Wednesday, August 27, 2014

World War II Letters Home August 27, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                              Thornaby, Yorkshire
                                                                                              August 27, 1939

Dear Folks:

I am writing this to all of you as I don't know whether Mamma is home again or not.  I wrote in my last letter that I might be coming up here and sure enough I did.  A young Scotsman came up with me.  We traveled by train and what a jam!  The train was about a quarter of a mile long and filled with people so that we and many others had no seat.  I think most of them were people evacuating London.  Every time  ride in a train over in this country I hate them a little worse.  It is just like riding behind the harrow in dry weather;  every thing you see and touch is grime and soot.  To make matters worse this whole north country is a manufacturing area.  All the buildings are black and the sky is so full of smoke and fog that there is no such thing as a clear day,  just a sort of semi-darkness all the time.  Another remarkable thing about England in general is that a place the size of Canora instead of about 1,6000 people has around 16,000.  It seems unbelievable.

I guess I am rambling off the track a bit.  So to continue.  This station is actually in the middle of a number of towns.  There is a main street running just past my window.  It seems funny to be able to step out of the camp gates and be right in town, especially after being in Honington and Stradishall where were about 10 miles from any sort of villate.  Everything on this camp is a jumble.  I don't know where north of south is (not having seen the sun) and finding your way through the maze of buildings here is more than a feat.  The organization here is also in turmoil.  The 2 squadrons of Hampdens that were here have moved out and a G.R.  (General Reconnaisance) squadron of Ansons have moved in.  They are expecting to get some American Lockheed Electras or 14's for G.R  work but it is hard to say when.  Probably I should explain just what a G.R. squadron is for. Well, most of their work is coastal patrols/  They spot submarines and ships etc.  and are also an aid to our battle.  by locating enemy ships' direction, speed, and number, etc. and send by wireless (in code) this information to G.R. aircraft dropping bombs on them,  also we have torpedo dive bombers that carry a 1,000 lb. torpedo which will practically go through a battle ship and sort of eradicate it.

I am gradually getting around to where I come in.  As you should realize there is a very carefully planned organization of G.R. movements and tactics.  This is all planned in the operations room, where they are constantly in touch with the aircraft and their movements.  In the operations room all messages are received from and sent to aircraft.  In the first place aircraft aren't sent out in aimless directions.  Patrols and searches of a definite character are plotted for a formation or a single aircraft to carry out.  The time to turn back or alter course and time of arrival back at base are all calculated for them.  Since I have had a navigation course that is part of my job.  We work 6 hours and are off 12 hours then on duty again for 6 hours etc., at least that is what we are supposed to do,  as yet we are just sitting around waiting for instructions to go to work.  In the R.A.F. things are always in a state of indefinite decisions.  The Air Ministry will tell you to do something and when you go to do it - no one else know anything about it.  Typical of schemes controlled by the Government.

According to the paper,  train service and merchant ships are under government control now.  Ration cards are being issued;  A.R.P. trenches being dug, evacuation taking place, troops are moving all over, "black outs" every night, etc., etc.  People all seem quite busy doing one thing or another - but still very few expect there will be a war.  I don't think so myself.  I believe something is going to fall to pieces in Germany.  The  Russians and the Japs are having it out and things in general don't seem to be hitching very well.

What is doing on the farm now, and how the crops look?  Are you going to stack the grain this year or thresh it out of the field?  I suppose since you haven't had an awful lot of rain that the lake if fairly low again, or has it gone dry?  Have the ducks started to come back yet or is it too early?  How is Paul  M. getting along - is he back to normal yet? What are Pat and Paul Gogol doing?  Do they still live down in the same old shacks or have they moved out?  I guess that is enough questions for a while.

Oh yes,  Richard,  will you scrounge around and find all the old stamps you can, preferably some that are on letters and parcels from about 1920 is possible.  There are several very enthusiastic stamp collectors in camp (at Stradishall).  Also get those other large denomination stamps of the issue that those were that you have already sent.

I'll send some more magazines as soon as I get back to Stradishall.  You might send me a Chicago Herald some time if you get one, don't forget to include the comics as they don't have them here.

I'll let you know my next letter how my work up here is getting on.

Don't put 75 Squadron on my address as squadron numbers are not to be published any more, just address it to me at R.A.F Station, Stradishall, Newmarket, Suffolk.  If you put P.O. on they will know that it goes to officers' mess.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

World War II Letters Home August 20, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                 Officer's Mess
                                                                                                 Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                                 Stradishall, Newmarket
                                                                                                 August 20, 1939

Dear: Dad and Richard:

I guess it is about time that I wrote again.  I am glad to hear that the crops are still o.k. and didn't get hailed out or burned up.  You must be getting to be quite a cook - canning fruit and peas, etc. How does the garden look - has it been alright or was it too dry?  I suppose during this hot weather the lake is quite a favorite sport. especially on Sundays.  We have been having terribly hot and close weather here for the last couple weeks.  There is a bit of a breeze today, so it isn't too bad.

