We docked in Portsmouth not too far from Nelson's famous old flagship Victory. Straight away the Telegraphist brought me a Services telegram, flashed from the shore by Aldis lamp.
It consisted of three numbers, which had to be decoded from a book kept on the ship.
Eventually when anxiously the book was found, the first number decoded read 'Your letters and parcels', second number, 'Have arrived safely', third number, 'Both doing well', Win.
Signal: Your letters and parcels have arrived safely
It was a relief, but the first number made no sense, I wanted to know more! Say a son or daughter or even twins! So I asked permission to see the Captain, but he gave me a point blank refusal. "I want you on board, we sail to the Clyde tomorrow!" Nice to be wanted but it wasn't the news I wanted. So after lunch, still very anxious, and not knowing what was happening on my home front, I went ashore in Portsmouth with Ted, and I said to him that I would catch a train to Birmingham and find out there and then.
Signal from Chief Constable of Birmingham
It took about an hour and 3 beers to dissuade me from going 'AWOL' and jumping ship (missing a voyage), which was a cell punishable offence, so after seeing a film, we went back to the ship. I was immediately sent for by the Captain and for a change he was very affable, he told me that he had some important news. He explained that he had sent a signal to the Chief Constable of Birmingham (no less!).
He then showed me the reply "Have contacted a neighbour of Petty Officer Toone in Hodge Hill, and have been informed that his wife has given birth to a daughter on October 14th, and mother and child are both doing well and there is no immediate need for the husband's presence." I was quite happy because that said all I wanted to know.
He also added that as soon as we reached the Clyde, I would be the first ashore. He was as good as his word, and I went ashore with him in his boat, and as we were having a refit I was given a week's leave, so all was well in the end.
I caught the first available train from Glasgow Central, and had to stand nearly all the way to Birmingham after giving up my seat to a Wren (we were gentlemen in those days!). Although I was delighted to be home with my wife and new family, I wasn't exactly the flavour of the month as our baby daughter, Patricia, came first in everything. Anyway we had a hectic four days leave together which was very enjoyable, celebrating with the rest of our families, who were also delighted.
Back to the Eastway in the Clyde to get on with the job in hand and get this war over. It wasn't long before we were off again, this time on an entirely different course, west across the Irish Sea, on our own, no escort, to Belfast. On the way we passed a corvette that signalled us "Are you a man of war?" What a cheek! Our skipper replied on the Aldis lamp. "No, we are working for Pickfords, carrying parcels!" was his quick retort. But it still remains a mystery what we went for because we weren't in Belfast more than an hour before returning to the Clyde again.