Wednesday, October 29, 2014

World War II Letters Home October 29, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                Officers' Mess
                                                                                                Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                                Harwell Didcot, Berks
                                                                                                October 29, 1939

Dear Esther:

I hope you can excuse and forgive me for not writing sooner and more often.  Actually the last fortnight has been a busy one.

We spent a week at Blackpool - the famous summer resort - doing air firing and drogues towed behind other aircraft, low flying and night flying, cross country trips, all of them.  In fact our time is so filled up that I haven't even been able to manage any supper, fly, fly, fly.  Of course I suppose you think that surely I must have had a few minutes off each day to at least write a short letter - well, that is true but when you have an hour or 2 to spare you're just too tired to bother writing.

I know you can't appreciate the fact but from 6 to 11 hours flying a day is more tiring and more of a mental  strain than even we realize. A couple hours instrument or night flying alone is equal to a days' work.  The night before last I was flying for over 4 hours on a long cross-country and during the flight we got into a cloud and iced up at 6,00 feet - I couldn't come down below the clouds as the base was too low and we were over hilly country and I couldn't climb as I didn't  know how high the clouds were (I found out afterwards the were only 9,000 feet) so after flying blind for some time I decided to turn back and eventually got in the clear; even than it took some minutes before the ice melted of the cabin windows so that I could see the moon again.  Anyhow, by dodging about I managed to get above the clouds and get over the sea north of Cornwall - where we dropped flame floats and found the wind speed and direction.  When we got back in the vicinity of our base speed and directions.  When we got back in the vicinity of our base here the sky was completely overcast and clouds down to about 300 feet.  The W/T operator got a D/F bearing (direction-finding) and we got over the aerodrome and just managed to spot the landing beacon, so I came down through the fog and greased a 3-pointer on the deck.  I was plenty cold and tired, I can tell you.

In our altitude  flying we go up to 20,000 feet and of course use oxygen; as a matter of interest, the last trip I was on, we found the wind to be nearly 1000 m.p.h. from north, also the thermometer registered -33 C, which I think is somewhere around 30 or 40 below Fahrenheit - anyhow, it was a bit chilly sitting still all of 4 hours, in spite of our feather flying kit which is fur lined.

The squadron leader who is O.C. of our flight says that this coming week we are going to do still more flying per day than before - so I can see where I am going to pile up a few hours.  I am now 1st pilot day and night on Wellingtons.

Well, I guess I've shot enough line about myself for now and since today, is Sunday and we're not flying, I shall spend the afternoon in the company of a beautiful young maiden, who happens to be "It" - if you don't mind.

I have realized for the last week or so that in a few days (from now) it will be Richard's, yours, Mama's and my birthday (pretty good of me even to remember - I think!)  I had planned in the pas to get a good R.A.F. pin for you and Mom, but as I have been unable to get into a store, while it is open, for so long I have been unable to do so - but I do hereby solemnly declare that I shall not disappoint you much longer.

I have been trying to save up enough money to pay my overdue debt to you but now that the pound has decreased in value it means I have to add another 20% to get the original value, also sign numerous declarations, etc., why the money is being sent out of England.  I am afraid I have turned out to be a bad liability and I feel rotten about it all, as I have not lived up to even my expectations, but I am doing my best to build up the reserve.

I have rather missed the point - what I started to say was that although I am late, I hope you had a very happy birthday and my best wishes that you may enjoy many more of them.

Renee (that's the big moment I told you about) has made me a huge fruit cake for my birthday, but if I remember correctly, she still doesn't know how many candles to put on it - that will probably shock here when she finds out.  I am enclosing a snap, it blurred a bit,  I don't know whether she moved her head of what, but the picture does her injustice, as I can assure you, my dear.

I suppose you think I must be screwball by some of my letters but It must be just the mood I am in or something.

Also, I am enclosing my 2nd navigator's ticket.  You can send it home to Mom after you get it.  it looks like a very ordinary piece of paper but I've worked hard for it.

Well, Sis, this will positively have to be all for now, but I'll try to be a little more prompt after this, as I really look forward to your letters.

