Wednesday, January 22, 2014

World War II Letters Home January 22, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                     Brize Norton
                                                                                                     January 22, 1939
Dear Folks:

I haven't written for a long time but still there isn't much to write about.  All I can see is rain and rain. It rains all day and all night.  This is the most rain they have had in January in England for 100 years.  We don't get much flying weather.  I got about 1 hours in this month, but from the air you can see how much of the country is under water, just like a flood, only the water isn't going anywhere.  I saw lots of houses standing out in the water, just like islands.

The aerodrome is getting so soft and muddy and covered with water that it is impossible to take off or land without splattering the planes up.  In fact, I heard that the rains over this week-end have just put the aerodrome unserviceable - so I suppose we won't get any flying until it dries up - if that is possible, maybe they can put floats on instead of wheels.  I saw the sun once or twice last week for a couple minutes.  We had a cold spell the first week in January.  There was a bit of frost and the water froze over but it is mild now.

One day last week when Doug and I were going up to do Camera Obscura, we got up to 6,000 feet when one motor cut out.  It didn't stop but it wouldn't rev up, so we glided down and landed.  After we landed we found out that the carburetor on that engine was plugged up and a rocker arm on one cylinder was broken off.  We couldn't have done our exercise anyway because after a few minutes the sky was covered with low clouds at about 1,000 feet and it started to rain.  I suppose I'll have to tell you what Camera Obscura is:  well, first you go up to the required height and find the wind speed and direction by the 3-course or some other method. I can't explain how this is don; its too complicated.  Anyhow, after you find W.S and D. you set it on the bomb site which is situated in the nose so you can look down. We have to lie on our tummies to do this while the pilot steers the aircraft.  After everything, including your speed, altitude and wind is set on the bombsite we look down the drift wires through the sites and direct the pilot to turn until the target appears to be coming straight down the drift wires.  The target is a building with a lens in the ceiling which reflects the aircraft on a chart table.  As soon as the A/C (aircraft) comes on the chart the track is marked with a pencil.  Instead of dropping a bomb a light under the A/C is flashed.  This is recorded on the chart, then knowing the wind, etc. the charters figure out where the bomb would have dropped so when we come down we can see the results of our 'bombing' known as Camera Obscura.  I hope you get the idea, it's hard to explain all this stuff because there are so many different terms used and all kinds of gadgets I never even knew of before.

We also do "air to ground" which is firing a Camera Gun at targets, as we fly past them.  We fly alongside the targets about 400 feet away and 200 feet up and as we go past we shoot at them.  There are 1 of them 300 yards apart.  The camera lens is marked with circles so when the picture is developed it looks like this:

The target is a white board about 6 feet square with a cross on it.  It is how we tell what kind of shooting we did.  The camera gun looks something like a machine gun and is "free" (to move), also the turret moves around so we can swing the gun in any position.

In another letter I'll try to tell you how we find wind speed and direction from the air.  I don't suppose you thought that was possible but there are about 26 different methods of doing it.

I think I will buy myself a suit next month.  I have only the 1 dark suite to wear and its getting a bit shabby.  We can get a real good suite for about 50 shillings - $12.50.  The same quality would cost about $30 in Canada.

I am sending a couple of snaps of Whitley.  I hope to get on something like this.  They are classed as heavies but I believe Air Ministry are going to come out soon with a much larger aircraft soon with 4r motors.

It is after midnight so I think I ought to got to bed.  I hope you got the aeroplane card album.  Tell Vernon I will write to him sometime this week.  I suppose he is still studying.  How is Pearl D. getting along?  If you see her, give her my best regards.  I hope you are all feeling tops, and don't forget to write.  I haven't heard from you for nearly 2 weeks.  Your last letter is dated 20th of December.

                                                                                 Best Wishes and Love,

Sunday, January 5, 2014

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

                                                                                                        Brize Norton, Oxon
                                                                                                        January 5, 1929

Dear Esther:
I received both of your parcels the day I came back from my holidays, also I had a big stack of letters waiting for me.

The sweater is really swell, I sure like it, and for once I have had one with sleeves long enough.  You shouldn't have bought me such an expensive desk set.  It is something I needed and i am really proud of it.

I feel ashamed of myself for not sending you something nicer but I really didn't know what to get.  But next month I am going to get a pair of earrings (I think you wear them) and a R.A.F broach to match ( I mean vice-versa).  I got a photo album from Richard and Dot sent me a signet ring with my initials on it.  I haven
t been wearing  a ring since I have been there here. Mom is sending me a parcel but I haven't got it yet, I suppose it will be here tomorrow.

I also got a safety razor from the people where I was staying in Wales.  I don't need it though; I have a couple already and i want to get a Remington Electric Shaver.  Here in England all the current is from 230 to 250 volts, so they put a resistor on razors as they are made for 110 volts.

