The printed ‘AIR MAIL LETTER CARD’ has a triangular black handstamp ‘PASSED BY CENSOR/ Crown/ No. 3296' in a triangle, with the signature of the censor underneath of J.R. Waterman. It is addresses to Mrs Chas Grinter, Francis Street, Belmont, Geelong, Victoria, Australia. The blue 3d KGVI stamp is indistinctly cancelled EGYPT/ 26 NO ( )/ POST / PREPAID. Below the address ‘James Waterman’ is typed (Figure 1).
The letter card opens up to four times the original size (12.4 x10.0 cm) and the typed letter is headed Chaplain James Waterman, vx 58994, 2/2 A.G.H./ A.I.F.(abroad). The contents of the typed letter is quite large, and it is addressed to Mrs Grinter & Charles. The entire letter can be read, and only an abstract is given: ...just before Christmas my thoughts have often been with you although my opportunities of writing haven’t been great.
You see when one was on the high seas there were days on end when it was too uncomfortable to write because of pitching and rolling of the boat...we struck some bad weather... at other times...it was too beastly hot – one was wet through most of the day and night and the pressure of work was pretty heavy – but now I’m sitting in the middle of the desert....the weather here is very hot and cold in turns....
Movements changes transfers are very rapid and without warning for the most part and so when I was suddenly whipped of the ship right up here – I just hurriedly packed up and went. I’ve been here some weeks now and its so completely upset my plans that I’ve not yet received any mail from home – Its probably following me about the world and perhaps who knows – when it is just about to catch up to me – I’ll be off somewhere else.
As you know I can’t say very much – I’m a Censor and therefore feel that I must be more circumspect than most people but I felt that you would like this Christmas handshake....How is the Church and School – has the progress of the war made peoples heart bigger – I’ve seen things – Been in some situations when I feel our people have so much to learn and that they wont learn it by words alone but by passing through the same things. Well my old friends think of me at Lunchtime sitting close to the old stove and sipping my cup of tea – and God bless you all through this season and the days to come ...... Your friend (signed) James Waterman.
The top half of the sheet has a printed background so that the message can’t be read by holding it up to the light, whereas the bottom half has been left plain; a part of the letter is shown to illustrate this (Figure 2).
The WW2 Nominal Roll shows that his full name was James Robert Waterman, he served in the Australian Army and his Service Number was the same as in the body of his letter, VX58994, and his date of birth was 17 Mar 1901 in Woolwich England. He enlisted on 3 Jul 1941 at the locality of Belmont, VIC, and the place of enlistment was Royal Park, VIC. His next of kin was listed as WATERMAN, BEATRICE and the Date of Discharge was given as 27 Feb 1950 with the rank of Captain. His Posting at Discharge was the 2/2 Hospital Ship Wandganella (Figure 3).
He was then at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Australian Capital Territory, for his name appeared in The Canberra Times, ACT on 1 March 1949 in the death of Colonel Butler under the Heading RESIDENTS MOURN PASSING OF COLONEL BUTLER, as follows: The service was conducted by Archdeacon C.E. Robertson, assisted by Senior Chaplain James Waterman, of the Royal Military College (Figure 4).
Additional information was obtained on Chaplain Waterman at the R.M.C. as follows: His religion was Church of England, and he had been appointed Chaplain 4th Class on 1 July 1941 and then 3rd Class on 17 May 1945. He had commenced duty at RMC, Duntroon on 14 March 1946 and marched out on 22 July 1946. He rejoined on 12 September 1946 and marched out on 14 February 1950 for transfer to the Reserve of Officers. RMC could not give the reasons for these two episodes.
The RMC Archivist supplied a photo of the 1946 RMC staff with James Waterman in the second row, second in from the right side, as shown in the accompanying list of the staff, and I am surprised he is not wearing clerical collar (Figures 5 & 6).
The last reference to Reverend James Robert Waterman was dated 1948, for he delivered a dawn service at the Australian War Memorial for Anzac Day, April 1948.
I am indebted to Ross Howarth, Archivist, RMC-A HQ, Duntroon ACT 2600.
I would be delighted to hear from members of the Waterman family in Australia by email: