Baird, Gavin Gibson

Letter
Date:
December 4, 1929
To:
Angereau
From:
Gavin Gibson Baird
December 4, 1929

Dear Angereau,

Your Uncle Sam was wounded on the Arras- Cambrai road, near a little town called Monchy Le Peux, and we had been bombing up and down this road for several nights. We were co-operating with the Infantry in obliterating several very strong machine gun nests. The artillery had been hammering at them, but every time the infantry went to advance they were met with a stubborn resistance. Our entire squadron bombed one very little town on this road one night and most of the machines made three trips, so you can imagine what was left of that town in the morning. We heard later that the infantry walked through and any German that was left alive was so dazed that he could hardly give a coherent statement as to the experiences that he had been through the previous night. Shows like this kept us up until well after daybreak. As a matter of fact, we would be going home over the line the last time in almost broad daylight. I remember one morning, after a night's experience like this- I had just got undressed and into bed when I heard the engine of an aeroplane. I listened a moment and decided that it wasn't a British machine. I jumped our of bed and just as I got out of the hut the machine came up to the aerodrome flying about 200 feet, and upon my noticing him he opened fire on the aerodrome. He circled around it and everyone was pretty bust for a mew minutes, I tell you. I didn't waste any time, but ran as hard as I could for the machine gun that was at the corner of our aerodrome in a pit, but before I could bring this into action on him he left the aerodrome and went down the road where he repeated the performance on the Casualty Clearing Station that I mentioned before. There is, therefore, no question but that the Germans did shoot at our hospitals, as this is one case that I have specific knowledge of. Furthermore, there was no possible reason why he should have mistaken it for something else because their white cross was visible for a much greater height than he was flying, as I had flown over it myself so many times that I know just exactly what it looked like. Then, of course, you have heard of them bombing the Canadian Hospital base at Etaples. He did a large amount of damage there and several Canadian nurses were killed, to say nothing of patients that were there receiving attention.

Of course, in between our work and everything else in France we did get down to Boulogne and Calais very frequently. These were looked upon by all the fellows as an outing, and we used to get away from the food of the aerodrome and get a real meal in some of the nice hotels at either of these places. We used to have other reasons for going to Boulogne, and that was to secure food for our mess. On special occasions when we wanted something out of the ordinary and which wouldn't come through as a matter of course with our rations we used to do some "wangling". I think that work originated in the army, as to anyone who has served with Canadian or British forces the word means "getting something that you weren't really entitled to, by using every means in your power, whether rightfully or wrongfully". There was a large supply depot at Boulogne and the boats used to come in there from all parts of the world and would unload. They had large warehouses, or cold storage plants, and it was very, very difficult to get into the depot. It was entirely surrounded with a barbed wire fence quite a height, and every entrance way was guarded by soldiers, with a Sergeant in charge, and you had to pass the Sergeant before you could get in there. I remember one time we went down there- I think it was for Easter, or some such occasion, and one of the Canadian boys- and they were the positive limit in "wangling"- had managed to get in and I had the Major's touring car this day, and of course sitting in the back seat with the driver in front I looked as though I might be some one. I drove up to the entrance way and the Sergeant stopped me and asked me what I wanted. I told him that I had been asked to call for an officer at a certain building inside the depot and he waved me on so I went in and picked up Lieutenant Alder and he had a whole carcass of lamb. This we rolled up in the Major's robe, and drove out again very unconcernedly, fearing all the time, of course, that the Sergeant might look in the car and see what we had. All these things were considered quite legitimate. The main thing was to get what you wanted, and over look the means.

Gavin
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