Wednesday, October 29, 2014

World War II Letters Home October 29, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                Officers' Mess
                                                                                                Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                                Harwell Didcot, Berks
                                                                                                October 29, 1939

Dear Esther:

I hope you can excuse and forgive me for not writing sooner and more often.  Actually the last fortnight has been a busy one.

We spent a week at Blackpool - the famous summer resort - doing air firing and drogues towed behind other aircraft, low flying and night flying, cross country trips, all of them.  In fact our time is so filled up that I haven't even been able to manage any supper, fly, fly, fly.  Of course I suppose you think that surely I must have had a few minutes off each day to at least write a short letter - well, that is true but when you have an hour or 2 to spare you're just too tired to bother writing.

I know you can't appreciate the fact but from 6 to 11 hours flying a day is more tiring and more of a mental  strain than even we realize. A couple hours instrument or night flying alone is equal to a days' work.  The night before last I was flying for over 4 hours on a long cross-country and during the flight we got into a cloud and iced up at 6,00 feet - I couldn't come down below the clouds as the base was too low and we were over hilly country and I couldn't climb as I didn't  know how high the clouds were (I found out afterwards the were only 9,000 feet) so after flying blind for some time I decided to turn back and eventually got in the clear; even than it took some minutes before the ice melted of the cabin windows so that I could see the moon again.  Anyhow, by dodging about I managed to get above the clouds and get over the sea north of Cornwall - where we dropped flame floats and found the wind speed and direction.  When we got back in the vicinity of our base speed and directions.  When we got back in the vicinity of our base here the sky was completely overcast and clouds down to about 300 feet.  The W/T operator got a D/F bearing (direction-finding) and we got over the aerodrome and just managed to spot the landing beacon, so I came down through the fog and greased a 3-pointer on the deck.  I was plenty cold and tired, I can tell you.

In our altitude  flying we go up to 20,000 feet and of course use oxygen; as a matter of interest, the last trip I was on, we found the wind to be nearly 1000 m.p.h. from north, also the thermometer registered -33 C, which I think is somewhere around 30 or 40 below Fahrenheit - anyhow, it was a bit chilly sitting still all of 4 hours, in spite of our feather flying kit which is fur lined.

The squadron leader who is O.C. of our flight says that this coming week we are going to do still more flying per day than before - so I can see where I am going to pile up a few hours.  I am now 1st pilot day and night on Wellingtons.

Well, I guess I've shot enough line about myself for now and since today, is Sunday and we're not flying, I shall spend the afternoon in the company of a beautiful young maiden, who happens to be "It" - if you don't mind.

I have realized for the last week or so that in a few days (from now) it will be Richard's, yours, Mama's and my birthday (pretty good of me even to remember - I think!)  I had planned in the pas to get a good R.A.F. pin for you and Mom, but as I have been unable to get into a store, while it is open, for so long I have been unable to do so - but I do hereby solemnly declare that I shall not disappoint you much longer.

I have been trying to save up enough money to pay my overdue debt to you but now that the pound has decreased in value it means I have to add another 20% to get the original value, also sign numerous declarations, etc., why the money is being sent out of England.  I am afraid I have turned out to be a bad liability and I feel rotten about it all, as I have not lived up to even my expectations, but I am doing my best to build up the reserve.

I have rather missed the point - what I started to say was that although I am late, I hope you had a very happy birthday and my best wishes that you may enjoy many more of them.

Renee (that's the big moment I told you about) has made me a huge fruit cake for my birthday, but if I remember correctly, she still doesn't know how many candles to put on it - that will probably shock here when she finds out.  I am enclosing a snap, it blurred a bit,  I don't know whether she moved her head of what, but the picture does her injustice, as I can assure you, my dear.

I suppose you think I must be screwball by some of my letters but It must be just the mood I am in or something.

Also, I am enclosing my 2nd navigator's ticket.  You can send it home to Mom after you get it.  it looks like a very ordinary piece of paper but I've worked hard for it.

Well, Sis, this will positively have to be all for now, but I'll try to be a little more prompt after this, as I really look forward to your letters.

