Thursday, July 03, 2008

Excerpts from a soldiers Letters

Recently received some first hand information from a soldier who served on the Table Mountains here during WWII. Here are some excerpts from his letters he sent home to his mother.

November 27/43 Given special winter clothes in Halifax. Parka, ski pants, hat, high top
leather boots, another pair with rubber bottoms and leather tops, 10
pair woolen socks, woolen helmet, woolen gloves, leather mitts and
other articles. Traveled by sea, not air this time so was seasick not air
Place is on a table mtn. We are in quonset huts held down by rocks as
ballast. Sleeping bags on bunks. Oil heaters. We had a good cook. He
had been chef at one of the big hotels. We had canned or concentrated
foods at first. Butter came in cans and it was good. We were working on
new equipment. Different than working with the squadron at Gander
earlier. Hear that we will be here more than 6 mths.

December 1/43 Snow travels horizontal not vertical!!!

December 2/43 Two panes of glass blew out at night at bottom of my bunk.It took
several guys to hold boards in place against the wind while we nailed it
in place. We crawl on our hands and knees from one bldg. to another but
luckily, bldgs are not far apart.

December 5/43 A radio really makes a difference in a place like this. The food is pretty
good right now. We get things that you can't get at home like sugar.

December 7/43 Going for mail takes all day- 9am to 5:30 pm - 6 miles each way and we
walk. Gord says " We will probably have a differential like a bus when I'm
through here. All I'll need, he said to his mom is a couple of lights". He
liked to help the cook in his spare time, like baking bread ( 7 loaves at a
time baked in milk can lids)! "Expect that I'll be able to do anything when
I leave here", he told his mother. He was 22 at that time.

December 8/43 Mom, we are on a mountain top 2000 feet straight up. The clouds around
us are like fog.

December 14/43 Drifts of snow up to 2/3 of window panes. Letters coming in and out now

December 28/43 Our new meat supply was dropped from the air on the 26th. It was 100lb.
baskets fastened to chutes. A sample of everything that can happen does
happen here. Dog teams here to help move 300 lb. loads. They are
Siberian huskies and we had 2 teams hooked together (eighteen dogs)
and eight men. It took all we could do to move the loads.

January 19/44 We had to carry heavy loads down for the mail. There was 30lb. down and
50lb. back up. We usually work in pairs. We used shoulder racks to do it

January27/44 We started shift work.

January 31/44 About the trains. They are different, short and narrow . You never need to
be in a rush to catch one. They are always "due". The station had no doors
and a couple of windows. A few days ago there was a big snow and the
road had 30 to 40 feet over it in some places. Dog teams are gone.

February 4/44 We have frozen pipes in the barracks and we are trying to thaw them out.
We are digging through 3 feet of frost and rock. Then we throw fuel oil in
and burn it till it is full of steam. Frost level is 1 foot below the pipes. The
guys will have had all the pick swinging they want. Now it is midnight and
the wind is howling but it is comfy inside.

February 24/44 My winter clothes finally caught up with me and it cost $3. to get it!

March 9 44 Skiing without tops in some sun.Got sunburned. Made pancakes as cook
sleeps in on Sunday.

March 14/44 The inside water system was frozen all Feb. Since everyone pitches in to
help on these types of occasions, our regular shift work is really a rest. We
hauled water with big diesel tractor. Then it got stuck in the snow. It took
5 guys 2 days to dig it out.

April 9/44 More meat was chuted in. Great as we have had a lot of bully beef and
pilcher fish. It looked good seeing quarters of beef being dropped to us.
One came down without a chute but the others were attached and we had
to run after them so they would not go over the edge in the wind.
Fresh steak tastes good.

May 8/44 I helped the cook to cut up the meat when the new was dropped. Inside
drain pipes still frozen so I hooked up an outside shower!!!!!

May 28/44 We have been eating dried apples all winter . Went fishing. No luck yet.

June 4/44 Finally our inside water system is workiing.

June 10/44 Ate at someone's home at the lighthouse . Had fresh salmon .Tasted swell.
They gave us 2 salmon 30' long to carry back the 6 miles. Got a promotion
to Corporal so now I make $2.45 a day. Went fishing and this time I caught
a trout.

June 21/44 Rain and the drops are as large as cups.

July18/44 Here I am writing to you,Mother and it is late at night with the wind howling
around outside but warm inside with Skipper at my feet.

Aug 10/44 Needed fire in barracks to keep warm.

Sept.8/44 Camp getting rebuilt for next winter. Fresh supplies of food tastes good.

Sept 20/44 They are now painting over the tentest.

Oct4/44 Removed the ballast as the new improvements were made. To be placed
back after.

With the new information a lot of old myths were dispelled about some of the activity the forces had participated in during the war years. The parachute drops of fresh meat maybe explains why a lot of people actually thought the planes landed there. Hopefully our community can someday see a storyboard erected to honor the soldiers who served there during the war years.

Few shots from last evenings ATV Ride to the old Radar Site. Some of the old structure remains in place and a few poles that supplied the power to the Radar are still standing. The rock Ballast that helped anchor the buildings down can also be seen around the site. The only thing that never changes is the beauty of this place. Today i can leave my home in Cape Ray and be at the Radar site in less then half a hour. It took the soldiers of that era many hours to do the trip.


Anonymous said...

chuckled on the part about the trains,"always due" but could not figure out the part about the station having no doors?

Brian said...

Beauty indeed.
Nice bit of history too, but the 30 foot salmon is a bit of a stretch ;-]

Table Mountains said...

i think he meant 39 inches. : )