Lots of Love From Your Brother


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill Trip

Local Legion Men Take Steps To Avoid Necessity Of Halt

 "Nonstop" means just that, says Grant Ware, adjutant of the Spokane American legion post  So he and Frank P. Smith are taking every precaution to see that there will be no danger of an enorced stop on their nonstop international tour to Mexico and return to Spokane. "Everything is progressing smoothly," said Mr. Ware. "Legion posts all along the route are giving us cooperation and affording escorts to insure we shall not be forced to stop because of traffic. "One momentary stop would spoil the entire trip, so we must avoid traffic jams, being caught at railroad crossing, or in any one of any of a thousand circumstances.  It must be realized that if we had to stop just an instant to reverse, we should loose out.
 "Roseburg, Bakersfield and Stockton posts promised us cooperation  today, adding  their names to the extensive list.
"Our schedule calls for an average speed of 20 to 21 miles an hour. "We have equipped our car with air containers  to avoid possibility, as far as possible, of tire trouble.  These heavy tubes are virtually puncture proof  and nothing but a larege spike or something like that will cost  us air.  A flat tire would end our journey."

(Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 24, 1930)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop Amerian Legion Goodwill Trip


Legion boys will leave Dessert Hotel Next Friday  Evening.
    The itinerary and schedule of the American Legion goodwill border-to-border non-stop automobile trip was announced today by Grant Ware, post adjutant and one of the men who will pilot the six cylinder car on its 3800 mile journey.
    They will start from legion headquarters  in the Dessert Hotel at 6:30 p.m. next Friday.
    Colville is to be reached 10:40 p.m. and the border at Laurier will be touched Saturday at 12:30 a.m. when the car will double back toward Mexico.
     Towns to be touched Saturday and the times scheduled are: Colville, 2:30 a.m; Spokane, 6:30 a.m.; Colfax, 10:00 a.m.; Dayton, 12:30 p.m.; Walla Walla, 2 p.m.; Pendleton, 3:15 p.m.;  Umatilla, 5:15 p.m.; Arlington, 7:30 p.m.; The Dalles, 9:30 p.m.  Sunday at Portland
    Large towns to be touched Sunday are Portland, 3 a.m.; Oregon City, 3:30 a.m.; Salem, 5 a.m.; Albany, 6 a.m.; Junction City, 7:30 a.m.; Eugene, 8:30 a.m.; Roseburg, 11:30 a.m.; Grants Pass, 3 p.m.; Medford, 4:30 p.m.; Ashland, 5 p.m.; Dunsmuir, 9 p.m.; and Redding, 11 p.m.
    Those scheduled for Monday are: Red Bluff, 12:01 a.m.; Sacramento, 6:15 a.m.; Lodi, 7:30 a.m.; Stockton,  8:30 a.m.; Turlock, 10 a.m.; Merced, 11 a a.m.; Madera, noon; Fresno, 2 p.m.; Bakersfield, 7 pm.
In Mexico Tuesday
    Thursday, April 1, town and time schedules are:  Burbank, 12:30 a.m.; Los Angeles, 2 a.m.; Santa Ana, 4:30 a.m.; San Diego, 10:30 a.m.; Mexico, 12-05 p.,m; San Diego, 1:30 p.m.; Santa Ana, 1:30 p.m.; and Los Angeles, 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 2 - Bakersfield, 4 am.; Fresno, 9 a.m.;  Madera, 11 a.m.; Merced, noon; Turlock, 1 p.m.; Stockton, 2:30 p.m.; Lodi, 3:30 p.m.; Sacramento, 4:45 p.m.; and Red Bluff, 11 p.m. Back To Portland
    Thursday, April 3 - Redding, 12:01 a.m.; Dunsmuir, 2 a.m.;  Ashland,  6 a.m.; Medford, 6:30 a.m.; Grants Pass, 8 a.m.; Roseburg, 11:30 a.m.; Eugene, 2:30 p.m.; Junction  City, 3 p.m.; Albany, 4:30 p.m.; Oregon City, 8 p.m.; Portland, 8:30 p.m.   "Home is the goal of Friday,  April 4 - The Dalles,
2 a.m.;  Walla Walla, 9:30 a.m.; Dayton, 11 a.m.;  Colfax, 12:30 p.m. and arrival at the Dessert Hotel is scheduled for 2 p.m. "
       Frank P. Smith will accompany Mr. Ware.  Arrangements have been made for refueling on the go and escorts through towns will try to prevent traffic congestion or an enforced stop, which would terminate the nonstop attempt.
      Daily reports, written by the drivers will be wired to the Chronicle for exclusive use here.

(Spokane Daily Chronicle, Spokane Washington, March 22, 1930)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill Trip

On March 28, 1930, Frank P. Smith, my grandfather, and Grant Ware set off on a Spokane-Canada-Mexico-Spokane nonstop automobile trip. This trip was sponsored by Spokane Post No 9 American Legion. The car was provided by Riegel Bros. Dodge. They arrived back home April 4, 1930. In the following posts I will feature the articles from the Spokane Daily Chronicle telling of the trip.  The drivers were both veterans of  World War I.


