Baker, James

Letter
Date:
November 29, 1940
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Somewhere in England,
November 29, 1940

Dear Mom,

Well, that's the nearest squeak I've had yet! I have just got back from downtown where Gerry just finished dropping a lot of 5 HEs. and a group of incendiaries. I was standing on the pavement just outside Mr. Lees' restaurant waiting for a bus to carry me home (for I had to be on duty at 10 PM) when suddenly I heard the terrible screamy noise which presages the arrival of one of Hitler's surprise packets. Without wasting a second I threw myself flat on the pavement and covered my neck with my hands. Then there was a terrible roaring noise right next to me - the ground heaved up and down under me, glass and bricks and mortar came showering down all about me, but I wasn't hit by a single piece. I got up and looked about and there before my eyes - where not 30 seconds before had stood one of Brighton's nicest and biggest stores, stood a heap of twisted jagged ruins, the heavy clouds of dust and sulfurous smoke half obscuring the terrible wreckage. The whole scene of ruins was made more ghastly by the brilliant sickly white light of the hundreds of small incendiary bombs which had rained down upon the streets and shops. I stood for a moment - paralyzed with shock. Suddenly a woman rushed around the corner - hysterical with fright and shock and sobbing under her breath, "O my God, my babies!" She bumped into me but seemingly did not know it for she continued to run up the street in a dazed manner. But the bump had roused me from my stupor and I rushed over and began to put out the incendiaries as best I could by picking them up and dropping them in the boxes of sand distributed along the street for this very purpose. While I was doing this I ran into Mr. Lees - tin helmet, respirator and all, engaged at the same task. He told me he had phoned the AFS and they would be along any moment and there - sure enough, up they came and in just two minutes after the first bomb dropped, all the fires were out, the area roped off, a policeman was stationed at each end of the street to warn the people off and everything was nearly normal again. After I had helped all I could, I boarded the bus (which was still running) and came home. On the way we passed through Castle Square over nearly three inches of glass which littered the street nearly half a mile. Every pane of glass had been smashed to atoms by the blast of a huge bomb whose crater had nearly swallowed a huge department store. But the people for the most part were calm and collected and there was a minimum of noise and aimless running about. Everyone knew what to do and did it. I spoke to a woman going home on the bus and she told me in a calm matter-of-fact voice "That blighter seems to be following me about. He's just finished wrecking my home in Southampton last week. So I took my baby and moved down here where I thought it was quieter. Now the bloomin' --------- has nearly got me here. Best thing I can do is go home again." No nerves - no hysteria, just cool collected nonchalance. Everywhere you go the striking thing you'll find is the cool way the civilians act under fire. They seem to have the ability to laugh and joke even in the midst of extreme danger and that is one of the bravest things I have ever witnessed. These British people may be a very peculiar race and although we do not agree with them in many ways, we certainly have to admire the way they "Carry On" in the face of danger with a smile upon their faces. Yes, there'll always be an England as long as such courage as this endures. And now enough of bombs and such. I've had my fill for one night.

And now didn't I tell you that next time I wrote I'd have a surprise for you... well here it is. I have at last managed to transfer to the Medical Section under Dr. Corrigan and I am now a full fledged Medical Orderly. I love my work and can't get enough of it. I have been on three ambulance calls already - one a fellow with double pneumonia, one a fellow with a broken tibia and one fellow with a bad gash over the left eye. Took two stitches to close and he was bleeding like a stuck pig all over his uniform and my uniform and the ground and the road - blood everywhere! I stopped the bleeding, applied a pad of gauze and cleaned him up a bit and sent him down to 4th field ambulance where they fixed him up. Nice work eh?

Well we've just received word that 3 mail boats of a convoy of 6 have been sunk and all mail mailed between the 16th and 23rd of November may be presumed lost. Hard blow to us as it was nearly all Christmas mail.

I'm going on leave for seven days next Thursday. I'm getting a warrant so am going up to Scotland again. I'll have nearly 6 lbs. to spend so should do alright...just think, nearly $27.00 to spend in 7 days. And I used to be lucky if I could spend $27.00 in a year on myself. A bit different eh?

I mailed home about the loss of the "Margaree" three days before I got your letter. Nearly everyone of the boys who are from Victoria knew someone who was killed or drowned. I felt genuinely sorry to hear that Alfie Jones was dead. He was a good kid and I knew him well. He was so full of life and vigour that it is hard to imagine him gone. Such is the fate of war though.

I am sorry to hear about Mr. and Mrs. Foote. I hope you are a bad prophetess for I should like to see them again when I come back. I am sending them a picture as soon as I can and I will do my best to look up her son when I get to London next time.

Yes, I got the Women's Auxiliary's parcel OK. and wrote and thanked them for it.

I ran into Desmond Simmonds tonight downtown. He is in perfect health and says "Hello". I have also seen Charlie Blower lately and have met his wife. She is a charming girl, very beautiful and seems to be quite sensible. He has done well for himself.

Gerry is still flying overhead and every once in a while he "lays an egg". There goes another one - about a mile away. I am night-orderly tonight so I have to sit up and listen to them. Well I guess that's all for now...

Love,

Jim



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