I had a wonderful time in Wales, I spent my whole fortnight there.  I have never been to so many parties no met so many people in all my life.  The Welsh people are very sociable.  I think (I mean, I know) there wasn't a day went by that we didn't drink.  As soon as i got out of bed, which was usually 11 o'clock to 1:30 p.m. I had to have a drink and of course it continued all day and half the night.  We usually went to a pub where all of us young folks gathered or else to some party; it sure was fun.  I wish you could be here to go pub-crawling with us.  People in this country they don't drink to get drunk or bleary-eyed like the Americans, etc. they just take it slowly and steadily; you don't see anyone getting rorry-eyed very often.  In fact, I have never been tight or whatever you wish to call it, since I have been over here, and I must admit I have on several occasions drunk about 20 glasses of beer.  I could hardly believe it.  It isn't that the stuff hasn't any kick, it's just the way you take it.

I didn't take many pictures while I was in Wales but will send you the few I have as soon as I get them developed.

Now that  I am in the Senior Term or A.T.S (Advanced Training Squadron) and have my wings (which are cloth and sewed on) I am a fully fledged pilot.  We do not get much dual instruction now, but we boys fly together as pilot and observer or bomb airmen or gunner.  I am flying with Douglas Morris, a 'bloke' from Calgary, Alberta.  This afternoon on our first trip of 1 hour he was pilot and I, observer and we went up and did some WS/D finding (wind-speed and direction).  Then we came down and went up again and I was pilot.  We did some recco work (reconnaissance), counting trains and cars at some R.R. station, and counting aircraft at another aerodrome, etc.  It is real interesting work.

We have heaters installed in our planes now so they are quite warm even at 5,00 feet.  All I wear is a pair of combinations over my uniform, and I am still wearing summer underwear.

It has been snowing a little every night but melts away in the day.  It was about 32 above today so it didn't thaw much.  The worst part of this weather is that the aerodrome is getting soft and sloppy.  Sometimes when we are landing or taking off we run through a patch of water and splashes all over the plane,  and when the brakes are put on, the wheels just slide over the wet grass.

I got Christmas cards from Doris Dalton, Virginia H. and Kenneth. They are almost bewildered to think that I am here.  Doris sent me a card while back announcing the arrival of here little baby boy.

Well, it is nearly supper time, 7:30, and we are wearing our mess kits tonight so I'll have to get my wellingtons and skin-tights on and get over to the mess.

In the exams we had just before Christmas I made an average of 73.4%.  It wasn't as good as I had hoped to make but some of the papers were really tough.  We don't have any exams to speak of this term but we get assessed on our qualities as an officer and as a pilot.  Also on the results we get at Armament Camp, such as bomb dropping and machine and camera gun work.  We will be going to Catfoss (near Grimby) for Armament on the 8th of February.  We will be there a month.

About 6 weeks ago I got a bad kick in a rugby game,  just above my ankle and there has been a swelling like a hard lump there ever since,  so I went to the M.O. (Medical Officer) and he said the bone had been splintered so he taped it up for me.  It hasn't bothered me except when I bumped it, but I guess it will be alright soon.

We have been issued with rifles and bayonets so now we have rifle drill.  We worked our way out of P.T this term which is a good thing - because I never did like doing P.T. before breakfast.

Well, I think I have almost overdone myself, I must say Cheerio!

Give the gang my best regards and tell them to go easy on my photo - which I hope you have received in good condition.

I have been gaining weight lately, either I'll have to reduce or else get my clothes, and uniforms altered.

I saw "Snow white" yesterday, so, "Off to bed I go".


Friday, January 3, 2014

World War II Letters Home January 3, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                    Tuesday, January 3, 1939

I didn't get my letter finished last night, so I'll see what more I can add now.  I can't remember all the tools that I left in the garage, but here is a list  that will cover most of them:

I set (5) box wrenches
1 large box Wrench, off-set on one end only
1 set (3) box wrenches
1 set flat wrenches (about 6 0r 7)
1 set (3) ignition  wrenches
1 shore screwdriver (celluloid handle)
1 1 1/2 lb. ball peen hammer
1 8 in. blade crescent screwdriver
1 pr. side cutters (Swedish, I think)
1 set (4) chrome tappet wrenches
1 only 1/2 x 9 American tappet wrench (I'm not sure whether I left it home or not)
1 set 4 wheel pullers (in red boxes), also I think there were 2 others not in boxex
1 piston pin inserter (for A Fords)
1 value seat refacer with 4 or 5 pilot stems, different sizes
1 cheap value lifter (no good)
1 long handle spinner (with swivel end). You know the one I used for con. rods.
1 set sockets 12 pr. from 7/16" to 1 1 1/16" - most of them are bonney and grey, also two 21/32 for Fords (one extra thin, I ground it down)
1 tapped wrench 9 17/32 x 9/32 or some odd size like that
1 blow torch (with shield). I think I took mine in and took John's out home.  I'm not sure but I believe I had one of our soldering irons there too, (John only had one blunt one)
2 Lincoln grease guns (1 small, 1 medium)
1 oil and grease gun (brass barrell, about 2 1/2" diam. and screw handle, with detachable nozzle)
1 manifold box wrench, curved handle 5/8 x 9/16
1 manifold box wrench, short 9/16 x 5/8

