Lynchmere suitcase found containing 1,000 wartime letters

Michael and Anne Tibbs
Michael and Anne Tibbs
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AN old suitcase rediscovered at the Lynchmere home of Michael and Anne Tibbs has given a fascinating insight into the life of a young Royal Navy officer at sea during the war and his family back home in Lynchmere.

The suitcase contained about 1,000 wartime letters, most of them written by Michael between 1940 and 1946, and the rest were from his father, the vicar of Lynchmere, his mother and other relatives.

Michael was greeted at Fareham Station by a chief petty officer with the words ‘Hello lad. Come to join the Navy?’ which has become the title of a newly-published book.

He wrote of his training at HMS Collingwood, where putting on uniform correctly and laundering clothes were almost as important as naval routines, ropes, knots, flags, salutes, compasses, bearings and moorings.

Much was censored, a job that a more senior Michael later found very boring when he had to do it, but it also meant that ‘home’ never knew where he was or what was really happening apart from mess gossip and parties.

Now the ‘missing bits’ have been filled in for the first time revealing the horrors of approaching torpedoes, North Atlantic storms on an open bridge or the heat of Suez and the Indian Ocean.

After training at the Royal Naval Barracks, HMS Victory, Michael was sent to HMS Cottesmore a destroyer, before officer selection and training at Lancing College. He later transferred to the submarine service, serving in HMS Elfin, at HMS Blockhouse and in HMS Tantalus where he was for VE Day, having travelled the world.

Michael was one of very few naval personnel who saw action in every ocean. Photos taken by him as well as by official war photographers illustrate the conditions they endured. Drawings and diagrams throughout the book fill in more details that throw a fascinating light on wartime experiences at sea for those who were there, or those whose fathers were there but have not talked about their wartime experiences, and, unlike the Tibbs family, did not have the letters to tell what happened 70 years ago.

The book which costs £17, has a forward by Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, first sea lord from 2009-13, and is published by The Memoir Club.

For details email michael@bunchfield,