RCAF 8 – September – October 1943 – Pre-embarkation, Halifax






Sept 3, 1943

Dear Mother:

Your letter [MKF430602] has turned up from Nassau at last.  A very nice letter too.  There was also one from England that had been mailed on May 19th.

The train trip was fairly good.  I am afraid I got up too late to see the Rockies but I had a good look at them going the other way way [sic] anyway.  The Chapins were on a different train out of Calgary and so I saw them for only a few minutes at the station.  I had quite a few games of chess with a man which was a good way to pass the time.  Another person I met was a naval lieutenant from Vancouver.  He new [sic] several people in the Mission having been to a beach party at the Claytons [sic] once.  He took me to a cocktail party in Montreal with some friends of his.  We took a bottle along but all we could get was brandy but at least there was no trouble about getting enough.  From Montreal as far as Debert Essie Walker was on the train.  It is a very long time since I have seen her.  She must have left Kelowna about the same time I did but on the C.N..R.

Living conditions on this station are far the best I have met yet.  Two of us have a good sized room to ourselves.  Then the mess is very good too, no waiting in line etc., and usually a choice, especially at breakfast.

We are not kept busy and can leave the station anytime we are not on a parade.  This morning we had some P.T.—the first for many a month.  I enjoyed it too.  Some of the boys went over the commando course so perhaps I will have to next time.  I have met Doug. McGrath again and several others I knew before.

I had no trouble with the dentist and he only filled three.

I have bought a regulation trunk suitcase and so will send the other home.  It is quite true you have to be able to carry everything so I will be well laden as there is web equipment as well.  Hence the necessity for P.T.  Tried my coat on in Montreal and it was a rotten fit.  So much for Norman’s measuring.  It is being altered and I suppose I will get it sometime.

I have not explored Halifax much yet but it doesn’t seem as bad as I was led to expect.  The streets are very narrow and the buildings mostly old and dirty looking but it is quite pretty, especially where we are, three miles from its centre.  One of these days I want to take the ferry over to Dartmouth so that I can see the harbour.  I think you can also take a trip around the shore line on some sort of tourist boat too.

This station runs its own summer resort about 20 miles from here which may be worth a weekend.  It costs nothing except in the form of a few light chores I believe.

I got a bill from Mount Royal Hotel for the night I spent there.  T.C.A. were supposed to pay it but I guess I will seeing they gave me such a large refund.

I was lucky to get the extra two days.  At least three others wired without success.

With love from




Thursday.  [September 9, 1943]

Dear Mother:

Yesterday’s news was grand wasn’t it.  [Italy surrendered on December 8, 1943.]  There was quite a celebration in town for we could hear the noise here three miles away.  But for some reason the Navy recalled an order to “splice the mainbrace”.  This phrase means an extra tot of rum all round.  I wonder why it was revoked.

We are not kept busy here and it is easy to miss parades anyway.  I have been to P.T. twice (haven’t shirked any of that) and over the commando course once.  This is first thing in the morning and then there is some sort of lecture usually not attended by me.  I missed several parades to the decompression chamber but finally went through it this morning.  It was good fun.  Six of us in a chamber, two guinea pigs being without oxygen, up to the top—equivalent to 25,000 feet.  One was very good and even after ten minutes at this height could still write his name but that was about all.  Each of us got 10 minutes without oxygen and except for the guinea pig I was least effected [sic].  Managed to multiply 1234 by 4321 correctly and write the alphabet.  Most couldn’t ever write out the alphabet correctly and one got near the end after a long time and kept writing wxywxywxy etc. for a long time.  It is very funny to watch.  We have to go up once more 30,000 feet this time for an hour, oxygen all the time.

I don’t suppose I will go for awhile yet according to the latest rumour.  It is a great place for them.  When the air force leave on draft they do it in style marching down town with web equipment to the strains of a band.  The Army, on the other hand, sneak in on a train right on to the dock so that no one knows they are there and they aren’t allowed off the train even if they wait some time.  We could be in town shopping, almost to the last hour before the march.

Yesterday morning was spent in an inspection and route march.  Our fine weather has been continuing so it was a warm walk.  I was near enough to the front to hear the band which makes it a lot easier.

