Baker, James

Letter
Date:
November 10, 1942
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
November 10th, 1942

Dear Mom,

I am afraid it is over a week since I last wrote to you but I am afraid I have not felt very much like writing because I have been bitterly disappointed in the way my flying has been going. I have been steadily progressing down the scale of achievement and every time I went up I got worse and worse. My take-offs were horrible, something like all over the field instead of in a straight line, my circle or circuit was a circle instead of a square, I couldn't even fly straight and level but was continually losing or gaining height. And my landings! They really were horrible. I never once hit the ground on three wheels. Usually it was either one front one or the rear one, but never all three together. We used to bounce 2 or 3 ft. in our seats every time we hit and once I flew her straight into the ground without bothering to level out at all. The poor old crate bounced a good sixty feet into the air and the undercarriage creaked and groaned. And all the time my instructor - P/O Telfer, just sat there in the front seat and patiently corrected my mistakes. He never said a word and that is what made it all the harder for me. If he had blown up and got mad at me, I should probably have felt a lot better and flown a lot better, but he just sat there and never said a word and I just kept making mistake after mistake. Then the day before yesterday I was ready for my 12 hrs. test and I can tell you, I was not very confident about the whole thing in fact, I was extremely worried and contemplated giving the whole thing up, I couldn't see any use in going on as I was. Yesterday - thank God, it was too foggy for flying and so I went to the show instead. And as luck would have it, I saw "The First of the Few" which is the story of how RJ. Mitchell designed and produced the ‘Spitfire'. It is a story of hardship and an uneasing struggle against government inertia, against public prejudice, against petty officialdom and in the end Death itself - for in the end, Mitchell's Doctor gave him 8 months to live unless he stopped work and his Spitfire was still on the draughting board! But he willingly sacrificed his life in order that his country might be safe and Thank God he did!!! There were some wonderful shots of the ‘Battle of Britain' but what I loved best, was the test trial of the first Spit. I never saw such flying in all my life! That show completely revived my waning spirits and I came back here determined to win through in my test. And this morning, I took my 12 hr. test and came through with flying colors! Everything I did was 100% improved and my landing was as smooth as the Flight Commander's usually are.

After it was all over the Flight Commander - Flt. Lt. Underwood said "Well Baker, frankly I am amazed! From your reports I was expecting something ruddy awful, but I can find very little wrong with that. Your general flying needs a bit more polish and you sideslip a bit on your turns but otherwise, it was not bad. But what I can't understand is why the amazing improvement. Last Saturday I was contemplating taking you off the course and now you show me that you really can fly." So I told him what had happened and - though he didn't say much, I think he was very pleased about it. But he wouldn't let me solo because "the improvement is too recent to warrant me taking the risk" as he said. I was pretty badly cut up about that but I guess that is a pleasure I have yet to come, if I am lucky enough to be picked for a pilot.

I start on 4 wks. leave this coming Thurs. and I am wondering where on earth I am going to spend it. So don't be surprised if you should get a cable toward the middle of next month "Wire me $50.00 quick c/o Beaver Club. Need it desperately!" I probably shall need it rather desperately by then. I only wish they would cut the leave short on this side and give it to us on the other, but that is not the way they do things evidently.

I also hear that a good deal depends upon luck - and not upon ability, whether you are trained as pilot or observer. If there happens to be a big demand for observers when you come to start your 3rd stage of training, you will be trained as an obs. no matter how good a pilot you may be. That is a chance which you have to take when you start out. They are most careful to explain all that fully when you join up so you can have no cause for complaint when you find out you are to be an observer instead of a Pilot as you had hoped. So let's pray there are a lot of pilot vacancies when I start training.

I am enclosing two very interesting letters, one from Mary Beverly who has just joined the WAAF.'s, the other from her mother just after she had finished visiting Mary for a week. They will give you some idea of what life in the woman's services must be like. Mrs. Sayers had also written me just lately and wants me to be sure to see her when I go on leave. That is the first place I am heading for. Well, I guess there is no more for now. Write c/o Beaver Club as usual and I will pick it up when I am in London.

