No. 2 Flying Training School
Royal Air Force
Brize Norton, Oxford
April 18, 1939
If I don't start writing soon I'll forget how. It is ages since I have written any letters in spite of all my intentions. I was going to write Papa a letter for his birthday and it was too late t get it in time so I was going to send a birthday greeting by Cablegram but decided against it - so in the end i didn't do a thing - very sorry, Dad, but I still wish you many happy returns.
Our armament camp at Catfoss turned out to be a 'wash out'. We had so much fog, low clouds and rain that we only got up a few times. I did 1 bombing exercise and dropped 8 bombs about 60 yards from the target and I did one air-firing exercise. So there wasn't much excitement. We spent most of our time eating and sleeping and going to a few shows and dances. I also read quite a few books.
I flew back from Catoss and arrived here about 1:30. Joe Fraser invited me to spend the week-end with him so I caught the 4:30 train to London where Joe met me - he left here on train about 2 hours before I did. Anyhow, after he met me we went to a club where his family and a few aunts etc. were having dinner - a very elaborate affair, after which we went to a play - (Royal Circle seats) and saw "Quiet Wedding". It was fairly good. Then we went out to Joe's home - a large 3 storey stone house kept by a half dozen servants, butlers, Gardener, etc. The grounds were very nice. Mr. Fraser is very keen on gardening - mostly flowers. On one side is a very pretty rock garden surrounding a small pond. The house is very nice inside with the usual English ways of living. I think I am beginning to like it for some reason or other. I suppose in 4 years I'll be a pronounced Englishman.
We were reminded of meals and tea by the sound of a big brass cymbal that someone pounded on. It could be heard all over the house and all around the grounds. Every morning the butler brought my cup of tea and biscuit and polished my shoes. After having my tea I got up and had my bawth - you see I was in the 'Blue Room'. All in all it was a great week-end, very 'posh' indeed. One afternoon we went over to Sir Frank and Lady Madge's estate. They were out sailing on the lake. After they came in we went up to the house in a beautiful sun room and had some cocktails while we were looking at their tropical fish, etc.. It sure is great the way the people with money live a life of ease over here.
All last week we were dashing around the station returning publications and getting clearance forms signed; also we drew our camp equipment which is ours for good - consisting of a tent, folding cot, blankets and a collapsible bath tub. I only hope we never have to live in it. On the week-end I went home with Joe Fraser again and stayed until Sunday afternoon. His sister had a birthday party on Saturday night so Doug and another Canuck came down for the party and went back that night. I met a coupe of Australian girls there and they were very interesting conversationalists - not the type that is in Canada - they were well educated and of the upper classes. It is really great meeting different kinds of people like that. I never thought that I could appreciate so much, but it is a great education in itself.
One thing that is very noticeable over here is the fact that the young folks have mentality and a viewpoint of persons much older then they are. You would take most of the young people here to be about 5 years older than they are.
The place in London where those wax figures are is Madame Tussuad (spelled something like that). I haven't been there yet but will do sometime and have tea with one of her hostesses. It is a wonderful place to meet people. There are a lot of places in London I haven't been to see yet - but will this summer.
I don't do any mechanical work except give a little advice on some of the boys' cars. After my 4 years are up I am though over here. After that all I do is put in a few weeks flying every in Canadian Air Force, that is unless I happen to get a job over here or get a P.C. (Permanent Commission) which is rather hard. But I think if I get the chance I would take it. Since Esther may be home by now or will be home soon I won't duplicated this letter by writing to P.A. She always writes nice letters and I am glad to hear from her.
We have been having marvelous weather since we left Catfoss, it has been so warm. The trees that did shed their leaves are putting them back on again and blossoms are coming out all over. Soon England will be a mass of flowers and roses again.
