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Date: January 10th 1942
Mother & Dad - (Wilhelmina & John Gray)
Hampton Gray

no. 6.

Canada House,
London, Eng.
Jan. 10.

Dear Mother and Dad,

I am just back from five days leave. I had quite a quiet time part of it in London trying to locate Jack and the rest of it up in his territory. I finally located him through a girl in the Air Ministry who gave me instructions how to get to him. So I went up there. The first night I got there about four o’clock and just missed him by about fifteen minutes and did not finally contact him until the next afternoon. So as I only was able to stay the two nights it was unfortunate, especially as he was in the same town as I was that evening. However he came down the next afternoon and we had a grand time together. We took a couple of Waafs. out in the evening but they went home early. He stayed with me that night, sharing my room. I had to catch an early train to London on my way home the next morning but we were able to have a long chat together and it was just grand seeing him again. He looks very well indeed but had had a cold just recently. He is a grand kid. I wish there were more like him. He told me by the way that you had mentioned getting my cable so I guess I must have lost the letter where you mention it. I wonder if you could cable me in return when I cable you. It makes a rather nice contact. By the way, always use Canada House as my address as you are doing. I can get anything through them and they are very helpful.

Outside of my leave nothing much has happened lately. We have not had much to do lately as the weather has not been good. So we have had a fair amount of time to spend. That is something of a hardship here as there is no place to go.

Yesterday I spent some of my money on quite a good camera so from now on you can expect to get snapshots occasionally. They will be very small but you will be able to get small enlargements of any good ones I might send you. So could you keep them for me.

Tomorrow morning I have to get up at 6:30. Ten of us are going to a place about 100 miles distance. We are going to go into what they call a decompression chamber. They draw air out of it to show you what it is like at different altitudes. We use oxygen to see what its effects are but I shall be able to describe it better to you when I next write. Next week we go down to another aerodrome on the Coast to do our air firing. This time instead of camera guns we use live ammunition from machine guns and fire on a drogue towed by another aircraft. I shall also be able to tell you more about that later.

You are apparently spreading my picture all over the country Mother. I got a card today from Francis MacAllister Tillsonburg and she mentioned it. I also got a card from Beattie McLean today. They are a bit late and I would sooner have letters but they were nice to get anyway.

I am continuing this letter after coming back from that decompression chamber I mentioned. It might be interesting if I described it to you. Eight of us go in at once into this big cylinder like thing. It is airtight and when they have closed the doors they pump the air out. We are paired off. One chap uses oxygen on the way up and looks after the one who has no oxygen. They stop going up when we reach a height of twenty-two thousand feet. The ones without oxygen gradually start doing funny things. You get an exaggerated sense of how capable you are. I was asked to play noughts and crosses with my partner and I thought I was simply doing wonderfully when I was really just putting crosses all over the table. Some of the chaps couldn’t remember what station they were from and some passed right out. When they go that way they turn their oxygen on and it revives them immediately. When we have had enough of it we turn on our oxygen and turn off our partners and they go through the mill. Then we all turn it on again and go up to 35,000 ft. The air is so thin then that you cannot even whistle and if you drop an ordinary sheet of paper it just drops like a stone. There is no air resistance. The whole object of the thing is to teach us the value of oxygen. The whole trouble is that you think you are doing so well without it when in reality your reactions are all slowed up. But with oxygen you can act quite normally up to 35,000 ft. Above that height the lack of pressure starts bringing in other complications. So it was all very interesting. The trip to this place was also very interesting. I saw Stonehenge for the first time and was not particularly impressed but at least I can say I have seen it.

I hope by the time this reaches you Dad, you will have started getting my allotment. It should start the end of this month. I am sorry it is so long in coming but it is no use doing anything until you get settled as they never get your money straight then.

Much love to all,

[postscript added along margin of first page:] I would send this air-mail but I understand air mail is not operating at the moment.


[Editor’s note: While no year was included with the written date, the letter’s contents indicate it was 1942.]

Original Scans

Original Scans

Page 1 of WWII letter of 1942-01-10 from Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, VC, DSC