Thursday, January 22, 2015

World War II Letters Home January 22, 1940 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                                 Royal Air Force
                                                                                                 King's Lynn, Norfolk
                                                                                                 January 22, 1940

Dear Esther:

I am enjoying 6 days leave at Oxford.   As Renee has gone to work this morning  I have time to try to do a little writing.  I am afraid I haven't done much lately.  I wrote home the day before yesterday and told them about my work so I won't repeat it all to you as you will be reading it anyway.

I have been out on  2 "searches" and a "Nickel raid" - which means a leaflet raid.  The searches and patrols are flights over the North Sea and Heligoland Bight.  We usually go in large formations of about 15 or 18 aircraft - they last 5 or 6 hours.  On the leaflet raid we only sent 1 aircraft from each squadron.  On our station I had the honour of being the first officer to go on our 1st raid of the nature.  We didn't meet any opposition - only got caught by searchlights a couple of times over Hamburg.  We left our base just after midnight last Saturday and got back at 7:00 o'clock Sunday just after daybreak.  I was 1st navigator and 2nd pilot and believe it or not we didn't even get lost.  Our trip was about 1,00 miles. The trip was quite comfortable as the temperature was only - 10 (degrees Celsius) usually it is about -30 (degrees Celsius); that's when you suffer a bit.  Actually the front and rear gunners have the worst part of it as they have to stay in those draughty turrets the whole time.  About half way round or at some convenient time we have hot coffee and sandwiches and that always hits a warming note.

Holland doesn't have any blackout so we would see the Dutch towns about 30 or 40 miles away.  Of course we don't fly over them at any height as they get annoyed and fire A.A. at us,  but it does make a good land mark when visibility is good.

We had a bit of snowstorm in Norfolk last week - about 4 inches of snow on the level and in places it drifted over the roads about 2 feet deep - of course I realize that it is a mere nothing  in your country, but in my country it is really frightfully, old deah!  but here around Oxford there is only a trace of snow but has been freezing quite hard.  Water pipes in the houses have frozen and burst.  I can sure appreciate a warm house after living in these English houses - they have no idea of insulation.  The walls are from a foot to 2 feet thick,  solid stone or brick and the cold goes right through them.  I thought this idea of a fireplace in each room was quite a cozy idea but it is a real necessity.

I didn't get your letter finished while I was as  Oxford - now that I am back at camp I'll do so.  Gosh, it is awful to got back to work after having 6 days leave - I hat the site of this place now.

When I got back this evening I had 2 letters from home waiting for me;  One was written on November 21 and the other on December 31 and both got here practically the same time - I think it was because the 1st one was sent to Harwell.  it has been all over the country and even to Air Ministry.  The envelope was so worn that it was half apart - a wonder the letter was still in it.  it may have been opened for censorship, if so, they might have sealed it up again.  Mom told me about the nice kitchen set you sent her for Christmas - she is very pleased with it.

I still haven't received any of the parcels Mom said were coming.  She sent them to Harwell - i don't know why, as she knew I was here at Marham.  Sending anything to a station that far back on the list just means that it will go to at least 5 or 6 different places before I eventually get it, if at all,  but they may turn up yet.  Everyone seems quite busy at home - Dad is building a big sleigh - Richard is converting the old Buick into a farm truck, when he is not making ice or cutting wood - Mom is making the chickens lay more eggs.

Doug Morris is going to get hooked up some time next month.  I don't think he has decided the exact date yet.  That will me alone so I suppose my turn is next.  Not for a while though - probably in June; anyhow, there's plenty of time to worry about that.  Renee's mother wants her to wait another year, as she will only be 19 on the last of April, but Renee says "phooey to that" so what! I'll send you a miniature photo of her next time.

I am going to try to get in some skating this winter as all the ponds and canals are frozen over and there isn't such an awful lot of snow so that people have cleared off a lot of patches.  I have done next to nothing for exercise, except a bit of walking for so long that I believe I am getting lazy.

Is there going to be a training center for the R.C.A.F near Battleford or are they mostly in the eastern part?

this is a rather disconnected letter but it is the best I can do today.  Kindly excuse the scribbling and any mistakes or omissions.

Cheerio and don't work too hard.



On This Day - January 22, 1863

On this day, January 22, 1863, Olaus Olstad was born on the old homestead at Long Coulee (Holmen), La Crosse, Wisconsin to Lars and Margaret (Gunderson) Olstad.  Olaus was the oldest child and older brother to my great grandmother, Anbertina Olstad.  Being the eldest son, he was working the farm, you might want to say he was a "Norwegian bachelor farmer" since he was not married, until at the age of 52. In 1915 he married Randine Bjerke.

