Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Writes that he misses her and worries about danger to her of bombing. Continues telling of journey to by special train and describes new camp. Covers activities, food and accommodation. Mentions blackout and washing in dark. Continues with detailed descriptions of daily activities. Request that she tells every details of her life when she writes to him. Asks her to send a number of items on talks of his health. Talks of missing letters and being paid.



Temporal Coverage



Four page handwritten letter


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1251400[?] A.C.II VALENTINE J.R.M.
Squad 25 Hut 40
E Flight
2 Squadron 2 Wing
R.A.F. Station


My Dearest Ursula,

How I do miss you, now that we are really separated. I am always thinking of you, wondering if the bombs are falling anywhere near you & praying that you are not hurt or upset by anything. Do look after yourself for you mean to me far more than I can ever tell you. By the way I forgot to mention it in my last letter to you but I am not very keen on the idea of you going on duty with Barbara. If you want to do so, you must be the judge but I don’t think that it would be at all wise. Hendon is safer than[?] Euston & even if you are in a shelter you are much more likely to be upset because of the greater probability of bombs near you. Furthermore as it gets darker earlier & light later you are more & more likely to have to travel during A.A. barrages. That in itself is unpleasant & I know what London travel can be like nowadays.

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We travelled here from Uxbridge by special train but it was painfully slow & the whole of Tuesday was occupied in getting here, being allotted our quarters & generally settling down.

This place is really enormous but please don’t pass on to anyone any idea of its size. There are literally hundreds of single storey wooden huts giving the effects of a vast oilwell[sic] as seen on the screen or a town such as is usually depicted when a gold vein is discovered in the back of beyond. The huts are well made, though, & there is a general impression of cleanliness which was completely absent at Uxbridge. The population of the camp is several times as great as that of Uxbridge which accounts for the rather lengthy address. The food is incomparably better here. There are, of course, several kitchens all clean & sweet smelling & the food is really excellent. There are however, two great snags one of them being [underlined] cold. [/underlined] We live in little wooden huts holding 30 chaps, but we are not allowed to light fires until after 4.30 so that it is quite late in the evening before the temperature of the room is at all bearable.

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The other snag is that the washing place is separate & is not blacked out. Consequently as we get up at least an hour before dawn we have to wash and shave in total darkness. The washing is fairly easy but of course shaving isn’t.

Yesterday was a most miserable day for me. After the dreadful business of ablution in darkness there was a bright period of good breakfast. Then we went back to our rooms for a few instructions on various points but as it was bitterly cold outside & we had no fires in our hut we soon became horribly chilled. We stayed there for an hour & then had to stand outside for another 30 minutes when we were marched off to a large unheated lecture room where we were read a lecture by our Flight Sergeant. It was the usual tripe that is read to new arrivals or was quite a waste of time except when the sergeant couldn’t pronounce “despicably”. After that while we were still growing colder & colder our C.O. came in & said a few kind words. Still colder – then a Padre preached to us & when we were really like ice we were taken outside only to stand there for 30 minutes. By this time paralyses set in & we were marched off to the unheated camp concert hall where we sat for over an hour listening to a lecture on the facts of life. It covered everything from a description of the functions of the various parts of the body to a lengthy dissertation on the difference in the methods of procreation of flowers, fishes, birds & human beings. On the later subject the lectures became quite heated but we were even colder than ever. However he went on and on about women, children, contraception & disease. I think he did his job really well but unfortunately the fellows were on the whole, too old for that sort of thing.

However, that occupied a whole morning of unreleived[sic] frigidity which lunch only temporarily alleviated. After lunch we went back to our freezing room & spent the whole afternoon there being inspected by our Commanding Officer & getting instructions on [one indecipherable word] relating to kit. After tea 3 of us, all frozen, decided to restore the circulation by walking the 3 miles to Bridgnorth & to come back early before total darkness. So that we might walk quickly we didn’t wear great coats but after walking for a mile it started to pelt with rain. However we went on because one of the chaps wanted a hair cut. We didn’t waste any time in the town but nevertheless we were soaked right through before we got back. I intended writing to

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[you] in the evening but by the time I had changed, lit a fire & hung my things up for drying it was too late.

At the moment we have a free hour before lunch & I am writing in my room but of course there is no heat & both my brain & hand are chilled & I feel quite incapable of writing anything sensible.

We are here on a four weeks course but it might stretch to 6[?] weeks. Our Corporal thinks that we will get a 48 hour leave sometime during our stay. He also told us that the R.A.F. don’t recognise as an excuse for being late train delays on account of air raids. For that reason & also to save me having to waste my leave time travelling it might be an idea for you to come to Bridgnorth. Furthermore it would be a change for you and would also enable you [to] have a few nights rest in a bed & without the worry of German planes overhead. If you think you would like to do this let me know and I will make enquiries in the town.

When you write to me, if you have time, tell me every little details of your life – how you feel, how baby progresses, what you do in the house & garden, morning, noon & night, if you are hard up financially – in fact everything about yourself & your doings that you can call to mind. I should like you to send me at your leisure & if you have the cash the following:-
Pyjamas, German Grammar & Dictionary, Black tie, large tine of boot polish Kiwi or Nugget – not Cherry Blossom, R.A.F. shirt collar, 1 pair of R.A.F. (official) socks which I think I left behind, Dishcloth, a little fresh fruit but no other food, soap. I am still very badly constipated & that coupled with the cold makes things rather depressing for the time being. I am swallowing Beechams Pills regularly but they seem to have little effect & even that receding.

Just before leaving Uxbridge I went over to the camp Post Office to enquire about the two letters you sent to me but they could find no trace of them. Goodness knows when, if ever, they will reach me.

We were paid this afternoon & I received the miserable sum of 10/- which is to last me for two weeks. I am not begging for money just yet so don’t send any for I want to see just how much it costs to live here.

The cold is getting too much for me so I will close now. Next time I write I shall try to be a little more coherent & sensible[?]. In the meantime I long to hear from you so don’t disappoint me.

Do look after yourself, my dearest. I love you & want you more than ever. Best wishes to Barbara.

Your loving John.



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 18, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19082.

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