Letter from John Valentine to his wife



Letter from John Valentine to his wife


Thanks her for her letters. Apologises for his awful writing. Describes camp and day to day activities. Covers RAF ranks and badges. Mentions his instructors and training schedule. Concludes with domestic and finance matters as well as general banter.



Temporal Coverage



Six page handwritten letter


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E Flight
2 Squadron 2 Wing
R.A.F. Station


My Dearest Ursula

Your letter was a most delightful surprise. I had not expected one from you so soon & was truly grateful for it. I felt really excited when I was tearing open the envelope just like a school boy being given a present. Your earlier letter sent to me at Uxbridge and the two which you forwarded to me there located me yesterday so for two days in succession I have had some more. Todays[sic] was the most enjoyable though – I thoroughly appreciated all you wrote & can do with a whole heap more, I tell you. By the way, I hope you will forgive my awful scrawl & the way I cramp this writing. The first is due to the awkwardness of having to use my knees as a pad in addition to the distraction of a roomful of lewd men, and my inherent inability to write well. The second is my effort to economise in writing paper more in my [one indecipherable word] interest [one indecipherable word] that of the nation.

By the way, again, you nittoo, I live in [underlined]HUT [/underlined] 40 not HOT. My God! None of them is hot although just at the moment I am quite warm. On Saturdays we are allowed to light the fire at 12.30 & being leave time most of the fellows have gone down to Bridgnorth. It has pelted with rain almost incessantly since Thursday & this afternoon the heavens are [one indecipherable word] opening & a really continuous deluge is descending on the camp so I am luckier than most of the other boys in having a lovely & loving wife to write to instead of being forced, for want of anything better to do, to brave the storm to seek amusement out of camp.

There are so many things that I could tell you that I hardly know where to begin. In any case I might bore you so please tell me frankly if you dont[sic] want me to bother you with a recital of all my little details.

This camp is divided into 4 wings & each has two Squadrons. The latter are divided into Flights & ours consists of 7 but I don’t know if they all do

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Our Flight comprises 6 Huts each of 30 fellows but there again I don’t know if each Flight is the same size. I am also still a little hazy as to who commands us but we have had a lecture from our “Commanding Officer” but whether he commands a Squadron Flight or [one indecipherable word] I don’t know. He is a young chap very tall thin & pale with a rather lined face, quietly spoken with an unassuming manner.

The R.A.F. ranks are – AC2 & AC1 – neither has any badge or other indication of rank – or lack of it. Then Leading Aircraftman – wear propellors[sic] on sleeve. Then Corporal – 2 stripes – he is a junior N.C.O. Then Sergeant 3 strips. Then Flight Sergeant 3 stripes & brass badge – Senior N.C.O. Then Warrant Officer – wears uniform of officers material no bands on sleeve but a cloth coat of arms. Then Commissioned Ranks – Pilot Officer, Flying Officer etc.

A Corporal is in charge of each hut & they are all qualified P.T. Instructors & each drills his own hut. Ours is a particularly nice chap – a volunteer formerly gym master at a school near Arbroath. Our Flight Sergeant is also a particularly nice type of fellow – uneducated of course. He speaks like an old Cockney woman of the Char type & even has a face like one. On parade he doesn’t bark like most of them & is always full of encouragement. Off parade he is very human & I like him enormously. Our Warrant Officer is a young man – for the job – just a little over 30 but he is of an altogether different type. He is a real live wire – he snaps at one rather than talks & when he is roused he is just fury personified. I heard him go for a fellow who was walking about the parade ground with his coat unbuttoned & a pipe in his mouth. He was just like a hell cat (whatever that is) & went for the poor blighter like Hitler at Schusony[??]. Our Corporal says though that he really is one of the best if you behave yourself & approach him with tact.

Our training commences in real earnest on Monday & there won’t be much time to spare then. It is called a disciplinary camp & believe me it lives up to that name. We are in for hours of parade, marching, drill, P.T. & lectures – breakfast is now at 6.45 & there is no respite after that until 6.30 p.m. Up till now we have been doing fatigues, e.g. spells in the cook house, digging, preparing the gym for church parade – camp messages etc.