Olaus as a young man

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Travel Tuesday - American Legion Nonstop Goodwill Tour

Spokane Daily Chronicle
April 2, 1930

Plan Big Welcome  
When Boys Reach 
Starting Point

  Mexico yesterday opened its arms to the Spokane American legion nonstop travelers of good will in a reception reported as second only to the welcome extended to Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh.
    "Our 55-minute stay  in Mexico developed into a international good-will  tour, with Mexican officials dashing here and there taking every possible precaution  against our being stopped," Grant Ware telegraphed the Chronicle from Los Angeles at 2:13 a.m. today.
  With Mr. Ware and his driving partner, Frank Smith, refueling their way homeward, elaborate plans started here today for a rousing homecoming.  The nonstop car is scheduled to arrive at 2 p.m. Friday.
 Boys Need a Shave
It will be a shaggy pair of faces that smile a welcome to those witnessing  the downtown parade, because neither Ware nor Smith has enjoyed  a shave since leaving last Friday.
   Homecoming arrangements are being made by Warren  W. Greenberg, first vice commander  of the legion.
   An aerial escort, motorcycle officers  and a convoy of legionnaires will meet  the drivers  as they  near  Spokane.  Richard Casatt, state highway patrol officer, will pick up the nonstop car at the Oregon line, and military planes from the 41st division air services unit will swoop  down in dives  on congratulations.
Where to Meet Car
   "Spokane people desiring to meet the boys should gather at Third and Maple ," said Mr.  Greenberg.  "We are asking  every one to keep traffic cleared as we do not want the trip ruined before legion headquarters are reached at the Dessert hotel, where  the tour started."  Highway patrolmen K.G. Griffith,  Harry Hall and John Golden will meet the car on the Inland Empire highway south of Spokane  and help keep the path open.
   Included in the honor escort will be the wife and mother of Mr. Ware, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Greenberg, Dr. S.E. Rosenthal, head of the 40 and ___, Major Leonard Funk, Edward W. Robertson, past state commander of the legion; A.G. Tucker of the Richfield Oil company, Colonel Joseph K. Partello of Fort George Wright , B. H. Kizer, Chamber of Commerce president, a representative of the Chronicle and Charles Fancher Jr.

By Grant Ware
LOS ANGELES, April 2, 2:18 a.m.  Mexico we have seen you and how.  We were met at the edge of San Diego by a motorcycle escort and W.D. Russell, first vice commander of San Diego post, came aboard.   We went into the center of town and did one of those refueling acts as we had dreamed of doing in a perfectly arranged lot.  
    Then to gate No. 2 at Mexico.  We imagined that we would merely cross the border and return, getting the signed slip as our reward.  But to our surprise Billy Silver, representing the Mexican chamber  of commerce, requested  us to circle for a moment  and then prepare  for a trip to Tia  Juana and Agua Caliente.   One of the customs officers accompanied us to see that we brought no contraband.
Super-Cop Clears Way
  Assigned as motorcycle escort was Luis Ayala of Tia Juana , and let me state here and now that he is a super-motorcycle officer.  Silver was everywhere directing American and Mexican photographers and doing everything, as he stated, "for the representatives of the distinguished American legion."
   Every courtesy was extended us during our stay in Mexico and it developed into an international good will tour with Luis dashing here and there taking every possible precaution against our being stopped in his territory.  We had no thought of such a reception as was accorded us, neither of us having had a chance to shave since the start of the trip, but that meant nothing to them.  They took us as they found us and treated us as royalty.
    Photographers Swamp Them
   The thrill of this welcome trip is past words.  We  saw the famous buildings, including the Foreign club, where the photographers went to work in earnest.
    Upon leaving we were presented with several copies of the Tia Juana Herald, which carried the story of our trip in boldface of the feature spot on the first page.  The San Diego Union also carried several articles about our trip.  As we started back we were again accompanied by our motorcycle escorts.  It was a fitting end of the southern portion of our run  and made us feel that the American legion and Spokane are getting real publicity in a way that leaves pleasant feelings.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

World War II Letters Home January 18, 1940 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                            Royal Air Force
                                                                                            King's Lynn, Norfolk
                                                                                            January 18, 1940

Dear Folks:

I am on my 6 days leave now so I am writing this at Oxford.  There is hardly any snow here but up at Lynn we have about 4 inches.  We had a real snow fall and there are even snow drifts a foot deep.  That is the most snow I have seen since I've been here.

