Baker, James

Letter
Date:
March 26, 1943
From:
Jim
March 26th 1943

Well, we've landed and I am now writing this on my knees waiting for the morning parade. We are in camp at Moncton, N.B. I expect to be home on leave by the beginning of next week. I was in luck when we landed yesterday morning, as I was in the first trainload. I stepped ashore at 8.40 AM. and never did the act of stepping on-shore bring me so much pleasure. I raised the roof off the warehouse with my shouts! and everyone must have thought I was crazy but I didn't care, I was too happy to be in Canada again! Before that, we had all received a shock when we first went on deck about 6.30 AM. It was still dark - and to us, the lights from the shore were absolutely dazzling! You can have no idea exactly what those lights meant to us - Canadians and Englishmen alike, after enduring three years of blackout misery. To us, they looked like fairylights beckoning us to freedom! We just stood and stared at them in absolute silence. I think one lad summed up all our feelings when he turned away with a heavy sigh and said "I won't look anymore or I'll burst out crying! To think that England used to be like that!" I know this is how it affected me, and I'm not even an Englishman!

Coming down on the train we had shock after shock, at least I did. The first was the sound of the train whistle, the second was the slow dry drawl of the train's conductor as he said "Watch your step there Buddy!"... to hear ‘buddy'again after all these years or ‘chum' and ‘pal' and ‘fellow' or just plain "Hi - you!", the third was lunch on the train. Dazzling white bread, butter, cheese or baloney and a whole pint of thick, rich, creamy milk! Milk, I hadn't tasted anything like it for ever so long! I just sat down and drank the whole pint without stopping. Then when we pulled into Truro, N.S., the Women's Institute was waiting there on the platform to greet us and can you guess what they carried? Baskets of apples - big, red, lucious, juicy McIntosh Reds! How can I describe what they tasted like? Even the English boys went wild over them!

When we arrived at the camp they had everything ready for us, even a pay parade. The feel of those dollar bills again, and to see the nickels and dimes - boy, Oh boy! Then to go into the canteen and see row after row of chocolate bars, and bins of apples and oranges, and to eat ice cream, pints of it! It was wonderful!! But the most profound shock of all was still the lights...they simply dazzled us! Can you guess what happened then - last night? No, never in a thousand years! It just goes to show you the irony of FATE...they had a fifteen minute practice blackout, to travel 3,000 miles and land here and have a practice blackout. Can you imagine that? After living over three years in a blackout, to travel 3,000 miles and land here and have a practice blackout the same night, it was so heartbreaking that it was funny; the whole canteen rang with laughter!

Well mother, those are my first impressions, they came crowding upon me so fast that I am afraid I am still a bit bewildered, but I have tried to put them down as they happened. I don't know yet what the "yen" is about leave, but I know I will get some, soon I hope.

Love as always,

Jim



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