Baker, James

Letter
Date:
April 29, 1944
To:
Mom and Dad
From:
Jim
April 29th, 1944

Dear Mom and Dad, (censored)

Well, my guardian angel has actually found me again after my short absence. I went on leave a week ago and I of course, went to London. Mary was ill with ‘septic throat' but everyone else was fine. Mrs. Sayers has rheumatism pretty bad lately but otherwise, she seems OK. But I must tell you of my new friend. I was standing on the corner of Piccadilly Circus about 10.30 one night (wondering what to do with myself) when suddenly, someone hit me on the back and said "Would you like a drink old boy?" I turned around and there was a young Canadian Lieutenant. So he looked alright and I said "Yes!" He took me up to a middle-aged man who was standing a little further along and introduced me to him. That was Mr. Simpson. He is a most extraordinary fellow, has led one of the most adventurous lives I have ever encountered! His house is a veritable museum of African handicrafts, wood and ivory carvings and native cloths, etc., but best of all is his collection of photographs. He was Consul-General in Tanganyika for a few years and he discovered a tribe of natives in the hinterlands who were descendants from a lost Roman Legion. Their faces have distinct Roman characteristics, their hair is light and their skin fair. It was very interesting to hear his stories about them for of course, there was no crime except murder among them, and that they rather excused then blamed. There were no social crimes or diseases at all. In 1938 - 39 - 40, he was ‘Commissioner of Colonial Politics' in Palestine and it is mainly due to his efforts, that the Jewish-Arab revolts were kept from flaring into open warfare. He said it was mighty ‘ticklish going' though, both sides hated him and he said he used to walk down the street with the Bible in one hand and his life in the other "and fear and trembling in my knees" which last I think is a gross exaggeration for I have never met a man who so impressed me with his absolute fearlessness as he does. His stories of this period of his life are remarkably interesting and entertaining. Then in 1940, he was recalled from Palestine and put in charge of the whole of London's Fire Service and that is what he does now. He says he is between the nether and the middle millstone and they both grind remorselessly. The nether millstone is his duty to the 60,000 men and women under him and the middle millstone is his duty to the Minister in the House. But it strikes me he is more concerned with the men than he is with the Minister, and so I think it should be. Just to show you the kind of a man he is, he told me he knew the names of 5 to 6,000 of the men who worked under him and could talk to them wherever they were. And this is absolutely true and they adore him because I took the trouble to find out from some of them who work in West Kensington: miles away from his place. So you can see how my angel looks after me. I had lunch with Lance Spicer one day. He is getting very deep into politics. We discussed this new ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work' slogan that is running throughout British Industry at present and the gathering Leftist Swing of British Politics. He is certain that Britain will be Liberal Government-minded after the war (so am I) and therefore, he is getting in on the ground floor as it were. He told me some interesting and rather startling things about recent procedure in the House of Commons which I know will not pass the ‘Censor', so I had better keep this to myself. But Churchill is still the Country's popular choice and there is no man or combination of men who are near his stature. I think we will see some pretty startling changes as soon as the people go to the polls after the war for of course, there hasn't been an election in this country for six years and people's ideas do change very much. Do you realize there are people in this country 27 years of age who have never yet cast a vote? And I cast mine when I was 18...what a difference!

I went down to see Mrs. Barnard and Mr. and Mrs. Harte at Guildford one day. They had given me up for dead and thought I was ‘ghost-walking' in on them! They were very pleased to see me. Mrs. Harte is very lonely now that Hilary is in the ‘Wrens'. Mrs. Barnard's three boys are all over the world - one in Cairo, one in Corsica and one in India, but all in good health. By the way, my gold coin is really a find! I took it to the British Museum and they said it was worth at least 25/s, so I have given it to Glendenning of Oxford Circus to auction for me. He says he will probably get 35/s for it - of which his share is 121/2 %. So I should be able to get another $100.00 bond pretty soon. His sale is in May sometime. Well, I have no mail from home yet which is hard to understand, as all the other boys seem to have got some, but I guess mine will come later.

Now all my love as always,

Jim



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