Baker, James

Letter
Date:
March 17, 1945
To:
Mom and Dad
From:
Jim
March 17th, 1945

Dear Mom and Dad,

This is the first chance I have had to write a decent letter to you for a long time. We have been so awfully busy lately that I simply have not had time to think! We were getting so very tired and irritable too, that I knew it was pretty near time we had a rest. So yesterday, we were on a stand-down which was a welcome relief. Jack - my mid-upper gunner and I went in to York, had a wonderful time; it was such a grand relief! We did nothing spectacular - just had a meal, went to a show and then to our favourite pub called "Betty's Bar" (or more familiarly amongst us) the ‘Briefing Room' because all the crews from all the operational stations in our Base foregather there to ‘swap yarns and renew old acquaintances'. Even if you don't drink, you go there to be with the boys. I don't believe there was a ‘civvy' in the place last night, just Ops. boys and their girlfriends. I only stayed about 1/2 an hour - time to consume about one pint, yet I met about five fellows that I know. We had a great time swapping yarns and experiences! After that, Jack and I went to a place called the ‘Grey Rooms' to a dance. That's where we had such a wonderful time. I don't know why it is, but ‘Squadron-life' seems to loosen something up inside you and you begin to enjoy life far more than you ever dreamed you could! Anyway, I had a wonderful time last night. I jitter-bugged till I was ready to drop, and I haven't done that since I went to the ‘Miner's' in High School! I met a girl there last night whose boyfriend was missing on Ops. about 4 weeks ago. She was definitely a ‘gem type' as we say. These girls (the way they lose their men-folk without a murmur) really command my respect and admiration. I could see she had really been hurt, but she was taking it ‘all on the chin' without a murmur. I really never knew girls till just lately you know, but I am learning more and more what wonderful creatures they are... of course, I have known a few exceptional girls like Mary, but I never knew that the standard among all girls was so high. Or perhaps it was the crowd at the ‘Grey Rooms' last night because again, it was nearly all Ops. boys and their girlfriends. Anyway - whatever it was, we had a good time.

Since I last wrote in this letter, we have had another stand-down in the daytime, so the whole crew of us went into the ‘Briefing Room'. We had a marvelous night; I haven't laughed so much for a long time! Dick - my skipper, was in rare form and we spent the whole night laughing at his descriptions of his Service school experiences at Boundary Bay. He was in rare form and he had the whole pub in hysterics, me included! Then we all repaired to the ‘Grey Rooms' - but it was very crowded, so we didn't dance very much. It was far too hot and I was so tired anyway. I just went off into a corner with Jack and went to sleep. They woke us up in time to go home! Today we have done nothing so far but go to church. The services here on the station are very good, the most human and appealing sermons I have heard for a long time. I suppose working as we do, we are far more conscious of God than most people. I know I seem to have drawn closer to Him in the past three weeks than I ever could feel before, and I have had two letters from you in the past month that have helped considerably. One was written way back in December and has been lost - goodness knows where...it did arrive eventually though, which is the main essential. Do you know your attitude and faith I heard expressed in nearly precisely the same-terms by a famous English psychologist who came here to the station every Friday to lecture? He used nearly the same words you use and I almost thought I was reading your letter again! In fact, I was very tempted to show him your letter: but he was in a hurry so I couldn't.

Since I came here I have met two old friends of ours, Philip Cox and Eric Salt. Phil is an armourer here on the station. We have had several long chats together. Eric is over at Dalton, about 15 miles away, and comes over to see Phil once in awhile. I saw him last Friday. Phil has not changed so very much that I would not recognize him in fact, neither one of them is unrecognizable: but the years are there! Phil is ‘as always' an old man in many of his mannerisms and ‘modes of speech'. He strikes me as strongly in need of a good shaking-up to awaken him to the joys of living! Right now, he doesn't seem to realize what a joyous thing it is to be alive: not that I am contemptuous of him or anything like that, because I'm not. But I think he is going to miss a lot of life if he doesn't live it soon. Perhaps though, it is only me who thinks he is missing things. Perhaps he isn't at all, really. I don't know.

I go on leave tomorrow for seven days and I seem to have a pretty full programme in front of me. I want to see Stan in the worst way and I hope he can come up to London on Saturday so we can have a weekend together. I know he is very lonely at present and I think very homesick also. He is missing his chums very much - and for a kid of his temperament, that is a hard blow indeed! I can find other things to do to occupy my mind and compensate for their loss, but I know he finds it difficult to adjust himself to a strange environment in which there are no familiar objects.

