[Received March 23, 1918]


North British Station Hotel,


7 p.m. February 27, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Well I surely am having myself a time. Everything is turning up in lucky style.

I saw Mr. Whiting’s son at Armstrong Whitworth’s at Newcastle and thru him got to see Armstrong’s Naval Yard, Swan and Hunter’s where the Mauretania was built, and Palmers where they build ships using iron ore as the start. They have their own blast furnaces, open hearth furnaces, rolling mill, foundry, engine shop, and ship yard. It was all very wonderful. I did not go deeply enough into the methods of the yards to get any useful information or ideas, but it all was a broadening inspiration, and immensely interesting. We on this side beat them all on equipment but they surely do beat us at turning out the work.

At Swan and Hunter a young British naval officer took me all over his submarine which was nearly completed. It was a sea going type. He was a very amusing fellow and the trip aside from the general engineering interest was a real treat. Also in Gerald Whiting’s office I met a submarine capt. who had the V.C., the Legion of Honor, and the Italian decoration for some clever diving stunts he got away with at the Dardanelles. I also saw one of our ships being overhauled, and saw a great many of our sailors and naval officers about the town.

That little river is the excuse for the greatest amount of big industries imaginable. They dig away its banks to make room for ship yards, and they stow their works all over every little available space. The crowded and unsystematic arrangement of the works would give one a nightmare.

If some of our high wage paying industries don’t spoil the ship yard labor sources in the states I believe we will beat these fellows at the game.

I left Newcastle after dinner and got here in time to get to bed at 12:15. I am living very swell and enjoying it immensely. I stop at the railroad hotels which are the best (excepting in London). The meals up here are better than London. They don’t feel the wants of war so much.

I forgot to tell you that the secretary of Swan and Hunter’s invited me to his home Monday evening. I had a very pleasant time sipping coffee before a grate fire talking to him, his wife, and charming daughter. She is to be married in June and was busily sewing on something for her trousseau. She is a real artist on the piano and played some beautiful pieces for us. Mr. Culley is quite musical and played a duet with her. She raised my opinion of English girls considerably.

Speaking of Miss Culley—all that I needed to perfect my stay in Edinburgh is a wife to enjoy it with me. I had a grand double room last night—terrible waste. The first thing this morning I piked up Calton Hill and got an idea of the lay of the land. The sun was out bright (I have been enjoying wonderful weather for these parts) but the low places and distances were obscured by mist. I had a guide book with map and from the top of Nelson’s monument had a look for all the places I thought I would like to see.

This is really some town to look over. I think it beats Oxford or any place I have seen in England. The craggy hills put real romance into the place. I had a walk down Princes Street, climbed up in Scott’s memorial and then went to the castle. It is surely a wonderful old place. They are using it now as a barracks.

This afternoon I had a wonderful mountain climb up to Arthur’s Seat. The wind nearly blew me off the earth. Coming down I got into a terrific storm. Now I must close and end my arrangements here and catch the train for Glasgow.



William Robert Gerald Whiting was submarine department yard manager during World War I at Armstrong Whitworth at Elswick in Newcastle.286 The company originally made hydraulic machinery, cranes, and bridges, but expanded into artillery, shipbuilding, cars, and aircraft manufacture.287 Swan Hunter, a major shipbuilder located near Newcastle, merged in 1903 with Wigham Richardson and successfully bid on the contract to build RMS Mauretania for Cunard.288 Launched in 1906, the Mauretania was the largest and fastest ship at the time and held the transatlantic speed record for over two decades.289 Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited, often referred to, as Parr does, as just Palmers, had operations nearby.290

The submarine captain was probably Lt. Commander (eventually Rear Admiral) Edward Courtney Boyle (1883–1967), who was in command of submarine E. 14 during the Allied effort begun April 25, 1915, to take the Gallipoli Peninsula; he successfully penetrated the Dardanelles and entered the Sea of Marmara. His Victoria Cross citation reads in part: “he dived his vessel under the enemy minefields and entered the Sea of Marmara on the 27th April, 1915. In spite of great navigational difficulties from strong currents, of the continual neighbourhood of hostile patrols, and of the hourly danger of attack from the enemy, he continued to operate in the narrow waters of the Straits and succeeded in sinking two Turkish gunboats and one large military transport.” He also received the Légion d’honneur and the Italian Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.291

Armstrong Whitworth, Swan Hunter, and Palmers all had operations on the River Tyne.

Parr’s host was probably Francis John Culley, who is described in the 1911 census as the secretary of a public company in the shipbuilding industry and living in Tynemouth with his wife and fifteen year old daughter Olive Mary.292 Olive Mary Culley married Percy H. Walker sometime in April, May, or June of 1918.293

Here and in his letter of March 22, 1918, Parr uses the verb “pike” to mean “betake [oneself].”