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,


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