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

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