Letter from Kenneth Gill to his mother



Letter from Kenneth Gill to his mother


Mentions travel by rail to Moncton and comments on cold weather. Writes of his activities, food available and local shops. Goes on to describe onward train journey to the United States including food, countryside, weather and stops. Arrived at Turner Field, Georgia and goes on to describe activities, living conditions, training and staff. Expected to stay for three weeks before moving on to primary flying school. Page 8 is missing.




Temporal Coverage



Eleven page handwritten letter and envelope


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OPENED BY [missing letters] AMINER 7 [missing letters]

[inserted] Dave Middleton at Leuchars
Sgt Alvey Full Buch Station Team
Cpl McLeod looking after you Drill Instructor [/inserted]

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1438901 L.A.C. GILL. K.
JAN. 27TH. 1942.

Dear Mum and All,

Well how’s everybody at 55 going on these days? Hope you’re all well & it’s not too cold. At present it’s very hot here, hotter even than our summer, but I’ll come to that later.

Hope the cable arrived safely, I sent it from the docks when we tied up.

We got ashore at 9.15p.m. on Monday the 19th and were transported by train to Moncton (as above) arriving there at 5.0 a.m. the next day. The temperature was well below zero & the snow was very hard packed & slippery. On arriving at the depot we were given billets, a good breakfast, & told to parade again at 1400 hrs. This gave

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us plenty of time for a few hours rest which we badly needed.

In the afternoon we received 3 dollars in Canadian money & told to go & have a good in Moncton. Needless to say we needed no second bidding & proceeded to stuff ourselves with fruit of all kinds, chocolate, candy & food etc. The cinemas are not up to much in Moncton rating somewhere on the status of the Western in Florence Street. The lights in the streets & shops seemed very unreal and made our eyes ache, although the snow may have helped a lot. The streets were frozen hard & sleighs pulled by horses were much in evidence. The next day, Wednesday we were paid 10 dollars in American money, collected our kitbags from one pile & stacked them again elsewhere for further movement to our new abode. We were issued with new Identity Cards & had our photographs taken again. The following morning we had to get up at 4.0 a.m. breakfast at 5.0 a.m.

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and parade in kit, ready for moving off at 6.15 a.m. We had to make our way gingerly along the ice-covered roads to the station. Several of the lads slid most of the way on their posteriors but we arrived safely enough. At 8.0 a.m. we boarded the train and settled down to enjoy the scenery. The rivers were solid masses of ice & the lakes were like huge sheets of glass glistening in the early sun. Passing through wooded areas was like a fairyland. The snow sparkled like diamonds & the ice dusters on the trees shone like a myriad of tiny lights. The snow on the telegraph wires had melted then frozen again, giving the effect of tinsel stretched from pole to pole. This effect lasted for several miles and it really did look grand.

Dinner-time came round & we made our way down the train to the restaurant cars. Waiters made us comfortable and then proceeded to bring in the food.

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We started off with tomato juice, followed by salad, then pork & potatoes (roasted) beans, spinach, cabbage & carrots, after that came rice & raisin pudding with cream. We finished off with coffee & biscuits and believe me we did feel heavy on our feet after that. Tea was on the same lines as dinner.

The American border was reached at 14.00 hrs and all watches were retarded an hour. Our identity cards were stamped by an official & we found we had a temporary 6 months passport for U.S.A.

At 2000 hrs we changed trains at Portland and moved off again in about ten minutes. During the night we ran out of the snow area and I awoke at 5.30 a.m. in New York. We did not leave the train however so we didn’t get much idea of the place. Breakfast consisted of grapefruit, porridge or cornflakes, bacon and egg, coffee, bread & butter & syrup. After that I had a little snooze & woke up as we moving

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in to Washington at 10.30 a.m.

The sun was very warm indeed and our heavy uniforms stuck to our backs.

We changed trains again & moved on at 11.00 a.m. The country round this part seemed very dry & parched, the earth being a rich red colour, and the grass very coarse and light brown.

How everything survives on it beats me, but judging by the many tobacco fields something does. Dinner was chicken accompanied of course by the lesser ingredients.

During the afternoon we passed miles of fruit trees which at a guess I’d say were oranges. The only people we saw in them were coloured people, but I suppose there were white folk somewhere about.

