Saturday, August 31, 2013

World War II Letters Home August, 31, 1938-Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                     Officer Mess
                                                                                                     Royal Air Force
                                                                                                    August 31, 1938

Dear Folks:

I suppose you have been wondering why I haven't written lately. This moving about keeps a person quite busy.  In fact, I forget when I did write last, only I have a hunch it is more than week ago.  Sometimes I forget what I have written about so if I repeat 2 or 3 times, you'll know why.

Our time has surely been well put into use here.  We get up at 6:30, then have breakfast at 7:00, then about an hour of P.T. and the rest of the time is used up in drill until 12:00.  After luncheon tea time at 4:00 we generally do more drill.  After that we can leave the barracks until about 6:30 or 6:45 when we have to dress for dinner at 7:00. Most of us have our mess kits now so we were them instead of dinner suits.  After dinner we can lounge around, study or do what we like, to to the flicks here, as long as we don't leave the barracks.

The grounds here are very nicely kept as you will see as soon as I get my pictures developed and send you some.  I find it much easier to take a picture of something than try to describe it -- takes too much energy.

This afternoon instead of drill we had a run of about 2 miles around the barracks and since that I have walked around town and out to the swimming pool, so my legs are sore.  Last night I went to bed at 9:30 so you can see we really must get plenty of exercise.

Tomorrow we get our uniforms back, if there were any alterations made after the first inspection, and we have our 2nd inspection.  Everything has to fit just so - no wrinkles. Friday we have to have our heavy luggage packed and ready to be shipped.  Saturday morning we take our service uniforms and mess uniforms with us and at 8:30 leave for Brize Norton.  We get 2 weeks leave.  I haven't fully decided where I will spend Christmas yet.  maybe Paris or Berlin - I dunno.

I will soon have to get into my mess uniform.  After dinner I am going to pasted some more amendments to these huge law books we have.  I wrote a real long letter to Esther and told her to send it on to you.  It isn't very often I can write much of a letter.

When I send those pictures of myself in different types of dress, I will send enough; some you can send to both grandmas and some to our other relatives.

I am sending you set of R.A.F. wings.  You will have to bend the clasp again.  After a while I will send some stuff that I have here.  I hope you get this airtight.  You can wear it on your dress, Mama.

My chum Doug bought a radio and we are going to try to room together so we will have a little evening entertainment.  When we get to Brize Norton we will be a little ways from town.

We had real nice weather for the last 2 weeks.  I hope it stays this way for a while.

I don't know what else to write about - all I see is service life (at least mostly) and I suppose that gets quite boring to read all the time.  I will write again soon.  How is the work going at the garage, Richard?  Study all the service news you can, it will help you.  Tell me the local news when you write.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

World "War II Letters Home August 25, 1938-Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                         Officers Mess
                                                                                                         Royal Air Force
                                                                                                        August 25, 1938

Dear Esther:

I have another home for a couple of weeks, so I'll have to send you a sample of the notepaper we have here.  We don't do any flying here, just drill, and drill.  We get up at 6:30, eat breakfast at 7:00, color hoisting and parade at 8:00 until 9:00, then we have a lecture, then more drill until 12:00, then we eat. From 1:30 we drill, etc. until 5:00, then we have tea.  Then we can play tennis or study until 7:00 when we appear for dinner, in full dinner dress  (not in tails, just our tuxedos with black vest or waistcoat as it is called, and a black bow tie).  There are about 120 of us pilot officers and we all eat in one big mess, with long tables in it.  We get a lot better food here than we did at Hatfield.

Our uniforms will be finished and brought out here London to us on this coming Monday, the 29th.  They are sort of gunmetal gray (I'll send you a sample).  first I'll describe our service uniforms - for wear on duty, while flying etc.  We wear a sort of blue pin-point shirt, separate collars, and cuff links and a black 4-in-hand tie.  The trousers are just standard pattern, vest, and the coat, ordinary pattern.  black shoes and black socks, and brown leather gloves and 2 different style caps, one for field service, a sort of scotch style and the other a parade cap.  Our other uniform is our mess uniform (same cloth) but to begin with you put your wellingtons in your skin tight pants.  Wellingtons are a sort of Wyoming cowboy boots. there is a strap at the bottom of the pants that goes under the boots to hold them tighter 'n a fiddle string, the (don't forget they are held up by a tight pair of braces). Then the waistcoat which is very short (we have the gray one and also a white one for guest nights), then comes our mess jacket - it is short like a bell-hop's. Anyhow, to end it up you look like you were melted and poured into it, but don't think it doesn't look natty, because it sure does.  I'll send numerous pictures later to prove my point.

