Friday 10th March, 1944

Alec’s diary continues:

Slept well. Woke up to find most of bedclothes on floor. Had breakfast with John who did not have a very busy night. Walked out to Mutley Plain for sandwiches and newspaper. Took Chas. and my cases to cloakroom at North Road and had a coffee in refreshment room. Read paper then went for a walk on the Hoe. Saw plenty of naval activity and flying boats in the Sound. Walked around to the ‘Mayflower Stone‘ then cut through town to Riza’s where I had lunch at 12.0 noon. To hotel at 12.30 p.m. then out to Friary via Mutley Plain. Relieved Chas at 1.0 p.m. sharp. Says things just going to get busy. Very true. Went up to town at 4.15 p.m. after food. Bought half dozen jam tarts but could not find a sweet shop.

Returned to yard at 4.25 p.m. in time to take 9.30 a.m. Yeoford (next train). John came back at 10.0 p.m. Shunter gave me a lift back to Mutley Plain in his car. Walked from there to North Road. Recovered my suitcase from Cloak Room. Lot of noisy sailors on station. Train arrived 11.10 p.m. Got in and read book till we left at 11.30 p.m. Slept to Newton Abbot.


Thursday 9th March, 1944

Alec’s diary continues:

John and I caught bus out to Saltash Passage. Challenged for identity card by Yank sailor as we were watching Royal Albert Bridge. Chatted for some time with W[ar] R[eserve] policeman who had some connections with the Railway Coy. Parted best of pals. Dinner in cafe next to Riza’s. Went on Hoe in afternoon, read book in sun and watched the Flying Boat* take off on the Sound. To Goodbody’s Cafe for tea at 2.30 p.m. then back to Hotel and out to Friary for duty at 4.0 p.m. Work much heavier than at first thought. Three trains still to write up when John arrived at 10.0 p.m. Left them as shunter gave me a lift to Mutley Plain in his car. Chas asleep when I arrived. Chatted until 11.0 p.m. then bed.

*The Sunderland Flying Boats of Plymouth

Wednesday 8th March, 1944

Alec’s diary continues:

Caught 9.10 a.m. for Plymouth, arrived 22 minutes late so waited for Limited. Latter arrived to time, John in company with WAAF, Mr Hill with Army officer. Took bags to hotel then quick tea. Mr Hill again at Plymouth Friary Goods Yard. Introduced to Mr Still, Assistant Div. Supt. for the Exeter Area LRly [?]. Latter took us to tea at local cafe. John Chas and myself back to Hotel for dinner at 6.30 p.m. Played solo and nap in hotel from 7.0 p.m. to 11.0 p.m. finished 3d up. And so to bed.

Some solutions found!

In an effort to trace the ‘Baby Imperial’ and the ‘Lord John Malcolm’ as mentioned in Alec’s diary, I got in touch with the Wembury Local History Society via their Facebook page and asked if any of their members could help.

Within hours, back came an extraordinarily comprehensive response from information provided by one of their members, Chris Robinson, which I have their permission to quote in full:

The Baby Imperial was located at 47 Cobourg Street while the Lord John Malcolm was 27 Russell Street.

Western Morning News, July 1st 1944

ANZIO MEETING : Mr. Carroll Levis And Plymouth Friend

Mr. Carroll Levis, who has just arrived back in London from an ENSA tour, which lasted six months although it was originally booked for three, had a great thrill when he met old Plymouth friend at the Anzio beachhead. This was Maj. Ted Taylor, the proprietor of the Lord John Malcolm Cafe, Russell-street, Plymouth. Many a time after giving a show at the Palace Mr. Levis would slip across to Maj. Taylor’s cafe in peacetime, and the two have been friends for many years. It was a tremendous surprise to him to meet Maj. Taylor at Anzio just nine days before the Fifth and Eighth Armies linked up. The two had dinner together at ‘Ted’s Tavern,’ which is Maj. Taylor’s mess, and which has a sign outside reading, ‘Ted’s Tavern Fully Licensed.’ Mr. Levis had given nine shows that day the troops. Maj. Taylor presented him with a souvenir the occasion – an ashtray made out of shell.

This is wonderful stuff, and it’s the sort of thing that makes family history so fascinating. Alec’s diary for 1944 ends long before Anzio, I’m afraid, or it would have been fun to imagine him eating at the Lord John Malcolm Cafe at exactly the moment when Ted Taylor and Carroll Levis renewed their acquaintance.

My grateful thanks to the Wembury Local History Society and to Chris Robinson for their help.

Monday 28th February/ Tuesday 29th February, 1944

Alec’s diary continues:


Caught 9.10 a.m. for Bristol. Met Kay on Clevedon platform with same until Nailsea. Had coffee on No. 7 then caught 10.25 a.m. Nothing startling on trip. Train arrived 3.20 p.m. Dumped bag and went for meal. Limited in when I returned to station so went over to hotel. John left note saying gone to Millbay. Followed on next bus and met Mr Rendle who is taking record at Laira and Mr Harding. Had trip back to hotel to see if Chas had arrived. Picked John up outside Theatre at 5.30 p.m. then went to Gaumont to see Sweet Rosie O’Grady with Betty Grable. Had supper in the Lord John Malcolm*. Returned to Hotel at 9.30 p.m. No Chas. Turned in at 10.45 p.m.

