November 4, 1943. Stanley writes a V-Mail home upon his arrival in England. “V-Mail” or “Victory Mail” was a secure form of written communication used between June 1942 and April 1945 to send letters quickly to and from the troops overseas. Delivery of regular mail via ship could take up to a month, while delivery via air could be accomplished in twelve days or less. However, there is far less space to ship mail on an airplane than there is on a ship. The challenge became how to move that much mail in so small a space. The answer was based on a system the British had been using since earlier in the war. A standard form was used for writing the letter. It was photographed and converted to microfilm. The microfilm was shipped by air. Once stateside, the image was printed photographically but only to 60% of its initial size. The need to photograph the V-Mail to microfilm made it easier to censor the letters to ensure that no sensitive information was making it out of the theater of operations since the Army saw everything that was being photographed and sent. V-Mails were limited to the size of the form. Longer letters could still being sent by regular mail, but as noted above, they took much longer to get home. For more about V-Mail you can go here.
The basic gist of the V-Mail is that Stanley made it safely and is now “somewhere in England”. He marvels about how much he’s traveled in the year since being drafted. By my estimation, in order of his deployment he’s been to: St. Petersburg, FL, Fort Logan, CO, Oxford, MS, Salt Lake City, UT, Ephrata, WA, Home on furlough (Albany, NY), Back to Ephrata, Geiger Field, WA, Great Falls, MT, Cut Bank, MT, then cross country to NYC before leaving for Scotland and England. I have no doubt that Stanley has done more traveling in the one year he’s been in the Army than he had his entire life before being drafted.
We know from a history of the 401st Bomb Group as well as a letter that Stanley wrote after VE Day when he was able to divulge more, that the 401st traveled to England aboard the RMS Queen Mary. They arrived in Scotland on November 2, 1943. During the war, the Queen Mary was used as a troop transport ship. Due to its size and speed the Queen Mary was able to outrun the many German submarines that infested the Atlantic Ocean. Even so, Stanley writes, “Every moment coming over which I could spare I said the rosary.”
All indications are that it has been a relatively pleasant experience, all things considered. “Red Cross was really swell everywhere we went. We got coffee and doughnuts. We also received a small overnight herringbone twill bag with a deck of cards, soap, book, writing paper, and several other items. …So far everybody, everywhere we were made it pleasant for us.” He also mentions, “There was really some beautiful scenery in Scotland and England. The farms with their stone fences sure looked pretty.”
The first few days in a new country also brings the challenge of learning a new monetary system. “Today we changed our American money to British money. They sure have a screwy system. It is sort of complicated but I am catching up on it. Their half penny is our 1 cent piece. Their shilling is mostly our 20 cents. I hope I get it all straight soon.”
Before he closes he writes, “I was sure surprised when we arrived at our destination. I thought we would sleep in our small tents but we have a very agreeable domicile and sleep in small beds.” As with the means of travel, once again due to security concerns Stanley does not mention where they are. However, we know that the 401st was stationed at RAF Deenethorpe in Northamptonshire, England. He wraps up, “Well, I think I’ll close till the near future. God bless you Anthony. Your brother, Stanley” With that we leave Stanley to settle in and get his new work space set up …till the near future.