Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Writes of his experiences at Receiving Centre. Includes account of journey back to centre. Says it was good to see her. Continues with description of activities and fellow trainees. Includes humorous account of being sorted by religion.



Temporal Coverage

Spatial Coverage



Four page handwritten letter


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[inserted] ROOM 5, STRUMA BLOCK [/inserted]

Sunday 20/10/40

[inserted] Started over a week ago & finished in very distracting conditions. Everybody shouting at me for writing for so long to my old woman. A number of things were thrown at me & I have been interrupted many times so please be uncritical.
[deleted one indecipherable word] John

My Dearest Ursula,

You were quite right – I did get back here at 9 pm. On Saturday. I had only five[?] minutes to wait for an 83 bus but when it got to Kingsbury there were ‘planes overhead & the driver decided to stop. I got out and started walking with a party going to a Demolition & Rescue Squad post. After about 10 minutes the bus started again & overtook us & we reached Wembley Park by 8 o’clock. A train came in about a quarter of an hour & although it went slowly we proceeded steadily & I was back as I said, with a whole hour to spare. I wish now that I could have spent that hour with you but I was fearfully afraid of being late on my first leave especially in view of the three[?] mile restriction.

However, [deleted] I [/deleted] it was really marvellous

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to see you again & be with you for a few hours & I look forward eagerly to being able to do so as soon as I possibly can.

One mildly[?] pleasant surprise awaited me. You remember my telling you that our sleeping quarters, in addition to being adequately blacked out, are hardly lit at all at night time. Those of the fellows who did not get leave very kindly made the beds for us who were out to save us floundering about in almost total [deleted] bla [/deleted] [inserted] darkness [/inserted]. A very handsome gesture which we shall return this afternoon when the rest of us get leave.

This morning we rose at the same time (6 am.) and at 9 o’clock paraded for Church. The common or garden C of E – Chiefly those whom had not sufficient imagination to think of anything else – were drawn up in two large Squadrons. R.C’s formed another but much smaller group (Scots) while the rest of us O.Ds (other decoms[sic]) were drawn up into the fourth & smallest squadron. The way we were sorted out was rather funny.

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All fellows in our block paraded at first immediately outside the building. Our own Sergeant, a very good fellow, told all those who were not C of E to fall out into a separate batch & after sending elsewhere the R.C. blokes he checked over the rest of us asking each his pet persuasion. There were Cong’s[?] Meths[sic] (not spirits) Presbs[sic] etc. When all the answers were given he said “What! Aren’t there no bloody Spiritualists? Then he handed us over to our Corporal & told him to lose us somewhere. Being full of resource the Corporal marched us off to another block hoping to palm us off on another Sergeant. The latter said “Nothing doing” & Corporal marched us back to our own Sergeant. When we reappeared his face flushed with strong & ill concealed emotion[?] & he told the poor little Corporal in no uncertain but very rude & unrepeatable terms just what he thought of him and us. Having a certain flair for bad language myself, I rathered[sic]

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gathered that he didn’t want us & the unfortunate Corporal had to march us back again to the place he first thought of. Upon our arrival he moaned to the Sergeant there “What am I to do with these bloody odds and sods?! Thereupon they went into a huddle & decided to march us on to a remote corner of the parade ground & leave us to our fate. This they did & one by one other misfits from other blocks joined us & soon we had a real misfit Sergeant & Corporal all to ourselves & under their direction we played a minor part in the grand parade – complete with band and march past. However, it was worth it for we eventually had an excellent little service of our own taken by the nonconformist Padre. He was a really fine speaker, being open & frank about certain subjects – e.g. sex and quite stirring about things in general. I really enjoyed the service immensely & proved it by putting a whole sixpence into the collection. He was a really charming fellow, full of sound and not too priggish advice & stressed the desirability of all taking up some hobby

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John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 21, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19075.

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