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The Origins of the Momentous Naval Career of R. Nathaniel Turner

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Excerpt of a letter from Peggy Blackett to Susan Walker, August 1935:

Sue,

How does this letter find the Walkers?

Things are all in an uproar around here, of course. Nancy will be off to her course at the end of the month – not sure whether she’s properly excited for it or just decided to turn it into an adventure, anyhow, but she’s packing fit to outfit an expedition. It’s so bad that Mother despairs of there being room for the uniform togs in her luggage. Personally, I despair of what the Physical Training mistresses will think of her and her Jolly Roger.

I also quake a little at the thought of the new term. I haven’t been at school just myself but a year or two, ever . . .

 

Excerpt of a letter from John Walker to Nancy Blackett, February 1936:

February truly is the most dreary of months, though I’ve not seen much of it due to having been holed up in my room working maths until the figures swim in front of my eyes. I’ll work them til they take my dreams for prizes if that means I truly have them backwards and forwards.

For now I dream of boats. Ice boats when a draft finds its way under the covers, stoking the boilers when it’s unexpectedly warm – and always and in-between the wind on my face. Ice boats are unfortunately rather common, though. Particularly since there’s no chance of sailing for months. The only boat talk in these parts is of sculling.

 

Excerpt of a letter from Roger Walker to Titty Walker, May 1937:

. . . It is not at all fair that John will get to see the Amazons and Captain Flint at the weekend. It’s not the college prize-giving I care about, but John will utterly waste the chance to talk engines with Captain Flint, you know he will!

Three cheers for Nancy taking a prize for leadership, though. That’s remarkably well-spotted. . . .

 

Excerpt of a letter from Nancy Blackett to Peggy Blackett, October 1937:

. . . As rewards, have been teaching the girls to snake and reverse snake. Also Indian. Most of them quite hopeless - they clomp about like Clydesdales in hobnailed boots! - but a few show promise.

Only a week or so left before the school boats get put in dry dock for the winter. Shame it can’t be pleasant forever, but if I were wishing for things properly I’d first want the world to arrange for the lot of us, Swallows and Amazons and Coots altogether, to be able to sail off to have adventures for forever and ever.

Excerpt of a letter from John Walker to Titty Walker, May 1938:

Had an excellent time of it at the weekend - Nancy and I took a rowing boat a little over a mile up the coast from ______ and then made our way inland a ways to camp. We were fogged in for a day and thought we had discovered a group of smugglers operating under its cover, but it was not to be, for all that I was the one who first heard them talking. The things I thought were fit for a story of Dot’s! But in the end it was nothing more than the local disaster preparedness scheme having a training exercise under adverse conditions. Shockingly, I will admit to thoroughly enjoying myself whilst being entirely wrong.

. . . in more sobering news, Nancy seems to me to be rather less than fully happy - though I do not like to think so. She talked cheerfully enough of her position and the girls she teaches, and I think she is quite genuinely pleased by the school's location and the fact that teaching the older girls to sail is part of her duties . . . but she would rather be doing as I am, preparing to join the Navy proper, officer or no.

I must admit that I would rather she were, too!

 

Excerpt of a letter from Susan Walker to Peggy Blackett, June 1938:

I don’t like to ask, but Titty says John’s a mite worried about Nancy – is there reason for concern? Or did he just catch her in a spot of the doldrums?

 

Excerpt of a letter from Nancy Blackett to John Walker, June 1938:

Barbecued Billygoats, John Walker! I had to hear from Peggy who heard from Susan who heard from Titty who had it from you that you didn’t think I was entirely content with my lot in life. I may not be, but I’m not about to up and leave my position and step out in front of a heavy goods lorry! And if the position’s good for anything it’s that it gives me a bit of money to set aside – money that might someday buy me a proper ocean-going yacht, the thought of which would fill my every spare moment . . . if I didn’t have to fend off overly-concerned younger sisters!

