It seems months ago since we slipped from South Railway Jetty covered in snow, though it is only 15 days ago.
I told you of the arrival on board in my scribbled note that you may or may not have got via the destroyer that took a mail to Lisbon on Tuesday last week. The weather was kinder to us that Friday than it threatened to be and the arrival ceremony really went off very well. I was presented to the King and Queen when they came on board, but it was a day of formalities and it wasn't till dinner on Saturday, when I sat on her right, that the Queen's charm showed itself to the full. She has an astonishing ability to make people feel at ease.
The weather started getting bad on Saturday and Princess Elizabeth missed her dinner that evening. On Sunday it got worse and the Queen was the only one of them up and about - though the others may only have been taking advantage of the opportunity to rest; it was much too unpleasant and at times, dangerous, on deck. One officer - Kerr, Eileen's cousin - was carried across the quarterdeck by a sea and had his wrist or arm broken.
The weather was still bad on Monday, but not so bad, and some of the passengers started appearing again. The Portuguese bravely put to sea in two small ships to meet us and pay their respects to the Royal Standard. A good effort and worthy of the name of Bartholomew Diaz.
On Tuesday morning we passed Teneriffe and the weather started to improve. We had our first change of escort that day when the destroyer 'St. Kitts' arrived from Gibraltar and the 'St. James' left us to oil at Lisbon and leave our mails.
On Wednesday we started getting the weather we were looking for and were able to start rigging the stage for the concert on Friday with some confidence. All the Deck Games were out for airing, - Deck Tennis, Shuffleboard, a Cricket Net, Clay-Pigeon Shooting, Rifle range, Quoits, Deck Hockey, etc. etc. and continued on every evening since, until the last two days.
On Thursday the Captain went half-sick and was confined to his bed with poisoned feet. The Royals had people to dinner every evening and usually laid on some form of entertainment afterwards - dancing, cinema or somtimes just talking. The dancing apparent1y upset the Captain's feet and he was in bed for a week, except that he made a special effort to get up for the Crossing the Line ceremonies on Sunday and Monday.
As a result of his being away I was again invited to dinner on Friday, the evening of the concert. I sat next to the King at dinner on this occasion and on the Queen's right, between her and Princess Elizabeth during the concert, asking to be excused wben I had to go away for a Ward Room turn. They are probably very good actors themselves, but they appeared to enjoy the show very well. The evening was absolutely ideal for it - cloudless sky, warm and balmy air, a stern wind of exactly the same speed as the ship, so the stage curtains were not blowing all over the place and the sound was not blown away before it reached the audience of our l,000 men. Coming out from the Royal Lobby to take our places the theatre really did look fine, or rather the scene as a whole did - almost took one's breath away. The Shipwrights had made a good proscenium arch - painted champagne cream - and there were rich red corduroy curtain lit up by the footlights, with one man in front of them conducting commnunity singing. The rest of the theatre was lit by the stars. As the King and Queen stepped out on deck the singing stopped and everyone stood up and faced our way. The only sound was the gentle rush of the water past the ship's side.
A good evening but I was glad when it was over, if only because not so much time would be taken up with rehearsing. Somehow, things didn't happen that way and it has continued to be midnight or after nearly every night before I get to bed.
On Friday the whole squadron stopped and all the Royal Family went across to the ships of the escort in turn; brave going on the part of the ladies because there was still quite a swell running which made boat-work not dangerous but unpleasant, particularly going alongside the destroyer. Hoisting the barge in and out was particularly tricky.
Most of Sunday was spent oiling and as the Captain was still in bed, I spent most of the day on the bridge and got my arms sunburnt for my pains. Incidentally, the weather had continued so unusually cold that we did not get into Tropical Rig - shirts and shorts- until Saturday instead of Thursday as I'd predicted.
Sunday evening the Royal Family came down to the Ward Room for cocktails and were very pleasant. At 9 p.m. we had the show of Neptune's Heralds coming on board; fireworks, proclamations, and a jolly good display it was: the only pity was that the broadcasting unit broke down on this one occasion and it was not satisfactorily recorded.
Monday was Crossing the Line Day, and it went pretty well. The Gunroom got rough-housing too soon, which was a pity, but taken all in all it was well enough and the 'fighting' was over by noon; with no casualties which was really remarkable. It only remained to clear up the mess afterwards.
Monday night the Household dined in the Ward Room. They are a pleasant party- Lady Harlech, rather gruff and direct but very pleasant and understanding: Lady Delia Peel, somewhat fragile looking and gives one a first impression of being aggrressively aristocratic, but she sank a pint of beer with great ease and obvious pleasure the other evening. She has borrowed my books of music and I will know better whether I shall continue to like her when I get them back!
Sir Alan Lascelles, quiet but very pleasant and interesting to talk to. Has been a Private Secretary so long tbat he tends to keep his own personality hidden. Michael Adeane, younger brother of Robert Adeane, a funny looking little man, prematurely bald, but I should say clever and competent. Major Henry, the Queen's Secretary - too good looking to create a good impression on men, but nice underneath his foppish exterior and I don't suppose he got his D.S.O. for nothing - he was in the same regiment as Robin Nunneley in Italy.
We had a Ward Room sing-song after dinner and, partly as a result of it I imagine, the Royal Family asked several of us to join them in a sing-song after dinner on Tuesday - great fun and all-sorts of songs were sung - sea chanties, Scotch songs, negro songs, including a family version of 'After the Ball is Over' by the King and the two Princesses. Princess Margaret played the piano very well with Princess Elizabeth leaning over the back of it and the King standing behind her. It was in some way pathetic, looking back on it, to see the Heir to the Throne singing 'Don't Fence me In'. It was a jolly good evening only bettered on Friday when the whole Royal Family dined in the Ward Room. A unique occasion which I shall remember for always - apart from the fact that - here was I with the King on my right and the Queen on my left and the two Princesses a couple of places further away. I can think of no other occasion, in the last 50 years anyway, when the Vice President at dinner in the Ward Room of one of H.M. Ships, has called the company to drink the Royal Toast with the words 'Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen - The King'. The King himself stood up, as he always does when the National Anthem is played, and turned to me and said "Thank you", very nicely and sincerely. After dinner we had a sing-song at which we put over several of the more respectable Ward Room songs, including "Alouette" and we went on until a quarter to twelve and I believe they really enjoyed themselves.
The last two evenings have been somewhat quieter with preparations to be made for our arrival tomorrow and because we have had yet another gale.
Taken all in all, I feel this voyage has been most successful, or at least far more so than I'd dared hope. They have made a great impression on the ship's company, with their naturalness and the interest they have taken in the work and men. The Queen even went down to the Engine Room and Boiler Room with the King. They have consequently done the ship a vast amount of good in pulling us together more than a year of ordinary service would have done. And I believe that we have done our job reasonably well in that they seem to have enjoyed themselves and had some rest before their heavy work of the next 9 weeks.