We have been quite busy lately and I just haven't managed to do any letter writing.  I have made quite a few trips to Brooklands, just south of London to get our aircraft petrol tanks armour plated at the Vickers Armstrong Works where they make Wellingtons.  It is very interesting going through the factory.  Everyone has a certain piece of metal and the next one fills them up with rivets - but anyhow they are sure turning them out.

the newer Wellingtons coming out now have 4 guns in each turret instead of 2 or so that gives us 12 guns per aircraft.  I brought a new plane from the works last week all by myself - contrary to Air Ministry orders as each heavy bomber is supposed to carry at least a 1st and 2nd pilot and a W/T operator.  it was a lovely job - flew perfectly.

I had a lot of fun on my way back to our camp - there were 3 of us in formation and we did all sorts of practices - rotating vic, forming echelon and vertical vic etc. - you understand but it is a process of changing formation called 'evasive action' used to make it difficult for fighters to attack us. We also did some low-flying in tight (close) formation and shot up farm houses and villages along the way.  We ran into a large flock of sea gulls and i hit 2 of them or else they hit me - anyway, I dented in the engine cowling a bit and the other hit just below the leading edge of the wing so it did no damage.  When they hit right on the leading edge they make quite a dent.

On the night of the 13th our squadron did its 1st leaflet raid with 1 aircraft and I had the honour to be included.  The Captain was Flight-Sergeant Powell and I was 2nd pilot and 1st navigator.  We left the ground 15 minutes past midnight loaded with nearly 1,500 lbs. of leaflets.  I don't know how many leaflets there were in each packet, probably about 3,000 and there were 297 pkts.  So I suppose there must have been about a million pieces of paper floating down.  If you get out your map of Europe I'll tell you where we went.

From our station we went to Lowestaft which is an exit lane, from there we made good a track of 059' which took us north of Holland about 30 miles;  from there we went east passing just south of Amrum Island and hit the German coast up on the Danish peninsula.. Then from there across country straight to Hamburg.   The ground is all covered with snow,  and although it was a cloudless night there was no moon,  we could make out islands in the sea and see woods and towns quite plainly from 15,000 feet.  Going over Hamburg we got picked up by searchlights a couple times but at 4:00 in the morning they must have been feeling dopey because we didn't get any A.A. fire. From Hamburg we flew south for 40 miles which took us 22 minutes and during which time we delivered our airmail.  I might suppose you think the leaflets fell on Hamburg - well, they didn't.  At the height we were the wind was 35 m.p.h. from east. It took the leaflets 1 hour, 35 minutes to fall and in that time they blew 56 miles west - so according to our previous calculations they should have fallen on Bremen and district.  It isn't just a matter of dropping them at random.

I have some samples of the leaflets as souvenirs and will send you one of each the next time I write as I haven't them with me. We got back to our station at 7:15 in the morning so there was enough light  for us to land without flare path.  We take coffee, sandwiches, raisins, chocolate bars and candy with us to eat on the way and it really tastes good.

the day I came back Doug went to Sandringham near Lynn to play ice-hockey with what he thought would be the local yokels, but to horror and surprise he found himself on a hockey team with the King and a bunch of Lord ups an downs.  He could hardly believe it all.  During a rest period he met the Queen and Princesses and sat on a bench for half an hour chatting with the Queen and having a cigarette with her.  he was so excited when he came home I couldn't imagine what had happened.  We have nicknamed Doug - "Kingle".

Also - still talking of Doug, he is going to get married on the 11th of February, so it looks as if I am going to be alone in the near future.  If you don't mind could you write just a short note to him and sort of wish him well.  he would be very pleased.  While I am thinking about it, I might say that the picture show newsreel the boys saw did not include me as far as I can remember.  Sorry to disappoint anyone - but it must have been 2 other guys.

I haven't our last letter with me and I don't remember whether you asked me any other questions or not.  I get the Free Press that you send and I got the Chicago Heralds.  I have a terrible time hanging on to the funnies until I read them as everyone wants them.  They don't have them in this country.  I got a card from Mrs. John Hootz and also a card and letter from Ada.  That is certainly too had about Vic.  I hope he gets mended soon.

I haven't received any of your parcels yet, but since you sent them to Harwell they are probably being forwarded in stages from there.  I hope they don't get lost anywhere.  I also got a card from Aunt Helen.  I got several pairs of socks and some cigarettes from 2 different families that Doug and I spent some summer holidays with.  Everyone is knitting for the troops these days.

Rationing on bacon, ham and sugar and butter is in force now so whenever we go on leave we have to draw our ration cards. People in the services get about 50% more rations than civilians.  We get per week - meat 5 1/4 lbs. (not rationed yet); bacon and ham 14 oz., sugar 21 oz.  the rations must be adequate as no one seems to be complaining of undernourishment.  Coal was going to be rationed but they have lifted that.  Nearly everything has gone up a bit in price but not a lot,  except silk stockings - their price is about double.  Popular brands of cigarettes cost 1/1 or .27 cents for 20. Petrol is 1/10 (.44 cents) a gallon when you manage to have a coupon.


