Carefully-illustrated love letters from a sailor to his sweetheart, penned while serving at sea in the Royal Navy, have been revealed as part of a new dockyard exhibition.
Chief Stoker Walter Grainger, who joined the Royal Navy in 1883 and served into the First World War until 1916, wrote to his lover Edith while serving for a continuous deployment of three-and-a-half years in the China Station naval formation from 1896.
His letters written from the Far East show the pain of his separation from his fiancee.
He wrote: ‘Each letter I write now is drawing nearer to the last, drawing so close that I can nearly count how many more I shall have to write before I shall have the happiness to see you myself with my own eyes, touch you with my own hand.
‘If they keep us at Plymouth cleaning and restoring the ship after we arrive I do not know how I shall content myself, for it will take quite three weeks to do it and even then we shall be sent round to Chatham before we can get our leave, and to get away for a few hours will be out of the question till all this sort of thing is finished with. I consider that will be the harder part of my separation from you to bear.’
The letters form part of a new multi-million pound exhibition due to open to the public in Portsmouth this week.
He also wrote of his discontent in the navy: ‘It will be a blessed day when we are delivered out of this house of iniquity as I call this ship for I do not believe there was ever one equal to her as regards the character of the people comprising her crew of course dear it is not the ship it is those on board and they are without any doubt the most inhuman tyrants I have ever met.’
Also on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard exhibition is the Victoria Cross awarded to Admiral Sir Victor Crutchley who was sunk three times, twice on purpose and once by the enemy, as he led operations to block Ostend harbour.
The naval officer and godson of Queen Victoria took over control of HMS Vindictive after its commanding officer was killed and manoeuvred the warship into position to block the harbour used by German U-boats which were using the Bruges Canal to gain access to the English Channel.
He managed to ensure that two vessels were sunk and was on a third which was attacked by the Germans but managed to assist many of the wounded while under heavy fire.
His medal citation reads: ‘The bearing of this very gallant officer and fine seaman throughout these operations off the Belgian coast was altogether admirable and an inspiring example to all thrown in contact with him.’