Well, I have to struggle into my stiff shirt and dinner suit so I'll finish this aftah dinnah!

Well, that's over and here I am - stiff front, stiff cuffs, and stiff collar.  I'll try to tell you a little more about our dinners, especially the more peculiar points.  In the first place, we do not get slices of bread here, it is cut in hunks and a hunk is laid down beside your service.  Our cutlery is colossal - I mean spoons and knives are terribly large.  Our meals are served in courses.  After we are through eating we retreat to the lounge and get ourselves a cup of coffee with chicory in it.  If you want anything to drink you just go over to the wall to one of the speaking tubes, press a button and phone in you order - the waiter comes out with it and sign for it and it is deducted from your wages - you can't pay for anything in cash.  Here is a rough sketch of the mess - this is quite out of proportion but it will give your a fair idea.  This whole depot is covered with long buildings which are our quarters, classrooms, hospitals, etc., etc., barracks and what not.  Most of the wings are about 200 feet long and about 30 feet wide.  There are 2 of us in each room.   We have soccer fields, tennis courts, squash courts, gymnasium, theatre and everything here.

One thing that is very noticeable is the importance of prestige of officers (don't forgot I am one) have to carry around here .It is not allowed to speak to an airman (ground man) because he is below your rank, etc.  After dinner you cannot go into the lounge unless you are in dinner jacket and at no time can go around unless you are properly attired, coat and tie or scarf.  It just isn't cricket! I think you get to be a hypocrite or something like that, reserved, the whole atmosphere has sociability erased from it.

We had a set of our text books issued to us the other day and the consist of: 1.  King's Regulations and Air Council Instructions - a book about 7" x 10" and 2 1/2" thick with 1,450 pages.  2. Manual of Air force law - 6" x(' and 2" thick - m916 pages.  3.  Part 1 and Part 2 - 2 books on Royal Air Force War Manual, 5" x 7" about 100 pages each.  4.  R.A.F Pocket Book 4" x 6" x 1" with flap that folds around it.  This contains a brief summary of anything you want to know more or less what is in these books  - how one goes about it, I don't know.

We also get issued with our flying suits and gas mask while we are here.  so you can imagine the amount of trunks it will take to take care of all our belongings before long.

I am going to take a bunch of pictures of this place and various things on Sunday.  We haven't time otherwise - they keep us hopping.

It's awfully hard to get any nice neckties over here, either they are terribly drab or something that I wouldn't want to wear. All the fellows wonder where we got our nice ties. They think our clothes as a whole are gaudy.

I have my box camera yet but I think I will get a  folding one sometime - they are handier to carry about.

I haven't told you much about London I guess., so I'll start at the bottom - that will be the underground electric railways.  To get to them there are entrances on nearly every downtown street corner.  You walk down steps for about 30 feet, then go to a slot machine or ticket office and get a ticket - then you go down 1 or 2 escalators for about 100 to 150 feet lower down.  You get on a platform in these tunnels and you see trains whizzing by at about 50 m.p.h  They stop and start with a bang and the doors are automatic.  You get in from the sides - furthermore you don't waste any time doing so unless you want to be left standing there.  Most of the time they are so packed you can hardly get standing room - but that doesn't mark any difference.  These tubes don't run in London - they go way out in the country.  After they get out a ways they come to the top of the ground.  It sure is a wonderful system for quick travelling.  It is about 25 miles from here to Piccadilly Circus and a return ticket only cost 1/7, about 31 cents.

I am so tired from all our marching, etc.  I am going to call it quits, have a bath and go to bed.

Esther, you had better send this letter home after you read it, because I don't write long descriptive letters like this every day.  It is only :00 o'clock so I sure mus be tired.

Send my next mail to: Acting Pilot Officer E.A.W
                                 No. 2 Flying Training School
                                 Brize Norton, Oxfordshire

I got an air mail letter from the folks - it took about 10 days to get here. I'll try to write another long letter when i get in the mood again.

