Tuesday, September 30, 2014

World War II Letters Home September, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                          Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                          Didcot, Berks
                                                                                          September 1939

Dear Folks:

I have made another unexpected move so I suppose my mail will be trying to catch up with me from Thornaby or Stradishall.  When I was at Thornaby I got word to go back to Stradishall so bundled up all my trunks and clothes and took the train back.  This was after war was declared so i was 1st class coach.  Going up there I went in civies so had to go 3rd class and the train was so packed with people evacuating  London that I had to stand most of the way which was over 200 miles.  I got back at midnight on Friday night and found that both squadrons on our station and all the  men and planes had moved down here at Harwell, so Saturday Doug and I came down here in the care.  We left our luggage there as it was to come by transport lorry the same day.  Well, I have been  here about a week and 1 suitcase and one trunk arrived yesterday, and there is still 1 of my trunks missing.  So now I have my hands full trying to locate it.  I have just phoned up the stores officer at Stradishall and told him to see whether it was left there or whether it had been sent, as he is in charge of the rear party he should know something about it - but I doubt it.  If he can't find it then the transport drivers will have to do some explaining.  I hate to lose it as the trunk cost me 3, my great coat 8 and there is my raincoat, dressing grown, flying log book, my picture albums, King's Regulations, Air Force Law, etc. and I don't know what else.  I have been going to insure my kit but I kept putting it off, now it is probably too late but I think I can trace it up some way or other.

I did my first actual flying in a Wellington a few days ago.  The instructor took off and landed, and then we changed seats and I took off and landed 5 times and did a few steep turns, etc. to get the feel of it.  So actually I went solo without any dual which makes me feel real proud of myself as it is nearly 6 months since I have even taken an aircraft off the ground.  I mad good take-offs and literally greased them on the deck in landing.  I was afraid that my conception of height when coming into land would be all haywire as that's what happened to some of the other boys; they were either holding off too high or else hitting the deck, but I seemed to manage o.k. It seems funny flying a Wellington as hey are so heavy and large and with a lot of different gadgets in the office; it takes a bit of concentration to see that all the levers and buttons are set.  In another fortnight I will be 1st day and 1st night pilot on them.  I will have about 20 hours day and 10 night.  These Wellingtons carry 16-500 pound bombs or a corresponding weight of larger or smaller bombs.  I didn't think that they would carry that big a load.  We will eventually be getting a Wellington that is 12 feet longer than the present one and it will have twice as powerful motors in it, 2,000 h.p. each.

I suppose you have read about the Kiel Canal episode - there has been more news released about it today.  I don't know whether it was in the paper or not about the plane that flew all round the German harbours, the Elbe and other estuaries, but that aeroplane was Lockheed 14 and I plotted their courses for them when I was at Thornaby.  They had 3 German twin engine fighters after them but got away without much trouble as the Lockheed was up to 20,000 feet and the fighters had to climb up t get it.  the pilot in this reconnaissance plane just put the nose down a bit and opened 'er up - knocking off 300 m.p.h..  I saw the original photographs and they were good - you wouldn't think there would be so much picture from such a height but all the details showed up clearly.  A lot of our army troops and medium single, twin-engine bombers are stationed over in France now and with the aid of the French Army and Air force they are giving Hitler a merry chase - he had to break up his forces to protect the western defences, so now the Poles are starting to get their own back.  If Hitler lives long enough he will see his hard work of Nazism completely wiped out of history, as it is a definite bye word that Britain and France will not stop until his sort of diplomatic program is banished forever.

The British Fleet have stopped a lot of imports from going into Germany and in a short time Germany will be starving even more than they are now, which is bad enough.

Apparently the pamphlet dropping over Berlin and Germany didn't do much good to turn the people against Hitler enough to cause a rebellion of any sort, unless that is to come yet- who knows?  Five of these campaigns were made and not a plane failed to come back.  It has been found out that the wonderful air force Hitler thought he had, isn't up to much.  That is one reason why he hasn't sent any over England - with our anti-aircraft defense and our home defense fighting squadrons there would be a high rate of loss to any fighters coming over.  It was rumored - I don't know but it may be true, that one German raid was carried out over England - if it was, there weren't any bombs dropped, so it wasn't a very successful one.

Al the picture shows were closed down but now they are opening up again.  Radio programs are going on somewhat the same as usual, although a lot of records are being played.

I have been in Oxford several evenings and about all you see is uniforms; the do; everything from working on the farm, nurses, bus and lorry drivers, Territorial Army and there is even a Women's Reserve Air Force and Naval Reserve.