I had a long handle speed wrench at home; if it is  not there then it must be at the garage, it was a Gray.

3 strips of feeler gauge stock .006. .008 and .013 thous.

I can't remember what else there might be but I think that covers the biggest part of it anyway.  They are your tools now so if you want to sell any of them you can, but I think they come in quite handy at home, even if it is just to fix the plow or rod-weeder.

I suppose the wind-electric is going strong.  Have you got an 8 volt battery now?  If you use 8 volts on the lights probably you should fix some sort of resistor or rheostat on one of the wires leading from the wall socket to the radio.  I think there is an extra rheostat in the junk up in your clothes closet or where ever it is by now.  You can test it with a volt meter to see when there is 6 or 6 1/2 volts going through.  You don't get any distant stations except on a big set.

The new Junior Term arrived here yesterday so things are going full swing again.  I felt a little strange when I went flying today after being off it for a couple weeks.  The Oxfords we fly this term are camoflaged on the top half, and have gun turrets and bomb racks.  Also they have only 1 pilots seat.  They are fitted with dual control.

There is still a trace of snow here, as it snowed a bit last night.  I don't mind the snow;  it is the water and mud that makes it rotten here.  The bottoms of our trousers are always slopped up with this clay.

I got a couple of letters from Fennel; he was up in Yorkshire the last I heard but I think he was moved from there now.

Well, I have just had a bath and I think it is my bedtime so I had better finish this now.  I'll have to write to Esther tomorrow night.

Take care of yourselves.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

World War II Letters Home January 2, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                        Brize Norton, Oxon,
                                                                                                        January 2, 1939

Dear Folks:

I haven't done any letter writing for  about a week and a half, but now that I am back at the station I'll have to get busy.  I had a wonderful Christmas holiday.  I met so many people and went to so many places I can't even remember them all.  The Welsh people are very much more sociable than the English.  Someone was always coming up after me with a car to go somewheres - shows, dances, parties and sightseeing.  I was around in the Rhonada Valley where Tommy Farr was born.  The miners are all quite poor but they don't seem to be starving to death.  Wales is quite full of hills and towns are generally built on the slopes.

I didn't take many pictures though.  We had a bit of snow there, only about 1/2 inch, but here around Oxford there was several feet of snow and a lot of roads were blocked.  Anyhow, we didn't have a white Christmas.  The boy's folks who i was staying with gave me a nice safety razor in a silver box - but I have more razors than I need.  The pen I am writing with is a Parker Desk Set from Esther; it is very nice.  Also she sent me a swell grey and blue sweater with a zipper front that she knitted for me, it sure is homey.

And thank you very  much, Richard, or the album.  I am going to use it solely for aeroplane pictures.  I hope you sleep better now, on that present Esther sent you. ha! ha!

I got a card from Alice M. today and she said you got a pudding of some kind.  I really didn't think you were hungry but I thought since it was distinctly English you might like it.

I find it an awful job to buy Christmas presents, but if I run into something a little later on that I think is nice, I'll grab on to it for you.

I got Christmas cards from Kenneth S., Virginia, and Doris.  I sent cards to nearly all our relatives, some of them got a big surprise, I'll bet.

In the exams we had just before we went on our leave, I made an average of 73.4 %.  Most of the averages were from 60 to 80% so I think I did quite well.  We won't have any exams at the end of this term;  we just get assessed on our flying qualities and practical work.  Anyways,  I am a fully qualified pilot now.

We were issued with our rifles and bayonets today so that means we will be having rifle drill now.  I will be flying with Doug Morris now.  We fly together, changing about, as pilot and observer or gunner.  We will be using a camera gun quite a bit.

Oh yes. while I was in Wales I heard a lot of Welsh singers and choirs.  They are wonderful singers, (that is men are.)  On Christmas Eve and Day there were a lot of carol singers about.  They have such powerful voices.  I thought I was going to see a fox hunt but there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease so it had to be called off.  On New Year's Eve we went to a golf club dance and I won 6 golf balls in a draw.