Thurs., Sept. 12th/40
I was so glad to receive your Birthday greetings, love and affection. I do long for you and dream of you always. I get so lonesome that I sometimes think I could jump a boat for Canada--then when the bombs fall on the poor defenseless people, I realized what a d--l we are exposed to, and my determination and will become fired again to do everything I can to end this hellish mess. Please excuse the strong language but it, even as strong as it is, doesn't quite describe the intensity of my feelings. Really I miss you terribly. I love you so I just want you beside me all the time to share everything I experience (Except, Dearie, the possible risk of harm to yourself. I don't believe I would enjoy that part of it at all.).
Well, here I am at Richmond again. At present I am seated at the station waiting until 12:30 p.m., when I am to lunch at the school house with Betty Glidden, Miss Day and Miss Sendamore (all teachers).
I don't suppose the letter I wrote on the train from Torquay was very pleasant to read. After I had struggled through it, I was somewhat annoyed that you should have to decipher it. The old train just wouldn't keep quiet.
I shall try and explain more fully what has happened during the past few days.
When I visited Gen. Montague Friday afternoon, he passed me over to Major Cameron, a very close friend of Air Commodore Crichley. As Crichley was away for the weekend I had nothing to do for the weekend, and while at breakfast, along came a letter from Bill. I was very glad to learn that he was a mere fifteen [miles] away. I jumped a train right after writing a letter to you, and arrived at his camp about 6:30 p.m.
I put up at a private house Saturday night, as Bill had to stick close to camp on duty. I was able to be with him all evening and it was great to see how he has matured in army life. He is a steady and careful boy and well able to look after himself. He is very much interested in the workings of the army, and already has had experience in many of its departments. Transportation and communication are his interest at present. Sunday morning I attended service at the small local church and enjoyed it very much. It was packed to the doors. Bill came for me after church and we took a 'bus' to Richmond to see Betty Glidden, Miss Slade's niece. She and Miss Sendamore returned home in their wee Austin, just as we were standing in front of the house. We soon became acquainted as Mim had telephoned that we were coming. We enjoyed supper and talked all evening until bed time. Bill slept on the chesterfield and I had the spare room. Miss Sendamore and Betty drove Bill back to camp in the morning at 6 o'clock. I got away to London at 8:30 a.m. Miss Sendamore is very much Helen's type but older, and is principal of the girls' country school. She was through the retreat in France, just before the French made peace, as a truck driver. Her experience was thrilling. Several of her teacher friends were captured and are held still by the Germans. She made her escape through Bordeaux. She is an M.A. and is very active now in social service and air raid activities. It seems to have been that about two years before war was declared, an organization was begun to train women to drive heavy army trucks. Miss Sendamore and many of her teacher friends volunteered and had completed their training long before war was actually declared. At once they were called up for active service, and those who could respond from the schools were accepted.
As soon as I returned to London I called on Major Cameron. He advised me to go straight to Torquay, Devon, and report to Air Commodore Crichley. (just 12:25 must go to school). 12:30 here I am in the staffs' room. Betty just came by to say she would be ten to fifteen minutes late so I shall finish my talk with my Sweetheart.)
I got a train from London at 2:30 p.m. and, since all train service is irregular and uncertain (due to raiders), I didn't arrive until 2:30 a.m. in pitch blackness. I had to avail myself of the services of a taxi and reached an hotel (the 'Palm Court') at 3:00 a.m. and enjoyed a few hours sleep. After breakfast, I telephoned Crichley to find that he had left for London the night before. However, the Wing Commander asked me to come over. We had quite a long discussion and finally he thought that I had better take a post instructing. He made me fill in a form (still another application) and advised me to go back to London at once and see Crichley. I arrived back at 6 p.m. Stayed up all night roaming about the bombed area to see just how things are working. I saw the smooth operation of a dozen specially trained organizations to cope with air raids and satisfied that things are well in hand. And Heaven help old Jerry if he lands foot on these Islands. Each raid adds furry to the peoples' determination to give him a good trimming. Apart from the effects on a few aged people, I could see nothing about the raids that we should worry about. Of course there are a few casualties and buildings are ruined--but we are prepared for all that and expect it. Jerry has about as much chance of winning his objective as the proverbial snowball.
