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War Around the World

India & Ceylon



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War Around 
the World

India & Ceylon
page 1

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Lieut. Comdr. Griffith Baily Coale, U.S.N.R.

c/o U.S.Naval Liaison Office,
March 28, 1944.

Captain Leland P. Lovette
Director of Public Relations
Navy Department
Washington 25, D.C.

My dear Captain:

The following is my fortnightly report on the progress of my duty:

March 15 - 0900 - Read over, correct and give report to yeoman for typing in office. Turns out he was signalman on bridge when I was making sketches in Iceland. Telephone and try to arrange appointment with Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia. Indian telephone calls for man's supreme patience. Work in room until 1830.

March 16 - 0530 - The fate that overtakes, sooner or later, all newcomers here, overtakes me and I am quite ill with "Delhi belly". 1430 - Am able to make the walk to the Army infirmary for strong doses. 1500 - To office, read typed report, signed and turned in for pouch. 1700 - Back to bed. Cramps very weakening.

March 17 - Ill, but work room, fairly steadily. To office 1430. Captain Markey wrote letter to Lord Louis enclosing mine from Admiral Kirk and Office of British War Information and sent it by messenger. Back to bed. 1600 - Telephone to say Colonel Corcoran is here just back from sensational air sortie on Burma. American planes flew in British troops, our tanks, bulldozers in gliders. Landed in jungle back of Jap lines and built complete airfield in 24 hours. Colonel Corcoran in command. Go over and meet him and ask if I can make drawing of him, stubble beard, battle dress and all. However, although most pleasant, he is flying back to front in few hours. Back to hotel room and in midst of acute attack, telephone - to say I must move, and be out of my room by 1730, as new General is arriving and wishes it. Have to pack up and stow all sketching gear and work. Bearer gives me hot cup of tea, gets coolies, and I move to small room with a Lieut. Colonel Stanbitz. This is third move here.

March 18 - Much weakened, but accomplish some little work between cramps, in crowded room. 1600 - To office, no word from Lord Louis. Early dinner and to bed.