I am going to stay with Mrs. Sayers again because I know it will please her if I do. She is also very lonely - poor soul. She is not so very well either, this winter has been pretty hard on her physically. By the way, I wonder if you would like to get in touch with the families of the other BC. members of my crew. I think it would be very nice if you all got to know each other: if only by writing. Tom's wife (Tom is my engineer) lives in West Vancouver across the inlet. Her name and address is Mrs. Tom Lightly, 2137 Nelson Ave., West Vancouver: and I think their phone number is in the Book. Dick's parents live in Kelowna. Their address is Mr. and Mrs. G.C. Reith, RR3 Kelowna, BC. Mrs. Reith just sent the whole crew a pair of lovely buckskin gloves (a pair apiece). They are the real thing and smell to ‘high-heaven' of smoked salmon. I guess the Indians must have cured the leather in the same house they use to cure their salmon in. Anyway, they are lovely pieces of leather work and I thought it very kind of her to send them to us. I must write and thank her.

You will be very glad to know that we have nearly reached the half-way point in our tour. We have now a total of 15, counting Dick's two trips as second pilot. The crew has also completed the fatal ‘13th' that some crews insist on calling 12A or !4-1. We just called it 13 and it was our most exciting one so far, nothing to get grey hairs over.

I have at last decided not to work for Mr. Simpson even if he does ask me, which I am beginning to doubt anyway. There is something standing between us there, and I think it is his pride. He may not get the high post in ‘Civil Administration' he had hoped for and will therefore, have no need of me. So I have had a good long talk with the ‘Personnel Counsellor' here on the station and have decided to go back to University again. I have also decided on my career and the courses which will fit me for it. The career is in the Foreign Affairs Branch of the ‘Dept. of Trade and Consumer' which - in a country of the vast industrial potential of Canada, is bound to grow and expand beyond all knowledge after the war. They need bright young men right now, and are offering good inducement to them because of their need. There I will be able to satisfy my travel itch, my ambition for work in a public capacity and my need to work ‘for and with' people. The courses I am going to take are Economics, Psychology and Philosophy with probably Business Administration as well. It means a lot of hard work - I know, but it will be worth it. And also, if at any time I feel the necessity of getting married, I can do so without fear or worry for my future is as assured as it is possible to assure it.

Well, I guess that is all for now. Write again when you can. I hope you are quite recovered from your illness by now Mom. O by the way, I nearly forgot, I am having a "power of attorney" drawn up in your favor right away - as soon as I go on leave, and will send it off to you as soon as possible. Of course I trust your judgment, for as Tom - the father, says in "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek"-‘If only young people would realize that if us older folks have got along through all this world's difficulties for forty years or more, perhaps we had something in this old top-knot after all.' I know you both have something in yours, do as you think best.

Love to you all,

Jim

SPECIAL FORCE MAKES ATTACK
(by ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LONDON, March 16 -

Bomb-blasted Berlin underwent its twenty-fourth consecutive RAF. night raid last night after specially-trained American flyers had climaxed a peak day of Allied air operations with a 650-plane pulverizing attack on German Army staff head-quarters at Zossen: 10 miles from the German capital. RCAF. heavies joined other RAF. night raiders in an attack on Hagen in the industrial Ruhr - 10 miles south of shattered Dortmund, and left it a ‘mass of flames'.

EIGHT CANADIANS LOST

The RAF. and RCAF. also hit oil refineries at Misbourg near Hanover. Eight Canadian planes are missing. FO. Fred Alty of 4732 Gothard - Vancouver, said his crew saw a ‘Focke-Wulf' crash, but did not know who destroyed it. The Canadian squadrons included the Porcupine, Tiger, Bluenose, Iroquois and Thunderbird. US. 8th Air Force officers reported great success in the Zossen attack which was the first time American bombers had blasted the high command nerve centre. More than 1350 bombers - guarded by 750 fighters, roared straight for Berlin, then split in half to loop around the capital for the Zossen raid and attacks on the Oranienburg rail yards to the north.

HEAVY BOMB LOA D

The bombs dropped 6000 high-explosive bombs totaling 1500 tons; plus 325,000 incendiaries. Several headquarters buildings and rows of barracks were smashed.




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