In England, Verne writes in his diary after returning from his pass to London . . . .
Overstayed pass by six hours because of train service. Wasn’t caught. Train took 4 1/2 hours for trip. Spent 2 1/2 hours walking out to base. Sure am tired. About eight letters from home. Stiff and sore. Am glad to be back.
Snow or sleet showers were widespread in in the British Isles on February 11, and it is likely that Verne experienced one or the other as he walked back to Station 153.1
The Framlingham Flyer, plying between Wickham Market and Framlingham, provided the troops a rail connection from Station 153 to the London-Yarmouth line of the L&NE Railway. To make the connection, the troops waited at Hacheston Halt near Station 153. Hacheston Halt consisted of a cinder platform. There was no station or information booth. The Flyer consisted of an aged locomotive and two antiquated passenger cars with occasional box cars (goods wagons as the English knew them) added as necessary. The fare was four pence, but the locomotive occasionally broke down. In that event, troops returning from London on passes had to walk back to Station 153.2
Notes & Commentary
1 “Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, February 1945.” Meteorological Office, Air Ministry. (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/archive/monthly-weather-report-1940s : accessed 11 February 2015).
2 “The Framlingham Flyer,” 390th Bombardment Group (H) History, January 1945, Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), 24 February 1945, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 960-961.
The frequency of passes for Verne (several already) compared to his brother sure makes the air war in Europe seem like a very different world compared to what the flyers endured in the Pacific. Granted, the dangers experienced by the 8th AF bombers on their missions probably more than makes up for it. But seeing what Verne wrote about his day-to-day, even with these few lines in each entry, sure seems different than what I’ve read in books. And even Verne’s involvement in airplane maintenance, which is essentially nil compared to what Wayne described earlier on, is also very different. It is almost like the “haves” (8th AF) and the “have nots” (13th AF).
Wayne and Verne fought in two very, very different air wars and what they write certainly demonstrates that. As to your comment sure seems different than what I’ve read in books, I would not that what Verne and Wayne wrote was for their own consumption and not an audience. Wayne wrote with greater detail; he thought that later he might use the experiences in short stories or, perhaps, a novel. Nonetheless, Verne, like Wayne, captured the lives they led. Wayne was a gunner/armorer, and Verne was a gunner. Wayne had additional duties as an armorer that Verne did not have. Verne was stationed at base with concrete runways and more or less “permanent” structures. Verne’s base was served by highways and a railway. It was within a few hours travel from a major world city. The diseases to which he was exposed were familiar. Fresh food, meat and vegetables, was available. Wayne, in contrast, lived for the most part in tents in the middle of the jungle with heat and rain constant companions. Everything, including the Marsden matting runways was temporary. Everything he and the others consumed was delivered to them by plane or ship. Just about everything they ate came out of a box or can. Freshwater showers were a treat. He was exposed to diseases unknown in North America and Europe. The nearest cities, depending upon transportation, were days or weeks away. If Wayne’s plane was shot down, he would most likely not survive capture by the Japanese or he would be adrift on the ocean. If he survived being shot down, Verne would most likely receive needed medical care and be interned in a prison camp.
There are writers who have portrayed the differences in the air wars of the Pacific and Europe as being that of the “haves” and “have nots”. I grew up around the veterans of World War II and in my younger years worked with them. If asked about their experiences, most would talk about what when on in their lives while in service, but you had to ask and you had to be willing to listen. I remember them sometimes bickering among themselves as to who had it the hardest — Pacific Theater vs. European Theater; Army vs. Navy vs. Air Force. Most of all, I remember an intense pride in their units. I also remember a disdain for braggarts.