Lots of Love From Your Brother


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill Trip

Local Legion Men Take Steps To Avoid Necessity Of Halt

 "Nonstop" means just that, says Grant Ware, adjutant of the Spokane American legion post  So he and Frank P. Smith are taking every precaution to see that there will be no danger of an enorced stop on their nonstop international tour to Mexico and return to Spokane. "Everything is progressing smoothly," said Mr. Ware. "Legion posts all along the route are giving us cooperation and affording escorts to insure we shall not be forced to stop because of traffic. "One momentary stop would spoil the entire trip, so we must avoid traffic jams, being caught at railroad crossing, or in any one of any of a thousand circumstances.  It must be realized that if we had to stop just an instant to reverse, we should loose out.
 "Roseburg, Bakersfield and Stockton posts promised us cooperation  today, adding  their names to the extensive list.
"Our schedule calls for an average speed of 20 to 21 miles an hour. "We have equipped our car with air containers  to avoid possibility, as far as possible, of tire trouble.  These heavy tubes are virtually puncture proof  and nothing but a larege spike or something like that will cost  us air.  A flat tire would end our journey."

(Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 24, 1930)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop Amerian Legion Goodwill Trip


Legion boys will leave Dessert Hotel Next Friday  Evening.
    The itinerary and schedule of the American Legion goodwill border-to-border non-stop automobile trip was announced today by Grant Ware, post adjutant and one of the men who will pilot the six cylinder car on its 3800 mile journey.
    They will start from legion headquarters  in the Dessert Hotel at 6:30 p.m. next Friday.
    Colville is to be reached 10:40 p.m. and the border at Laurier will be touched Saturday at 12:30 a.m. when the car will double back toward Mexico.
     Towns to be touched Saturday and the times scheduled are: Colville, 2:30 a.m; Spokane, 6:30 a.m.; Colfax, 10:00 a.m.; Dayton, 12:30 p.m.; Walla Walla, 2 p.m.; Pendleton, 3:15 p.m.;  Umatilla, 5:15 p.m.; Arlington, 7:30 p.m.; The Dalles, 9:30 p.m.  Sunday at Portland
    Large towns to be touched Sunday are Portland, 3 a.m.; Oregon City, 3:30 a.m.; Salem, 5 a.m.; Albany, 6 a.m.; Junction City, 7:30 a.m.; Eugene, 8:30 a.m.; Roseburg, 11:30 a.m.; Grants Pass, 3 p.m.; Medford, 4:30 p.m.; Ashland, 5 p.m.; Dunsmuir, 9 p.m.; and Redding, 11 p.m.
    Those scheduled for Monday are: Red Bluff, 12:01 a.m.; Sacramento, 6:15 a.m.; Lodi, 7:30 a.m.; Stockton,  8:30 a.m.; Turlock, 10 a.m.; Merced, 11 a a.m.; Madera, noon; Fresno, 2 p.m.; Bakersfield, 7 pm.
In Mexico Tuesday
    Thursday, April 1, town and time schedules are:  Burbank, 12:30 a.m.; Los Angeles, 2 a.m.; Santa Ana, 4:30 a.m.; San Diego, 10:30 a.m.; Mexico, 12-05 p.,m; San Diego, 1:30 p.m.; Santa Ana, 1:30 p.m.; and Los Angeles, 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 2 - Bakersfield, 4 am.; Fresno, 9 a.m.;  Madera, 11 a.m.; Merced, noon; Turlock, 1 p.m.; Stockton, 2:30 p.m.; Lodi, 3:30 p.m.; Sacramento, 4:45 p.m.; and Red Bluff, 11 p.m. Back To Portland
    Thursday, April 3 - Redding, 12:01 a.m.; Dunsmuir, 2 a.m.;  Ashland,  6 a.m.; Medford, 6:30 a.m.; Grants Pass, 8 a.m.; Roseburg, 11:30 a.m.; Eugene, 2:30 p.m.; Junction  City, 3 p.m.; Albany, 4:30 p.m.; Oregon City, 8 p.m.; Portland, 8:30 p.m.   "Home is the goal of Friday,  April 4 - The Dalles,
2 a.m.;  Walla Walla, 9:30 a.m.; Dayton, 11 a.m.;  Colfax, 12:30 p.m. and arrival at the Dessert Hotel is scheduled for 2 p.m. "
       Frank P. Smith will accompany Mr. Ware.  Arrangements have been made for refueling on the go and escorts through towns will try to prevent traffic congestion or an enforced stop, which would terminate the nonstop attempt.
      Daily reports, written by the drivers will be wired to the Chronicle for exclusive use here.