March 19 - Sunday. Little better. 1000 - Officer arrives with Signal from "Flag". _ "The Supreme Allied Commander requests the presence of Lt. Comdr. G. Coale, U.S.N.R. to lunch on Monday, March 20, 1944". - In haste to office and reply. Receive message to lunch at Official Residence, Floridlsot House, Lytton Road at 1320. Captain Markey pleased, as he says it is very difficult for anyone to see the Supremo, due to the pomp with which he is unwittingly surrounded. 1130 - With Captain Marky, Air Marshall and Mrs. Goddard and First Officer Oliver to the Red Fort, or Lal Kila, on the right bank of the Jumma River on the Eastern side of the city of Delhi. The fort covers a huge area. The walls, one hundred feet high on the land side, are of red sand-stone, surmounted, here and there, by interesting towers with chochetons. Three sides are surrounded by a moat 75 deep. The forth side of the river is atop a wall 60 feet above, where the river surface once was. We drive through the Lahore Gate's deep tunnel, across a large court and enter narrow short street, white walled, roofed over and lined with small shops. This roofed arcade is the famous Chhatta Chowk, or covered Mart, which was once the center of the richest wares in the East. Pass out into lovely sunlit gardens ablaze with exotic flowers and many strange trees. The sward is cut with narrow marble waterways, connecting quiet reflecting pools. Across the park stretches the with it's red sandstone pillars, arcaded cloisters brilliantly gilded and decorated with brightly painted shell plaster. A few feet above floor level the main wall opens to display a white marble recess of 90 feet wide, protected by an elaborately carved marble balustrade. Here the Great Mugul sat daily for two hours dispensing justice to all, the highest or very humblest. Below the throne is a marble dias for Minister. The walls, as everywhere throughout the many buildings, are richly decorated, in this case with birds and flowers, drawn by inlayed deeply colored stones. More garden, and we stroll through a magnificent pavilion of white marble standing on a raised platform, it's flat roof supported by engrailed arches. An inscription engraved on the cornice in Persian reads, "If paradise be on Earth, it is this, it is this, it is this." It was here that the celebrated Peacock Throne stood, with the two peacocks of solid gold, their natural colors simulated by sapphires, rubies, emeralds, pearls, and other precious stones. The throne itself was 6 feet long, 4 wide, with six massive feet of gold, inlaid with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Surmount this with a canopy of gold, supported by twelve emerald pillars and then add fringes of pearls to ornament the borders, and one can easily see why Nedir Shah carried the whole damn thing off to Persia in 1739, to say nothing of a tree of jewels and a parrot carved from a single emerald, that were conveniently nearby. We stroll though the Diwan-i-Khas that the Emperor Shahjahan used to retire to after his mid-day Durbar and where he held court every evening. The exquisite pavilion has very fine mosaic, carving and delicate tracery. Almost adjoining is the exquisite Moti Masjad or the Pearl Throne, well named, for the variations of white marble give the light floating effect of Mother of Pearl veneer, without weight, shell-like against the sky. The interior swims in melting tones of ivory and pearl. We wander through the Emperor's private apartments, where the walls were inlayed with precious stones and ornamented with beautifully carved screens and inscriptions. We walk along the Fortress and Wall, the long base of which was once splashed by the river's flowing waters. But now the stream, as if conscious of the departed glory, has retired to a new channel half a mile distant. Marble pavilions project out beyond the wall. We drift through the "The Palace of Colors" and stroll onto the Turkish baths, with their miniature waterfalls, back of which were flowers by day, colored lights by night. Cooled by running water, or warmed by scented jets of hot air, marble tubs for hot or cold baths, and the beautiful lotus fountain where gentle spurts of perfumed water topped off the exquisite ablutions. By now I am making heavy weather keeping my station on the port quarter of the Air Marshall and grateful we are returning to a soft seat in his car. I think as we pass the tall English radio masts and the modern barracks, of how much peaceful beauty has survived, in spite of earthquake, Persian, Maratha and Rohlillas invasions and the mutiny of 1857. At 1330 Lieutenant Hugh McKean and I lunch with the British Army and Captain and his wife. The curry is delicious and after lounging in the hot sun of their flower garden we drive to the park surrounding the many Lody tombs. Handsome gray stone buildings, devoid of plaster, a number in excellent state of preservation, which is more than I can say for myself at this moment. To the hotel for two hours sleep as there is a "command" dinner tonight for all the officers of JICA, that I must attend, which makes this quite a Delhi-belly Sunday. At 1930 the Army and Navy JICA meet along terrace on the second deck Imperial Hotel, where against the soft sky of the dying day spirits are revived by many Royal Netherlands punches. Inboard in the adjoining private room is laid along table down which the whites of the Navy stand freshly out in contrast to the Army khaki. Captain Markey's keen humor helps tremendously to make the party a great success. I am called on the to tell some stories and do my best to uphold the tradition of the Office of Public Relations.