After lunch, Thurs. Sept. 12th/40
Well what a lot I have heard. I do hope you can follow this letter. So much is happening over here, experiences happen so quickly and there are so many of them one finds it difficult to keep things in order. This is what has happened to Betty since Bill and I visited her Sunday. Monday afternoon at 5:30 Betty & Miss Sendamore were returning to their houses after school, on bicycles (as most people move about here these days). They had just entered their house when they heard the noise of aeroplanes. They looked out the window and saw nine planes flying quite low. Naturally they thought they were British. No sooner had they withdrawn from the window when they heard a terrific explosion, then another and several more. The house shook badly and as soon as they recovered their senses they ran to the back door. The lady living next door shouted to them that her house was hit by a bomb. Betty and Miss Sendamore ran to her and there they saw the entire front of the house blown in, all windows, pictures and fixtures completely broken and every wall of the building cracked and moved considerable out of place so that it was not safe to remain inside. The bomb had made a big crater (hole) in the lawn just so that it was not safe to remain inside. The bomb had made a big crater (hole) in the lawn just in front of the house and the windows in all the adjoining houses on both sides of the street (except Betty's house which was undamaged except for one or two tile shingles, which were broken) were missing altogether or badly broken, as the result of the force of the explosion. It was not long before the firemen and police arrived and ordered everybody out of the area for several blocks around. (No casualties resulted in this particular area, although several houses were tumbled to the ground.) Betty and Miss Sendamore took their handbags with just their personal toilet kit and went back to the schoolhouse. There they have been ever since. The school authorities have built underground shelters of concrete to protect the children by day, in the event of raids. The staff use these shelters every night. They try to sleep on wooden benches and cover themselves with a blanket. Of course few sleep at all during the hours of a raid, and Jerry has been over here, I understand, every night this week. The school is the typical English school equipped with toilet and washing facilities and a large kitchen and dining room for the staff. The staff has been exceedingly kind to me and insist that I make my headquarters here at the school.
Friday, Sept. 12/40. Yesterday after I had lunch with Betty I went up to her house on the hill. I saw the effect of the bombs which was considerable as I have already described it. Betty's house is intact, except that the water, gas and electric services are all damaged. I spent a few hours there making a bunk for them (Betty, Miss Sendamore & Miss Day) in their dugout which is at the rear of the house. I got a few pieces of lumber from a nearby yard and had taken a saw and hammer with me from the school. I completed the job about dark and just before I did so, Betty & Miss Sendamore appeared in order to get a few more belongings of theirs from the house, as the police have not raised the restrictions preventing people to visit the area. They invited me to spend the night in the school shelters and left me to carry on with the bunk. Of course we are all in darkness after sunset, as no light of any nature is permitted to be shown. It is great fun trying to find your way about in the dark. Do you recall what it was like at Lake Echo. (oh to be there). Well it is just like that at night all over England. Hard to believe but true. Well, to continue my account. I found my way to the post office, prevailed upon the guard at the rear door to let me in to see the telegraph operator, sent a brief message for Betty, to her mother at Chippenham, and then found my way back to the school. I was supplied with a blanket and was directed to a 'dugout' next to the one the 'girls' were in. There I slept until seven this morning. Jerry was overhead and about eleven o'clock p.m. and again at 3 a.m. I understand, but I seem to sleep through it all. Betty said she slept from 11 until 3. I seem to sleep as soon as my head drops to the pillow. I wish others would or could do it too. Everybody you see looks to be weary for the want of a good nights' sleep. This a.m. we were just about to have breakfast when Jerry appeared again and we were obliged to return to the dugout but only for an hour or so. We got breakfast at 9:30 a.m. I left the school as the pupils will arrive (Jerry permitting) at 10 a.m. Here I am at the station and alone with you as the sirens have just sounded again and most people have taken to their shelters. Don't worry Honey the danger is not great. I want you to get a real picture of it all.
There are very few casualties as precautionary measures are very good and people are very sensible about it all. For instance a few bombs fell in this district last night but little damage was done. London is being visited day and night but the spirit of the people is wonderful and the determination to endure is truly inspiring. So please don't worry as there is nothing whatever to worry about. All this matter is so important in perspective that I want you to see and understand life here. These days will have an enduring effect on English life hereafter.
As Miss Sendamore remarked this morning. We become acquainted with each other these days so quickly and we discover such wonderful friends, surely we have been blind in the past to the things that really matter in life. England is measuring up to the test and will not be found wanting.
Betty is going to Walton (another Walton, not Walton-on-the-Hill where I went last Sat. to see Bill). She has friends there and is hoping to get a much needed rest. She has invited me to go too. I shall wait here until I hear from Crichley which I hope will be today (as I gave him this address). If it is convenient for me to do so I shall to to Walton, which is only a short distance from here. I hear the guns (a-a + anti-aircraft) so I presume the enemy are overhead. Yes, I hear the drone of engines. They are very high up. A few people are talking in the main entrance to the station. It is delightfully quiet here with you and I revel in your company Honey, Dear. How happy we would be if you were here.
By the way Sweetheart, I shall be a Lieutenant in the air force or a corresponding commissioned rank and from that point promotion is possible to air commandant (equivalent to Lt. Colonel in army).
I wish you were here to be with me for this weekend. We would take a canoe and paddle for miles up the Thames to some very quiet and quaint spot and oh girl, how we would enjoy it.
Heaps of love and kisses Sweetheart, and a great big hug.
Ever 'nurts' about you."
Wow! That was a long one, but so much is happening and the war is so present.