Letters Home No1

The first letter from Cardington 8th December 1943

By Tricia Leonard

Photo:The original 1st letter home

The original 1st letter home

Tricia Leonard

Photo:I have read every one of probably 200!  I have typed about 20 so far - Help!

I have read every one of probably 200! I have typed about 20 so far - Help!

Tricia Leonard

Wednesday Dec 8th 1943

Arrived at Cardington at 11.45am in RAF bus.  Had FFI. Was issued with RAF mug, knife, fork, spoon, pillowcase and sheets.  Deposited luggage in our hut (396), went to dinner: meat, sprouts, mashed potato and rice.  Free till 3.45, we were told - but had to attend for intelligence tests at 3.00.  There were 5 in all, mostly patterns, and a maths and an English paper.  We then had Morse aptitude test, which consisted of 78 pairs of Morse symbols.  Had tea: fish, pasta, bread, cake and tea.  Free for rest of evening.  Our hut has 38 beds, some bunks, some singles.  Five blankets, two sheets, one pillow and three biscuits.  There is electric light, a wireless and two stoves.  An RAF aircrew AC2 entered the hut at 5.45 and asked for six volunteers.....receiving no reply he said "You three and you three," and off they went to sweep floors.
We are the first hut in the row and every now and again an airman comes in and helps himself to our coke or wood or takes some of our fire away in a shovel.  I read some of "Donaldson" and ate some of the egg sandwich that Mum made me.  We have a sailor in our hut, or a fisherman or something.  We call him skipper, and he is a big chap with a large paunch, a navy blue roll-neck sweater and trousers, black shiny waterproofs and a peaked cap!  He has no luggage at all.  We listened to the wireless all evening and lights out was at 10.00, when we had to take the black-outs down and open at least three windows.  We also have a man with a grey beard who is 61.  He said he was 51 to get in, and he was a CQSM(?) in the last war.

Thursday Dec 9th

Wakie, Wakie!  At 06.00 and breakfast parade at 06.20.  Didn't sleep much, it was cold and the bed was hard.  We have a wash place backing on to our hut and we step out of one door into the other.  There is only one light (a blue one) in the wash place and not much time between 06.00 and 06.20.  It was very crowded as well.  We marched in the dark to breakfast, which consisted of liver, bread porridge and tea.  Skipper reported sick and has not been seen since by me.
After breakfast we collected our sheets, pillowcase and luggage.  We deposited all but the food utensils in a hut and then went to a waiting room and waited.  Then we were given the results of our intelligence and Morse aptitude tests of yesterday.  I got an average of 90% in intelligence and got 66 out of 78 in Morse.  We then had a colour test (the usual) and I could only see one number, but he said it didn't matter for my trade.  Then we were interviewed for trade attestation by flight sergeants in that particular trade.  I was sent over for another test, one of about 30 maths questions, including a little trig and some 20 practical questions.  I took the results back to the flight sergeant and he pointed out my mistakes and questioned me a bit.  He decided to put me in as wireless mechanic, explaining that it was a tough 10 months course.  He told me to take my papers to the attestation section, which I did and gave them in and was told to wait.  When my name was called I had to sit down by a WAAF while she made out my papers and pay book.  She also took my Insurance cards.  I then went back to the waiting room and waited to be called for the swearing in.  Eventually it was called and I was given my number: 3008677.  We were told what our pay would be.  Mine is 3 shillings a day whilst training.  We did not have to swear in.  No call-ups, only volunteers.  We collected our luggage from the hut; we then went to give in my Identity Card and Ration Books.  I had to sign a form to say where my luggage was to be sent and another to say where my sweet coupons were.  There were only five of us finished before dinner and we left our luggage in a hut down by the parade ground and then waited until 12.30, when we had dinner.  It was sprouts, stew, potatoes and bread and jam roll and custard.  We returned to the hut as directed, switched on the wireless and started walking up and down to keep ourselves warm.  We were there with nothing to do from 12.45 to 15.00, when we came up to hut 297, where we lit the fire and waited again.  The rest of the chaps caught us up and we made our beds and went into tea: potatoes, cheese paste, tea, bread, jam and cake.  We came back to our hut - which lacks a wireless - and had a talk by the corporal in charge, Corporal McGill.

Friday Dec 10th

Didn't sleep too badly last night, it was not so cold.  We all got up just before six.  For breakfast we had bacon, beans, porridge and tea.  We saw the sun this morning for the first time since we came here.  We marched down, after the usual wait, to the photographers to have our photos taken for our identity cards.  We had to wear RAF overcoats for it as we were supposed to be in uniform.  We were taken eight at a time, holding our number chalked on a board in front of us.  Then we were measured by the tailor.
From there we went to the equipment stores and we were given, or rather thrown, our kit; two pairs boots (one leather, one with rubber); four pairs socks; pullover; two pairs PT shorts; two PT vests; pair plimsolls; two pairs pants (short); one tie; three shirts; six collars; scarf; hair brush; polishing brush; shaving brush; one pair gloves; button stick;  four pair laces (three leather, one ordinary); two towels; two pair trousers; one greatcoat; two jackets; one cap and a kit bag.  With all this, the kit bag over our shoulder and the uniform on our arm, we staggered back to our hut to get changed into uniform to be tailored.  The tailor marked my trousers and jacket to be altered.  I gave in the two pairs of slacks and a jacket.  One jacket has not to be touched for eight weeks.  Then it was dinner time.......

....The letter ends abruptly here - I wonder why.  Next letter up in a week or so.

This page was added on 27/09/2007.