Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Mentions that it is first anniversary and he will try and phone. Describes a great day with frosty but clear weather and his walk in local area. Describes Aberystwyth and mentions another flight member has wife with him and discusses their accommodation solution. Thanks for parcel and her thoughtfulness. Discusses domestic issues and asks her to send woolly socks. Discusses loan of their piano to church. Continues on 6/1/41 with him getting into trouble over blackout and covering general chat on activities.



Temporal Coverage



Eight page handwritten letter


IBCC Digital Archive


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1251404 AC2 Valentine John
D Flight 1 Squadron
Queens Hotel,

Sunday 5/1/41

Darling Ursula, Today is the eve of the first anniversary of our wedding. In about an hours time I am going to have a shot at 'phoning you so that we can exchange wishes for many happy returns of the day, all of them in circumstances slightly happier than tomorrow will be. I have had a perfectly marvellous day. It would have been perfection itself if you had been with me. Last night was again bitterly cold with many degrees of frost as has been the case for several days now. The day dawned with a clear blue sky, no wind & a very smooth sea. Hardly a single cloud has hidden the sun since daybreak & Aberystwyth has been bathed in heavenly sunshine the whole time. I was free after church parade & after a cup of coffee I walked smartly the whole length of the front drinking in the cold crisp pure air. At one end of the front a cliff several hundred feet high rears itself straight from the sea & dominates that end of the town. I ascended this pausing half way up to sit & bask in the sun for half an hour. Despite the early coldness, it was beautifully warm in any sheltered spot & I sat & contemplated the town at my feet with its multitude of chimneys giving vent to a thin column of smoke which stood still above it in the calm atmosphere. Away at the other end of the town could be seen another row of hills reaching down to the sea but looking vague & shadowy in the haze. After dinner Thompson & I set off for a few hours walk, going southwards of the town. Leaving it behind we were soon in fields white with many nights frost rising to low hills all pure white in delightful contrast to the vivid blue of the sky. At this end of the town the land rises to the highest hill in the district, about 700 feet I believe. On its top is an erection like a factory chimney tall & rounded. We ascended to this point & feasted our eyes upon the surrounding hills & valleys all glistening through the sun being reflected by the frost. It was a lovely picture. We came back by a most indirect route by the sides of rivers half frozen, through woods with the trees all feathered with frost & finally along the beach spattered here & there with frozen pools & fragments of ice. I think you would love Aberystwyth, for it attracts me enormously. It is entirely surrounded by smooth undulating hills from 500-700 feet high. Some are wooded, others smooth green while a few are covered with bracken which still has a variety of brownish hues. The cliff at the north end of the town (where we are) is very impressive on account of its steepness but it belies its appearance in that it is really very easy to climb.
One of the fellows in my flight has his wife with him now & she is to stay as long as he does. They have found for her some digs next door to our hotel which according to his description are very suitable. Terms 30/- per week all in, H&C in every room – if hubby wants to have a meal occasionally it costs 1/6d. If he wants to do his swotting there every night – extra cost 1/- per week. I admit that it doesn't look very attractive from the outside & I haven't been inside to explore. I am longing to know how you react to the suggestion of your coming here, so I will hold my peace until I know. Yesterday your packet of tadpoles arrived (how is the congealing & tailing done). You little darling – bothering about me like that. As an obedient husband I shall swallow one after each meal three times a day for 33 1/3 days. Will you make the necessary funeral arrangements for with your superior knowledge you will be able to forecast my early demise with considerably more accuracy than I. Joking apart I deeply appreciate your thoughtfulness & will let you know of any improvement in my condition. My cold was slowly vanishing until three extreme temperatures came along. It is almost impossible to keep comfortably warm in our lecture rooms, barrack rooms or even in bed so that I have had a minor relapse & have lost my sense of taste again.
I am sorry to hear that the tank is causing trouble again. Let me know if you manage to do anything about it. Don't bother to send on my spare undies yet nor another pair of pyjamas. I got that 'amazing blue handkerchief' at Woolworths in Stratford. I hope you mange to solve your domestic help problem – let me know. Could you send me some of my civilian socks so that I can wear them under one pair of RAF blue ones. It will enable my limited stock of those to go farther. Of those that you sent me last, I have already put my large toe through two pairs which I was wearing at the same time with the result that I have only two pairs left until you return some to me. You mentioned in one of your letters sending our piano (or was it lending) to a Club or something of the sort, I am not at all keen on that for I know what communal pianos suffer & even if our isn't too good, its exterior is without much blemish while we could, I hope, get a fair instrument if a little money was spent upon it. I know its going to set a bit of a problem as far as storage is concerned,but do try to avoid having to loan it to the Salvation Army or a Borstal Institution. I will now stop writing for a bit. I am off to the phone & will add a few words to this whether or not I get through to you.
Monday 6/1/41 (written from time to time during Maths lecture) Well, the first anniversary is here. Many many happy returns of it, dear. I want to finish this letter soon & as I usually do a fair amount of waiting during Maths I will scribble a few sentences as & when I can – please excuse it if it gets a bit disconnected from time to time. In my book parcel I forgot to include Irene's gift token which I believe I said in my letter was enclosed. Unless I forget it again you will find it with this. I am sorry & ashamed Ursula to report that I have fallen off my pedestal. It happened on Friday-night-Saturday-morning. It was bitterly bitterly cold in our little attic at the top of the Queens. We haven't got proper doors, just partitions between the rooms the gaps being fitted by rough swinging bits of wood termed doors out of courtesy. It was very draughty & I sleep right under the one window of the room. Who ever had done the blacking out had omitted to shut it so that it was blowing an icy wind right on to me, but I didn't discover this until the following morning. Although I had on every shred of spare clothing that I could muster I was unhappily cold all night & never slept for long at any one stretch. I just dozed on & off miserably all night & my resistance was so weakened in the early morning that I succumbed. I am afraid that it is not going to be so easy to cure myself after having confided in you as I had imagined. I hope that you will bear with me & forgive my failures if they are not too frequent.
This lesson is not going at all as it ought. Our usual lecturer sets us a number of questions & leaves us to our own devices so that I have often had quite a lot of spare time through finishing ahead of the others. Today our usual lecturer has failed to turn up, & his substitute is adopting much more orthodox methods of tuition in that he is giving a proper lecture & it is much more difficult for me to write to you when he is not looking. It was grand being able to speak to you last night although …... dinner time Being suddenly interrupted above I can't remember what I was going to say but I don't suppose it was very important. I have now received the letter dishonestly enclosed with the circular. I am so glad to know that in certain circumstances you would consider coming down here. I shall try as soon as I can to get some useful information if it is at all possible to do so & will pass it on to you just as soon as I can. The parcel you told me about didn't turn up today but it is something for me to look forward to. You are a darling you know. I may have less time to write to you in future for there are very substantial rumours circulating that our working day is to be extended still further. On the other hand gossip also has it that our course is to be extended which is a good thing. Another item of news is that we are all to change to Pilots automatically unless we wish to remain as we are. You may rest assured that I shall stick to observing especially as it probably means an extra delay of a week or two. Must stop to rush this off to the post. I have written it partly in bed, partly in the NAAFI, partly during a lecture, so don't be too critical. Hope you manage to thaw the house without burst pipes. We are still frozen.
Lots of love & many happy returns of today. Yours for ever, John



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 2, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19166.

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