Tuesday, December 30, 2014

World War II Letters Home December 30, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                               Royal Air Force
                                                                                               King's Lynn, Norfolk
                                                                                               December 30, 1939

Dear Folks:

Here it is almost another year, and I have been in England a year and a half.  It has been quite an experience -  more than I have had during any other 18 months in my life.

We have been having a few snow flurries but most of it melts so there is only a trace of snow on the ground,  although the ground has been frozen for over a week,  Some of the fellows here from Australia and New Zealand saw their first snow-fall the other day - it seems hard to believe.  One of them was shuffling around in it and kicking it in the air, he thought it was great novelty.  The fresh crisp air now is much more comfortable than the raw, damp weather we have  been having.

I was supposed to go on another 'sweep' over the North Sea this morning in search of the German fleet but for some reason it was cancelled.  We don't do any raids (this group) over German ports anymore;  we are just doing coastal patrols and 'sweeps' or searches.

You ought to see us when we get all bundled up for a flight just like the fat teddy bears.  We put our leather fur lined trousers and jackets.  Over our jackets go our life saving jackets, which have inflatable linings (we call them 'Mae West' in the R.A.F.).  Then on top of all this goes our parachutes harness.  Oh yes, we also wear our fur-lined flying boots.  It makes us so fat we can hardly squeeze into the aircraft, but the worst part is trying to move around inside;  the snaps of our harness get caught on every pipe and bit of wiring that is possible.  Never-the-less, all this gear keeps us comfortably warm, so no one tries to dispense with any part of it.  I'll send you some photos one of these days.  I haven't sent you any lately, have I?  Our trips usually last about 5 hours, so we take sandwiches, chocolate bars, raisins and thermos flasks of hot tea along.  There never seems to be much left when we get back.

Doug and I are still a reserve crew so we haven't taken our aircraft on any raids yet.  So far we have been changing about flying with other crews when one is sick or away on leave.  Actually Doug is the Captain of our crew and I am 2nd pilot navigator - but it doesn't make any difference as we will change over in the air as 5 hours is a long time to sit at the wheel.  All of our flying times go in our log books as first pilot was we are both 1st pilot night and day.  We had our crew increased now so besides us, we have a sergeant observer who is a navigator and also operates the centre gun turret when it is lowered, 2 air gunners (front and rear) and a wireless. We have a new type of wireless installed in our planes now and it is very good.  It can be over on a number of positions, so that all the crew can hear orders coming over the air, or so that the crew are in intercommunication and just the  W/T operator can hear the wireless, and also so that the pilot can speak over the wireless, etc.   Anyhow, it is much better then the old sets.

Since petrol rationing doesn't allow enough coupons to make it worth while keeping a car going, nearly everyone on the station secretly wangles their due share of aviation spirit.  It sure is peppy dope - so they install a pair of check reins on the car just in case it tries to take off.  If you know the ropes you can wangle nearly anything - petrol, oil, antifreeze, grease jobs, repair work and lots of other things - only you don't want to be caught openly - as King's Regulations say what you shouldn't or can't do legally.

I sent a whole bunch of Christmas cards again this year - I don't know why though - as none of the ones I sent last Christmas ever thought that I would at least like to get a card from them, except Mr. Laing and Dorothy.  They are sending me some candy, cake and cigarettes - I guess the others haven't time to even say hello.  They like to know what I am doing, etc. but they don't think I might like to hear from them.  what has happened to Vernon, I haven't heard from him for some time.

In 2 of your letters, Mom, you have mentioned about me getting some stripes on my arm - 'at least one'- surely you must know that I have had a stripe for 16 months.  I have only 8 months before I become a flying officer, then I have a wider stripe - about 3/4 of an inch.  By that time I may even be Acting Flight-Lieutenant, which is 2 wide stripes - of course, that is being optimistic.

I played bridge last night with a squadron leader and a couple of flying officers and I just got drawn into another game tonight with the squadron leader, a civilian and a Lieutenant from the Army and did quite alright as we won the game also I am 1/16 (one shilling and sixpence) the richer.

It is a nearly 12 o'clock and I must go to bed as tomorrow night we are having a dinner dance here and also I am Squadron Duty Officer so I won't get much sleep.

I haven't received any parcels yet but they will quite likely be here in a couple of days.  I haven't sent your parcels yet so I suppose they will be about a month late.  I hope you don't mind too much as I don't get a chance to do much shopping.  The shops are usually all closed by the time we get out of camp.

I didn't have any cranberries with my Christmas turkey but I'll bet you did,  I wish I could have enjoyed Christmas dinner with you this year - I am getting hungry for a  real meal.

Best Wishes for 1940.

As Ever, Love

Friday, December 19, 2014

World War II Letters Home December 19, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                               Royal Air Force
                                                                                              King's Lynn, Norfolk
                                                                                              December 19, 1939

Dear Esther:

I am afraid I haven't been keeping up my writing very regularly - It is the same old story - so much "flap" and duties that it is a bit hard to take time off.   I am living in one of the rooms in a married officers block and it is a way from the mess so it isn't very convenient to run back and forth.

It doesn't look as if this Christmas is going to be much like the last one, but I guess it is no use complaining.  Last week-end I spent a few days at Oxford with Renee and then we went to Bedford to Roddy Ross'  wedding, where I was best man.  After the wedding, Doug, Renee and I went to London, as that was the only way we could make train connections and we stayed there over night in the Strand Palace Hotel, which is a very nice place.   Renee went home alone to Oxford and Doug and I caught the train back here.

