Baker, James

Letter
Date:
July 12, 1941
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
No. 5 Can. Gen Hospital,
Taplow, Bucks
England
July 12th, 1941

Dear Mom,

I hope the above address does not come as too great a shock to you. I know you have had no warning but then - neither did I, so we are both hard done by. I have been in here a week tomorrow and am enjoying it immensely. And now I suppose you are wondering what happened. Well I am afraid I can't tell you for you see, I don't remember. The last thing I can remember is walking along the side of a road in Richmond (a suburb of London) in my bathing suit. After that there is a blank until I woke up in a civilian hospital and a surgeon was dressing my scalp and an extremely interesting (and pretty) nurse was talking to me. I can remember the hospital clearly and then everything is hazy again. I can't remember getting home at all. I can remember sleeping at our own hospital though and then next morning I came here by ambulance. I have been here ever since in bed. The doctor won't let me get up because of the fact that I had a head injury, even though I feel absolutely tip-top now. The only thing that bothers me now is my arm. It had been bothering me for nearly two months before the accident - or whatever it was occured. In the incident, my condition was greatly aggravated. The arm is very much swollen and puffy and I cannot straighten it at all without a great deal of pain. But at the same time, it doesn't hurt me to use it for writing or playing the piano. I also had lacerations on my thigh, knee, right breast and the heels of both hands but they are all gone now. By the time you read this I expect I will be out of hospital. I may even be back at the regiment - so you don't need to change my address.

Maybe you are wondering what I was doing up in Richmond...well you see, I got to thinking some time ago that it had been a long time since I had seen the Thompsons - Mrs. Barnard's relations, my friends, so on July 1st after the Dominion Day Sports, I dropped up to London to see them for an hour or two and the two girls and I decided to go on a picnic on Sunday on the Thames. So on Sunday I got a pass and away I went. Winnie and Pat and I had a swell time all day. We rented a boat for all day and rowed for miles down the Thames - swimming in the river whenever we felt like it for we had only our bathing suits on. We had picnic lunch tied to the bank under some beautiful willow trees. It was delightful! Then about 3 o'clock we picked up the three grown ups in the family and went for a row on the river (six of us in the boat for it was very large). About 4 o'clock we got thirsty so I went up the bank and along the road dressed as I was to get some lemonade, and that is all I can remember. I cannot remember leaving the hospital or saying "Goodbye" to the Thompsons. It is very funny so far...I must have appeared alright or they would never have let me come home. Isn't it funny how peculiar your brain acts to shock? I can't understand it all. I have sat - or rather lain here trying to worry it out, but nothing comes of it. It is completely blank. I haven't seen Winnie or Pat since. Maybe they could help explain it all.

I wrote to Mrs. Sayers on Tues....just a postcard. I also wrote you the same day: a postcard. Have you got it yet? You should have. Mrs. Sayers went me a telegram and I think she'll be up to see me Sunday. I hope so for it is monotonous here. The nurses are swell to me though. I have met quite a few of them whom I knew from last year when I was in. I have also met Faith and Jane and Andy, the girls I knew nearly two years ago at the Maple Leaf Club. The Club is opening again on July 17th. I wish I could be there to see it. Faith and Jane will both leave the hospital - where they have been working as nurses in the officers' wards and go back to the Club. Mrs. Murray - its founder and the mother of the boys, is dead: killed in the raids last December and the air of peace and hominess which she managed to spread everywhere about her will be greatly missed, but we will honour her in our memories for she was a true and gallant woman whom we all loved dearly. I think I was one of her "special boys" as she called us for I was always given many special privileges not given to the others when I was there. Faith and Jane also were very good to me and I can tell you, I was very very sad when I saw the condition the club was in after it had been bombed and also very relieved when I learned no one had been injured. London seemed such a dreary place for a while and I came to hate it (even though it still exercised a terrible fascination for me) for I had no place to call home. And then I discovered the Victoria League Club and spent one or two enjoyable leaves there...then it - too, disappeared. Then Mrs. Sayers came to my rescue and her home is now my home whenever I am in London: which is as often as I can slip away - even for an hour or two.

Rather a peculiar incident this morning. The first thing Sister Warren said to me this morning when she woke me up was "Are you James Baker of the PPCLI.?" and when I said "Yes" she said "Well isn't that funny! I've just finished reading an article of yours in the Winnipeg Free Press which came from home last night". Isn't it peculiar how Fate works things out? I wrote that article last year and it wasn't printed until June 15th this year...and then a thousand to one chance I'm injured and come to hospital here and then another thousand to one chance I come to Ward 4 where Sister Warren - my night nurse, gets an article from home with my article in it. Isn't that peculiar? I seem to have built up quite a reputation around Winnipeg, judging from the people who write me letters and the number of fellows who are always receiving letters asking them if they know James Baker. I wish they wouldn't write so often though - I always feel obligated to answer them all. It keeps me rather busy.

I have written a lot of new poetry lately which I will try to send you as soon as I can, but I hate copying poetry just as much as you do. How I wish I had a typewriter sometimes. The Matron of the hospital has just left my bed. Sister Warren told her about me and she came down to see me. We had an interesting chat. She is a lovely person to chat to. She makes you feel so at home. You forget almost that she is a Major and has nearly 200 nurses and 1000 patients under her command. I have described the hospital to you before, so there is no use going over that again. It is just the same as last time.

O - Yes! Lady Astor was in last Wednesday and I reintroduced myself to her. She remembered me after we got talking. She is just the same as ever, talking all the time and telling rather risque stories. This one concerned a Lord Major's wife and when in her early twenties went out to India - and among other silly things that she did, had a snake tattoed on her leg just above the knee. "Of course" Lady Astor continues "that was in the days of long skirt and cotton hose. But now when fashion decrees short skirts and sheer silk hose or none at all, we..e...e...ll !!" Did we ever laugh? She gave me some strawberries from her own beds and invited me down for tea as soon as I was able to get about. Hope that will be soon for I am mortally sick of lying in bed.

Last Wednesday, all the boys in the band whom I know played at a concert here in the hosp. and after it was over, they all came up to see me. I was awfully glad to see them as you can well imagine, especially Freddy who was billited with me at Mrs. Barnard's place.

And now I am tired so I will close. Please don't worry. I'm alright now. Love you as always.

Cheerio!

Jim


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