Well, I think I have run out of news for this time.  Nearly all the ponds, rivers and canals are frozen over so people are skating a bit.

Take good care of yourselves this winter.



P.S. Renee sends her best regards and says she will write to you one of these days.

Friday, January 9, 2015

On This Day - January 9, 1898

On this day, January 9, 1898, my Grandpa Bill was born.  He was born William George Wickenkamp in Dorchester, Saline county, Nebraska. The seventh child of Andrew (Georg Heinrich Andreas) Wickenkamp and Elisabeth Drollner. Bill grew up in Nebraska. Between 1920 and 1930 the family moved to Casper, Natrona, Wyoming. It was in Casper where he met and married Florence Sybil Koch and my mom, Jerry Lynn Wickenkamp was born. He and his family moved to Lincoln, Placer county, California, in 1941 where they had a fruit ranch. In 1951 they moved to Jump Off (Valley), Stevens county, Washington and bought a farm. He loved to fish. On a earlier post I there is a picture of grandpa and his fish. Happy Birthday, Grandpa Bill! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Travel Tuesday - American Legion Nonstop Goodwill Tour

Nonstop Auto Run Past Sacramento This Morning
   Dust under the needle valve and careless automobile drivers nearly ended the border-to-border nonstop American  legion automobile drive for Grant Ware and Frank P. Smith.
    At 10 o'clock this morning the Dodge sedan was still rolling to Los Angeles, having left Lodi, Cal., at 9:25 a.m.  The week-end saw the Spokane nonstop drivers safely through the lofty heights of the Siskiyou mountains, 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Tomorrow at 12:05 p.m. the boys should be in Mexico.
   Here's what happened:
By Grant Ware
 THE DALLES, Ore. - March 29, 10:25 p.m. - Thrills and howl Colfax met us with six cars and a motorcycle and there was thrill No. 1.  As we picked them up, along came a country boy , who missed us head-on by inches while watching the excitement.   Dayton met us with the legion commander and highway patrol Luncheon was served us on the "fly," and as we neared  Walla Walla the chief of police there came alongside.  The legion colors were on his car.  A patrol of three motorcycles escorted us all over town, and gave instructions about the road.  The Walla Wall post also gave us letters to President Rubio, Will Rogers and commander of the Hollywood post of the legion. After crossing the Oregon line we soon came upon the  delegation from Milton. We traveled through dust  and heavy rainstorms much of the time, but maintained our schedule. One car whose occupants we do not know passed us three times today.  The last time was about 6 o'clock.  They pulled alongside and held out two ice cream sandwiches, which shows again that there are still a lot of mighty friendly people in this world.

Grant Wires From Lodi
LODI, Cal March  31,  9:28 a.m. - Sacramento slipped up on its convoy so we went through to Stockton. Picked up gasoline on the way.  A five car convoy met us at Redding and accompanied  us through the night.  The car is running "sweet," and we are rarin' to go.


Another From Lodi
LODI, Cal March 31, 10 a.m. - Took on gas at the Dalles and those boys were fast!  Another thrill here when half-awake driver nearly ran over our highway patrolman, who was stopping traffic on a street  and stopped dead in front of us and not three feet away.  I shot into low gear and crawled at him to move and he moved out just in time to save a fender as we are not stopping. From there we convoyed to the Columbia River highway  and through intermittent rain to 82nd Street  in Portland.  At Oregon City we were an hour and 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  The next two hours was a crawl and we hit Salem at 4:45.  At Eugene we were convoyed through by Commander Van Svarverud and Patrolman and Howard.  At Roseburg another highway patrolman and legionnaire picked us up and took on fresh coffee.  Patrolman Nichols  and a convoy of five cars picked us up and we followed. In the middle of town a car started out between us but again no stop, although we barely touched a fender.   At Grants Pass we were met by a convoy  and we refueled. There were some 20 cars in this convoy and the refueling was the fastest yet.  At this point a speck of dust got under the needle valve and it looked like for a time as though the tour was nearing the end.  By the time we reached Yreka, however, Smith had worked this loose. We were met at the California border by a member of the Yreka post with one of the highway patrol cars.  Arrangements had been made to take the inspector aboard and he inspected our car thoroughly while moving.  This is another of the splendid  bits of cooperation  that has been shown on this entire trip.   This required considerable  work and friendly attitude on the part of the inspector and is rarely done.