Baker, James

Letter
Date:
February 11, 1940
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
February 11, 1940

Dear Mom,

I haven't received any mail from home in nearly a week now but we have heard a rumour to the effect that one ship containing our mail went down in mid-Atlantic. Please mention the date of each letter you get from me. Then I'll know if you don't get any that I have written. Did you get that letter in which I wrote describing our journey? It was an especially thick one. It looked more like a small parcel than a letter. I've also sent you some photographs that I took on the way over and I am enclosing with this letter some more which I bought from one of the boys in the next platoon. He has a far better camera than mine. The pictures which he has - about 100 in number are all exceedingly good. I picked out the best and bought them. The one which shows the convoy at anchor in the Clyde also gives you an idea of the wonderful mountain scenery which surrounds the town of Greenock. It was the view of the sunrise over the mountains that I tried to describe in the poem "Impresario" which I have sent to you. The facts about the "Dunquerk" or the "Dunkirk" are all wrong. I am enclosing a clipping from an English paper which gives the true facts. The small tank is in reality a Bren gun-carrier and is extremely fast and mobile.

Well we've had our big inspection by Princess Patricia, our Honorary Colonel-in-Chief, and by Hamilton Geralt - the founder of our regiment. Princess Patricia - or Lady Patricia Ramsay as she is now, spoke a few moving lines to us, walked through the ranks talking and chatting with the men - some of whom had been in the regiment when 25 years before this same gentle lady, then a young and extremely beautiful woman, had inspected the "Originals". She then stood on the saluting base for the March Post. On one side of her stood that grand old warrior "Hammy" Gault VC. etc. who had given his leg to the cause in the last war and who would gladly to the same in this if he had any say in the matter; then on the other side Col. Colhoun "our Colonel". The long lines of khaki clad figures moved past with machine-like precision, each rifle sloped at the same angle, each khaki clad arm rising and falling in perfect unison, each foot alternately coming up and going down at exactly the same time as his neighbour's. I tell you we were certainly proud of ourselves and our regiment as our Colonel told us in no sparing words at the Smoker that same night. He was so proud of us that he could hardly speak when he rose to his feet to thank us.

Princess Patricia had tea in the officer's quarters after the parade. She then inspected the "Guard of Honour", 100 picked men from the regiment. Virtually the whole of my platoon was on it, which speaks well of our sergeant. I was lucky enough to be on it too; and was I proud? Our captain told us that in all his seventeen years in uniform, he had never seen a smarter or better "Guard of Honour"; and he was sincere.

That night we had a smoker in the Men's Mess with all the beer we could drink. The boys at the table where I sat - we sat every platoon together, had a really swell time. I laugh yet whenever I think of it. Our waiter - Crassmen by name, is a little dark Jew and he is a truly "natural comedian". During the whole of the time the toasts were being proposed and answered he was engaged in smuggling beer to our table. In all the boys got nearly nine gallons to be shared between about 15 men. Crassman would creep up on his hands and knees among the tables up to the barrels, draw a jug of beer and then creep back on his hands and knees and shove it under the table. Finally tiring of making so many trips - for the boys were pouring it down as fast as he could provide it, he seized a large tea urn containing about 3 gals. and smuggled that back. The Smoker ended at 8 PM: but not for the platoon. They managed to smuggle the two of those large pails into out barrack room and drank them. And then the "fun" began. When they were finished there wasn't a bed left standing in the room, the blankets, pillows, mattresses were scattered from one end of the room to the other, clothes, kitbags, rifles and shoes were lying everywhere, cups were lying broken all about. The room looked like it had been bombed. I came out of the ruckus with nothing worse than a cut foot but things were certainly lively for awhile in here last night. This morning I awoke with a feverish cold, watery eyes and a severe headache which you may recognize as the symptoms of "German measles": an epidemic of them is sweeping the country. I'm not sure whether I've got them or not. I'm waiting till tomorrow to make sure. I hope I have them for then I'll get seven day sick leave when I come out of isolation.

Well I guess that's all for now. Please write soon and don't forget the cake if you can possibly make it. I'm enclosing another poem which I wrote. By the way where are those paper which you promised to send me?

I'm afraid you won't get your birthday present till very late as I haven't been able to get to Aldershot to see a jeweler.

Love as always,

Jim

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