Baker, James

Letter
Date:
October 19, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Oct. 19th, 1942

Dear Mom,

I have not heard from you at all during the past week but I think it must be through some fault of the mail service and not because you have not written. However, I hope to hear from you in this coming week.

The result of our exams have at last come out, or at least we now know whether we passed or failed. Your son passed and is now an LAC. with pay of 6 shillings a day which will be increased to 8 shillings when I actually start flying. All this as well as the $20.00 a month that you are getting!

Last week was more or less a period of relaxation after the strenuous activities of the course. We did nothing all day long except Sports...had several very good games of softball - a sport which the ‘locals' are wincing considerable interest and no little excitement about. It was good to get back into a game that I really understood, for though I like English games - such as rugger and football, I don't get much enjoyment out of them because I do not understand them. That is one reason why I will be glad to get home again.

This coming week we expect to be posted to what is called a "Grading School" so named because there the Air Force definitely decides whether you are to be a pilot or not. You are given 12 hours flying instruction and by that time you are expected to solo. It is customary to solo after only 8 hrs. instruction and fellows have been know to do it after only four. Something tells me that I am going to be a ‘natural'. I don't know what it is but a feeling of confidence has come into me ever since I managed to transfer to the RCAF. that was never there before. I am convinced of my own ability to do things whereas before I doubted my own initiative and powers... as though I no longer feared something. Anyway, my Army life has taught me one thing, if you would do a thing to the best of your ability and the utmost limit of your power, never fight against your natural inclination. I did that for three years and the result was misery and futility. Everything I turned my hand to, too quickly flourished and as quickly died because my heart was not there, though my head and hands were. All the time my heart was in the sky with the planes I saw day after day skimming so lightly across the sky or diving in and out of clouds like otters playing in a pool. There is something fascinatingly beautiful about a Spitfire winging its way homeward through the dusk as darkness falls, passing as it does a slow lumbering bomber outward-bound for Germany or France. One somehow doesn't think that that Spitfire has probably just returned from shooting up a goods-train or attacking a convoy and the Whitley is probably loaded to the gunwhales with bombs to be dropped on our enemies. We even forget the human agency inside each plane: forget that that is a fellow human being piloting that Spitfire and he is probably hungry and very tired and only interested in getting home. Somehow he becomes transferred in our imagination into a supernatural being - a demi-god, sitting secure on his seat like a king on his throne: master of all he surveys. And who can say he's not? He rules himself and his machine. He has a definite job to do today, tomorrow and many tomorrows until it is done. His path is clear before him. And he knows what living and life really are. No man can taste the sweetness of life until he is ready to lose it. What is the use of a sacrifice unless it contains the elements of "blood and tears, toil and sweat". Therefore I am not going to take any steps to evade danger if it should come my way. But facing up to it does not mean - as you seem to have interpreted one of my former letters, taking unnecessary risks. You should have more faith in your own teachings than that mother. You - above all people, should realize that I am not foolhardy and a daredevil. Whenever I do anything, my mind and eyes are open: I know what I am going to do, how I am going to do it and why it is being done.

Yes Mother, I am but 21 in years but those years have taught me far more than they teach most men and I know now a more vast range of experiences and emotions than many men know in a lifetime. The things I have seen, I have seen in my heart and they have become part of me. And they have helped me decide what I know is worth living for - yes, and worth dying for too. The world in which I was born and in which I lived was a chaos of shattered ideals and false hopes, of lies, bitterness, ambition, greed and lust directed to the end of self-advancement. Men groveled or trampled or wheedled or bribed their way to victory or power or position, thus truth and honor and self-sacrifice were forgotten - or even worse, derided as evidence of weakness.

But those derided virtues have now come into their own again: honor again strides triumphantly over a re-awakened world; truth is struggling upward from the realms of darkness where she had been banished. And it is to help her upward into the light again that I am where I am today. We must learn to trust the men beside us, the man - our neighbour whose strivings and ambitions are identical with our own, whose goal is our goal and whose hopes and fears are our hopes and fears. We must pull together, band ourselves into a unity that will tear down this rotten, tottering structure that has held us supressed for so long. We must answer our own questions, solve our own riddles, face our own fears and have faith in ourselves. Too long we have trusted others to do what we should have done, and the result has been that we have been muzzled and duped and encompassed with lies and scandals and black iniquities upon which we have looked and from which we have turned away, because we loathed dirtying our hands. Someone else's hands could be dirtied, but not ours! Now our eyes are opened and we understand what we must do. We must set up a new order of living which again goes back to the basic teachings of Christ and the laws of God. That is what I am fighting for, that is what all the Free people of the world are hoping for and that is what I am firmly convinced God meant for us. That is our ministry and our mission.

Well, I am sorry I .......No! I am not sorry: I am glad. I have been thinking about that a long time and I'm glad it is off my chest. But maybe I shouldn't have inflicted it upon you. But it helped to put down what I think and feel on paper. I hope everyone is well at home. Give my love to everyone. Did Stanley have a good leave? Lucky beggar, how I envy him. I must close now.

All my love,

Jim



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