                                                                                         With Love, Your Brother


Thursday, August 22, 2013

World War II Letters Home August 22, 1938-Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                          Officers Mess
                                                                                                          Royal Air Force
                                                                                                          August 22, 1938

Dear Folks:

Things have been happening so fast lately that I haven't even been able to get a letter off to you.

We have all left Hatfield now and are in Uxbridge.  We don't do any flying here.  We just put in 2 weeks drilling and learning what an officer should know about the Air Force.  There are several hundred A.P.O.'s here - that's what I am (Acting Pilot Officer) and I don't know how many airmen - they are the ground crew - don't forget that!  They are not officers in the same sense that we are.

All of us Pilots eat in one big Mess - we have about 20 waiters.  Our food is better here than at our Elementary School.  We came here Saturday evening.  Today is Monday. This afternoon we all had to go into London - it's only about 45 minutes by underground railway - to have our last fitting for our uniforms.  Wednesday we go in again for our last fitting.  The we will get our uniforms about the first of next week.  We get 2 uniforms and an overcoat, a pair of oxfords, a pair of ankle shoes and a pair of wellingtons.  I'll explain about them next time.  One uniform is a Mess uniform, the other is a service uniform.  I'll tell you more abut them later too.

Tonight at dinner (and every night after this) we wore our dinner suite.  Boy! I never dreamed I would ever wear one of those.  It feels like you are stuffed into a sort of metal jacket.  They sure look neat though.  I'll try to have some pictures of this place by the end of the week.  I can't go into much detail tonight as it is bedtime.  We get up at 6:300 here - breakfast is at 7:00 and then to work.  There is a cinema right here in this R.A.f depot so we can go to the "flicks" any evening we wish.

I really have to quit now but I'll try to go into detail sometime during the next week and give you a real concrete idea of what things are like.

In your letter you asked me what a bull's eye on the landing field was - well, I don't know what you are referring to - I don't remember saying that, so explain.  I just read that part again - you saw it on the picture well, that is a sign to show where the "Duty Flight" for all R.A.f planes is at an aerodrome.  When a stranger belonging to the R.A.F lands at an aerodrome  and sees that sign he taxies his plane up to the hangars where that sign is, and they take care of his plane for him - give him oil, petrol - if he needs  it.

Also you asked me how far away I was when I got lost - well, I was about 14 miles away.  But you must remember- 14 miles of town after town, rivers, roads and railways over here is like a thousand miles over there, because there is nothing really distinctive that you can use for a landmark.  Of course I have learned to read maps better now and I find it a lot easier to know where I am.  We never go solo without one.

I am sending you a few snaps I took from the air when I was alone. I trimmed the plane and was flying "hands off" when I took them.  It was quite cold when I was up at 8,000 feet.  My feet and face were chilly.  I had my heavy suit on though.  I was also doing aerobatics when I was up there.

I must go to bed now! Good night (it's only 4 p.m. over there)



Saturday, August 17, 2013

World War II Letters Home August 17, 1938-Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                     The De Havilland School
                                                                                                         of Flying
                                                                                                    Longfield House
                                                                                                   Hatfield, Herts
                                                                                                   August 17, 1938

Dear Folks:

My letter writing has been more or less irregular lately.  We have been having classroom and flying tests and it means a certain amount of studying.

I don't know just where to start - news is about the same all the same.  About all I can tell you is flying.  I have my 50 hours of flying in now and tomorrow is the last day of flying here.  Also we have our Morse code test and Armament and Gunnery exam tomorrow.  They are both oral.  then the day after (Friday) we have our written exams.  In the morning we  have:  Administration, Air Navigation and Engines; then in the afternoon we have Theory of Flight, Rigging and Airman ship.  These of course are our final exams. In our tests so far I have done quite well; I have an average of 80%.  I also had my 45 hour flying test and I did exceptionally well - my instructor was very pleased.  I should rank among the best.  That must have been one of my lucky days because I didn't make any boners like the rest of the guys did.  I have put in 5 hours of instrument flying - that is when you pull the hood over the cockpit and do all your flying just by instruments.  I have even taken off under the hood.

Today being the last day of dual instruction for a lot of us, our instructors decided to show us some of the country and London.  We flew all over; I saw Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace and all those places.  Then we landed at Brookland Aerodrome and here when we came down there were about 6 of our planes there already.  We went into the club there and had coffee.  Then as we were putting on our flying suits my instructor asked me if I would like to sit in the front cockpit, so I took his seat.  It sure is a lot different sitting in front.  then after we got up in the air 5 of us flew back in formation like this.