I made a couple of trios to a small country estate near Uxbridge which is Bomber Commmands' new war headquarters, to get some secret.  I had to go armed with a 45 automatic.  There are a lot of spies about so no one, even in uniform is trusted.  A couple of spies were thrown in the coop at Bury St. Edmunds just before we moved down here - they are scattered all over the country especially around aerodromes, so now we have so many armed guards around camp it is almost unsafe to walk around at night for fear of getting a bayonet poked into one's ribs.

We have a little bell-boy in the mess who answers telephone calls and chases up anyone wanted - he wears a smart green uniform.  I think he was an usher in one of the cinemas before they closed down.  Anyhow, he is kept quite busy around here.

I am Orderly Officer today so I have to be continually dashing about the camp inspecting this and that - also have to tote around my war harness and cannon.

Did I tell you about this blackout business over here?  Boy, it's so dark in the towns and cities that you think you are in some one's cellar,  even traffic lights are screened so that only a faint pin point of light shows up.  Doors and windows are blacked and most of the large or important buildings are banked up with sandbags.  Unless you know where a place is, you are quit unlikely to find it at night.

Well, is is just after 4 o'clock so I have to go and inspect the air men's teas.  I tore a strip of some of the air men's cooks and waiters this noon for serving food out wearing dirty jackets - they are supposed to be white but they might have been anything but, the way they looked when I saw them.  I'll bet they won't be dirty when I go in there now - they probably think I am a slave driver but you have to chase them around, otherwise they get too self-important or should I say very slack.  the main thing is to feed them well and make them step lively - it keeps them out of mischief.

I will mail this now and will write again on Sunday or Monday.  Don't worry about me - I'm o.k.

All My Love,


Monday, September 29, 2014

Military Monday - World War I - Frank P. Smith - Honorable Discharge

Honorable Discharge From the United States Army

This is to Certify, that*  Frank P. Smith #76330 Private 1/cl 262nd Co 131st  MP Bn
THE UNITED STATES ARMY, as a TESTIMONIAL OF HONEST AND FAITHFUL SERVICE is hereby HONORABLY DISCHARGED from the military service of the UNITED STATES by reason of  S.C.D.L.D 3rd Ind Hdqrs. West Depot S.F. Calif. dated July 9, 1919. SAID  Frank P Smith was born in DeKalb, in the State of Illinois. When enlisted he was 19 years of age and by occupation a Truck Driver. He had Blue eyes, Brown hair, Ruddy complexion , and was 5 feet 6 3/4 inches in height.
Given under my hand at Fort Douglas Utah this 16th day of July, one thousand, nine hundred and nineteen.
A.D. Darcy, Lt. Col. Med. Corps USA

U.S.A. General Hospital #27

Monday, September 22, 2014

Military Monday - World War I - Frank P. Smith - Enlistment Record


Name: Frank P. Smith Grade: Private 1/cl Enlisted, or Inducted: April 9, 1917 , at Spokane, Washington. Serving in  First   enlistment  period at date of discharge. Prior service:  None. Noncommission officer: No. Marksmanship, gunner qualification or rating:  None. Horsemanship:  Not mounted! 
Battles, engagements, skirmishes, expeditions: Marne Defensive - June 28 to July 7, 1918; 2nd Battle of Marne - July 14-20, 1918; St Michel - Sept 12-16, 1918; Meuse-Argonne - Oct 7-Oct 9 1918.  Decorations, medals, badges, citations:  None.
Knowledge of any vocation:  Typist. Wounds received in service: High explosive shell wound causing fracture of 8th and 9th rib, left side and right collar bone. Physical condition when discharged: Poor.  Typhoid Prophylaxis completed: May 1, 1917. Paratyphoid prophylaxis comleted: November 11, 1917.  Married or Single:  Single.  Character: Excellent.
Remarks:  Co H 2nd Wash Inf April 9 1917-Aug 5 1917; Co H 161st Inf Aug 5, 1917-June 20, 1918; Co F 2nd Am. Train (sp?) Kume 20, 1918- Dec 28, 1918;  262nd Co 131st M.P. Bn Dec 28, 1918-June 12,1919; Detch patients June 12,1919. date of discharge.  Served in France. Left U.S Dec 14,1917 . Arrived U.S. May 29, 1919.  No A.W.O.L or other absence under G.O 45, W D 1914.

(Soldier entitled to 2/3 regular rate of travel to place of enlistment under circular # 85 W.D. 1918)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Those Places Thursday - Montana State Hospital - Margaret (Bauer) Koch

My 2x great grandmother, Margaret (Bauer) Koch was a patient her.  She was admitted December 12, 1897 at the age of 62. She was a patient here until her death in September 23, 1900.  Margaret had a daughter, Catherine Gardiner in Billings; a daughter, Ella Koch Butte; and a son Charles Koch (my great grandfather) of Billings. She is not buried on the premises. I need to find out where she is buried either in Butte or Billings since she had children in both places.

