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


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