Thursday, September 5, 2013

World War II Letters Home September 5, 1938-Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                       No. 2 Flying Training
                                                                                                      Brize Norton
                                                                                                      Chaterson, Oxford
                                                                                                      September 5, 1938
Dear Folks:

Well, here I am at another school now and hope to be here for about 6 months.  We got here Saturday afternoon and loafed about on Sunday looking the place over.  This is surely an Air Force base.  As far as I can make out everyone within about 2 miles has something to do with the R.A.F.  There are very few stores around here and no theatres less than  miles away.  I should start off by saying that this place is rather isolated after a sense.  It is about 70 miles from London (west and a little north).  I think it is about 20 miles from Oxford.  This isn't exactly a new place, but to see all the huge buildings under construction you would think it was just being built.  The cost to build and run a place like this, with paying everyone salaries, etc. must run into millions of pounds.  There are 7 immense hangars here, besides there are 6 extra immense hangars that are built with a rounding roof and are going to be covered with earth to camouflage them.  They look something like this:-

I really have no idea how large they are but I believe I could be safe in saying they are approximately 80 feet wide, 30 or 40 feet high and 300 or 400 feet long.   They are situated a little distance from the landing field.  A couple of them are about 1/2 mile away.

This morning we got 15 more text books issued to us.  They add another 2 feet of space on the shelf anyway.  Also we got our parachutes and lockers assigned to us.

The best news of all is that i have got into the type of plane I have been trying for.  I worked real hard at Hatfield on my navigation so that I could get on multi-engined planes and boy!  I made the grade.  There are about 40 in our junior group and about 2/3 of them are on fighters. I am one of the third that was recommended for bombers or heavy planes.  Oh, I am so glad that I got what I wanted.  The fellows are going on fighters start training here on Hawker "Harts".  they are somewhat bigger than the Tiger Moths we had at Hatfield.  Their cruising speed is about 120 m.p.h.  Then after they are advanced and leave here for a squadron they fly these Hawker "Hurricanes".  They are the planes that travel up the 400 m.p.h.

We, who are on the heavies start here on Airspeed Oxfords.  they are a 2 engined non plane, light bombers with a gunner's cockpit about half way back on them.  I'll have plenty of pictures soon to send to you so you can see what they are like.  Our instructor took us out and showed us as much of them as he could,  just on the ground; we fly them tomorrow.  They are simply marvelous.

If I am not mistaken, I think the top speed of  these Oxfords is 270 m.p.h  They are cabin planes and have a retractable landing gear - you know - the wheels pull up into their tummies.  After about 5 or 6 hours of dual we will be doing solo in them.  I can hardly believe all of this is true; it seems like a wonderful dream.  Anyhow, after we leave here for a squadron we get to fly some real big planes.  I don't know how big yet so I'll leave them alone for now.

Our living quarters here are long wooden buildings (1 story) about 28 rooms in each section, and each of us have a room to ourselves.  The furniture consists of: 1 bed (about 30 inches off the floor) but very comfortable, 1 small coal stove (and I mean small), a wardrobe for hanging suits in (I only have 6), a dresser for putting my shirts in etc. 9 I only have 14 shirts and only 8 pairs of boots and shoes), and a writing desk with lots of room for books, one ordinary chair and a fibre easy chair, and also there are 2 rugs on the floor.  The room is quite small, about 11 x 12' but is really quite comfortable.  We all eat in a big mess with long tables and we get very good food here.  Our mess bill is only 3/6 a day, compared to the 8s we paid at Hatfield it is quite a difference.  We get about 18 quid (or pounds) a month and our mess and sports, batman (servant) comes to about 6 pounds.  So i should be able to save about 12 pounds a month - it's not so terribly much but when you think of getting paid to learn something- it is quite a bit.  Besides when our 4 years are up we get about 300 in one lump sum, so I should have enough to get home on.

We have our uniforms now - we get an extra allowance of 50 to pay for them.  My bill comes to slightly over that with 2 trunks I bought.  There are quite a few things I have to get yet, a dressing gown, and a pair of patent shoes.  I am keeping a ledger of all my income and expenditures, so I will have at least a faint idea of how I stand.

Now to get this straight about the letters, I think I got them all.  I got sent to Canada House, and 3 from Esther (2 in one day).  It takes from 12 to 14 days for me to get them.  I'll send the big pictures and some small ones this week, I can't get them ready tonight.  I have a steady source of time killing to do on my studies, that means every night, so please try to realize that I can't always take a couple of hours off to try to write a nice long letter, especially since that is what everyone expects.  Our time is fully occupied here.  I can't site down and write letters because I have no work to do.  We have to put in some of our time at sports, and sometimes it is nice to take a walk out in the country for a couple hours.  This life would be drastically monotonous if we didn't get away from it sometimes.  I got the letter in which various people wrote a few lines  quite a long time ago,  and from J. McKay.

That sure is too bad about the grain being so rusted,  but I guess there isn't anything that can be done about it.  I hope you get enough oats so that you'll have lots of feed anyway.

Did I tell you I made an average of about 76% on my final exams at Hatfield.  I was 6th from the top out of a class of 25.  I was going to send you a schedule of what we do in a week but will have to leave it go this time.  I think I have written quite a bit. I don't know whether is is very interesting or not.  Oh yes, when we are not on duty I am called Wick to airmen; other officers, etc. I am Sir, or Acting Pilot Officer Wickenkamp.

About dances - I have gone to a few public dances at Hatfield, but the few dances i have gone to are mostly club dance.  It's different over here.  Last Friday I went to a club dance at a grand place - 2 orchestras, footmen, waiters, etc., etc., in my tux - you know - swell joint.  It cost only 2/6 to get in.  Will tell you more about it next time.  I know Esther will be interested.

As it is a quarter to 11 and 6:30 comes early I must close.  Tell Harold to be good boy.  Dad, how about you and Richard writing once in a while.  I haven't had rheumatism since I have been here, and have sort of gotten over my sleepiness.  I weight about 12 stone, 8 lbs.

                                                                                          Best Wishes and Love,


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