It sure was great, all the instructors were in the back seats.  I wished I had my camera - it would have made a swell picture.

I have my complete dinner suite and shirt with everything that goes with it now.  I also bought another shirt and a couple of new ties, a new hat and a cap - we have to wear a cap when we drill at Uxbridge - until our uniforms are ready.  We get them about a week after we get there.  Oh yes, I also bought a pair of worsted light grey trousers and a couple of P.T. shirts.  My trousers cost 1 guinea which is 21 or 1 - 1s or $4.25.  I hope you understand.

We are not having a dinner night here so we had a party for our instructors last night.  If you ask me I thing it was a drinking contest.  I managed to drink 2 glasses of the flat stuff.

As soon as I can, after we get to Uxbridge, I am going to get my teeth fixed up.  I'll have 1 pulled.  They only charge 2/6 to pull a tooth.


Just a few words to end off this letter.  We had our armament and Morse Code exam today and I passed both of them.  But tomorrow is the big day when we really have to do some thinking. I went up for 3 solo flights today just to put in time.  I went above the clouds up to 8,000 feet and it sure was cold.  I also took a few pictures from the air.  If they turn out alright I'll be able to send you some.

We leave here Saturday morning so I supposed I can start packing early tomorrow night. I'll write to you again as soon as I get to Uxbridge.  I suppose I'll have a couple letters waiting for me at Canada House.

We haven't had any rain for the last week.  The weather has been quite nice although very windy, which makes it hard to land.

I must mail this now and do some studying.  How about sending me the Free Press Prairie Farmer once in a while? It only costs 3 cents to send it to me.  I'd like to read some of the news.

I suppose you are harvesting now.  Take care of your selves.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World War II Letters Home August 7, 1938-Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                    Officer's Mess
                                                                                                    No. 11 Flying Training
                                                                                                    Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                                    Shrewbury, Salop
                                                                                                    Hatfield, Herts
                                                                                                     August 7, 1938

Dear Folks:

Today is a nice beautiful rainy day so everything is quiet around this part.  It has been raining and drizzling nearly all day.

Yesterday was real nice and warm so I spent part of the afternoon in the swimming pool with some actors and film stars from a nearby film studio.  I think I told you that the pool and club were rather exclusive.  Only the people belonging to the Royal Aero Club and the Royal Air Force can go there.  It is a nice pool about 39 feet wide and 75 feet long.  The water is 3 1/2 feet deep at one end and 7 1/2 feet at the other end.  At the deep end there is a diving platform with one board about 10 feet above the water and another about 20 feet up, also a spring board just over the water.  Between the pool and the fence around it is nice soft green grass where you lie in the sun if you wish.  Along one side is a building with 2 squash courts and a canteen.

I think I told you what we do throughout the day and at what times.  The food we get here is the bunk.  You can't get food coffee over here;  it is all this French coffee with a lot of chicory in it.  It tastes like slop most of the time.  For breakfast we get corn flakes or shredded wheat (there is a factory near here) and eggs sometimes with ham or bacon.  They serve soup at dinner and it is terrible stuff; I don't know how they make it; anyway I seldom eat it.  Then we get a choice of cold ham or corned beef, vegetable salad and potatoes, or else we can have a hot meal which varies greatly from lamb, beef, liver and bacon, stew and kidneys and some vegetables.  For dessert we get pineapple, figs, prunes, raspberries, rice and bread pudding, applesauce, cherries, etc., but it is all served with custard.  I'm getting sick of seeing it.  We never get pies, or milk even on any dessert.  At tea time we get tea, bread and butter and jam and cake -- mostly fruit cake.


I didn't get this finished yesterday in spite of all the time I had, so I'll finish it now and mail it before supper.  The sky is still murky today but I got in 2 hours, 10 minutes flying.  Diving through the clouds playing hide and seek with myself.

I lam invited out this coming Sunday to dinner with a Canadian family - here's hoping I get a good Canadian meal again.

This coming Saturday a bunch of us boys are going into London to do a little shopping.  I have to buy a stiff shirt yet.

It has just started to rain again so had better dash off and get this mailed.  I'll try to write again before the end of the week.

                                                                                                 As Ever With Love,


N.B Don't forget to send my mail to "Canada House", London.