Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Writes of his activities and that he was sorry to leave her. Describes bombing attack during his train journey back to Uxbridge and mentioning explosions and incendiaries. Writes of passengers alighting and watching bombing attack. Bombs had missed tracks and had fallen in some allotments. Continues by asking her to look after her self and use shelter if required. Concludes with domestic matters.



Temporal Coverage

Spatial Coverage



Six page handwritten letter


IBCC Digital Archive


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Monday 27-10-40

Darling Ursula.

What you have read up to now, I wrote over a week ago so that most of it will be stale news. I wrote it before I started getting daily leave but you said that you wanted it & I have taken you at your word. Of course, I wasn’t here to go to the Griller[?] quarter concert last Wednesday, but I enjoyed myself much more with you than I could possibly have done here, and I didn’t go to the Sunday evening voluntary service as I said I would. By the time the service was due to start, the religous[sic] fervour inspired by the excellent Padre has worn off & I decided to have done with hypocrosy[sic] & to read the Forsyte Saga instead.

I enjoyed yesterday more than any previous day and was terribly sorry to leave you. I am afraid that I was rather a selfish pig to make you run home for all my tobacco etc. You are so eager to do things for me that I tend to take an unfair advantage of your wonderful good nature.

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of special interest to while away the idle hours – as he said – to prevent the mind & the energies working along unwholesome lines.

He himself is trying to arrange for the Griller[?] quartet to play for an hour regularly once a week & has arranged it for certain on Wednesday. I hope I shall be here. He is taking a small voluntary service at 6.30 tonight & for half an hour beforehand is to play gramophone records of a serious nature & I shall go along to that too. Already I am heartily sick of the noise that we get every second of our spare time. In the NAAFI canteen we get nothing but hot pulsating rhythm (spelt correctly?) or those sickly sobbing love songs that stick in the throat & make me feel sick. In the dormitory all the fellows sing or croon these doting ditties & now one chap has produced a concertina of enormous dimensions which issues strains of colossal power. – going for dinner – XX

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crowded and all passengers came on to the platform & watched the show in absolute silence. Before we saw the sparks flying the railwaymen thought that the ghostly white light was caused by an H.E. on the track followed by a short circuit of the conductor rail. Then they thought that one of the fire[?] bombs might have fallen on to the track & burned through one or some of the [deleted one letter] many rubber cables that always run alongside of any electric railway, so the train had to stay in the station while patrolmen were sent ahead to inspect. Before they returned the flames had subsided but soon a more ominous dull red blaze started. However, the patrolmen returned to say that the track had been missed, most of the bombs had fallen in some allotments & had burned themselves out & one had set fire to a small wooden shed which was the cause of the red flames. This too soon died down & after a total delay of not more than 20 minutes the train restarted & we arrived here without further incident. – Going for dinner again. XX

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Of course, I left you far too soon, for I was back here at 9 o’clock. No sooner had I got to Wembley Park than an Uxbridge train came in. We had a little excitement at Eastcote. The train had just come to a standstill when we heard the now familiar sound o bombs coming down & I was flat on the carriage seat in two shakes. There were two or three large crumps & when the noise had died down I poked my head out of the window. The first thing I saw was the engine driver & a pal crawling along the platform on their hands & knees & then we saw an awe inspiring firework display. A bunch of incendiaries had fallen about 100 yards ahead just by the side of the track. They burned furiously with a curious hard silvery flame sending up clouds of white smoke and intermittent sparks. After a second or two one of them exploded & showered lumps of flaming metal all over the place. It was just like any Guy Fawkes display without the coloured effects and the whole affair was extremely vivid and quite eerie. The train was very
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Having just picked at a very cold and unappetising hot dinner I think I will try to get this finished & sent off to you.

I bitterly regret leaving you so early last night it was lovely to be with you & very selfish of me to come away so early. As it was, you might easily have accompanied me to Wembley Park & probably got home quite safely. However, you weren’t with me & I had to sit all by myself in solitary state & the abysmal darkness of the top of the bus. I tried imagining that you were with me, & with my arm around you & I started talking to you ever so softly. There was no one else on the top of the bus so I had you all too[sic] myself, & I told you all sorts of things and you listened and replied in equally intimate terms. Then at Wembley Park I had to leave you but we had a really touching farewell & I think you had tears in your eyes again.

It’s very difficult trying to write now. I am in my dormitory & there are about 2 dozen fellows near at hand laughing & banging & telling naughty stories. My concentration is constantly being interrupted & I must stop soon

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One fellow has just pulled his [unreadable word ‘shirt’[?]] [corrected] (SHIRT) [/corrected] up to stamp it without taking it off. Another has just asked him if he is holding a naval review.

Do look after yourself, my darling, be careful at night time & dont[sic] hesitate to go to the shelter. Don’t run any risks of upsetting yourself because even quite trivial shocks may have quite unexpected results. Don’t forget your pint of milk daily & ask Barbara to get extra [one indecipherable word] whenever she can. Don’t starve yourself & don’t neglect yourself in your efforts to look after your brother & sister. Don’t let any of my folks badger you into doing anything against your own will. If your weekly income from Barbara & the R.A.F. is inadequate don’t be afraid to encroach upon the of the Touche[?] money – e.g. Sundries a/c. Of course if anything is left over it will be very useful next March & April when you might be without any contribution from Barbara.

Tomorrow (29th) is the 1st anniversary of our engagement. Bless you my dear may we have many returns of the day in happier circumstances.

With all my love

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John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 6, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19077.

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