Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Writes it was wonderful to spend two days with her. Mentions journey back to camp. Describes activities and intensive training for passing out parade. Mentions cook house fatigues, food preparation and free cake. Goes on with more description of daily activities and that they have not yet been told when they are to leave. Asks her to only send letters until he can send new address.



Temporal Coverage



Four page handwritten letter


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1251404 AC2 Valentine
Hut 40 Squad 25
E Flight
2 Squadron 2 Wing
R.A.F. Station

My Dearest Ursula,

This will probably be only a short note because it is fairly late in the evening already and I shall have to start on my polishing & cleaning shortly.

How wonderful it was to be with you again for those two precious days. I loved every minute of them except for the unfortunate periods when you were so upset. I pray that they will never recur for you ought to be spared every unnecessary worry. It was lovely to see you again & to be with you for 24 hours a day and in comparative peace. I look forward with all my heart to the next [deleted] indecipherable word [/deleted] chance of heavenly freedom with my own darling wife.

I hope your return to Hendon was safe and pleasant and that you had no tears after my departure & before you go back to Hendon; and indeed, after that too.

I had many uneasy moments after leaving you about the possibility of getting back to camp in good time but luckily everything turned out quite nicely. The train was over half an hour late in leaving Leamington because the railway in B’ham had been badly bombed, one tunnel entrance being hit. The train should have been a “through” to W’ton but we were told before we left that it would go to the Moor St Stn & that we would have to walk to Snow Hill Stn and that when enough W’ton bound people arrived at Snow Hill a special train would be run. We made good progress to B’ham but had a longish wait outside the Moor St. Stn then to our great joy we puffed through the station & into the bombed tunnel which had only just been cleared & so we got to snow hill without a change. The platforms of this station were thick with glass from the roof and we waited then for some 30 minutes but after leaving we had no more delays and arrived at W’ton at 8 o’clock. The last B’north bus leaving at 8.15. I arrived here at 9.30

The first morning back wasn’t pleasant. We all anticipated a few hectic days of intensive training for the passing out parade on Thursday but those in our hut were sadly disappointed. We paraded expectantly as

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usual at 8.15 brushed and polished only to receive the order to get into overalls & report to the cook house for a mornings fatigues. I spent a fairly varied time there starting with the boiler room scrubbing party (boilers being enormous cast iron saucepans or vats in which half a hundredweight of veg at a time can be boiled). This job was very wet, greasy and dirty and [deleted] was [/deleted} occupied us until 10.30 when we were given a mug of tea. Thereafter I transferred my attention to a meat mincer & alternately with a fellow sufferer I fed the machine and turned the handle. The monotony was to some extent relieved by a W.A.A.F from the next table cutting cake, who periodically surreptitiously slipped a slice into my hand. Having disposed of the meat I was instructed to render a few thousand slices of bread into crumbs for fish cakes. This job too had its compensation for I had to work at a bench on the lower shelves of which were stored the tins of cake cut up by the WAAFs. It was extraordinary how many slices of cake appeared to spring from the piles of sliced bread and I put “paid” to the accounts of quite a few. I then graduated to pot washing for the remainder of the morning which was completed by a “fatigues dinner” which is supposed to be the reward for our labours. It really was a blow out & I left the cook house feeling like a balloon.

In the afternoon we had the first inspection of our ceremonial boots, mine exciting no comments from Hell Cat who has now returned from leave. He proved to be in a thoroughly good frame of mind for he took us for half an hours arms drill and then dismissed us with instructions to spend the rest of the afternoon polishing again & again our boots and buttons.

We have not been told when we are to leave here, but as far as we can guess it will be Friday or Saturday. The destination, as yet, being unknown. Although my ceremonial boots are very poor, mainly because I wore them so much and spoilt the makers polish. I have no qualms about the Passing Out parade except that I am more than a little worried about arms drill. Our hut has been particularly unfortunate nearly every time the flight has had arms drill because we have either been on a fatigue or in disgrace or arrived at the rifle store after the other huts only to find all the rifles taken so that we have had to [deleted] finish up [/deleted] put up with broomsticks. As a broom stick hasn’t got a trigger or any of the other parts of a rifle it is very difficult to memorise the drill because there are quite a number of different movements in the whole of the syllabus.

I feel very tired after the week end. The two nights we spent together were quite short as far as sleep is concerned & last night I did a lot of polishing etc

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before settling down to sleep. Today we have had lots of food and little exercise so that I am rather drowsy just now.

I hope you found Barbara well when you got back and that she had managed by herself during the week end.

Whether it is the noise of the other blokes in the room, or the poor light or my tiredness I don’t know but I can think of little to say to you. Of course it is little over 24 hours since I saw you last and not much has happened since so perhaps you will excuse my lack of topics.

Don’t send anything but letters to me until you get my new address. If I am posted in a hurry I will try to send a wire letting you know roughly where I am being sent but if I am given good notice I will write as soon as I am told.

Oh damn it, dear, I know I am writing drivel – it must reaction from the ecstasies of the week end – for I feel in a thoroughly stupid mood, unable to think at all or to move my pen when it touches paper so please may I stop.

My darling – the week end was lovely. It was pure unalloyed pleasure to have you to kiss and kiss again. Your company makes all the difference in the world to me and the deprivation of it is the R.A.F’s biggest blow to me.

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It is, of course, impossible to guess when my next leave will be – I bet you that I look forward to it more than you. I am not mentioning stakes for I know that you wont pay even if you lose.

I bitterly regret Irene’s defection on Saturday. I can say nothing to excuse her but please do try to forgive her – I know you can do it and you wont lose anything by it. I don’t think you will have any more trouble like that for the sight of you in tears showed the family that some people are very sensitive.

Must stop now dearest. I long for a letter from you.

All my love & affection




John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19104.

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