(Spokane Daily Chronicle, Spokane Washington, March 22, 1930)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill Trip

On March 28, 1930, Frank P. Smith, my grandfather, and Grant Ware set off on a Spokane-Canada-Mexico-Spokane nonstop automobile trip. This trip was sponsored by Spokane Post No 9 American Legion. The car was provided by Riegel Bros. Dodge. They arrived back home April 4, 1930. In the following posts I will feature the articles from the Spokane Daily Chronicle telling of the trip.  The drivers were both veterans of  World War I.


  The longest non-stop international automobile tour will be started from Spokane next Wednesday     is sponsored by the Spokane post of the American legion and will touch Canada and Mexico.
   Drivers will be Grant Ware, adjutant of the local post, and Frank P. Smith.
   The tour will cover 3758 miles.  Special arrangements for refueling and oil replacements have been made.  Tires which are virtually puncture-proof have been obtained.  Sleeping facilities have been       arranged.  
   The Chronicle has acquired exclusive rights for this city for daily reports of progress, the drivers to write personal accounts of the journey.

Start Next Wednesday
  The start will be made here next Wednesday, according to the plans the Mexican border will be touched at noon April 1 and the car will be back in Spokane the afternoon of April 4 if the schedule is adhered to.
     Legion posts in Oregon and Washington also will provide escorts the insure the drivers against being forced to stop their car because of traffic signs.
    "The machine will be equipped with a tachimeter, a device which will make an instant recording and designate the car makes a momentary stop," said Mr. Ware. "This is sealed when put on the car.  We have to keep moving forward to make a record, as even the time taken to slip into reverse at any time on the whole trip would be recorded as a stop and show on the instrument that the journey had not been a success.
     "Legion posts in Washington, Oregon and California have arranged to cooperate with us.  Further plans will be announced here in the Chronicle,  as they are worked out.  The car is practically ready for  the start now."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

World War II Letters Home October 5, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                         Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                         Didcot, Berks
                                                                                         October 5, 1939
Dear Folks:

By the time this gets across all of you will be at home again.  I got Mom's letter the other day and 1 from Esther and Richard today.  Some of my letters are addressed to Honington and other to Stradishall;  I am sure glad I told all of you nearly 2 months ago that I wouldn't be at Stradishall anymore.  I don't know whether you are getting my letters of not but if you do it doesn't seem like it.  I have been sending pictures, magazines, papers and letters from all over the country, even when I was at Thornaby, and no one has ever said a word about getting them.  I sent my commission home a long time ago but I don't know whether you even got that.  I don't think there is much use sending many airmail letters across Canada as I have two letters sent by airmail on September 11 and just got them today - so you can see it took nearly 3 1/2 weeks for me to get them anyway.  The only airmail service that is any god is the Transatlantic route and that is so expensive.

I will be here at Harwell for another month but until the end of that time I won't know where I will be moved.

I will be flying tonight unless a fog or rain comes up like it did last night.  Next week we will be  doing practice bombing with our Wellingtons - which will be quite interesting.

So the local yokels are trying to get government jobs - I suppose that is so they can stay in Canada or are there some more of these people who are "enjoying the war" because they think they'll get rich.  What has happened to Vernon and Max - have they given up the idea of joining up or what?

The R.A.F. have had a few skirmishes and so on but nothing very extensive.  There have been 8 or 9 "pamphlet raids" on Germany and Berlin and not a machine was harmed, which goes to show the Germans how easily we could drop bombs.  The Navy is doing its share of fighting and our Army troops in France are doing their share, so are the medium bombers of R.A.F. that are stationed across the Channel for a while. Now that Poland is gone there is an inevitable "chewing-the-rag" session coming up.