Richard, you asked me what the round-shaped thing in the roof was, well, that is a shield and the '2-holes' in it are orange colored lights for lighting up the cabin for night flying - the reason they are orange is that they are not visible to another aircraft. Actually it isn't necessary to use lights as all the instruments are luminous. The reason we have to wear goggles is in case it is raining hard or ice forms on the windscreen and windows - we can put our heads out so that we can see, so we have to have our goggles although I don't suppose they are ever used much. When I am flying alone I just wear my service cap and take my helmet along. The "hood" on the plane doesn't slide back but there are 2 windows on each side that slide back and the triangular window near the front turns open. The windows are made of perspex - a heavy celluloid.
Yes, we get asked a lot of questions about Canada, as usual. Sometimes we tell them the truth and other times we "hand it out" - tell them about the Indians barging in our dances, picnics, etc. and going after our scalps - that's why we carry 6-shooters. That picture Mom sent of the huge grasshopper was pretty good - some of these blokes actually believed it - of course I verified the facts.
(Some more answers) Petrol means fuel - known in Canada as gasoline (or gas). The price runs from 1-5 to 1-11 a gallon that's shillings and pence - now you figure it out - between .34 cents and .38 cents.
I don't know how it feels to have the title "Officer" because I haven't felt it yet - I guess it's just like the title "Farmer".
As far as having a servant - I don't know, but if you mean batman - well, he's indispensable. You know what I mean - I couldn't lower myself by making my bed, cleaning my room, fetching my own water or by putting coal on my fire - that's what 'es for', ahem!
Oh yes, another question to answer: In England you don't cut-up at a dance like around Stenen - Oh! my deah, it simple isn't done - don't you know!
So you think Hitler has everything he wants now do you? And you think he wants peace! Well, let me tell you Hitler isn't half what he wants - neither has Benito. They have both bluffed Chamberlain right properly. As far as war goes he is crazy enough to try anything - but he isn't liking for Britain to growl at him too loud, see! I think if you look at the situation right and if Hitler doesn't come to war soon - well, his day is soon over. He has worked Germany into a fervor and got so far but now what can be do? I think he has found a "cul de sac" or a blind street - he has lost an objective. There might be a few little moves he can make but when that is over so are his big ideas. I don't see how there can be a war but anyway, England is prepared.
For instance, I'll tell you a little bit of official secret dope on our anti-craft guns. The 3.5 (inches) gun has a range of 30,000 feet which is the ceiling of most aircraft and the 4.5 gun has a range of 40,000 feet. I suppose you will say there isn't much chance of hitting an aircraft that high when you can't even see it, and flying anywhere between 200 and 400 m.p.h - well, there isn't, but this is how it works: the aircraft detectors which are super sensitive ears with lots of dials and gauges can tell the height and location of an a/c and the speed and course can be found and knowing the wind speed and direction, everything is accounted for. Then a battery consisting of a 8 guns firing 30 shells a piece per minuted with shells that are timed by some means to explode at a certain altitude start firing. When the first shell burst there are just 32 more already on the way - not very comfortable, I should say. But the main point is (I suppose you are wondering about the direct hit or the shrapnel) - well, there isn't any - but the concussion is so great within the radius of 60 or more yards that it is enough to wreck an a/c. they just get tossed about and caved in like a piece of tissue paper. This is an idea of our anti-aircraft protection, besides which of course there is the balloon barrages within their steel nets and our own defensive fight in a/c.
The Wellington Bombers which I hope to get on have a cruising speed of about 250 to 300 m.p.h. for a period of 18 hours with - i don't know how many tons of bombs. They are equipped with sets (not one) of machine guns front, rear and in the middle - I don't think. Oh well, why worry about war - but am in the mood for writing so I hope you don't mind reading this rubbish.
I bought a cheap English sports coat last week for 15 bob (for Richard's benefit $3.75). They are made of a sort of coarse home-spun yarns - a good jacket coast about 4 5shillings.
About 6 of us on 'heavies' are going to Manston on the 25th of this month. In the meantime we are posted here on super numerary duties. All we do is get up and eat and what ever else we care to do. All it means is that instead of going on leave we have this time for later on instead of taking it off our summer's leave, which I hope we will get after we leave Manston.