If You're Going to England

by Maj Charles Kerwood
Originally written for the information of US Army Air Forces officers assigned to duty in England, the report which follows gives such a fresh, unembellished insight into what an American might expect to find in Britain that we requested War Department permission to reprint the entire text intact. Major Kerwood, a veteran Army aviation officer who also served in the First World War, wrote this after visiting England himself recently. He addressed it to his fellow officers, entitled "So You Are Going to Serve with the British Forces," —Ed

The following observations and recommendations are those of one who has spent years of residence in foreign countries and, while constantly changing economic conditions are bound to cause readjustments, it is felt that the following will be of considerable assistance.

Your assignment for duty or service in England with the British forces is considered a highly technical one, and in this capacity you will have access to considerable information of a secret or confidential nature. Upon your arrival in England you will undoubtedly see many posters stressing the, need for caution at all times in your conversation. One poster which is captioned "KEEP MUM. SHE'S NOT SO DUMB", itself emphasizes the necessity and importance of avoiding at all times the discussion of confidential and secret matters in private as well as public places.

The contrast in everyday living conditions to which you have been accustomed in America will strike you forcibly. The explanation is very simple. The British are on a strictly war basis and care only for the essentials enabling them to pursue the war, whereas here in America you have been in a position to regard as necessities or as every-day commonplace articles which to the British are either luxuries or more probably unobtainables.

You will find reports that England is starving are untrue. However, one should be prepared for the possibility of obtaining, due to the limited supply, one egg a week. Butter is to be had on the same basis. Oranges — few that there are — are saved for the sick and needy; hence, orange juice is a rare treat.

Then, too, you will find a great stress placed upon the salvage of all waste products. Cordage of all kinds, metals, scrap, used tins, waste paper and cartons are considered of the highest value for the purpose of collection and breakdown for reuse. The British people will look at you askance if you are seen throwing paper or such things as lead foil away.

You are to be cautioned at all times against offending British sensibilities or making snap judgments of the attitude or activities (or lack of them) of officers and men who have been at war for over two years and who, in any case, may represent a small minority of the British armed forces. Especially emphasized is the necessity for tolerance for the many differences in viewpoint, customs and technique between men and women raised in different countries. You, coming from a wealthy nation, will find it most difficult to make allowances for the stresses and strains of those peoples who have for the past two years been living a life under the most trying conditions.

CREDENTIALS. Passports are necessary even when traveling to and from England via the Air Corps Ferrying Command. The passport should be supplemented by "Officer's Identification" (WD — AGO Form 65-1).

Passport photographs should be not less than 2½" by 2½", or more than 3" by 3", and should be on a light background so that the signature across the face of the photograph, in keeping with the State Department requirement, will be legible. At least one dozen of these passport photographs should be carried for the purpose of special passes.

The Adjutant General's Office handles passport arrangements for all officers other than G-2 and Air Corps. The G-2 M/A Section handles passport arrangements for all officers with G-2 orders, while passports for Air Forces officers other than those with G-2 orders are taken care of by Air Intelligence. Officers being assigned to duty in England should report to the sections as outlined with their passport photographs at the earliest possible date so that necessary applications may be filed, as the State Department requires about three days for this procedure.

PAPERS. When traveling via Lisbon, which is full of spies and where great care must be exercised, unless otherwise directed by A-2 or G-2 [Air Intelligence or Military Intelligence. —Ed], secret or confidential letters should not be carried, but in cases where they are, they should be deposited at the American Legation during the stay in Lisbon. When traveling by Ferrying Command, it is essential that officers be in constant contact with the Air Corps Ferrying Command in order to ascertain the actual time of departure. This information, once obtained, must not be disclosed as all information pertaining to flights is secret.

MONEY. It is strictly forbidden to take into Great Britain, or out, more than £10 and it is advisable to arrive in London with at least £5 in your pocket. There are no regulations regarding the amount of American currency or travelers' checks which you may carry. When traveling by clipper, it would be well to have a small amount of Portuguese currency for use when landing in Lisbon. The official purchasing rate set by the Bank of England is $4.02 for the pound.