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You are right in paying the telephone bill out of the house %. I had expected it to be fairly stiff because I know about the war surcharge and the trunk calls re Barbaras[sic] holiday. The David Balme[?] £3 is not a [inserted] real [?] [/inserted] complication & the correct way to deal with it is to open a separate a/c for it & not confuse it with other “sundries”[?]

I am very mystified about the Local Fuel [?] overseers communication. What is meant by “basic quantities?” Does it mean that in the event of rationing being introduced, your basic quantities on your maximum permissable purchases. I should call on him, if I were you & find out. If he says “yes” ask him upon what basis he arrived at these figures and then protest against them. I have no idea yet what our normal annual consumption is, but I would point out to him that as far as coke is concerned our demand for it is steady throughout the year – more or less & suggest a basic allowance of 1 ton a quarter or alternatively 1 ton for the first & last quarter and 15 cwt. For the 2nd & 3rd. The latter is only ½ ton more than more than his total allowance. With regard to the coal tell him your an allowance of 15 cwt for Oct – Dec compared with 1 ton 15 cwt for Jan – Mar. is bloody silly. I would suggest increasing the allowance for the last quarter to 1 ton 10 cwt & as a [one indecipherable word] reducing the allowance for the first quarter with same figure.

I am almost certain that Belulas[?] figures are correct but there [underlined] is [/underlined]
a [one indecipherable word] estimate in my file. We pay this – so far as is possible out of our joint P.O. Savings Bank & thereafter out of Savings Certs in your name. If you will call at a P.O. and ask for a withdrawal form for an a/c in joint names (there is one in the desk, I think) send it to me with our joint Book. I will fill the form in send it back to you for your signature & at the same time tell [deleted] me [/deleted] [inserted] you [/inserted] how many certificates to withdraw.

I don’t want a Hot Water Bottle. I am quite warm when I get to into bed & only yesterday we were issued with an extra blanket each. We now have five so we can’t grumble on that score.

I no longer look like a bunny in a panto in my boiler suit. It was been taken away & I have been given instead a much better one so far as its size is concerned, but I haven’t worn it yet & cannot tell you what I look like.

“Schussing”[?] – I apologise – “Schuschnigg” but you did know whom I meant didn’t you?

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I hope you have fixed up with Mrs Miskleys[?] successor! Do let me know if you have -what she is like – what hours she is to work & what you are to pay her.

As far as my people and their country house concerns you – please don’t consider doing anything or agreeing to anything merely for political reasons! I want you to fall in with their arrangements on [one indecipherable word] only so far as they coincide with your own wishes. I am as much against interference as your mother. Nevertheless, I like in principle the idea of the birth taking place at their house and of the possibility of having our own furniture installed. Regarding Christmas we must await events. It is very difficult for me to be of much help [deleted] as far [/deleted] in making arrangements for babys[sic] entry into this world but if you want me to do anything let me know. Otherwise make all arrangements yourself & I know that they will be quite satisfactory.

By all means let mother do all your nappies if she really wants to. If you are glad to be rid of the job – so much the better.

I am not sure about a tin of jam but I can try. Send it soon otherwise I might leave before it is finished. If you can include an opener will you do so! It is impossible to borrow things from the Naafi & you know my income. A jar would be better I think & could be sent in a larger tin with other things should you happen to be sending anything.

No – I meant Silvo. We were advised to start using it after about 1 month of the usual Brasso. Apparently it produces a much brighter shine.

I think I have now disposed of all the points in your letters – now to deal with your parcels. First of all the cake is lovely and is being carefully [one indecipherable word] but nevertheless it shrinks after use. I am returning the tine just in case you want to fill it again. Thanks for the black tie. I am now wearing it & sending my R.A.F. one to you. Will you iron it for me? Thanks for the pyjamas. I am sending back a dirty pair but dont[sic] return them yet. I dont[sic] want more than two pairs. I am also sending [inserted] back [/inserted] a few surplus handkerchiefs. The fruit was very welcome although one of the apples was badly bashed. I have missed a pair of brown wollen[sic] socks, have you got them. I am enclosing a pair of socks for darning. It is a pair knitted by your mother – very comfortable but a little small hence the whole[sic] in the toe. My other dirty socks are intact & I have washed them myself. I am sending

