Baker, James

Letter
Date:
August 16, 1940
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
On Aug 5th to 10th, the attack was shifted farther and farther inland until - on August 15th, occurred the first raid in force on London. It occurred approximately 7.30 in the evening with results as specified below:

Somewhere in England,
Aug. 16th, 1940

Dearest Mom,

I cannot understand why you have not been getting mail for I have made it a point to write at least every week. So something must have gone wrong somewhere.

Well as you can see I am back again with the unit but how long I am going to stay here I can't say. We have been doing a lot of route marching and my foot had been paining badly. I have to go sick this afternoon. I am almost certain that the Dr. will send me to hospital to have it x-rayed. It is the old trouble coming back again.

Well we have had our first experience in an actual air raid, witnessed our first dog-fight, seen our first actual parachute trooper and had an exciting time generally. It was at seven o'clock last night - Aug 15th, the day Hitler had set for his triumphal march into London, when it all started. I was shaving at the time and had just finished lathering my face when a low steady hum made itself heard from the SE. It grew louder and louder till the whole universe seemed filled with the roar of aeroplane engines. The noise was deafening and I was wondering to myself "What's this? Can it be an air raid?" when suddenly someone shouted "They're Huns!" Suddenly the sirens screamed to life adding their high pitched wailing to the infernal din. The AA guns suddenly opened fire adding their "Whoomph! Whoomph!" to the racket. I rushed away to get my equipment not even waiting to wipe the soap off my face. When I arrived breathless at the trenches with my equipment piled on in a state of wild confusion and a Bren gun in one hand and a rifle in the other and 100 rounds of ammunition slung over one shoulder, I found that all the hurry was useless: they were not attacking us at all. Instead they sailed majestically on, seemingly unaware that three Spitfires were attacking them, valiantly trying to break up their formation and turn them aside from their objective. But these Germans were not to be turned away to look for help.

Suddenly the squadron of raiders split in two and swung in on their target from the west and the east.

By threes they drove down, down, down on the mark. Suddenly they zoomed upward and a moment later a dull boom told that some more bombs had been dropped. Altogether twelve flights of three dropped down from the skies and the bombs shook the ground upon which we were standing. All this time the AA shells bursting were blooming all over the sky in the midst of the raiders. Suddenly one plane appeared to disintegrate before our very eyes and flutter brokenly down to earth. An AA gunner had secured a direct hit in the bomb-rack and the bombs had blown the ship to pieces.

All at once ten Spitfires dropped from a cloud to the North of the now disorganized squadron and darted in amongst the enemy's ships. Although they were out-numbered nearly 4 to 1, they never hesitated an instant. The raiders for one moment appeared to be having everything their own way, the next they were scattered all over the sky like leaves before a boisterous wind, a wind of death whose executioners were our dauntless pilots and their superb machines. Up and down zoomed the Spitfires, now nose-diving down from a position high above a raider at a speed hardly believable, now zooming up again in a wing-tearing-climb, the strain of their tortured motors filling the air with a crescendo of ear-splitting sound appearing to claw their way straight up into the air - the vicious chatter of their 8 machine guns singing a song of death for the raiders.

Planes began to scuttle away from the dog-fight in all directions - streams of white smoke flowing out from their engines. One crashed to the left of us about a mile away, another piled up in a hillside about three miles to our right. From the tail of another a tiny black blob suddenly detached itself and slowly swung down to earth supported by the huge white parachute. The man floated gently down to earth as he watched his plane crash into the woods beneath him and fiercely burn itself in a mass of twisted metal. We watched him closely as he fell and when we realized that he was going to fall near us, we rushed over to meet him. But we were doomed to disappointment for he landed in the midst of about three hundred Nova Scotians who were out on a "scheme". They bundled him into an ambulance and rushed him away to hospital for he was wounded.

When we looked at the sky again we found that not a plane was in sight. A deafening silence had descended over the battle field and the planes and fires set by bombs rose slowly in the quiet air.

Some of our boys - who were in Croyden where the actual raid took place, said that the actual damage was negligible. But the raid was exciting and when the battle started, everyone crowded out into the streets to cheer the RAF on. All they actually hit was one hanger and perfume factory. A small number of persons were injured when a huge air raid shelter holding nearly 400 people was hit on the corner.

The raiders lost 8 planes that we saw and we lost one. This morning we had three more air raids but the raiders were so high we couldn't see them at all.

I'm glad to hear you got to Victoria to see Mrs. Jackman again and I almost wish I had been home to go there with you. No, I'm sorry to say I have not been to church since I was in hospital...but I have been through an ancient church at Petersfield and had a lovely chat with the vicar.

Well I guess I must close - or I'll finish up with a book on my hands!

Love to everyone,

Jim


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