More Pieces of China

The late Captain (QM) Charlie Litton recalls

Charlie Litton
Captain (QM)
Charlie Litton
(Click image to enlarge)
HMT Somerstshire
HMT Somerstshire passing Lyemun,1929
(Click image to enlarge)

Like Henderson, Litton, aged twenty, was on the troopship Neuralia outward bound from Malta to China in November 1930. On arrival in the territory his first impression, again like Henderson's, was that "it was darned cold". Stationed at Tientsin and Peking, in company with international garrisons composed of Italians, French, Japanese and Americans, he was pleased to find that sport played an important part. The Americans, strange to say, were anxious to learn how to play soccer and this was definitely Litton's "line of country". As a qualified referee himself, he was sent by the Commanding Officer to teach the Americans the rules of the game which they soon assimilated. (There is no indication of the British showing any similar enthusiasm for baseball).

Severe winter weather saw the fur hat and coat routines mentioned by Henderson but another climatic hazard was the amount of sand and dust blowing around - the nearby Gobi Desert being the source of the trouble. The summer station of Shanaikwan provided welcome relief in the way of warmer weather and the presence of the sea in which to bathe. Another favourite pastime was riding hired ponies in the area of the Great Wall of China, an experience sometimes soured by sights of Japanese unpleasant attitudes to the Chinese - foretastes of things to come.

Sun Wai Camp
Sun Wai Camp, 1929
(Click image to enlarge)

By the latter part of the Second World War Litton was back in England and preparing for the Second Front. Landing in Normandy in 1944, as part of the 1/6th Queen's (7th Armoured Division), he was pleased to find that the Americans on his right were the same regiment who had been with the Queen's in China. Presumably there was no time for football at that stage. The "pitch" was too hard, nevertheless the company of the "home supporters" was good.

Charlie Litton finished his service as a Captain Quartermaster.



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