  The longest non-stop international automobile tour will be started from Spokane next Wednesday     is sponsored by the Spokane post of the American legion and will touch Canada and Mexico.
   Drivers will be Grant Ware, adjutant of the local post, and Frank P. Smith.
   The tour will cover 3758 miles.  Special arrangements for refueling and oil replacements have been made.  Tires which are virtually puncture-proof have been obtained.  Sleeping facilities have been       arranged.  
   The Chronicle has acquired exclusive rights for this city for daily reports of progress, the drivers to write personal accounts of the journey.

Start Next Wednesday
  The start will be made here next Wednesday, according to the plans the Mexican border will be touched at noon April 1 and the car will be back in Spokane the afternoon of April 4 if the schedule is adhered to.
     Legion posts in Oregon and Washington also will provide escorts the insure the drivers against being forced to stop their car because of traffic signs.
    "The machine will be equipped with a tachimeter, a device which will make an instant recording and designate the car makes a momentary stop," said Mr. Ware. "This is sealed when put on the car.  We have to keep moving forward to make a record, as even the time taken to slip into reverse at any time on the whole trip would be recorded as a stop and show on the instrument that the journey had not been a success.
     "Legion posts in Washington, Oregon and California have arranged to cooperate with us.  Further plans will be announced here in the Chronicle,  as they are worked out.  The car is practically ready for  the start now."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

World War II Letters Home October 5, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                         Royal Air Force Station
                                                                                         Didcot, Berks
                                                                                         October 5, 1939
Dear Folks:

By the time this gets across all of you will be at home again.  I got Mom's letter the other day and 1 from Esther and Richard today.  Some of my letters are addressed to Honington and other to Stradishall;  I am sure glad I told all of you nearly 2 months ago that I wouldn't be at Stradishall anymore.  I don't know whether you are getting my letters of not but if you do it doesn't seem like it.  I have been sending pictures, magazines, papers and letters from all over the country, even when I was at Thornaby, and no one has ever said a word about getting them.  I sent my commission home a long time ago but I don't know whether you even got that.  I don't think there is much use sending many airmail letters across Canada as I have two letters sent by airmail on September 11 and just got them today - so you can see it took nearly 3 1/2 weeks for me to get them anyway.  The only airmail service that is any god is the Transatlantic route and that is so expensive.

I will be here at Harwell for another month but until the end of that time I won't know where I will be moved.

I will be flying tonight unless a fog or rain comes up like it did last night.  Next week we will be  doing practice bombing with our Wellingtons - which will be quite interesting.

So the local yokels are trying to get government jobs - I suppose that is so they can stay in Canada or are there some more of these people who are "enjoying the war" because they think they'll get rich.  What has happened to Vernon and Max - have they given up the idea of joining up or what?

The R.A.F. have had a few skirmishes and so on but nothing very extensive.  There have been 8 or 9 "pamphlet raids" on Germany and Berlin and not a machine was harmed, which goes to show the Germans how easily we could drop bombs.  The Navy is doing its share of fighting and our Army troops in France are doing their share, so are the medium bombers of R.A.F. that are stationed across the Channel for a while. Now that Poland is gone there is an inevitable "chewing-the-rag" session coming up.

I hope you had a good stay in the states Mom.  I'll bet things were so changed that it didn't even seem like the same place anymore.  You needn't send those beer bottle caps yet - wait until Christmas, ha! ha! - maybe you might send some turkey with them.

Now that threshing is over I suppose you keep the ploughs going full force.  We are having real fall weather - it has been a bit cooler, night rains, and some of the trees that do shed their leaves have started already.

I have a touch of the Hives again - they are not so terribly bad, but seems to be quite persistent.  I am on a diet now so may be able to shoo them away soon.

I am afraid I haven't much news to talk about and I haven't any snaps to send this week but I'll send some more newspapers.  I'll finish this when I come down from flying;  I'll be able to tell you how effective the blackout is around here.

Back again.  This country doesn't look the same as it used to, instead of bright lights of towns all that is visible is an odd dim glow here and there.  It is just possible to see cars on the road but their lights are quite faint.  The only bright lights I saw flying again tomorrow night for about 4 hours, then that will be all for a little while.

I'm afraid I don't know what else to write about now so I'll just have to quit.  Maybe I'll be able to think of something more interesting next time.

Don't forget to write ofter, All of you.

Love, Estelles