I hope you had a good stay in the states Mom.  I'll bet things were so changed that it didn't even seem like the same place anymore.  You needn't send those beer bottle caps yet - wait until Christmas, ha! ha! - maybe you might send some turkey with them.

Now that threshing is over I suppose you keep the ploughs going full force.  We are having real fall weather - it has been a bit cooler, night rains, and some of the trees that do shed their leaves have started already.

I have a touch of the Hives again - they are not so terribly bad, but seems to be quite persistent.  I am on a diet now so may be able to shoo them away soon.

I am afraid I haven't much news to talk about and I haven't any snaps to send this week but I'll send some more newspapers.  I'll finish this when I come down from flying;  I'll be able to tell you how effective the blackout is around here.

Back again.  This country doesn't look the same as it used to, instead of bright lights of towns all that is visible is an odd dim glow here and there.  It is just possible to see cars on the road but their lights are quite faint.  The only bright lights I saw flying again tomorrow night for about 4 hours, then that will be all for a little while.

I'm afraid I don't know what else to write about now so I'll just have to quit.  Maybe I'll be able to think of something more interesting next time.

Don't forget to write ofter, All of you.

Love, Estelles

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

World War II Letters Home September, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                          Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                          Didcot, Berks
                                                                                          September 1939

Dear Folks:

I have made another unexpected move so I suppose my mail will be trying to catch up with me from Thornaby or Stradishall.  When I was at Thornaby I got word to go back to Stradishall so bundled up all my trunks and clothes and took the train back.  This was after war was declared so i was 1st class coach.  Going up there I went in civies so had to go 3rd class and the train was so packed with people evacuating  London that I had to stand most of the way which was over 200 miles.  I got back at midnight on Friday night and found that both squadrons on our station and all the  men and planes had moved down here at Harwell, so Saturday Doug and I came down here in the care.  We left our luggage there as it was to come by transport lorry the same day.  Well, I have been  here about a week and 1 suitcase and one trunk arrived yesterday, and there is still 1 of my trunks missing.  So now I have my hands full trying to locate it.  I have just phoned up the stores officer at Stradishall and told him to see whether it was left there or whether it had been sent, as he is in charge of the rear party he should know something about it - but I doubt it.  If he can't find it then the transport drivers will have to do some explaining.  I hate to lose it as the trunk cost me 3, my great coat 8 and there is my raincoat, dressing grown, flying log book, my picture albums, King's Regulations, Air Force Law, etc. and I don't know what else.  I have been going to insure my kit but I kept putting it off, now it is probably too late but I think I can trace it up some way or other.

I did my first actual flying in a Wellington a few days ago.  The instructor took off and landed, and then we changed seats and I took off and landed 5 times and did a few steep turns, etc. to get the feel of it.  So actually I went solo without any dual which makes me feel real proud of myself as it is nearly 6 months since I have even taken an aircraft off the ground.  I mad good take-offs and literally greased them on the deck in landing.  I was afraid that my conception of height when coming into land would be all haywire as that's what happened to some of the other boys; they were either holding off too high or else hitting the deck, but I seemed to manage o.k. It seems funny flying a Wellington as hey are so heavy and large and with a lot of different gadgets in the office; it takes a bit of concentration to see that all the levers and buttons are set.  In another fortnight I will be 1st day and 1st night pilot on them.  I will have about 20 hours day and 10 night.  These Wellingtons carry 16-500 pound bombs or a corresponding weight of larger or smaller bombs.  I didn't think that they would carry that big a load.  We will eventually be getting a Wellington that is 12 feet longer than the present one and it will have twice as powerful motors in it, 2,000 h.p. each.

I suppose you have read about the Kiel Canal episode - there has been more news released about it today.  I don't know whether it was in the paper or not about the plane that flew all round the German harbours, the Elbe and other estuaries, but that aeroplane was Lockheed 14 and I plotted their courses for them when I was at Thornaby.  They had 3 German twin engine fighters after them but got away without much trouble as the Lockheed was up to 20,000 feet and the fighters had to climb up t get it.  the pilot in this reconnaissance plane just put the nose down a bit and opened 'er up - knocking off 300 m.p.h..  I saw the original photographs and they were good - you wouldn't think there would be so much picture from such a height but all the details showed up clearly.  A lot of our army troops and medium single, twin-engine bombers are stationed over in France now and with the aid of the French Army and Air force they are giving Hitler a merry chase - he had to break up his forces to protect the western defences, so now the Poles are starting to get their own back.  If Hitler lives long enough he will see his hard work of Nazism completely wiped out of history, as it is a definite bye word that Britain and France will not stop until his sort of diplomatic program is banished forever.