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also, two brushes issued by the R.A.F. – well you keep them handy just in case I am asked to produce them for inspection? I have disposed of “Anna” and also “Guilty Men”. I too enjoyed (?) the latter if that word correctly describes the sensation it produces in one. I would like another book to read & wonder if you could get from the library one of Mary Webb’s[?]. Not “Precious Bane”[?] or the “Something coloured Arrow” (I forget its colour – golden or green). I enjoyed these two so much that I would like to read another by the same hand. I will now start another attempt at German & pray for more success than previously. By the way, I believe that there is a book in circulation now called “The answer to guilty Men”. I think it is a cheap one (6d) so could you see if you can get it?

Since my last letter to you the weather has temporarily relented & we have had two lovely days – Thurs. & Fri. On Thurs. your letter & parcel arrived and added to the exhileration [sic] produced by the absence of rain. They were full days – each filled by 6 hours of drill and one of P.T. On Friday evening we were given another inoculation 3 times more powerful than the one at Uxbridge. It has upset nearly all the fellows and we are excused duty for 48 hours but confined to camp. I don’t feel very ill but I have a very tender arm, slight headache & a feeling of sickness. Four fellows were unable to get up for breakfast & at least half the hut is in bed just now. I went back to bed after breakfast because the hut was so cold but being Saturday we are allowed fires at 12.30. I am sitting snugly by one just now really warm for a change.
Today the weather has reverted to normal – it has pelted continuously since daybreak so the fact that we are confined to camp isn’t making much difference. Luckily we haven’t had any parades because of the inoculation & have therefore escaped renewed[?] soakings.

On Thurs. evening I wrote solidly – Jones the fellow I met at Uxbridge – Don, Freeman, Moss & Cole (the Air Observer) were all favoured with letters. Last night I went to see “Love from a Stranger” and enjoyed it thoroughly. I shan’t[?] go to the camp cinema again though. They still rely on the conbined [one indecipherable word] heat of the audience to produce a bearable temperature and I was almost frozen. Because of the inoculation I have not had my

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Punishment of two days in the cook house yet – but I haven’t heard if it has been waived or merely deferred. I hope not the latter for I have been confined to camp for a week now – 4 days on fire picket & 2 inoculation. We have regular nightly warnings here and occasional daily ones. Bridgnorth itself was bombed slightly[?] recently. We are not far from B’ham [Birmingham] & can see their barrage balloons on clear days.

There is just one more thing I want to say. Reluctantly – very reluctantly I am going to ask for money. I have got only 3/6 to last until Thursday & it is obvious now that I shall have to borrow. Will you send me a few shillings – not more than 5/- so that I will be able to repay and not start with my pay reduced for that purpose. I bitterly regret having to ask for money but I have no option now. Perhaps if the R.A.F. start paying me the full rate of 1/6 a day instead of the paltry 9d I may be able to live on my earnings. At any rate I shall do my best to avoid asking you again because the cost of the things you have sent me & are still to send including postage must have an appreciable effect on your own budget.

I have now been on this letter for about two hours & can think of very little more to tell you. Keep well & cheerful won’t you – I love you more than ever & look forward to being with you sometime. That reminds me – I knew I had forgotten something. I have had no hard facts regarding this leave question but from the best of my information it appears that we don’t get leave until the completion of our course probably 3 weeks hence – But & I am afraid it is a big “but” most Air Crew & Ground Defence [one indecipherable word] are posted immediately upon the completion of their course & do not get their first leave until they settle down in their new surroundings. Furthermore I understand that “posting” cannot be forseen [sic] & is very sudden so that even if leave is granted when the course is finished it may be cancelled if one is posted between the time of granting & the time of enjoying the leave, so I can’t be at all sure as to when I will next be able to kiss you & I can merely hope that it will not be long.

In the meantime, I send you all my love. Don’t take my remarks about your Mother’s moaning[?] too seriously. I repent of having written them already – just please yourself.


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John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 12, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19086.

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