March 20 - 0900- To office to arrange for transportation. 1050 - Work in room, post report, etc. 1300 - Driver with car arrives and depart for Flordlsot House, none too strong but bound to do a good job. Drive in arched entrance, a light 1315 and order car back 1420. Sailor to starboard, soldier to port, presented arms. English R.A.F. officer comes forward to welcome me, at least 6 feet 3 inches tall. Walk to large drawing room of this once Indian Palace, where several British Admirals, a Commodore and other officers are assembled. Also, an American Colonel and Major. Have a very good frothy cocktail and pleasant talk. Then in comes Air Marshall Sir Philip Joubert de la Forte, short and stocky, in khaki shorts. Large face, full of character, small humorous eyes. Sir Philip takes charge of me and says just three of us will lunch with Lord Luis. The third turns out to be an American Major of Engineers, just back from a front. He has no coat, shirt under arms stained with sweat, no tie and rumpled hair. This surprises me, for Navy fashion I have broken out my best tropical, worsted, freshly pressed. Sir Philip leads us up grand marble stairway and out on a large private terrace. At the farther end from under a canopy, Lord Luis steps forward and shakes hands. Straight, tall, with a handsome head, the sharp nose and thin nostrils very like his cousin the King. Perfectly fitting tropical worsteds, glittering gold shoulder markings, heavily embossed, rows of bright ribbons. He wears dark glasses, as ten days ago, while driving, a piece of bamboo flew up from the car's wheels, the small fragment striking him without warning in the left eye. An American eye specialist has attended him, purposely blinding the eye temporarily, but fortunately he will have normal vision. We moved to the end of the terrace to large cool chairs under a fan, where the same delicious frothy cocktail is served by his bearer, resplendent in bright turban and sash. He asked me to sit beside him and as Sir Philip and the Major fall into conversation he says charmingly, "I have had three letters about you, actually, and you'll have to do very well to live up to what they say. Now what can I do for you?" I tell him that I am leaving directly for Colombo, where if he so wishes, I should like to make some studies of the port and ships, and other pertinent local installations for my Navy. I give him as briefly as possible a picture of what we five combat artists are trying to do for our Navy. How carefully our office functions of matters of security and releases; and not only how pleasant it had been to work with the British recently else where, but how much I looked forward to being in British combat ships, and with the British in Colombo. We talked of liaison between our countries, not only for the war, bur for the long difficult years that must follow. He said how pleased he was to see the great improvement in understanding between out peoples since his arrival, in that this growing relation was ever foremost in his mind too. During this conversation he very subtly made me feel that I was just one sailor man talking to another, and not a small reserve two and a half talking with the Supreme Commander. Lunch was announced and we all stepped over to the table laid near by, where he motioned me to his right. The place plates bore his crest in gold, and when they were removed I noticed the mats where embossed in colors, with the arms of Great Britain. After general conversation during which the Major was most interesting about engineering in the jungle, Sir Philip, in talking of the move shortly of these Headquarters to Peredeniya on the hills back of Colombo, gave me the opening I had been waiting for. So I asked if I might make a sketch of these Headquarters, with Indian guards at the gate, out two flags flying from their respective masts, and Lord Louis and an American Naval officer just leaving together. He and Sir Philip glanced at each other and then he said about what I expected. This palace and the whole set-up here was too far from the war, and they wanted no record of it, just wanted to move out. If I would come to Peredeniya they would give me every facility for sketching Headquarters there. Then they talked quite frankly of the Cairo Conference and the changes that had been made. So I said I readily understood as the conference had taken place while I was still in U.K. and Admiral Kirk had pointed out that my original duty would be somewhat altered by the change. All during lunch Lord Louis was continually adjusting his black glasses which made me feel very sorry that this nervous irritation must be added to all his responsibility and problems. Lunch over and as we were having our coffee he asked Sir Philip to have a Special Passport prepared for me to send a signal to the CinC, Colombo, that I was arriving shortly. "We will do everything we can for you," he said as he held out his hand, "Just let us know if you want anything else." Of course, I had hoped to make a drawing of him, but this was now impossible due to his accident. His fine head, and thick, slightly curly dark hair, a little gray at the temples, makes him a splendid subject. Sir Philip said if I would not mind waiting below in the drawing room, while an impending conference took place, that he would drive me to his office and have the papers put in order right away. Chatted below with the same tall officer and watched a large mongoose scoot about the lawn outside, after dismissing my car. Lord Lewis and Sir Philip came down, again thanked him, and drove off to Headquarters with Sir Philip. There he introduced me to Brigadier General Oldfield. He sends off signal to Colombo threw Commander Curson to Admiral Sir James Summerville, Royal Navy, and works out wording for my passport. Asked me to get photographs and to get them back by 1030 tomorrow. Sends me back in car. To our office 1600. Ruah over to Army Photograph Section, and after some persuading Army Captain promises to send over shots just taken by 1000 tomorrow. 

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