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.



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