Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Writes of very good weather, daily activities and problems with laundry. Exited about next station although they have not been told about it for security reasons. Postscript adds that postings have now been announced but he was not on list and 30 aircrew would be left behind. Mentions outbreak of skin decease. Continues with financial discussion and domestic matters. Mentions that posting finally listed and he will be sent to Grantham. Wraps up with more mention of activities.



Temporal Coverage



Six page handwritten letter


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1251404 AC2 Valentine
Squad 25 Hut 40
E. Flight
2 Squadron 2 Wing
R.A.F. Station
[underlined] Tuesday 26/11/40 [/underlined]
Dearest Ursula,
I shan’t send this off tonight but I have a few minutes to spare and I can’t think of a better way of employing them than is writing to my own darling wife.
Today has been another gorgeous one – just like those lovely days we had together last week end. The weather has infact, [sic] been really good since last Friday and it does make life so much more pleasant. This morning we had practice AR warning. We had to dress in our anti gas clothing – smelly oil skin capes & hoods – and run out into the fields because the shelters aren’t finished yet. Then we had to lie flat on our stomachs so that our massed white faces wouldn’t be seen from the air and stay with our noses buried in the damp wet grass for thirty minutes Fortunately, the sun being in a genial mood, it wasn’t too nasty and one or two fellows boasted that they even slept.
After lunch we had 30 minutes to shave for the second time today. Change into our best pants, polish our boots (ordinary ones) for about the sixth time & our buttons for the second time – all this for an inspection by our C.O. in preparation for the real show on Thursday. Either I was up to standard or I am rather insignificant because the old blighter hardly even looked at me. After that we were all told to have a hair cut irrespective of the length of our whiskers and so my scalp has been shaved again. I haven’t been in the R.A.F. for six weeks yet but already I have been shorn four times. Three of them here. However, this last one is for Thursdays display and therafter [sic] I ought to be allowed to grow a little more wool to keep the draughts out. This evening I had a lovely shower a real warm soaker in which I had twenty minutes of pure joy.
There are rumours of a minor catastrophe. Our washing is sent to a laundry at Birmingham and gossip has it that the laundry has suffered a fate
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similar to our furniture. This hasn’t been confirmed yet so that we don’t know what they will do about replacing our losses, if any. If the “usual channels” are employed to produce fresh issues of pants, shirts etc. we shall positively “stink” before they arrive. I myself sent shirt, towel, pants & vest and as we have only two of each and my existing ones have been in service for over a week already I shall soon be unable to go anywhere without advertising my presence. [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted]
Have you done your four “fatigues” yet? You know what I mean – the consequences of being my wife – shelter, Beehive, nurse, book keeping. Do let me know what progress you make in each direction.
We are all quite excited about our next station. The Sergeant refused to tell us if we had been posted for the week end let alone drop any hint as to our destination. He said that the information has to be kept secret until the last moment to prevent the enemy from learning any troop movements & deducing theories therefrom. However, there have been fairly broad hints that we shall be leaving here before or at the end of the week. I shall be overjoyed when the time for departure comes for although I am fairly contented now especially since the delightful break which last week end provided. I shall always remember this camp as the place which has, at times, made me more miserable than ever before in my life.
It is amazing how different I have felt since I saw you. It seems to have altered my whole outlook and although it was a great wrench to have to say goodbye to you, I have come back here in a much more cheerful frame of mind, thoroughly refreshed by the joy of seeing you and living with you for two heavenly days.
My green pyjamas which I am now wearing have cooked almost as much derision as the red ones. They are advertised as the “girlish green” ones – but I think that it is only jealousy that inspires the scorn of my fellow internees.
And now dearest, I will shut down for the night. Tomorrow I shall add a few lines & then send it off. Sleep well won’t you darling, and [underlined] do [/underlined] look after yourself. Before I forget, many thanks for buying my ticket back here. I couldn’t have managed it myself. I hope it hasn’t impoverished you.