*I’ve done a bit of Googling but so far failed to turn up any establishment in Plymouth by this or a similar name. I’ll keep searching.



Got up at 7.0 a.m. not ready for me so no breakfast till 7.40 a.m. Left at 8.0 a.m. arrived Laira at 8.15 a.m. in time to take 8.20 a.m. Launceston. (Chas arrived 12.30 a.m. missed connection at Bristol Midland train 2 hours late.) Chas and John took walk out to Laira in morning to get lie of the land. Not much doing. Went up to Bakery at 12.30 p.m. got some good pies and buns and returned to Yard. Inspector Ede gave us a cup of tea as big as a bucket. John turned up at 3.50 p.m.

Back to Hotel for a wash and shave then to lounge to write. Chas agitating for a meal so took him to the Lord John Malcolm. Meal cost 4/6d each. Mixed grill, lamb chop, sausage chips and beans. Back to hotel at 7.30 p.m. talked till 8.45 p.m. Hustled Chas out to Laira and waited for John to turn up. He arrived at 9.15 p.m. Bed at 10.30 p.m. No siren.

Friday 25th February, 1944

Alec’s diary continues:

Fairly quiet night cold wind early on but dropped later. Colder towards morning. On with Inspector Hunt. John arrived 8.15 a.m. I catch bus to digs OK have wash then deal with breakfast. Out to Muttley Plain for fags and paper. Stay talking in front of fire till 11.0 a.m. Pay bill. Girl says will wake me at 6.0 p.m. and promises cup of tea. Have good sleep till 6.0 p.m. Maid brings in tea. Get up shave and go down to Baby Imperial for food, also cart case round to the cloakroom. Owe Riza 3d. Wait for bus from 8.0 p.m. till 8.40 p.m. Bus then runs past as is full up. Pick up Goods Guard Geo. Hawkins and walk with him as far as Laira. Pick up 21a bus there and arrive Tavy Jun. 9.20 p.m. Chas clears off for home. John went on 3.30 p.m.

Thursday 24th February, 1944

Alec’s diary continues:

Got up after John left, not much hot water left. Took Chas out to Laira in morning. Met Mr Dowell and explained we were just on a prowl. Wind fit to blow one in half. Met Mr [Haines? Harries?] of Tavy Jun. on bridge. Say we are going out. When he left changed our minds and caught a waiting bus back to theatre. Had coffee in small snack bar. Walked on to Mill Bay met Mr Jarrold and others. Mr Harding not there. They say Mr Hill has arrived and gone to Tavy. Caught bus for Tavy arriving about 11.30 a.m. Joined Mr Hill in Mr Knight’s office he explains the bombing says heavy over Hanwell way. Back to a restaurant for lunch. Returned to hotel and read a bit, Chas out to Tavy (Down side) to relieve John. John returns 4.45 p.m. annoyed because the latter late arriving. Goodness knows why. John and I went round other part of the hotel for dinner (we sleep in annex no. 12 around corner). Too late to go to pictures so took a walk around the Hoe and went back to read until 9.0 p.m. Caught bus for Marsh Mills arrived 9.30 p.m. Chas had to rush for 9.40 p.m. bus. There is a later one at 10.0 p.m. for staff. I do not like his method of changing over.

Wednesday 23rd February, 1944

Alec’s diary continues:

Caught 9.10 a.m. for Bristol. Reg Bird gave me a lift to the village in his car. Had coffee at Bristol and caught 10.25 a.m. thence. Had to tick off a couple of loco men and a guard for bad language.* Arrived Plymouth 3.15 p.m. Limited 49 minutes late so found hotel and went to the Baby Imperial** for grub. Not a bad place. Met Mr Gillett and John at 4.30 p.m. They say bad raid on London in night Hanwell had it very bad incendiaries chiefly. Took them to hotel then had dinner there. Went to see play at the Palace ‘No Orchids for Miss Blandish‘***. Rotten. To Baby Imperial for cup of coffee then to hotel to bed. Beds hard but warm.

*Remember he’s 22 years old, a skinny kid in glasses and a bad suit. It says a lot for the temper of the times that he felt he could ‘tick off’ these men and expect to be obeyed. I’m surprised he didn’t find himself upside-down in a horse trough somewhere; rather priggish of him, I’m afraid.

**I can’t trace the Baby Imperial, although perhaps if I went on to a Plymouth local history site I might. I suspect it was probably a cafe or dining room run by Imperial Hotel staff but on other premises than their own.

***I’d be interested to know if the tour of the play featured the original London cast, in which case he would have seen Robert Newton on stage. Being a theatre buff myself I would rather envy him that, even if the play itself wasn’t up to much.