Ralph Stobart Robson, signalman, life in the British Royal Navy World War Two, sinking of Prince of Wales and the Repulse, Singapore
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  1. Chatham to Gourock
  2. The Messman Discovered
  3. Life on Board
  4. Crossing the Line
  5. The Sinkings
  6. H.M.S. Sultan
  7. The Signal Office
  8. Left to Our Own Resources
  9. Colombo
  10. Drafted to Mombassa
  11. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
  12. Sharks, Lobsters and Going Dutch
  13. Askari Skirmishes and Tea Making
  14. Tramp Steamer
  15. Molo
  16. Deer Hunting
  17. Ralph the Italian and off to Bombay
  18. Arrival in Bombay
  19. Vultures and Buffalos
  20. Poona
  21. Swimming Motorcycles and Monsoon Storms
  22. The Royal Corps of Signals
  23. 'Trixie' Vaughan Lewis and Drowning Men
  24. On Leave in the Himalayas

    Ralph as a telegram boy before the war

24. On Leave in the Himalayas

Back in the barracks life went on as usual. Then one morning we were given good news. The group was going on leave. We were not all going to the same place. The holidays were to range from Kashmir to Southern India and Simla, where the two Liverpudlians and myself were going.

Everyone, including me, managed to find a navy suit, both blue and white. I still hadn't my own suit, but the lads rallied round and provided me with a blue and a second one.

The following day we set off for our destination. The three of us ended at the BB and CI Station in Bombay. We set off across India travelling through many places including Agra. We sighted the magnificent Taj Mahal on the way. A great Moslem ruler of North India had built this as a mausoleum for his wife.

The train was a magnificent two-four-two steam loco that hauled a long train of four class carriages. The first of these was, of course, first class; nothing like the English firsts. It consisted of a magnificent compartment more like a large drawing room with a curtained bed and opulent seating space. This was the equivalent of about four ordinary compartments. A second compartment housed the major domo and a galley. This was the equivalent of two ordinary compartments. The rest of the train had normal sized carriages.

The difference between the first (Burrah) class and second class and the third and fourth class was appalling. In second class there were three sleeping bunks and they were crammed with men, women and children. However, as we later found out, they were remarkably cheerful.

We were assigned to second class. Finally we set off for a long overnight journey. The people in our compartment were a pleasant bunch, all Indian and most could not speak English. The country was very variable, a bit like running over the Western Plains of America. It was pleasantly green, as there had been a good monsoon.

Then the banana leaves were unwrapped. We had been warned not to eat any unwashed fruit or food from natives, but as I had only had one bout of bellyache during my whole tour abroad I felt this did not apply to me. And so it happened.

The food was offered, eaten and discussed at length. My Liverpudlian partners were disgusted and amazed. So I ate and laughed and told tall stories. Food could also be purchased at the stations. It could be ordered ahead by telegraph, but this was never tried.

Stations came and went, passengers changed and time fled. Presently we settled down and I slept like a babe. We had been told horrendous tales of thuggees who got on a train after dark and murdered all the passengers in a compartment, but this did not disturb my sleep.

After travelling nearly 24 hours we found ourselves running into a big city. This was Delhi, our destination. We still had to get to Simla. Delhi was like a hive of disturbed bees. There were cars, trams, lorries, rickshaws; every form of transport. The station platforms were covered with sleeping forms in every corner, sheeted and ghostly.

After a shortish wait our next train came in. This train was to take us to Kalka, a terminus at the foot of Terai which was in the foothills of the Himalayas. Here we were confronted with our next means of transport. This was a narrow-gauge mountain railway.

Slowly the train struggled through the trees and bushes of the Terai. Higher up it frequently had to reverse and go forwards in a series of steps. As we got higher the view became tremendous but once again, as in Africa, the distant view was clouded. Finally it seemed as if the whole world must be beneath us.

We arrived at Simla station. It was a neat little town perched on either side of what was known as the ridge. We were on the south side and could see nothing to the north. We struggled to the top of the ridge and from there the magnificent Himalayas were visible, including Everest. Words could not describe it.

Soon we arrived at our destination; the YMCA. Here we were neatly housed for the following days.

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