Tea-time brought another well-prepared meal which we justice to. The train-men said we would be in early so we retired to bed at 9.0pm.

At about 9.0 a.m we arrived at Turner

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Field, Georgia. The dining cars had been taken off and we had not had breakfast. However these Americans don’t waste time and we were soon in billets. Breakfast was served at 10.0 a.m. and consisted of corn-flakes & milk, bacon & two eggs & flapjacks, bread and butter, jam, honey, syrup etc, etc, Coloured men waited on us & boy we kept them busy.

The rest of the day was spent in collecting kitbags, returning blankets, and arranging things in general. Dinner and tea were grand meals, and if the American public are used to such food, they won’t know what’s hit them when full rationing comes in.

The beds are grand affairs & we have pillow-cases & white sheets, two wool blankets and a eiderdown. Getting out of bed on a morning is an effort that takes some concentration to say the least. On Sunday we were up at

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6.0. a.m. and had bacon & [underlined] eggs [/underlined] for breakfast them shown how to lay out our rooms. The rest of the morning was spent in getting a haircut which costs the R.A.F. 30 cents or 1/6s. After dinner we had P.T. for two hours, had a shower, then dressed again for a lecture on discipline etc. Tea was served at 5.0 p.m. and after that we were free until midnight. Naturally we moved out of camp en masse & I was lucky enough to get a lift onto town in an officers car. The town is Albany, but being a Sunday we didn’t get a fair conception of its’ size and it’s salient feature. I haven’t been in since then but it seemed to us that you walked round one block about 50 yards square and you’d had it. The usual “drug stores” were much in evidence and quite full up. A “drug store” here is a shop where you buy almost as

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[Missing Page 8]


as we knew at Leuchars.

After duties I wrote to Vera and sent it by ordinary mail just to see how long it takes to get an answer. We had to be in billets by 7.45p.m. but that didn’t worry us any. I was in bed by 10.0 pm. and asleep in no time.

This morning I was up at 5.0 a.m. washed & dressed then slipped under the eiderdown for a snooze until reveille at 6.0 a.m. P.T. followed breakfast, then a lecture on Guard Systems etc. Drill followed on after that & we now do our own about-turns, inclinations on the march & American everything else except the salute. The commands are entirely different & when I can remember them all I’ll send you a list. More lectures on “Customs & Courtesies” followed dinner, & after that we were issued with text-

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books and took in our laundry. Athletics was cancelled owing to a very nice thunderstorm, incidentally this was the only time when the weather resembled anything like ours. The rain came down very heavily, & they brought up wagons to carry us from the store where we were sheltering to our billets. Tea was at 4.30p.m. and as it was still raining, drill was cancelled and also “open post”. At 7.45 p.m. the bugle went and everybody had to go into billets for the night.

Well that’s as far as I’ve gone up up [sic] to now, but I’ll let you know everything we do as long as I can remember to fill in my diary.

The American people are very kind to us and treat us very well indeed, and I’m looking forward to being able to exchange views

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with quite a few before we leave here. The officers in charge of us are very nice indeed, and very considerate, realising our strangeness they go to great lengths to explain thing to us and make us comfortable. We only have to ask for things & we get them; for instance potatoes & tea are now served at meal times, and they are trying to get us a short wave radio so that we can listen in to our own news & programmes. Newspapers are brought to our rooms every morning, so we can study the American aspect of the war & life in general for 25 cents a week in comfort. I’m in the best of health & weigh about 11st stripped so don’t worry about me. We expect to stay here about three weeks before moving on to the Primary Flying School. The lads from Leuchars

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are all here, and we’ve asked to be kept together all the way through. I think that’s all for now; hope I haven’t missed anything or spelt many words wrongly, I’m too tired to read it over just now.

Will you send me Ronnie’s address in your letter please, & let me know how he’s going on. You might send him this letter on when you’ve done with it if you like.

Tell David to look after Vera for me and ask him what he wants bringing back when I come home again.

Keep well all of you & chins up.

Good-night and God Bless You All.

Your loving Son.

Ken xxxxxxxxxx

David xxxxxxxxxx



K Gill, “Letter from Kenneth Gill to his mother ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 26, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/35565.

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