While officers on service in the United Kingdom are not subject to a British income tax, it is recommended that arrangements be made that the payment of allowances be so adjusted as to avoid an accumulation of sterling, in keeping with the restrictions against taking out of the country more than the sum already specified. Here is a rough guide to English currency:

One Pound (paper note)………$4
Ten Shillings (paper note)………$2
Two Shillings and Sixpence………50¢
"Half a Crown"—A silver
coin larger than a silver
dollar with milled edges.
Two Shillings—A florin
— a silver coin about the
size of a silver dollar.
………40¢ (approx)
One shilling—A silver
coin similar to
the US "Quarter."
Sixpence — A silver coin
similar to the US "Dime."
One Penny — A large copper coin………
Halfpenny — A smaller copper coin………

PURCHASING POWER. In connection with these equivalents in the currency of the two nations, it should be pointed out that it is estimated that the purchasing power of the pound sterling in its own country is higher than the same purchasing power of the dollar in America.

LUGGAGE. Pan American allowance from New York to Lisbon is 60 pounds; Air Corps Ferrying Command allows 40 pounds; British Overseas Airways from Lisbon to England, 44 pounds. Overcoat and umbrella are not counted in this luggage allowance.

CLOTHING. The sale of civilian clothing in England is rationed, but officers may make purchases upon signing a form that certifies the clothing is necessary for personal use. In case of any difficulty in this respect, the adjutant of your unit is in a position to be of assistance. Articles are tailored to measure at very reasonable prices. Regulation trench coats, civilian clothing — such as top coats, sport coats and suits of superior quality — are to be had at very reasonable prices.

Uniforms will be worn at all times unless special permission has been given for civilian clothing. Too much stress cannot be placed upon the personal appearance of American officers while on duty in England. Therefore, the uniforms worn should be the best possible. Flying equipment, helmets and gas masks are to be obtained in England. Articles which should be included in one's wardrobe are one OD uniform complete with cap, one overcoat or lined trench coat and heavy shoes.

While the British Isles do not experience extreme temperature, there is considerable dampness and warm clothing is essential. The temperature runs roughly from 50° to 55° Fahrenheit.

CAMERAS. Regulations are strictly enforced regarding cameras and photography. It is therefore advised that no cameras be taken with you. No person is permitted to take a camera out of England, in not having one with you, you will undoubtedly avoid difficulty with the authorities.

TOBACCO. As much tobacco and as many cigarettes as possible should be taken with you and your supply should be carefully rationed as both are most expensive to purchase in England.

TIPPING. Adding 10 per cent to the total of your bill in a restaurant, for example, is entirely adequate.

LAUNDRY. One should allow at least a week for laundry and while it will be found less expensive, it will also be found less expeditious.

MAIL. The diplomatic pouch is available for personal mail to and from officers on detail in England. Following instructions are to be strictly complied with:

  1. Letters will bear appropriate British postage 2½d per ounce.
  2. Sender's name and title and address will appear on envelope.
  3. Envelopes will be unsealed.
  4. Under no circumstances will mail for third parties be forwarded through diplomatic pouch, either directly or as enclosures to personal mail.
  5. No packages, including newspapers or periodicals will be sent to the United States via the diplomatic pouch.
From England, unsealed letters are to be delivered to the Mailing Division, Office of the Military Attache, London, to be inspected by designated officers prior to being placed in the diplomatic pouch. (From America, the officer should be addressed "Care of Military Attache, London.") This letter is to be placed in an unsealed cover envelope addressed "Mail Room, Ass't Chief of Staff, A-2, War Department, Washington, D.C."

LIVING EXPENSE AND CONDITIONS. When on duty in London, the military attache's office is in a position to advise regarding living accommodations in London or equivalent metropolitan area. When assigned to a Royal Air Force field, you will undoubtedly live on the station. This lodging is free. You will automatically be made a member of the officers' mess. This constitutes the officers' club and the location of the mess. In all these an effort is being made to reduce the cost in the interest of junior officers.

