Baker, James

Letter
Date:
March 17, 1941
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
March 17th, 1941

Dear Mom,

I just got back from a wonderful time, the most enjoyable leave I have had yet! I left Sunday March 10th but only got as far as London that night. I couldn't catch a boat to Ireland until 4.30 the next afternoon...I should say ‘boat-train'. We travelled all night and landed at Stranraer at 6 AM. We were immediately hustled on board the boat by the red caps... I never saw so many police before: there were swarms of them! I would hate to try to get to Ireland without a pass. We had to wait on board the boat from about 6 to nearly 9 o'clock before she sailed: I watched the moon go down and the sun come up. Moored about 100 yds. away from us were 8 of the huge flying boats of the Coastal Command. One of them escorted us over to Ireland. We landed at Larne at 12 noon and immediately boarded the ‘Belfast Express'. The train takes about an hour to travel from Larne to Belfast and it runs through very beautiful country along the coast for a good part of the journey.

When I got out of the train at Belfast, the first thing I found was a free canteen for the Forces which was a very welcome sight: for I hadn't eaten since 4 the day before. I then went outside and as I was standing there wondering what to do next, a very genial-looking Irishman came up and offered to show me the way to the YMCA. So I thanked him and off we started. I thought at the time he was pretty dirty and disreputable-looking and when we got to the Club I found out that he was a bum and only wanted to get some money. So that didn't give me a very good impression. And then I found there were no accommodations for troops and that no-one seemed to care what we did or where we stayed so I said "Nuts to this!" and turned around and caught the first boat back to England. So altogether, my stay in Ireland lasted seven hours. I'm never going there again!

We travelled all night again and I landed in London at noon on Wednesday morning. During the night we had passed by the immense radio-transmitting station at Rugby. It is nearly 25 acres in extent and a veritable forest of transmitting masts. There must be at least forty of them!

Well I spent from Wednesday to Sunday in London and never had an idle moment. I don't know whether I have mentioned it before or not, but I have a special friend in London: a Mrs. Emily Sayers who works at ‘The American Eagle Club'. She is a wonderful woman, has travelled all over the world ever since she was nine, speaks four languages: French, Italian, Japanese and English and has truly treated me as her son ever since I first met her. Her son - who is 23, is a metallurgical engineer in an aircraft factory and he and I are bosom pals. Whenever we can get together we go everywhere together. He is very fond of music and art and we go to the Sunday Concerts of the London Philharmonic Society nearly every Sunday. His name is Jean Louis and he is part French, has lived in Paris for nearly 15 years. But back to Mrs. Sayers.

As I say, she has treated me like her son. She gives me passes to theatres and cinemas, invitations to luncheons with society people, takes me out to supper and to tea at her house and really makes me enjoy myself. For instance: on Wednesday night I went out with Joe - another French man I know, to a lovely little French restaurant in Soho. We had marvellous food cooked in the French style. Then we went to the only French pub in London. It is a funny little place tucked away in the most out of the way place I have ever seen. Its walls are adorned with autographed photos of some of the most famous people in the world including Hollywood stars, English stars of the stage and screen, Presidents of France, Kings of Norway, Belgium and famous boxers, athletes, lords and ladies, Dukes and Duchesses of nearly every country in Europe. Then on Thurs., Mrs. Sayers gave me a ticket to a theatre - a play called "Thunder Rock" at the ‘Globe' in London. Then she and I went out to supper at the "Casa Pepe" - a tiny Spanish restaurant on Dean St. Friday I went to see the "Philadelphia Story", had luncheon with Lady Russell, heard a lecture by the Commander of the Free French Army in London, had tea with Jacqueline Greenlow - a young girl-friend of Mrs. Sayers: about 21 and fabulously rich, extremely clever, speaks 3 languages, has lived nearly all her life in France, Italy and Germany and is now driving an ambulance five nights a week during the air-raids. That is just one fine example of the co-operation Londoners are giving each other, each one is doing her part and doing it unpretentiously. She is now trying to rejoin her brother in Sudan as a nurse. Expects to go very soon. Extremely nice girl and I enjoyed myself very much. Then on Saturday I had luncheon with Capt. McCreery who owns a huge ranch in California. Had a lovely dinner and a wonderfully interesting conversation with him. I then went to a musical variety show by Jack Payne and his band. While I was waiting outside I got talking to two very pretty girls who were there also. It turned out that they were nurses at St. Mary's Hospital Paddington. Their names are Rennie (Reynolds) and Kim Goodall: so if I mention them in my letters again - as I probably shall for we are fast friends already, you shall know who I am talking about. Rennie is from Burma and Kim from the West Indies (St. Kits: one of the islands rented to USA as a Naval Base). The next day - Sunday, Jean Louis and I had lunch at a delightful tiny French restaurant in Chelsea. Then Kim and I went to the Philharmonic Concert in Queen's Hall. We enjoyed it immensely too. Then Kim and I went strolling around London....all through the West End. Through Soho, Dean Street, Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus, Regent Street, Trafalger Square, Charing Cross Road, The Strand, Admiralty Arch, Leicester Square, Buckingham Park, Hyde Park, Piccadilly: we went everywhere! She showed me many of the most peculiar things I have ever seen: tiny pubs hidden away in the most out-of-the-way places, underground restaurants, Vine Street Police Station, famous London Theatres, a restaurant called "The Three Vikings" (which I already knew about), Regent Palace Hotel, Selfridges, Brassiere Universelle: O - hundreds of places! She is - as I say, very pretty and very unusual: extremely intelligent. I love talking to her and I hope to see her more often.

She is 22 years old and is now head nurse in charge of the surgery at St. Mary's Hospital. She is very small though: only five feet one, but she makes up for her size by her everlasting flow of energy. I have seldom seen a person so full of vitality and life as she is....by the way, how tall are you Mom? I can't remember.

I have also received a letter from Blake which has gone a long way to relieve my mind. It is self-explanatory and I will send it to you. I got your lovely parcel this morning. Thank you very much. It must have cost a bit of money. Everything is in perfect condition. I also got your letter and a bunch of papers. Thank you very much. I needed the blades and the shaving lotion badly, so everything is fine now. Well Cheerio for now

Love as always,

Jim

PS.
I have been figuring out what it cost me and thought you might like to know: I went away with 7/ and came back with 1/17/6 - so I didn't do too badly. Out of my expenses there was nearly 7 s a day for room and meals: the rest was pleasure!

Mrs. Lees address: Savoy Cafe, 5 & 6 Western Road, Brighton, England

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