Baker, James

Letter
Date:
August 26, 1944
To:
Mom and Dad
From:
Jim
August 26th, 1944

Dear Mom and Dad,

Received your parcel of soap the other day but the other one with the things inside for Stan hasn't showed up yet. I guess it will in a couple of days though.

I have been down to see Sadie since last I wrote. I stayed with Mrs. Holland (she is the lady Sadie is billeted with), so it was very nice for us. I never got much sleep at night I am afraid, but I made up for it by sleeping nearly all day long. Sadie was afraid I would be bored with nothing to do all day long, but it was such a relief to be able to sit and have nothing to do, nothing at all to worry about. We had just finished ground school and had written our exams. I did pretty good in them too....think I led the class. But these exams aren't as important as the ones which will follow in the next few weeks. We have to show a 25% increase in speed and accuracy by the time we pass out of here. I am sure I can't see how I am going to do that because my accuracy was 95% and I was below target speed in almost all my work. I guess I'll just have to do the same again.

There is really nothing much to talk about. We have started to fly and I seem to have all the luck as usual. My pilot is the ‘pick of the course'; at least he is the only one who has soloed so far: and he did that the first day! All the others have been flying 2 or 3 days and are not yet good enough. I guess these heavy a/c are pretty hard to fly if you have been used to light ones as they all have been up to now. We have been doing what are called circuits and bumps (take offs, circuit the aerodrome then land again): and usually the bumps predominate. But ‘Dusty' is such a good pilot, that not once has he bumped us down. In fact, he is so gentle that one of our AGs who was asleep, never woke up once even though we did about 5 landings: some of them on one engine! These a/c are quite a bit different from anything I have ever been in before. At last I have an adequate place to do my work in. It is a little office all my own with a table about 5 ft. by 21/2: quite large enough to get all my maps on. I am completely in the dark though, I have no window and from now on, I will never look out the window again. I will make a complete trip and never see the country over which we have flown. Some fellows I have talked to have done a complete trip and never once seen a target they have navigated to! It seems strange - doesn't it? But the rest of the crew are my eyes and ears: feeding me information. I am their ‘brain'; I have to plot all that they feed me.

Sadie has written twice since I came back. She has just heard from home that her stepfather had died from another stroke. He was very bad when I was there: his brain had become completely senile and he shook as with a palsy all the time. I think it is a blessed relief to all of them that he has gone but as Sadie said "he is the only father I have ever known and I miss him". Mrs. Hill - who has diabetes, went to see the doctor for the first time in over 17 months and is no worse now than she was 5 years ago when I first knew her. She takes 6.7 units of insulin a week I think Sadie said. I wonder how she manages to pay for it! Em and Blake are fine, Jo Ann has cut another tooth or two. That's all!

By the way, these gratuities that the Canadian Gov't. have specified are pretty good aren't they? So far as I have been able to make out, I will have about $2000.00 of my own when I get out and Sadie must have nearly $1500.00 of hers. We should be able to set up a pretty nice home with that much. The thing is to find a job after this is over. I don't think I would like to live in England after all. I made a great discovery when I was home last year. I found I did not know what my own country was really like to live in. I guess if you have never known what it is to be able to do almost what you wanted - as far as money was concerned anyway, you never really know how we really can live in Canada. But now that I have had a year of it, I can see what I missed before. I never knew how important in a Canadian life is a soda fountain and a juke box! Of course, I know there are some other more important things but still, those two - or the things they represent, are pretty nice things too. I have discovered that I could never live in England now. For one thing, England is going to be pretty rigidly controlled for a few years after this is over and I guess I have had enough control in the past five years to last me a life time! I want to be able to do things by myself without first having to obtain someone's permission. I also have an idea that Canada has at last come into her own in the eyes of the world: and in the next 25 years, she will take the place with the other leading nations of the world.

By the way, my ‘Prophecy of Victory' on Oct. 25th looks pretty good now: doesn't it? Our boys are really ‘going great guns' this past 3 weeks. I guess that is all for now.

Love to everyone as always,

Jim


BC. MAN TELLS OF BOMBING

Buzz-Bomb Refuses "Lift" On Planes Wing, Hits Town

The outstanding courage of a British fighter pilot who in a vain effort to divert a red-hot buzz bomb from its target of East Grinstead by placing his wing under that of the bomb and banking it into a turn, was revealed in a letter received by Mrs. Hugh R. Baker, White Rock from her son Sgt. James Baker with the RCAF. in England. Baker - visiting his girlfriend in the town of East Grinstead which is directly in the path of the buzz bomb attacks, was awakened by a "terrific" noise as the bomb passed overhead: hotly pursued by the fighter plane with its machine guns "hammering away to beat blazes."

"The bomb was a red hot glow from end to end," Baker says, "probably because it had been hit before it reached here and was traveling very slowly, about 100 mph. They are air-cooled, and the slower they go, the hotter they get.

THREE TIMES FAILED

"Failing to shoot the bomb out of the air", the fighter pilot tried three times to place his wing under that of the bomb, despite the fact that he was directly underneath a ton of red-hot explosives!

Due to its slow speed the course of the bomb was erratic however, and it eluded every attempt. It passed over my head about 50 feet up and crashed in High Street about 150 yards away," Baker wrote. "Thank God it was early morning with all the shops shut and streets deserted. When I walked through there last night, the place was crowded!"

PATHETIC SIGHT

Many pathetic sights greeted the airman's eyes when the smoke and dust had settled. "A pair of baby's diapers were strung on a telephone wire across the street from a baby shop that was blown wide open and firemen were digging in the ruins of their hall salvaging coats and helmets while their fire truck - which was new and shiny only a week ago, stood battered and torn beyond recognition." Through all this, the shop-keepers moved smilingly, salvaging what they could and joking over their misfortunes.

The sign above a book store whose front was blown off by the bomb is typical of the spirit in which these people accept their trials and tribulations, Baker remarks. It read: More Open for Business Than Usual. "Can you beat it?"
Sgt. Baker enlisted with the army at Victoria and later gained a transfer to the RCAF. He attended Cloverdale High School and was a former Vancouver Daily Province carrier.

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