Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


He writes about their arrangements for meeting at Christmas. Continues with recollection of her recent visit and about his training activities. Writes about a mansion which has converted its stables into a Services Canteen. Catches up with family and friends news.



Temporal Coverage



Four page handwritten letter


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1251404 AC [inserted] 2 [/inserted] Valentine
5/2 Flight, 9 R.W.,
Stratford Hotel
Stratford on Avon
[underlined] Friday [/underlined] 20/12/40
My Darling Ursula,
Until your letter arrived 2 minutes ago I was afraid that you had forgotten your promise to me to write as soon as you arrived home. I am so glad to know that you made it without incident and I pray that you are none the worse for those glorious we had together.
I am in a bit of a maze about this Xmas business. A telegram arrived yesterday from someone named Valentine asking me to ‘phone in the evening. [deleted] The only [/deleted] It was described as originating from London – nothing else – and I was and still am sorely perplexed as to whether you sent it or my people. After many attempts at subtle reasoning I argued that as I had written to them on the subject of Xmas & that there were one or two unnecessary words in the address and a “please” in the message, [deleted] the [/deleted] it had come from my Father so I spent yesterday evening vainly trying to ‘phone them. Today another telegram, obviously from you arrived. The address was exactly the same and the word “please” appeared again so I am now wondering whether you sent both. Last night, priority calls only were being accepted by the telephone service & all my attempts to get through to Barnet were fruitless. Now I am puzzled as to why you are coming to Stratford though I am not in the least sorry. I long to have you here again. But have my folks refused to have us, or can’t they give you a lift down to P.M. or what?? I know that in due course I shall find out but I am mystified just now. I shall try ‘phoning you tonight.
Two points from your letter dearest.
[circled 1] I shan’t bother about a card to the Chalmers, don’t you either
(2) Bring my washing etc with you when you come.
I haven’t yet booked a room but will do so tomorrow, for then, being a Saturday, I shall have plenty of time. As regards meeting on Xmas Eve, I will be at the Station in time for the train you came on before, so don’t leave the station without me for
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you won’t know where to go. By the way, I have just popped into the Falcon to enquire about accomodation, [sic] but they are absolutely full up for Xmas – having been booked for months.
It was just as well that you left when you did, for we have been very busy ever since. Your stay here was a period of the most positive form of joy that I have ever experienced. I shall always love Stratford for those few walks in such lovely weather by the placid river with its trees, lawns and swans; for those almost clandestine meetings in the café after my meals; for the exquisite pleasure of waking you in the morning and kissing you in bed; for the glorious lazy hours by the firesides of the Falcon puzzling over the chess board; and for the final might of bliss sleeping together – marred only by Jane barking at the sublime moments when I was about to pass from the heavenly consciousness that you were by my side to what I hoped would be untroubled oblivion. However, we shall be able to give Jane a sedative or knock her on the head on future occasions, if any.
The days since you left have been fully occupied but very boring – except for Maths lectures. We have done drill ad nauseum, a little pseudo P.T., and had Sunday lectures from the M.O. (about our old friend venereal disease), from the Education Officer (on Air Force Law) [deleted] an [/deleted] from a real big bug in the Air Force, a full blooded Air Commodore and even one from your friend Metcalfe. That one was a positive joy for he stuttered in an incredible fashion, finished very few of his sentences and used the most awful slang expressions such as “sure” pronounced “Shoor” “Oh Boy” “and how”.
Three spots of humour – at least they strike me that way.
[circled 1] A corporal seeing a lot of us standing idle on a street pavement bawled out “GET FELL IN”
[circled 2] Hitler was about to pay a visit of inspection to a lunatic asylum & in anticipation the inmates were given instructions, repeated instructions, to raise the right arm in the Nazi salute and to shout “Heil Hitler” as soon as the Führer entered their respective wards. In due course Hitler entered a certain room and everyone obeyed orders, with one exception. Hitler of course was furious with this [inserted] man [/inserted] and shouted & roared in his usual way asking for the reason for the mans failure to salute as the others had done. The reply he received was “I am a doctor, sir, not a lunatic
(3) From Lilliput (you may have seen it) Hitler slinking up to Goering & trying to keep out of sight of a passer by. He says to Goering “Get that man locked up. I have decorated his house for him”
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[underlined] Two hours later[/underlined]I have now made several more abortive efforts to ‘phone you but the invariable reply was “Priority Calls only – Indefinite Delay for others” I think it would be a mere waste of time to try yet again so I shall content myself with finishing this letter and have another telephone session tomorrow night, by which time I hope to have secured a room for you at Christmas.
Very little has happened since Wednesday morning that is worth passing on to you. The drill which we have been doing is extremely dull for owing to the limited accomodation [sic] (streets)the movements which we can carry out are restricted to a very small number. In addition we march to & from the town over a dozen times a day and we have to step it out in a most uncomfortably stiff & proper fashion. Owing to your departure the town has lost the glamour & lustre which seemed to cling to it when it was graced by your prescence. [sic]
The socks that you washed for me on Tuesday aren’t dry yet. During the day we are not allowed to have anything hanging about the billets & in the evenings usually a score of fellows cluster round the only fire permitted by H.M. the King. By the way the towel you brought for me wasn’t the Air Force one, was it? It seems too thin & worn although it certainly has a little more body to it than the holy pink one.
About 200 yards from here is a very large mansion, standing in its own grounds. It boasts amongst its many signs of opulence a large & sturdily built stable with two storeys. The owners have very generously converted the top floor into a Services canteen and have made a really good job of it. There are three rooms, the largest of which now contains a table tennis table, piano, dart board bagatelle & a wireless. The centre room – little more than a passage is the kitchen where they serve coffee (made with milk) & other beverages and buns, sandwiches etc at NAAFI prices while the third has a lovely brick open fire (like the Falcon) a dozen or so chairs & settees, two tables and scores of magazines. Of course it is small & very crowded but it is warm comfortable and inexpensive and [deleted] feels [/deleted] provides something which the town lacks in the way of catering for exiles like myself. The young ladies who staff the show are all very “county” but as none of them attracts me very much I don’t intend complaining to the management.
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I hope that Barbara arrived home safely & that she was not too bored by her stay here. I think that the change & rest should have done her at least a little good.
Isn’t this an odd Christmas? Usually, at this time of year, the shops are ablaze of an evening and packed to capacity with scurrying mortals carrying innumerable brown paper parcels. An air of expectancy pervades the atmosphere for weeks before, presents are planned, purchased & posted, everybodies [sic] wants are taken into consideration & one tries to drop hints as to ones own needs. This year is quite different. Christmas might never exist for all the hints that we in the RAF have of it. Very few of us will get parcels owing to the constant changes in our location & the danger of sending anything. We have no money to buy others what we want, we shan’t even be at home & unless we are as lucky as I am to be, we shan’t have our loved ones (if any) with us. Blooming odd, I calls it.
Now dearest, for lack of anything to report I shall close down soon. I loved your coming here & every single minute of the time we were together (except when Jane barked). How long you will be able to stay next week I don’t know but I am looking forward to having you here again more than I can ever tell you. Look after yourself always dear, & don’t strain yourself on the way down by trying to carry too much. I hope you will have an uneventful [indecipherable word] & that the train won’t keep us apart by being an hour or two late.
I hope soon to have the telegram and Christmas mysteries unravelled.
Until we meet again, my dear, fondest love from your affectionate



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19156.

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