Baker, James

Letter
Date:
March 6, 1941
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
March 6th, 1941

Dear Mom,

I received two letters today - one the 26th the other 30th of January. I must say right now that you have no need at all to worry your head about me wearing civvies for two reasons: one - I have decided that I don't like my actor friend and therefore I will not go to see him again and thus the civvies are of no use to me, and two - we are now allowed to wear civilian clothes when we are on leave. Indeed, we are advised to wear civvies when going to Ireland and they even tell us where to get our civilian clothes! So you needn't worry your head about anything. I expect I will be wearing civvies next week for I am going to Ireland for nine days... just think of that! Your son is going over to see the land of the shamrock and all the pretty collies and hear the blarney and the brogue himself. I'm to go next Monday, March 11th - or 10th, so by the time you get this I will have been there and returned.

I do wish that you would think of me as a man capable of looking after himself and making my own decisions, instead of still a little boy. I will admit I was very green and immature when I left home but I have learned a lot in the time I have been away. I am afraid you would not recognize the same boy that went away in the man that comes home but after all, the rule of life is ‘ceaseless change' and I couldn't have stayed at home forever: could I? I would have had to go away sometime and I will say this, that Army life has taught me a lot about civilian life while it has protected me from the hard knocks of "learning by experience" - but just the same, I have been thinking lately what a great waste of time this past year has been. When I think of all the things I might have been doing this past year to better myself and my education, I feel very miserable indeed. But then this had been a very valuable experience for me and I have learned a great deal about humanity and seen a good deal of the world that I otherwise might not have seen or learnt. So maybe it has not been such a waste after all. Certainly the seeds of experience are falling on fertile ground and I am remembering everything that is happening to me.

Now for my work. I am a medical orderly and stretcher-bearer in the Regimental Aid Post (RAP). First and foremost I have to know how best to administer first aid to a patient for any kind of injury from a simple fracture to contamination with mustard gas or choking from phosgene and chlorine. I have to know how to bandage a wound, apply a tourniquet, put on a shell dressing, removal of people from bombed houses (very important), treatment of gas casualties, treatment of colds, diarrhea, influenza and the thousand and one complaints that the army suffers from. We must be able to recognize scabies, impetigo and other skin diseases and treat them, recognize venereal diseases and give lectures on prevention of same. Then we have stretcher drills and squad drills and route marching, bandaging, splinting, applying special splints - eg. Thomas, Whittake or McLusker splints, contents of a medical pannier, first aid kit, surgical kit. We also have to know how to innoculate and how to sterilize instruments, perform minor operations such as lancing a boil or cutting corns, toenails and calluses. We also have to know how to read a compass, march by a compass, map reading and how to find our way across country by the aid of a map alone. Our knowledge of personal protection against gas alone takes three months to learn and we also have to know how to decontaminate a whole regiment complete with kit and clothing. Then as well as that we test all water supplies for their purity, hold inspection of billets and personnel. We also have to keep track of all personnel going into the hospital and being discharged from hospital. So you see we have a lot to do.

Tubby is a friend of mine and in "D" Coy. He comes from Victoria and has seen a good deal of life. He has been the sole support of his mother ever since he was 14. He was engaged to a girl in London - a very nice girl called Meg. She is part Welsh and very beautiful. I am more or less a younger brother to her. I look upon her as more my sister than a girl friend. I say ‘was engaged' because just before Xmas, they broke it off. And I am rather glad because they were totally unsuited for one another.

My landlady had a nasty accident just recently. She badly wrenched her ankle when getting off a bus and I am afraid she has broken a bone in her foot. But she is rather stubborn and won't get to see a doctor but is content to hobble about on a crutch or cane. I have been helping her to the best of my ability, but there is nothing I can do if she won't rest it.

There has been a great change in the Med. Sect. personnel lately. They took 10 of our members out to form a new band. So we have now got 10 new men to train. We also need two new lance corporals. Then on top of that, we have a ‘special' to do over Princess Patricia's birthday on March 17th. Thank the lord I will be in Ireland when that comes off. We are having a hard enough time now with only 3 veterans to carry on all the work while new men are being trained.

I had a letter from Phil Cox today. He is just the same as ever and his writing and spelling are just as atrocious as ever. Does Stan still write to him? How is everyone at home?

I mailed you a parcel some time ago but forgot to include a piece of shrapnel that nearly got me last summer. It came through the roof of our pigsty and landed in my blankets. I found it there next morning when I made my bed.

Yes, I knew Frank Little and all his brothers and sisters as well. His elder brother was 21 and a fine fellow and his sister - Pamela, was very pretty, a beautiful dancer, swimmer and a wonderful badminton player. I think she held the Fraser Valley Woman's Championship for nearly two years. I went to school with her for a little while and then she started going over to Blaine. But Frank always was a bit wild. He drank when I knew him and he was only 15 then. I personally think he was a bit weak up on top.

I also remember the Nick girl that you mention. Say, do you ever hear of Joan Barnett lately? Of all my school chums, she is the only one that I still retain an interest in. As a matter of fact, I had a severe crush on her during my last year at school and I think she knew it: had a secret joke with herself about it. Do you remember sending me a clipping stating that a Surrey girl had been the best actress in the school festivals in the Fraser Valley this year? Well, she was Joan's best friend. MacDonald was her name. I saw in the last bunch of (Surrey) ‘Leader's that Joan has gone to Vancouver to take up Secretarial Work. I hope to be able to meet her when I get back.

Well, s'long...suppose I'll not write again ‘til I get back from Ireland... 2 wks. ‘way

Love as always,

Jim



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