Sleep well, dear XX.
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[underlined] After lunch Wednesday 27/11/40 [/underlined]
My Dearest Ursula,
While waiting for another of those intimate and rather rude inspections, I will dash off another few lines. Your parcel of socks & fruit arrived this morning and gave me a most unexpected and pleasant surprise. I had not anticipated hearing from you for at least another two days, so that I was more than delighted to hear from you. It was typically sweet of you to write so soon after your return. The fruit was very welcome but alas is no longer. The apple disappeared on its arrival and the orange after lunch.
The postings for our flight have just been announced [deleted] by [/deleted] but mine was not included. It seems that all bar Aircrew are posted for Friday morning and that about 30 of us will be left behind. We may be posted any time, but after our passing out. I shall try to glean a little more information about my probable wherabouts [sic] next week. In the meantime, I suggest that you and Barbara make any arrangements you like for her few days leave and if, by any chance, I should learn something about myself, I will try to ‘phone and see if we can fit anything together. Mind you, I think it extremely unlikely that we shall be able to arrange anything so don’t hope for too much.
The reason for the “rude” inspection this afternoon is that there has been a minor outbreak of skin disease in one of the huts of this Flight. They have all come from one hut (not ours) but as a precaution the M.O. is coming round to inspect us all shortly.
This morning we had another inspection in preparation for tomorrow – this time from the Officer in charge of our Wing. I, as usual, attracted no special attention, this of course was not a medical inspection but one of kit, deportment, polished boots & buttons etc.
So far, today has been reminiscent of the first few days of our stay here. We have been on parade twice and each entailed about 1 hours standing in the cold – and today it is cold. The rest of the time we have spent awaiting events in these unheated huts and very shortly, when the M.O. turns up, we shall have to undress to display ourselves to him. You can imagine that we are all pretty chilly just now – I hope that there won’t be another outbreak of colds & coughs for most of the chaps are getting rid of these early ones.
In your letter, you more or less put your fingers to your nose & point them at me over my hint that you should transfer £4.2.8 to Sundries a/c.
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However I merely shrug my shoulders in a derisive fashion and laugh at your ignorance. It doesn’t matter two hoots if you have only £7.10.0 in House a/c and have spent more than that sum. It will be rectified by the next monthly credit of £4, so please dear make the entry just for my sake no matter how stupid you think I am. You see, according to my calculation £4 per month should be more than adequate for household expenses and the £7.10.0 I gave you represented the first months £4 plus £3.10.0 for unpaid bills. If you are slightly overspent at any time, the position ought automatically to right itself by regular monthly provisions.
I am so glad that you liked Priors Marston & that you enjoyed last week end despite the trouble with Irene. As I told you, I loved every minute of it that I spent with you and after reading your description of how you felt I think we may safely conclude that we get on pretty well together.
Look here, darling, it is getting very cold in this ice box and my hand is beginning to seize up so I shall stop now and return to the attack when the temperature is a little more to my liking
[underlined] Wednesday evening [/underlined]
Now to a final attempt to complete this letter. I have just returned from ‘phoning you. It was grand to hear your voice again and to speak to you but as is usually the case on such occasions I didn’t quite know what to say to you in the limited time at our disposal. As I told you, the cost of the call will be charged against you on the next account. It should be 1/4 but I don’t know if there was any excess on account of time.
Shortly after I had stopped writing this afternoon on account of the cold, we were told to commence undressing for the “rude” inspection at 2.30 and being by now thoroughly subdued, we obeyed like good airmen. As I said, it was chilly in any case but stripped to the waist with a jersey flung over the shoulders was infinitely worse but like that we had to wait until at 4.15 the Corporals came to the hut to tell us that the F.F.I. (as it is called) was postponed until tomorrow. Would you beleive [sic] it? A whole afternoon wasted, most of it half stripped, in an unheated hut on a cold afternoon near the beginning of [deleted] Nov [/deleted] [inserted] Dec [/inserted] ember. Of course we were furious & were giving vent to our annoyance by a display of mad rowdyism when a fellow with a sheet of paper in his hand entered the hut. It was the notice of our postings on Friday. We had previously been depressed because we were the only fellows from