Love to all as usual,

Jim



Dearest Jim,

Many thanks for your letter, altho' you wrote several days ago, I have just received it and look forward to a parcel which took nearly a week to arrive! So----

We've been here five days one night, say five days too long, but I s'pose it might be worse really. This is one of those places where it never stops raining, when we arrived at the station platform it was pouring, and it still is!

You certainly have a good idea of life in this WAAF.'s. We have little (in some cases you might say horrible little!) Corporals and Sergeants marching us around all day and we are fully made to realize we are the ‘scum of the earth!' I shall never learn after this war to hack on the pavement instead of the gutter, not to butter my bread on the table and not to walk off without leaving my knife, fork and spoon on my plate! Still for all that, I am very glad I came. Already I think it has done me a bit of good and I hope by the time I'm finished, I shall be a great deal better than before. And we are having 2 things mainly thrown at us, drills and lectures. The first few lectures we had were only on gas but the lot we had today were much more enlightening. Did you have an old girl talk to you on the subject of sex? We had a solid hour of ‘Sex, Motherhood and Society' today! I gather she lectures both WAAF. and RAF. and I must say from her accounts, you would ask her some pretty awesome questions! which is a very good thing I think. We all felt pretty ‘browned-off' when we first arrived here because having been charging around Gloucester eight jolly pals together, we're now all billeted around Morecombe in separate billets! Really most irritating, still we all meet and hit the high spots here after WAR is over about 5, tho' this evening it was 5.30 before we got off (we commence at 8.15). I'm staying in town - really, for a number of reasons, the chief being I'm broke. Secondly, I must clean my buttons which are filthy and thirdly, I have got an awful lot of letters to write. All the while we were at Gloucester we had no address and being without any letters for so long was miserable! Now they have all come at once and have to be answered and with all the high spots of Morecombe combined with ‘lights out' at 10.15, we haven't much time. So tonight I am writing hard.

Yesterday we had the most energetic afternoon, we did a walking race thing (so-called cross-country but in reality all along main roads) we covered 5 miles in 50 minutes, which I think was pretty good considering how ‘out of training' we are.

So you are LAC. now. How very superior. I don't think that I shall ever rise above ACW2. We are here for 2 or 3 weeks "initial training", being made to realize just how low we really are and then I go to Leighton Bizzard for 5 days course before being posted to some Group Headquarters as a Plotter - ABW.!!

I wonder where you have been posted to and how you are getting on. You lucky devil getting some flying...that's what I want. But it doesn't look very hopeful just at present! Marching up and down this promenade at Morecombe is not getting one very near. And from all the lectures we have had, I should think I shall be suffering from a variety of diseases ‘ere long! Cheerful thought.

We paid a visit to the local dance hall the other evening: "The Flora" and pretty
b---- it was too. Nothing but WAAF. except for a sprinkling of very nasty and extremely spotty Cadets. The great thing was to hook one (tremendous competition) and having caught one, the tricky thing was to keep him. I hooked one alright, but it wasn't long before I saw him dancing cheek to cheek with a WAAF.! What a sight! We are going to the theatre tomorrow night. Doesn't it sound grand? We get a theatre and also a dance for 6d!!! Not bad. Thank heaven for pay day tomorrow. Altho' for 10/ (to last a fortnight) it seems a deal of fuss about nothing. As someone is said to have remarked "Never have so many stood for so long for so little!!" I entirely agree with that.

Mop (Mom) is coming down here for a few days this weekend which will really will be marvellous. I hope she won't freeze tho', its not a very warm spot!

Well Jim, I wonder when we shall meet again. You're a nice cheerful arce aren't you, saying we shan't see each other, like the war's over. What makes you think that? Do you think the war's going to be over before your training or what? Now mind, you must write to me if you go abroad, no nonsense now.

My love,

Mary




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