I think I will be getting a 3 day leave at Christmas so I am going to spend it at Oxford,  Oh yes, I meant to mention that Roddy and his crew went down somewhere Helogoland yesterday.  Some of the crews of the different aircraft that wee lost have been rescued - that is - the ones that were still alive but Ii don't know whether he was one of them or not.  Pretty tough on his wife.  I have lost so many acquaintances and friends during the last week that I can hardly keep track of them.  Most of them are scattered around at so many different stations that it is almost impossible to find out who doesn't return - that is, when all of them don't do so. Until lately we have been quite fortunate as all of the formations nearly always returned, but the last few days this Heligoland and Whilhelmshaven business has wiped out a big percentage of our aircraft and crews.  Maybe it should be left alone for awhile until the "big bugs" think up a better scheme of attacking it.

I guess I had better lay off these war stories.  I don't suppose you want to hear them or do you?  As usual the papers are a lot of lies and propaganda - you can't believe half you read.  They give vivid descriptions of all sorts of heroism's, cut our casualties in half and double our victories of the enemy.  News is published about a week late if it manages to get past the censor.  Three weeks after the first Canadian army contingent came over here it was made known publicly.  I suppose all this is typical of the English press.

I am on duty in the operations room tonight - that is why I have time to write.  I suppose you wonder what the operations room is,  well, it is the headquarters for all our orders and information during the war.  Each station has an operations room and each command (bomber, fighter, reconnaissance, etc.) has a controlled operational center, and of course the whole thing being controlled by the Air Ministry.

We often get called at 5:00 or 6:00 o'clock in the morning to standby for a raid or patrol upon an hours notice.  Half of nearly all the time we just keep standing by all day and don't get out though.  When we leave the station, which we may do every night, we have to leave an address, eg. Royal Cinema, pub or where ever we might be, so that we can be recalled within 2 hours.  Generally when the crews are wanted back the local police give us their full co-operation and go around to all the cinema and pubs and chase everyone home.  It is not very often anyone gets recalled at night though because our group is all day bombers,  so we don't go on night raids.

We haven't had any air raids since I have been at this station but they are bound to come sooner or later - anyhow, let 'em come!

I have managed to get all my Christmas cards sent away the other day but I haven't been able to get any parcels mailed yet.  I am afraid there won't be much in the line of presents for anyone this year - I find it so hard to think of anything that is worth sending - seeing how shipping and mail is so uncertain.  I am going to write my bank and try to send you a monthly payment until I get straightened out.  It seems to be a next to impossible to pay each months mess bill.  I never spend much money but it sure seems to go.

This has the markings of a very morbid letter but I can't really think of anything funny to write about tonight - probably next time.  My bed is right next to this desk here and the telephone switchboard is at my elbow so while everything is quiet I'll try to catch up on my sleep.

Try to drop me  a letter, even if it is only one line,  each week because it seems that I never get any mail any more.

By the time you get this you most likely will have finished celebrating the New Year - anyhow I hope you have a swell time.

Best Wishes and Love
Your Brother

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Tuesday - American Legion Nonstop Goodwill Trip


After Running to Canada Last Night, Nonstop Car Heads for Mexico.
Left Spokane, 6:30 p.m.  Friday, in Colville, 10:05 p.m. Crossed Canadian border shortly after midnight. Arrived Spokane, 6:30 a.m. Arrived Colfax, 10:00 a.m.  Arrived Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
   The Spokane American Legion international good will tour began promptly at 6:30 last evening.
    By midnight the car reached Canada and arrived in Spokane, southbound, at 6:30 this morning.
     On to Mexico
    Now Mexico and return is objective.  Grant Ware, former Adjutant of the Spokane Post, and Frank Smith are drivers of the Dodge car being used.
     Enroute Mr. Ware is writing special articles for the Chronicle.
    Well, here we go rolling along as pretty as you please.  Never heard a motor sound sweeter and the old Teico time and motion recorder is doing its stuff.
     Pulling out of Spokane behind four speed cops was a thrill.  Usually the wail of the siren is one of those things the motorist doesn't like to hear, but this time it was music to our ears.  Traffic melted like magic and we cruised along at 20 to 25 miles an hour out Monroe and Wall to the city limits.  Here our good convoy quit us.
    Looking back in the mirror it was another thrill to see our good friends McGoldrick and Lambert in
 the endurance car, until we hit the foot  of the Monroe hill. This was too much for their veteran contraption and we parted company.
Start With Rations
    Before starting, L. R. Knipe, commander of Spokane post, put his signature on our Teico sheet and as we started it was sealed and locked.
    Vic Dessert, of the Dessert hotel, gave us two boxes of rations. This is appreciated and the jar of coffee is great.
     Jumping back a day, we had an experience that gave us some good knowledge.  We decided yesterday to fill our tank under actual conditions.  We pulled into a service station and circled the lot. Everything was fine and clear. Frank went out on the rear deck and we took on three loads of gas.
   About five miles south of Colville, Dr and Mrs Goetter picked us up and with them was none other than Past State Commander Rafils, who acted as master of ceremonies, leaning far out and waving us on.  In the car also were Mr and Mrs J B Rogers. Colville was cleared at 10:05 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  Then through Myers Falls.
   A few miles south of the line we saw the car of one of the border patrol and were careful they got a good look at our car so they would not stop us as we came back.  At the line we were met by  W M Kartzmark and Arthur Clark, both legionnaires, of the customs.  They cleared us in a circle over the line handed in a certificate to that effect.
   We are driving three-hour shifts.  When I am off, the bearings on the typewriter smoke, or sleep is in order.  When Frank is off he gets the gas up to level in the main tank and fusses with the mechanical details or sleeps.
   Daylight hit at 5 a.m. and at 6:30 we were in Spokane again where a convoy of speed cops again took us through.  Frank says we are now on our way from pines to palms.