On Labor Day I watched a track meet between the three services.  The Airforce [sic] cleaned up with 96 points to Navy’s 49 and Army’s 25.  Some events were very good.  An English 3-miler got more than a lap ahead of two of his competitors—something I’ve never seen before.

Last night I had supper with Bob and Denny Hayman.  Afterwards we played bridge.  The fourth was formerly Barbara Van Kleeck of Armstrong who I knew well at varsity.  We played quite late because at 11:30 we phoned for a taxi and they said to call back in an hour.  (Taxis are worked through a central pool here—very bad.)  At one time they said there might be a car available at 2:00 so we gave up.  Fortunately the street cars were still running.  

I got the Haymans [sic] address from Primrose Walker who I met quite by chance in town one night.  I have met several people I knew before here.  One I haven’t seen since manning pool.  He was right marker in our flight there and as I was centre marker I knew him well.  Another chap was a miner in Yellowknife.

My friend Ken Reid’s persuasive nature with officials got us passes to go over a warship.  This was extremely interesting.

On Sunday we decided to explore the residential and area [sic] and quite by chance came upon an absolutely perfect yacht club on the North Arm.  We didn’t go in but I hope to some day.  Very spacious lawns on a fairly steep hillside right down to the water’s edge.  The North Arm is quite narrow here so the sailing boats have to tack back and forth several times in front of the club as they make their way to open water.  Next the grounds was a launch ferry service to a park accross [sic] the Bay which we took.  A very pretty spot.

Down here we can get 52 ozs liquor a month and yesterday three of us did that as you have to get it all at once.  I hope some of it lasts till we get accross [sic] but one bottle went last night.  The mess isn’t too good as we are allowed one ounce per day which you can let accumulate for a week starting afresh each Monday.

I think I said before that Halifax was quite pretty in my first letter.  Well that really referred to the surrounding country and suburban areas for the city itself is one huge slum.  All old buildings that have lost their paint, narrow streets, cobbled sometimes, four wheel streetcars and a general air of dirt and poverty.  There is a surprising lack of restaurants and the only clean looking place is so short of labor some of the booths are always roped off and you have to queue up.

The trunk is coming along express collect and here is the key, I hope.

With love from




May [sic] 18 /43   [September 18, 1943] 

Dear Mother:

Still here—with no prospects of an early move.  Our number seems to increase rather than remain at any set level, the only undesirable result being a change in the messing system.  Now we have to line up for our food just as we always did.  It is still good though.  It is hard to estimate how many officers there are here.  I am sure many do not get to any parades.  A poor example I think, especially as the NCO aircrew are treated so badly here compared to us.

I went out to Camp Sunshine for two days.  I don’t know what I expected but something a little better, I think.  There were a hundred of us crowded into two old houses, wash basins out of doors and meals in a big tent eaten army style out of those aluminum dishes they have.  Fortunately the first day was perfect, not even the thinnest of cirrus anywhere and I basked in the sun all day.  I really enjoyed it.  After supper we got a boat, the camp owns three and the boys rented more—all old and Siwashy looking.  Ours was a gaff rigged sail boat, good in its day, and had it not lost its centre board would have given us some fine sailing.  However it took us with the wind accross [sic] the harbour to a store where we got crackers and cheese and cokes.  It was a long pull back but we took off again later in another boat, a rowboat this time, and heading in a different direction found another store.

We did a little fishing too.  Any old bit of string with a hook and a clam for bait will catch a sole but they don’t fight at all so it is not much fun.  It is very pretty country out there.  Most of the people are of Dutch descent and so it is only natural that their houses lookas if they might have been painted last week.

The second day brought heavy rain and drove eight of us back to Y depot.  Others would have come back too no doubt in our places had they been a little quicker in getting to the staff car which brings out supplies.  The balance came back the following day and we 8 thus felt we had the day for our own.  In the afternoon some of us went on the army supply boat, a vessel about half the size of the Pentowna, which took us all around Halifax harbour for about two hours.

Now we are back to routine starting with PT at 0900.  This was good this morning for it took the form of a hike over to part of the harbour along the edge and back.  This took almost two hours, getting us back too late for a lecture of some sort so that completed the morning.