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the flight not to be posted and this news coming as it did after the futile & chilly wait sent the fellows almost mad with joy and excitement. They behaved like children at school, dancing shouting nay shrieking even kissing one another in their delerium. [sic]
As I told you, we are to be sent to Grantham. I haven’t been able to look it up on a map but I have passed through it by train many times and know it to be much more accessible from London than this place. I should also imagine that it will be nearer Priors Marston but I am guessing on that score. It is on the main L.N.E.R route to Scotland and is a fair sized town. Of course I can’t tell you yet whether we can arrange anything for next week for you and Barbara but I will see what I can do and will ‘phone if possible during the week end. I imagine though that Grantham won’t be nearly so pleasant as Bridgnorth for a few days holiday. It is much more like a city and the country in the neighbourhood, if I remember correctly, is much flatter and far less interesting. I think that this town is in Lincs. and not far from the bulb growing country which should give you some idea of the scenic possibilities.
This will be my last letter to you from Bridgnorth. I am heartily glad to get away from the camp because at times I have loathed it intensely. I hope the new place will be better but we have no idea what it will be like nor do we know if we shall be in a camp or in billets.
We are still anxiously awaiting news of our washing. It hasn’t turned up yet and another story is circulating that the laundry itself has not been bombed but the water supply to it was hit last week. If this is true, though mind you, I don’t beleive [sic] it any more than any of the myriads of rumours that float about, we ought at last to get our things back even if they are unwashed. I hope so, because the situation will soon be very serious, my present shirt for instance has seen at least ten days service
Nearly all the boys are in Bridgnorth tonight celebrating the news of their forthcoming release from this unpopular spot. I imagine that we more sober spirits in the hut will have to put up with a deal of noise & possible violence when they return. Some of them have been drinking every evening this week – on Monday they were particularly noisy on their return and two of them were violently sick soon after they got back to camp.
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Tomorrow they will have another celebration to mark their last night here and that promises to be the rowdiest of all. What a pity it is that they can’t give way to their feelings in a less objectionable (from my point of view, at least) manner. Sometimes one or two of them ask for special permission to stay out late while we go to be [sic] normally at 10-15. Then at midnight they will come blundering in, shouting stupidly and kicking chairs etc without a single thought for those who are striving to sleep. [deleted] Yet [/deleted] On Tuesday night I apparently coughed a lot during the night and woke up my neighbour who is one of the noisy crew. On the following day he remonstrated with me several times often quite rudely and made me very wild with him for his utter disregard for anyone else.
I haven’t yet had a letter from Barbara. Has she sent one? I mention this only because you said something about it and I heard that a letter arrived for me last Saturday and was sent back to the Flight Office. Enquiries for it have since been made but no satisfaction obtained. On Monday one from Stewart arrived so it may be that it was his which came on Saturday.
I think I have disposed of everything on my mind now, dearest. I can’t expect a letter from you alas until I give you my new address unless there is one in the N.S & N which you told me about on the ‘phone. Could you please send me a few stamps when you write?
I hope that we shall be able to arrange for you to come up to Grantham on Monday but I think it unlikely, so don’t turn down any opportunities that may present themselves to Barbara & you for occupying her holiday. Give her my very kind regards and tell her to look after you as well as you try to look after her. She is jolly lucky in having you to tend to her wants and to pour out all her woes upon, but I think she realises it.
I hope you manage to arrange something satisfactory about the shelter and that you are able to fix up with Nurse Kerr too.
Until I write again or we meet again (happy thought) all my best love – you darling girl.
I am [indecipherable word] of affection for you



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 19, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19107.

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