Baker, James

Letter
Date:
October 5, 1940
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
In Camp,
Oct.5th, 1940

Dear Mom,

I am night phone-orderly for tonight so have a grand opportunity to catch up on some of my correspondence. I regret to say that I have fallen woefully behind in that respect for I owe nearly 14 letters to various people, but yours comes first...so here goes.

I am afraid there is not very much to write about. We have moved into our winter quarters at last. It is an orphanage - a huge place. It seems to be more of a boys' farm than anything else. The only trouble with it is that we are miles away from anywhere. The first night we were here, Gerry dropped some incendiary bombs on us. One landed in the house but we got it out before any damage was done. Another set fire to one of the outbuildings. That was several week ago. Then just the other day, Gerry dropped an HE. about 200 yds away. Broke nearly every other window in the place and tore off the roof. He also dropped a time-bomb. Major Murphy had a wonderful escape when the latter exploded. He went out to examine the hole that the bomb made when entering the ground. He remarked to several of us who were standing around "We better get away boys. No telling when it will go off". We turned - walked away and "BOOM!!" she let go. Dug a hole about 20 ft. deep and 30 ft. across. Quite a sizable piece of destruction. Gerry comes over here quite regularly now. Even as I write I can hear one of his planes passing directly overhead. But we are getting so used to that now that we no longer pay any attention to them.

As I told you in one of my other letters my advancement has been indefinitely postponed. I was at Bordon when I was supposed to get my two stripes. They made up a draft to send back to the regiment and I had to go because Major Murphy specifically asked for "D" Coy men. So I had to give up my two stripes. I hope to get them sometime again though.

About parcels. I don't know how many you have been sending but I have only received one in a long time: a parcel of Dad's cookies. There have been a terrible number of complaints about parcel delivery, some fellows have as many as 11 or 12 parcels coming at once but they never seem to be able to get them. Our officers have begun to investigate.

I have been up to London twice in the past two weeks and have seen some sights that almost made me sick to my stomach. I walked into the one portion of London called Silverton down near the East India Docks in East End. There is an air raid shelter I found one poor woman and 3 tiny children: 2 yrs., 1yr. and 4 months old respectively. I talked with her for several hours and she told me she had been bombed out of her home the day before and this concrete tomb was now her only refuge. Neither she nor her children had eaten since the night before and she herself hadn't slept for nearly 36 hrs. I nursed her baby for 4 hrs. myself so she could get some sleep. I had only half a crown myself or I would gladly have helped her if I could. But all during this time I talked to her, that poor woman never once complained against her Fate. She only showed an implacable hate for Hitler and an indomitable determination to "Carry On" and everywhere I went in London I found this spirit to prevail. Even in the Tubes where people flock as early as 11 AM. and stay as late as 7 - 8 AM. next morning to escape the terror from the sky, the talk is "Victory!" Of course they are afraid - and with good cause, but this only make their determination to "Stick it Out" and "Carry On" all the more admirable.

And these people can still laugh and joke when they see all that they love so dearly - all the familiar old sights of London slowly vanishing before their eyes: one by one being smashed by their implacable enemy. Many famous stores in Regent St. and Oxford Circus have been demolished. Many famous churches - their holiness no safeguard against the terror of the skies, are ruined. Even venerable St. Paul's was threatened by a 1000 lb. time-bomb until Lt. Davies and five companies risked their lives to dig it out. When the thing finally did explode in a safe place, it dug a crater nearly 200 ft. wide and 50 ft. deep. The Central London Telephone Exchange - a brand new circular concrete building of nine or ten stories, was also hit and totally demolished. The bomb fell in the roof then penetrated through the entire floors right into the basement without exploding. But when it did let go it blew every floor right out of the place and left the circular empty building standing. There were 1600 girls working in the place and there were only 8 left uninjured. But enough of bombs and bombers.

Have you heard about Blake's new job? He has been appointed Inspector of Air Fields at Carberry. What a piece of immense luck for him! I am glad he got his chance at last, for he certainly deserves it. Well, I guess I'll have to close now.

Love to you all,
Jim

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