Saturday, February 28, 2015

World War II Letters Home February 28, 1940 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                          R.A.F. Marham
                                                                                         February 28, 1940

Dear Folks:

I don't remember exactly when I wrote last but I suppose it have been over a week ago.  How is everything going on the farm?  I'll bet you are all patiently waiting for Spring to come.  Well, that's where I am ahead of you as it is already here.  At least the weather is, although the leaves haven't come out yet.

I am getting the Free Press now or did I tell you that before?  I am terribly sorry to say that I never received any of your parcels nor the one from Esther.  It's too bad, I can't imagine what has happened to them.  I wrote to Harwell and they never got there so I suppose they got lost before they got to England or maybe lost over here during the Christmas rush.  If you don't mid, you might send me a small box of cookies and some home-made candy.  I'd love to have some.  I have to admit I haven't sent your parcels yet.  It seems that when I want to send it I can't find any paper or string and otherwise I don't seem to get the time to find some or else I forget it.  But I will get my batman busy this week and i am including an old pair of service trousers for Richard to wear - you will have to patch them up as I tore them on Saturday night when:

F/O Scott and I crashed over our machine.  We were just taking off for a 3 hour night trip over to the Bristol Channel but we only got to the top of a hill just off the aerodrome.  Scott happened to be flying into a row of big trees and cut the tops off 3 of them.  It didn't shake the machine any, just a dull thud.  I was standing under the astro hatch looking out.  Realizing we were going to crash I yelled to the crew "hold tight" - a few seconds later, which seemed like minutes the plane hit the ground.  Luckily we hit it quite flat, although 1 wing was going down as the end had been cut off by the trees.  The petrol has been punctured and burning before we hit the ground, but as we hit the back half of the aeroplane broke off and the remained swung around facing the direction from which we had come;  also the front turret broke off. For both of these breaks we  were very thankful as it meant 2 big holes for 7 of us to crawl out.  The instant we touched the ground, which was at 100 m.p.h. the whole machine being sprayed with petrol burst into flames.  It gave us light to see by but we had a pretty hot time.  it is funny that just before we went up I told the tail and nose gunners that they need not ride in the turrets, that they could sit on the bed and keep out of the way.

Anyhow, after our impact, I drug these 2 gunners out, the 1st one was quite alright but the 2nd fellow had temporarily paralyzed his legs and couldn't walk.  While I as pulling him out I got the snaps of my parachute harness hooked on some of the control wires, so I had to stop and knock the safety buckle loose and leave it there.  After that I was going back into our flaming cage to get the 4 men when I saw them already crawling and stumbling across the field.  I couldn't see how they could get out as I didn't know the nose had broken off.  After a few minutes the fire tender found us and half the camp guards were there but the flames were up to the sky then.

Scott and the Dental Officer who was sitting in the 2nd pilot's seat got off with a fractured nose and a gash in the forehead respectively.  The wireless operator got a cut in his eyelid, the Sergeant Observer got nothing nor did the 2 gunners suffer.  I got my hip and ribs bruised up a bit, but an x-ray revealed no breaks; also my left hand got burned a bit - I still have it bandaged.  I don't think anyone suffered any moral shaking.  On the whole I suppose we were very lucky 7 and we shall have a brand new aeroplane to fly.  A number of pictures were taken and as soon as I can get some I'll let you have them.

About 4 days before this we went over to heligoland to blow up some of Germany's largest warships but we couldn't find them at night even though they were frozen in the ice, so actually our trip was a wash-out.

I'm afraid i haven't such news to write about.  I am spending my 3 days leave with Doug and his wife here in King's Lynn.

The weather hasn't been very nice lately;  we saw the sun a couple of times in the last fortnight.  Well, I think I have nearly overdone myself writing this much,  so for a few days I  lay low.  Tell me all the local farm news when you write.

Best Wishes and Love,


Monday, February 2, 2015

World War II Letters Home - February 2, 1940 - Estelles Wickenkamp

                                                                                          Royal Air Force
                                                                                          King's Lynn, Norfolk
                                                                                          February 2, 1940

Dear Folks:

I got your last letter with the stamps in it, also the one before with livestock ticket and I also received another Family Herald.  I haven't sent you any papers lately but will start again this week.  It is the Daily Mirror - all the latest scandal and cheap headline stuff - but still it does contain nearly everything worth writing about.

I have been in bed for 4 days with a slight touch of flu and a good does of tonsillitis.  I could hardly swallow, so I have had to eat soup and rice pudding, etc. and drink milk, but today I am much better and shall probably be allowed to wander around in the mess tomorrow.  In 3 days from now my section have 3 days leave - so by the time our leave is over I should be ready to fly again.

Raiders have been coming along our coast and shooting up light vessels and fishing boats so we are sending out patrols to intercept them.  We have done very little work lately as the snow is from 1 to 2 feet deep on the aerodrome.  Small machines can't take off but our big 'uns just wallow along and the big wheels splash through snow like water until they stagger off.

Last week we were doing some co-operation with a finger squadron at Wittering, near Peterboro.  We were getting practice at evasion tactics and it gave them attack practice, also showed them how easy it wasn't to bite at a big bird with lots of stings.  some of our maneuvers had them absolutely foxed - they couldn't get at us.  They (fighters) were using cine-cameras so they could study the results of their efforts but only about 1/9 of their films had any results, much to their disappointment.

the last time we went over there it started to rain and snow, all of which froze on the aircraft so we had to land and were there 3 days before we could get off again, on account of the weather.

I got commended the other day on my abilities of a navigator by our squadron leader;  he said that I had quite proved myself on Hamburg episode.  so I says -er, um - "Sir, you don't mean that little jaunt, well yu' oughter send me on a long trip and I could show you sumpin'!!!".  He knows Doug and I are not so rusty at flying because when we each get in a plane and fly formation with him we just scare the pants off his crew, and they reckon, when they are that close that they can see the pilot of another machine grinning at them, that is just too dern late to jump.

Well, it looks like it's time I stopped.  Maybe I'll have some news to write about next time.

Best wishes to all of you.