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