t have to surrender coupons that way and could send them home to our family) and then we drifted into the West End to see all the sites – Soho, Piccadilly etc and then spent the evening at the Nuffield Centre where non-stop cabaret entertainment was put on all free financed by Lord Nuffield. Free sandwiches and tea at the Nuffield Centre then to bed at the Union Jack Club. Next morning after a good breakfast at the Union Jack we did some sightseeing before returning to camp Sunday evening.
A few weeks after Ginger and I decided to try a scam by applying to go to London again for the weekend this time to pay our own far. The idea was we would claim the emergency ration cards, pretend to go up to London but remain in Eastleigh until late Saturday evening and then go back to camp saying we had spent up in London thus sending more food coupons home.
The long and short of it was that the Duty Petty Officer in the guardroom just did not believe our story and we had to appear before him on Sunday morning when we had to surrender out emergency ration cards and get an enormous bollocking. We felt we had got off lightly and no doubt the Petty Officer sent off the emergency ration cards he had won to his wife.