The Montana State Hospital is located in Warm Springs, Deer Lodge county, Montana right along Interstate 90.  

This summer I was on my way to Yellowstone National Park with family and I was able to stop here and see the hospital. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Military Monday - World War I - Frank P. Smith

On April 7, 1917 a young man of 19 years of age enlisted into the service. This young man was Frank P. Smith (my grandfather). He departed from his hometown of Spokane, Washington on April 6, 1917 via the Spokane and Inland Railroad arriving at Camp Murray April 11, 1917.

 While at Camp Murray, he was assigned to "H" Company 2nd Washington 161 Regiment Division 41. He remained in this Camp until April 15, 1917.

He was later transferred to Camp Tacoma Sector, Electron, Washington for guard duty. This appears to be Fort (Camp) Lewis. (click on the link below for further history on Fort Lewis).


He was back in Camp Murray on August 15, 1917 and then sent across the country to Camp Mills on August 39, 1917. (click on the link below for further history of Camp Mills.


Frank arrived at the Port of Embarkation on December 12, 1917.  On December 14, he boarded the steamship, President Lincoln for an 18 day voyage to France.


The ship arrived in Brest, in northwestern France in Brittany, on December 29 and landed December 31, 1917.  He remained here for two hours. He was soon transferred to Chaumont, Dijon, France.

Frank moved up to the battle line on June 15, 1918 where he participated in the following battles: Marne Offensive, June 28; Second battle of Marne, July 14; St. Mihiel Offensive, September 16; and Meuse Argonne, October 7.

He was wounded at Meuse Argonne, the Champagne sector, Oct 9, 1918.  He was in hospital:Field #16 - Evacuation 5; Base #202 - Camp 52; Base 85; Base 69 - Evacuation Newport News, VA and Gen #27 Fort Douglas.  He was in the Base Hospital #202 in Orleans, France when the Armistice was signed.  The only promotion he received was to First Class Private in March of 1917.

                                         On The Way Home

On May 18, 1919, Frank arrived in St. Nzaire, France where he would board the steamship Antigone.

 He arrived at Newport News, Virginia May 29, 1919. He was transferred to Fort Douglas, Salt Lake City, Utah. It was here that he was honorably discharged.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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

                                                                                      Royal Air Force
                                                                                      Stockton - on - Tees
                                                                                       September 3 ,1939

Dear Folks:

I have just finished dinner do thought I would write a little news before I went to bed as I got off night duty at 6 o'clock this morning and am going on again at 6 this afternoon.

I suppose the big news is rebroadcast there almost immediately after we hear it so I don't need to write about it.  At 11:00 a.m. the Prime Minister issued a proclamation in view of the ultimatum which was given Germany,  that  "a state of war exists."

I don't suppose I shall be doing any flying for a while at least not as long as i am working in operations room. Every morning about 5 or 6 o'clock we send out a dawn patrol of 9 Ansons on Reconnaissance.  They are on the look-out for all activities in the North Sea.  They leave the coast here and fly on parallel tracks about 6 miles apart for 160 miles out and then return.  The whole coast is patrolled in this way.  The crews are trained so that they can recognize at a glance what type of class any ship is that they see and how many and what size guns it carries.  They are able to do this depending on the visibility of course, up to a distance of 10 miles and from height up to 12,000 feet.  These fellows know all the fleets of every country.

We are all packing up our civilian clothes as we will only be wearing uniforms from now on.  We also have to have with us at all times our gas masks and anti-gas clothing which is a rubber cap, coat, eye shields and a can of anti-gas ointment.  The reason for the waterproof equipment is that some of the gases, including mustard gas, comes in liquid form and has great penetrating powers; it even soaks through leather and wood.  Gas attacks aren't very likely but at least it is a protection.

Every night is a black out.  All street lights and other visible lights in buildings are put out or else the windows, etc. have to be covered sot that not a ray of light escapes.  Cars crawl around using their park lights that are half covered over;  some of the cares use their head lamps but these are covered with cardboard of black paint so that only small slits light the road.    Trains, buses, and trolleys all have their windows painted over so you can hardly see them, except for a faint orange or blue light.

There is a  balloon barrage (or was, I mean) of 8 balloons about 4 miles from here over Middlesboro and yesterday when we were having tea we also had a thunderstorm.  Of course everyone was watching the balloons when it started to lightning and we weren't disappointed.  Inside of 15 minutes 6 balloons were struck;  I saw 2 strikes and they went down in flames.  The operators couldn't get in the lorries to wind the cables in because the lightning naturally coming down the cables would at least have given them a bad jolt, so nothing could be done about it.  I didn't read anything about it in the papers this morning - probably they aren't publishing that sort of news now.  The balloons were nearly a mile high and were filled with hydrogen so they made a large blaze as they sank.