Baker, James

Letter
Date:
February 1, 1944
To:
Mom and Dad
From:
Jim
Three Rivers, PQ.

Feb. 1st, 1944

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I am here at last and what a hole it is! We arrived two days ago in the midst of a blizzard - cold and hungry, and I have been cold ever since. This is a brand new camp and there is as yet no accommodation for us. They are still in the process of building the place and we are housed now in the exhibition building which is made of concrete so, you can imagine what it is like. I haven't lived in such an awful place since I was at Hereford in England. All that was said about that place applies equally here. Our new quarters should be open for us tomorrow though, I guess we should be able to move in tomorrow, so anyway.
I am not feeling very well today. I have a very bad cold accompanied by a headache. I think my sinus is beginning to act up again; I may have to go to see the MO. about it.
By the way, I am definitely a sergeant and just as I told you, my instructor did his best to screw me up completely. There were 15 commissions given in our course and I was well within the limits. But I have since found out that he did not even recommend me, he substituted a sergeant who stood 19th in my place. So that is that, I still have my pride but it is not much comfort when I see all the other fellow in their flat tops and know that I could have had one too, if I could only have bent my neck a little. However, I hated his guts and I never have been one to hide my feelings. He was so contemptible in every way and this last dirty trick he played on me, just serves to show how low he was.

This course here - which will last four weeks, is going to be a very hard test. It is a Commando course under the instruction of the Army and is designed to toughen up all Air Crew prior to sending them Overseas. It either ‘makes or breaks' a man and is designed specifically for that purpose. I have seen some of it in action and I can tell you, I am going to be very glad when this month is over.

Well, we have just finished the first day of our training and it wasn't too bad, not as bad as I thought it would be. I find my Army-training is helping me a great deal and besides that, I am in pretty good shape. We are under Army-officers here and I was talking to one of them today. He was through Dieppe and got the DCM. for something or other that he did there. He seems like a very decent sort of fellow and I think I am going to like this very much. We move into our new barracks tomorrow, these were merely temporary. I have just found out that these grounds were meant to house the 1944 Olympics but of course, there will be no 1944 Olympics so they have not bothered to complete them. They would have been magnificent if they had been finished...no doubt about it. Three Rivers has got the most magnificent stadium and recreation grounds in Canada. This would be an ideal place to do a Commando course in the summer but during the winter, we are naturally somewhat constricted. The swimming pool here is one of the largest in Canada, about 200 yards square, there are four stadiums and five gymnasiums. And Three Rivers is quite a small city, about 25,000 people I think. Nearly every one speaks French. I had an awful time finding someone who could direct me to the barracks when first I came, they all looked at me dumbly, shrugged their shoulders and said "Ne compris" and I would have to try all over again. I certainly wish I had paid more attention to my French in school. I can read and write it OK. but my accent is so horrible that I doubt if anyone can understand a word I say and they in turn speak so fast and so idiomatically, that I can't understand a word they say.

I received a letter from Blake today and he tells me Stan only got five days leave at New Year's, which explains why he never got home. But Rev. Jeffcott wrote me that you were all quarantined with scarlet fever, so I guess it's just as well that neither of us came home, we couldn't have seen you anyway. Evidently, Stanley has been having the same type of difficulty with his officers that I have had. Blake mentions something about Army officers and graft and Stanley not being able to close his eyes to it and consequently, getting himself into a lot of trouble. I sometimes wonder if it is any use trying to be straight and honorable and above-board in all you do. You certainly get paid out in the end for it and you rot while the humiliating part is that the liars, cheats and ‘suck-holes' (as we call them) get ahead to the places where you want to be, while you sit behind and rot. I have seen it for nearly five years now and I am heartily sick of it, it doesn't pay to be a gentle man. This thing went out with hoop skirts! That is why I liked England so much I think. There wasn't this ruthless commercialized competition meeting you at every turn and man could be a gentleman without being walked on. I have just come back from New York and if anything - it was worse there, although not so bad in the home in which I stayed for there the people were all Europeans and knew and understood how I felt in fact, they felt as I did.

Had another letter from Mary and Mrs. Beverly today - both in raptures over my Xmas presents, I guess cosmetics must be getting pretty scarce over there. Mary is determined not to marry me so I guess I'll have to find myself a new girlfriend. Must close now.
All my love,

Jim
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