The British Fleet have stopped a lot of imports from going into Germany and in a short time Germany will be starving even more than they are now, which is bad enough.

Apparently the pamphlet dropping over Berlin and Germany didn't do much good to turn the people against Hitler enough to cause a rebellion of any sort, unless that is to come yet- who knows?  Five of these campaigns were made and not a plane failed to come back.  It has been found out that the wonderful air force Hitler thought he had, isn't up to much.  That is one reason why he hasn't sent any over England - with our anti-aircraft defense and our home defense fighting squadrons there would be a high rate of loss to any fighters coming over.  It was rumored - I don't know but it may be true, that one German raid was carried out over England - if it was, there weren't any bombs dropped, so it wasn't a very successful one.

Al the picture shows were closed down but now they are opening up again.  Radio programs are going on somewhat the same as usual, although a lot of records are being played.

I have been in Oxford several evenings and about all you see is uniforms; the do; everything from working on the farm, nurses, bus and lorry drivers, Territorial Army and there is even a Women's Reserve Air Force and Naval Reserve.

I made a couple of trios to a small country estate near Uxbridge which is Bomber Commmands' new war headquarters, to get some secret.  I had to go armed with a 45 automatic.  There are a lot of spies about so no one, even in uniform is trusted.  A couple of spies were thrown in the coop at Bury St. Edmunds just before we moved down here - they are scattered all over the country especially around aerodromes, so now we have so many armed guards around camp it is almost unsafe to walk around at night for fear of getting a bayonet poked into one's ribs.

We have a little bell-boy in the mess who answers telephone calls and chases up anyone wanted - he wears a smart green uniform.  I think he was an usher in one of the cinemas before they closed down.  Anyhow, he is kept quite busy around here.

I am Orderly Officer today so I have to be continually dashing about the camp inspecting this and that - also have to tote around my war harness and cannon.

Did I tell you about this blackout business over here?  Boy, it's so dark in the towns and cities that you think you are in some one's cellar,  even traffic lights are screened so that only a faint pin point of light shows up.  Doors and windows are blacked and most of the large or important buildings are banked up with sandbags.  Unless you know where a place is, you are quit unlikely to find it at night.

Well, is is just after 4 o'clock so I have to go and inspect the air men's teas.  I tore a strip of some of the air men's cooks and waiters this noon for serving food out wearing dirty jackets - they are supposed to be white but they might have been anything but, the way they looked when I saw them.  I'll bet they won't be dirty when I go in there now - they probably think I am a slave driver but you have to chase them around, otherwise they get too self-important or should I say very slack.  the main thing is to feed them well and make them step lively - it keeps them out of mischief.

I will mail this now and will write again on Sunday or Monday.  Don't worry about me - I'm o.k.

All My Love,


Monday, September 29, 2014

Military Monday - World War I - Frank P. Smith - Honorable Discharge

Honorable Discharge From the United States Army

This is to Certify, that*  Frank P. Smith #76330 Private 1/cl 262nd Co 131st  MP Bn
THE UNITED STATES ARMY, as a TESTIMONIAL OF HONEST AND FAITHFUL SERVICE is hereby HONORABLY DISCHARGED from the military service of the UNITED STATES by reason of  S.C.D.L.D 3rd Ind Hdqrs. West Depot S.F. Calif. dated July 9, 1919. SAID  Frank P Smith was born in DeKalb, in the State of Illinois. When enlisted he was 19 years of age and by occupation a Truck Driver. He had Blue eyes, Brown hair, Ruddy complexion , and was 5 feet 6 3/4 inches in height.
Given under my hand at Fort Douglas Utah this 16th day of July, one thousand, nine hundred and nineteen.
A.D. Darcy, Lt. Col. Med. Corps USA

U.S.A. General Hospital #27