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,

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