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


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