Walter "Red" Thompson was CO of submarine chaser SC 126. Bill Clair, a postal historian, discovered several letters from Red Thompson to his family, written just after the war ended, while many of the chasers were still overseas. Below is a transcription of a letter presumably written from Gibraltar, which tells of liesure activities, and Red's plans for what to do next, once he has obtained a discharge from the Navy.
Thanks to Bill Clair for submitting these documents to The Subcahser Archives.
c/o Postmaster, NY
Dec. 11, 1918
We are still here, with a possibility of remaining a month or two more. Last Saturday I climbed to the top of the Rock, went through all the galleries, caves, etc. and climbed all the breadth. It was tremendous exercise and very thrilling.
Sunday I went horse back riding with three others. When I got back, they told me that I was the only one who had ever ridden the horse. It was a beautiful gray stallion. He had thrown several men, and run wild with others. I had my hands full. The horse would do nothing but gallop at a breakneck speed. Every few minutes I would ride back two or three miles to the rest of the party, then when I turned, he would continue his gait and before you would say Jack Robinson I would be miles ahead, out of sight. The horse beat it for the whole day. I thought it would die, but it was as lively as ever at the end. It was wonderful riding, for he went along as smooth as glass, but I was up on his neck most of the time, going like blue blazes. I have a large reputation on the Rock, as a skillful equestrian, but they don’t see me now. I can’t stand up. Riding that horse wore the skin on the inside of my knees until I could not touch it they were so tender. Then like a d__ fool I put iodine on them, and burned my knees raw. (Shades of my last Christmas at home). I’m practically all right now. I’ve made an engagement for a dance day after tomorrow, so I’ll be all right.
There’s not much to say, for it’s over three months since I’ve heard from you all. We were to have left for the States quite a while ago, but we’re here indefinitely now. I have a new Executive Officer, a lieutenant: two stripes, who has been on a destroyer in the Irish Sea since war was declared. He’s been through everything, and was lucky to be alive a dozen times when many others fell thru.
I only have one stripe, but nevertheless he makes a good Executive Officer.
Mackey is now on the USS Dyer, a destroyer.
[ ... then a segment describing items he may want to ship home, but is concerned about whether they will arrive safely ... ]
Now the next question is, what am I going to do now that the war is over?
I do not want to make the Navy my life, notwithstanding the fact that I could get promotion fairly rapidly and it is an easy comfortable permanently ___ life with no fear of future poverty.
That eliminated, what am I going to do in civil life. First I might get a job with Scovil Stevens or any other such if I should obtain my discharge from active duty now.
I might return to college, if that possibility arises. I could not start until next fall semester, Oct. 1919, for I could not get home till ___ for Spring Semester. Therefore I’ll have to stay in the Navy and save monthly until next October. Next, what shall I do in the Navy till then. I can stay on my chaser and take it home in a month or two, and boat on the American coast or get a destroyer here, and see the Mediterranean and Asiatic stations.
I’d only have to say yes and I’d be on a destroyer this afternoon. There is a rumor that I’m going to be put on one of the ____ but I’ll have to consent.
Mackey put in a request and has been pestering them for a month to get on a destroyer. He finally got on the USS Dyer.
Next, I’m crazy to get a letter or two, but I guess the postman, like everyone else, is taking a rest.
With love ever,