 

Excerpt of a letter from Susan Walker to John Walker, November 1939:

Peggy says Nancy's in a strop that she's stuck teaching netball at a girl's school whilst you lot prepare to 'stoke the cannons and board the enemy'. Do write to her, John - I don't know that she'll take kindness well from any of us, but you at least know what it is to want ever so badly to go to sea.

 

Excerpt of a letter from Dot Callum to Titty Walker, enclosed with a parcel of type-written pages entitled The Pirate Queen's Heir: Chapter 17, December 1939:

. . . Dick reports that Tom can hardly stand to return to uni for his final term, he wants to badly to already be aship. Dick seems to intend to complete his course in half the normal time, just so he can make himself the more useful! I do not think I could bear it I were to find myself in such straits!

Fortunately, I must only wait upon your return letter, which I hope will find its way to me by the soonest possible post, for I can hardly stand to wait to have your thoughts on this latest chapter in my hands, dearest!

 

Excerpt of a letter from Titty Walker to Dot Callum, January 1940:

Oh, Dot!

Chapter Seventeen was thrilling! I can hardly bear it myself waiting for the next chapter to arrive, for you are the greatest of teases to have left off just where you did! But surely you will have plenty of writing time now, as we are between terms and have no essays to write?

The elders write letters nearly furiously. It is a slow day that does not see the post bring John or Susan or both letters from one or both of the Amazons! And if they are not writing they are talking of Nancy and how badly she wishes to be allowed to go to sea properly.

 

Excerpt of a letter sent from Nancy Blackett to Peggy Blackett, February 1940:

. . . I’ll show them shivered timbers! They’ll think they’d never met a proper sailor before they’d been boarded by me and taken for a prize!

 

Note sent from Peggy Blackett to Susan Walker, March 1940:

Sue,

I think Nancy might be serious – she’s gone thoroughly piratical! Send help!

P.B.

(No, this couldn’t wait for you to return from leave. You know how Nancy gets once she’s got her teeth into an idea!)

 

Excerpt of a letter from Susan Walker to John Walker, March 1940

Peggy says Nancy means to actually try to join the navy, John! Do say something to her – you know they shan’t let her in. They’ll just send her on to the WRENs, which isn’t anything like what she wants to do – and there’ll be an uproar – and I just haven’t time for any of this. They’ll be telling us where we’re being sent any day now.

 

Excerpt of a letter from Dick Callum to Tom Dudgeon, April 1940:

Dot says that Titty told her that John says that Susan says that Peggy says that Nancy intends to really try to join the navy. Dot says good on her, but Dot writes romantic novels where there are pirate queens who win the day and logic suggests that despite the fact that the girl involved in this particular case is Nancy Blackett, the Royal Navy will maintain their longstanding postion that there will be no women on ships of war.

I know that you can’t properly know any of the people involved, apart from Dot, but nobody here knows even her and I find that I must report her news to someone or else it leaves my mind entirely too cluttered. Besides, I can only hope that knowing Nancy, even second-hand, might have as beneficial effect on you as it did on me.

 

Excerpt of a letter from Dot Callum to Titty Walker, May 1940:

Dick says that if Nancy actually means to do it, then Port and Starboard want in, too. And that he thinks he might be able to get them past the medical examination. Is this not the most amazing and fantastical thing you’ve ever heard, Titty?! Nancy shall be my pirate queen in the life . . .

 

Excerpt of a letter from Susan Walker to John Walker, June 1940:

There is nothing that can be done to dissuade her? Peggy reports that she’s taken to living in the little stone hut in the woods.

 

Excerpt of a letter from Susan Walker to Peggy Blackett, July 1940:

John says that he’s glad for her and cheering her every step of the way – also that he’ll put in a good word for the lot of them with the rest of the lads in his class.

Excerpt of a letter, written in code, from Dick Callum to Roger Walker, July 1940:

Everything is arranged, but they MUST go on the 20th if they wish to be certain of having Dr. Dudgeon as their examiner.

R. Nathaniel "Natty" Turner of Lancashire enlisted in His Majesty's Royal Navy in August of 1940. In his cohort was also Thomas Dudgeon and Bert “Port“ and Neil “Starboard” Farland, all of Norfolk.