There is a list in the mess of items suggested to be taken overseas.  This included an alarm clock.  Is mine too busily employed to be sent on.  Let me know because I can get one at Eatons although they don’t look as if they were much good.

Thanks for the proofs.  I would like a small one of which ever one you decide on.  Of course I have no objections to Anne or Amy having copies.

Has Archie printed my pictures yet.  I would like to see them and White would like copies of the ones in which he appears.

Another old friend has shown up here—a fraternity brother this time.  He has left already as he was crewed up having taken OTU here.  Pilots are always the last to go so they must have a great surplus of them in England.

Just after you purchase a theatre ticket a persistent little girl tries to make you purchase a W. S. stamp—hence the enclosed.

I am sending back the insurance policy on my car.

With love from





Sept. ‘943

Dear Mother:

People continue to pour in here and now even though we have three sittings for meals in our mess some of the recent arrivals have to eat in an airmans [sic] mess.  Perhaps to enforce attendance at afternoon lectures or to help keep track of all the men we now have to stay on the station until 5:00.  This doesn’t bother us a great deal—we simply retire to our room and play a vicious gambling game called ‘red dog’.

One of the more recent arrivals here is Don Poole.  I see the Courier said he was a sgt. but he is a P/O now.  F/O George Sargeria [?] and his wife live quite close to us and I went over to see them one evening.  He is stationed at Dartmouth where F/L Fuller is.  One Sunday I went over the Dartmouth station and climbed over various types of aircraft.  Some of the boys from our G. R. course are stationed here and one showed us over his ship.  It was a Douglas Digby—an old type of ship but quite large and very comfortable.  Imagine steam heat and a bed for instance.

I finally got around to going up in the decompression chamber for the second time.  After 40 minutes at 35.000 three of the 8 in our chamber got a form of the bends and had to be taken out.  This is a sharp rheumatic pain in one or more joints which may get worse or may disappear.  After 50 minutes I got it in the right elbow but as there was only 10 minutes to go I lasted out.  It disappeared when down to 31.000.

I hope you are managing to cope with the fruit picking alright despite the difficulties of getting help.

My photographs arrived O.K.

I went to see “Heaven Can Wait” about the same time you did.  I see a lot of shows—most of them pretty awful.  We have shows in the mess but unless you get in long before it starts you are out of luck for a seat.  But if you do get a seat it will be an armchair or sofa.

Love to all of you






Oct 5. 1943.

Dear Dad:

I guess you will be quite surprised to see a U.S. stamp on the letter.  [The envelope is postmarked TAUNTON, MASS.  OCT 8  8-PM 1943.]   We were moved here because it got so darned crowded where we were, I imagine.  No one knows when anything happens next so you might as well keep on using the old address.  I have had a letter here already.

We have visited the large cities within a radius of around twenty miles from here, being particularly interested in the cocktail bars of course.  Ever heard of a ‘Cuba libre’ or a ‘zombie’.  They’re good anyway.  In one of the better of these bars we met a rich American.  He treated us, 3 P/O’s and 2 U.S. sailors, to drinks, then invited us to supper.  For this we went to another hotel and although he had no reservation we went passed [sic] a long line of would-be diners to one of the best tables quite close to the orchestra.  We had the most marvellous steaks costing our host about $25.00.  Then he drove us out to his palatial home for more drinks.  He could not believe I wasn’t English and wanted to know if I had done much fox hunting, which is what he does most Sundays.

One afternoon we went to see Dante, the magician.  I think there was an article in Life about him not long ago.

On the last day at Y we spent the afternoon playing ‘red dog’ which netted me about 15.00.  But during the game the CO suddenly walked in, on a barrack inspection.  What a shock!  Somebody grabbed the cards but the table was covered with money.  He was surprised and angry and asked what we were doing.  ‘Cards’.  ‘Let me see them.’  Deck produced.  ‘Okay, but no dice’ and out he walked.  Just about then we remembered the half bottle of the on the dresser that he missed.

Well this is rather an indefinite letter but if it is postmarked you know where I am and where I have been.  It looks as if I am to be here for some time yet and so will continue to make the rounds of the night clubs.

With love