Baker, James

Letter
Date:
August 2, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
August 2, 1942

Dear Mom,

I sent you a cablegram last week from London giving you my new address, or rather my forwarding address. I will be moving so much that you will never be able to keep track of me. Therefore I have arranged with the postmistress at the Beaver Club to have all my Canadian mail sent there and she will forward it to me. That will be much quicker than having it follow me about as it invariably does when I move about a lot.

Well, I have finished my first 3 weeks preliminary training and am now posted to my Initial Training Wing. We are at Scarborough on the North East Coast of England, just below Newcastle. It is a summer resort and despite the fact that the government is trying their hardest to make the people have stay-at-home holidays this year, it is very crowded with a very happy carefree band of holiday-makers. We are billeted in one of the numerous luxury hotels right on the sea-front and have a wonderful view over the North Sea and along the cliffs which rise straight out of the water here. There is a narrow stretch of sand about 50 yards wide when the tide is ‘in' but when the tide is ‘out' the sand is at least 1/2 mile wide, just as it is at home. In fact, this place reminds me more and more of home the longer I am here. I have only been here 2 days so far but I am almost at home now. We came up from London by train, luckily we had a reserved coach because both trains were absolutely crowded! We changed at York and it took as long from York to Scar. as it did from London to York, despite the fact that the latter distance is five times the first. However we all arrived very tired, very dirty and very hungry (but I may add very happy as well) about six o'clock Thursday afternoon. It is now Sunday and tomorrow we start our course. We have been rushing around amongst all the boys here who have been taking the course - "getting the gem!" as it is called in the Air Force, and evidently this is no picnic we have let ourselves in for. The course is very hard, very long and contains a lot of new material that 99% of mankind never dreamt existed....but the only part of the course that really matters at all is navigation. You can flunk all the others and be a brilliant navigator and they will pass you through. But you can pass all the others and flunk Nav. and they fail you. So most of my concentration is certainly going to go on Nav. I have been reading over the notes which they give us to study from and I can certainly see why so many boys fail. But all we chaps from the Army - beside our personal ambition, have an extra and driving force behind us to give us impetus. We were told that if we have failed our courses or failed to make a good showing, we would be forced back into the Army, in fact, we had to sign a paper to that effect before we transferred! So that in itself is sufficient to drive me on because after tasting the joys of this life, I know I could never go back to the other and be content. The RAF. get the best of everything - at least the Air Crews and potential Air Crews do and after all, who doesn't appreciate white sheets and clean well-cooked food? We are living like human beings again after 2 1/2 yrs. as pigs, and who would want to go back to a sty after once having lived in a house? No, not I at least. So therefore, this next two months is going to be one long grind. There is also another reason for extra hard work. I understand that it is from here that the really important recommendations for a commission is made and I certainly want to wear one of those narrow sky blue rings. Then besides that I have my family to consider and my friends. And last but not least, there is myself. So I feel I have enough "spurs to prick the sides of my intent" (as Macbeth says) to drive me forward.

I didn't tell you I had gone to the theatre while I was in London did I? I took the girl Penny Williams who you may remember I spent one of my leaves with. We saw John Gielquid in Shakepeare's "Macbeth". It was a wonderful experience, one that I shall never forget. It was the first time I had ever seen a Shakespearian play and really, it was wonderful. I know Macbeth very well because I took it at school, and I was very surprised how many of the quotations and passages I could anticipate. The scenery and lighting was wonderfully well done, especially the gloomy ghostly cavern scenes and the banquet scene where Banquo's ghost appears. I was wondering how they were going to make a realistic ghost appear but they managed it very cleverly by showing him sitting behind a hole in the wall covered with a net and painted to blend into the wall. I never even noticed it was there until Banquo's ghost appeared lighted up by a blue light. Then when the light went out, I couldn't for the life of me discover the hole again! It was very clever. I thoroughly enjoyed it and intend to go again to another as soon as I can. They are very expensive but well worth the money. I am afraid I am not going to be able to tell you much about my work or much about anything as a matter of fact, for I expect to be very busy for a few weeks. But I will try to write once a week as I have been doing.
Mary said to send her love, I always forget that.
Gooddbye for now

Love to all,

Jim


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