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.

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