All sorts of amounts have been given as to the cost of messing and there is little doubt of considerable discrepancies in charges between various stations. To give a definite figure invites criticism and an estimate should err on the high side to avoid embarrassment. One estimate has been given on the basis of $30 a month. Additional expenses to this are naturally termed luxury purchases, such as shoe repairs, laundry, dry cleaning and hair-cutting, which it is estimated as being less costly than here in America, and should be taken care of by about $5 a month. Some officers advise upon returning from England that they have experienced no difficulty in living on the $6 per diem allowance.

Under date of September 19, 1941, the Secretary of War authorized the military attache of the American Embassy in London to grant military observers on duty in London or equivalent metropolitan area a grant not to exceed $4 a day as reimbursement for necessary expenses. This $4 per diem additional allowance is granted only to those officers who spend more than 50 per cent of their time in London itself or equivalent metropolitan area, or only upon voucher proof that their expenses warrant it. In general, these expenses may include:

  1. Baths when not included in room rent.
  2. Calling cards and invitations for official functions.
  3. Cleaning and pressing of personal clothing in excess of $2 per month.
  4. Club fees and dues, providing the necessity and nature of club are shown.
  5. Entertainment of foreigners at luncheons, teas, receptions, balls, theaters, etc, provided the number and nationality of guests, and date and place are given.
  6. Fans and fires in rooms.
  7. Gasoline, oil and garage for private car on official trips.
  8. Gifts of reasonable nature to prominent foreigners or their wives.
  9. Laundry of personal effects of individual officers in excess of $2 per month.
  10. . Meals (personal) in excess of $25 per month.
  11. Rent of personal quarters (lodging).
  12. Taxi hire for official trips and social functions.
  13. Telegrams and telephone calls on official business.

DISCIPLINE. Upon arrival you will be instructed to report to the Military Attache for Air in London or to the senior Air Corps officer in another given point, where you will be informed of the local situation and matters of policy of the individual offices and be able to make use of the experience of men, who have watched developments over a period of time and who have qualified to interpret the existing conditions in view of the problems which had to be faced.

From the outset you will be subject to British service rules of discipline and in this respect the counterpart of British officers training here in America, who are subject to the rules of discipline with our Army Air Forces. These codes of discipline are identical in purpose and principle, but vary of course in particulars. For example, saluting. In the British service, junior officers salute senior officers, those of field rank (squadron leader in the Air Force, major in the Army, lieutenant commander in the Navy) at all times, but do not salute at each casual meeting. The senior officer of a party of officers walking together takes the salute.

Herewith is chart of comparative ranks for your guidance:

US Army  Brit Army  NavyRAF
Sec LtSec LtSub-LtPilot Off
1st Lt1st LtFlg Off
CaptCaptLieutFlt Lt
MajMajLt ComdrSq Ldr
Lt ColLt ColComdrWg Comdr
ColColCaptGrp Capt
Brig GenBrig GenCommodoreAir Com
Maj GenMaj GenRear AdmAir Vice Marshal
Lt GenLt GenVice AdmAir Marshal
GeneralGeneralAdmiralAir Chief Marshal
Fld MarshalAdm of the
Marshal of the RAF

TRAVELING. Traveling on duty missions naturally is done by issuing of a railway warrant or pass which, when surrendered at the railway station, entitles one to a gratis ticket transportation. The members of the RAF are entitled to two free railway warrants per year for the purpose of taking annual leave, and should this be your luck, application to the proper quarters will insure similar privileges. Contacts and friendships must be avoided with individuals unless they are known to be of undisputed reliability. Careless talk and expressions of individual opinion relative to war efforts or military operations are to be avoided at all times.

This article was originally published in the March, 1942, issue of Flying including Industrial Aviation magazine, vol 30, no 3, pp 76, 78, 80.