I am Orderly Officer this week-end so I have to stay in camp, otherwise I would be at the bathing pool at Newmarket or the river at Burlwell.


Sorry I didn't get this finished the other day but as I have been so busy lately, I couldn't.

I was Aerodrome Control Pilot for night-flying on Monday night until 3 o'clock Tuesday.  Then I had to get up at 8 o'clock and go to Honington to attend a court martial.  A sergeant who was N.C.O. 1/c messing was charged with fraudulent misapplication of air men's rations.  As there was insufficient evidence and lack of proof, he was let off "not guilty".

I have been kept busy all this morning in the Navigation Office issuing equipment (sextants, calculators, maps, etc., to some Observer Sergeants who have just arrived here on a Navigational course.  So I was filling out loan cards for all of them.  After that I gave a couple officers some instructions on using and sighting with the bubble sextant, then after lunch some more sighting and I relieved the Squadron Adjutant in his office until 4:30.  In case of mobilization I will be posted to Thornaby - somewhere in Yorkshire as a Navigational Instructor and probably get in some time as Instructional Pilot.  There is another "flap" on just now.  This is the 3rd crisis I have been through since I have been over here.  All our leave has been cancelled and we are not (for the present) allowed to leave the station.  Also we have to be ready upon and hours notice to move out of here to where ever we are posted.  Upon notice of mobilization the whole squadron must be ready to completely evacuate in 6 hours - that means, ground staff, aircraft, repairs, equipment, stores and munitions.  My 1st war posting was to Harwell, near Oxford, but now that is changed.  Otherwise life in the R.A.F. is proceeding quite normally.

We had a couple of days of heavy rain here.  Some of it was a regular cloud-burst.  Some parts of the country are suffering from floods.  When the sun has been out it was terribly hot.  It has been hot today again so I supposed it will rain tomorrow.

The crops that I have seen over here look quite good.  Some wheat crops will be good for about 50 bushel to the acre.  They call wheat 'corn' here; I haven't actually seen any real corn.

There should be a lot more news to write about but I can't think of it right now.  I am sending some magazines with photos in them for you to keep for me.  I am going to have supper now, so I'll try to write more after I finish.  I will try to send some England newspapers to you so you can read the local news about Europe today.  I will write again this week-end and see if I can do.

Best Wishes and Love,


P.S. The enclosed is just a sample of some sort of seaweed that grows on the rocks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

World War II Letters Home August 6, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                           R.A.F. Finningley
                                                                                           August 6, 1939

Dear Mama:

It is hard for me to do much letter writing lately with all the moving, etc., going on.  Also there is a lot of air maneuvers going on day and night.

At present I am on Ground Observer's duties here.  Certain factories and large electricity transformers have been selected as targets for mock air-raids and I have to leave this station - sometimes at 5:00 a.m. with a transport lorry  which has a camera gun mounted in the roof, and go into Rotherham (just out of Sheffield) to protect these targets.  I have to comment on the tactical ways that the approaches and get-aways of the aircraft is carried on - while the air gunner shoots them down with his camera gun.

We get our orders from Mildenhall so I have to phone long-distance to the operations Officer there to get my orders and tell him the results of all the attacks.  When he considers that a target is blown up then I move to another target, as I will be doing this afternoon.  I left he station yesterday at 5:00 a..m. and didn't get back until 9:00 p.m.  We take our lunch with us and besides for being over 5 hours I get 4 shillings extra allowances and over 10 hours I get 8 shillings so I don't mind staying away.

We are to be up here for about 8 days so I should do alright.  Besides, it is around 200 miles from Stradishall so I collect travelling allowances too. But moving from station to station makes the mess bill larger as we invariably pay mess subscriptions to each mess, even if we are only there 1 week.

Everything seems to be rush and confusion - we only had 12 hours notice that we were to pack our kit and come here.  We didn't know what we were to do nor how we were to get here until about an hour before we left.

Besides being in charge of Barrack block and the photography section I am Assistant Navigation Officer of our squadron which keeps me quite busy - you know how it is - the Navigation Officer keeps out of sight and leaves me to do the business.  it is all good experience and I never turn a job down because it is good training and the more important you ca make people believe you are, well, it means that the Air Ministry at least knows you exist and probably the first to get the benefit of anything that comes along, (that is if it is possible to say that there is such a thing).

I took some negatives into Cambridge the day before we came up here, to get some pictures made to send to you but now I guess they will have to wait until I get back.  My mail is getting all mixed up and so is everything else so it will most likely take the rest of the month for me to get back to a normal, easy life again.

Oh yes, you asked me about those bottle caps, yes, I still want them if you care to collect a few.

I hope everything is going fine and that Grandma feels better.  Tell here 'hello' for me and that I wanted to enclose a note to her but I haven't much time as I am so busy.

I suppose you get all the European news so there is not much need for me to write about it.  I must close now and will write again in a few days.

Love, Your Son,