Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Long letter starts by thanking her for parcel which arrived on their anniversary. Reported that he had a disappointing interview with his CO which included discussion on whether it was likely that he could change from observer to pilot. Describes visiting a local maternity nursing home. Then there is a long section which discusses reasons for and against her coming to stay in Aberystwyth with problems, and solutions. Reasons for are bombings in London and against that he might be posted suddenly leaving her in Aberystwyth. Asks that she lets him know her views on the matter. Concludes with description of his day.



Temporal Coverage



Ten page handwritten letter


This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.




1251404 AC2 Valentine
D Flight 1 Squadron
Queens Hotel,

Tuesday 7/1/41

My Dearest Ursula, This will probably be another very scrappy missive for I am starting it during a Maths period – as before. Your lovely parcel did arrive on the anniversary after all. It was awaiting me when we finished another busy day at 5.30 pm & was a more than pleasant surprise. Again I can only say thank you very much my darling for all your acts of thoughtfulness. I loved the parcel, especially the album which brought back so many happy memories. I pray that we may be able to complete hundreds & hundreds of similar collections & that ….....8 hours later Another sudden interruption caused the above stoppage & I can't remember what else I was going to say. Anyway I loved the album, and the cake – what a lovely surprise that was. It was too precious to produce at tea time to be shared amongst the raucous hordes of airmen but I took it down to tea with me & managed to conceal it on my lap. Intentionally I ate very slowly until only Thompson & I were left at our table. I then produced it & gave him a slice (small) & took just a small piece myself. I have saved sufficient for a few more bites but I am going to be greedy & eat it all myself when no one else is looking. Liking my room mate so little, I fail to see why I should hand around that which means as much to me as a piece of my own wedding cake carefully saved for a whole year. Thank you too, my dearest for the 5/- which arrived when I had only 1 1/2d left. I shall try to avoid making too many demands on your purse for we ought to economise as much as we can. And now my dear, I have a lot to say to you, more notes to write up & a bit of Law revision for a test tomorrow so must step on it.
First of all I asked for & had an interview with my CO last night. As I expected he was unable to enlighten me at all. All postings, you see, come from Ruislip & local officers have no knowledge of them beforehand let alone any sort of control. I asked him if he considered that my remaining as an Observer instead of changing to Pilots as most fellows are doing would retard me at all but he couldn't express an opinion. The position is that up till now Observers have been making notoriously slow progress owing to 'failed Pilots' re-mustering as Observers thus causing a sort of bottleneck since they are partly trained & go in ahead of brand new Observers. But owing to the recent policy of allowing Observer entrants to remuster, the reduced number of waiting Observers might be swallowed up more quickly. On the other hand there may still be so many waiting that delay is more than likely. All he could say was what I had guessed namely that I shall certainly be here for 10 weeks & probably for a few weeks longer.
Now about a nursing home. In break time this morning I had time to slip over to the town publicity office to find out that there is one general hospital here & one county nursing home for maternity cases only abut no private homes. By an extraordinary piece of luck I was free today at 4 pm because the organised games afternoon had not functioned probably owing to the frozen state of the ground, so I took full advantage of it by popping up to the Maternity Nursing home. I did not see the matron, who was off duty, but I saw instead a nurse who did not appear to be very interested in my plight. However, she told me this much: that she thought that the private wards were booked up for some months ahead: that you could be admitted to a general ward: that the terms are £3.3.0 per week: that visiting days to the general ward are Monday & Thursday evenings only. She said that if we had an interview with the Matron she might be able to let us have a private ward for you, but she didn't think that it was at all likely. Also she said, but I don't know if she meant it, that she would want a definite booking within a fortnight. Not very satisfied, I left & called in again at the town publicity dept.& told a woman that I wasn't too pleased with my information. She, I think, was very sympathetic & probably realised my difficulties & gave me the name & address of a doctor, who she said, would give me every assistance & soon put the nursing home in its place if it proved at all fractious. I don't think that the latter is likely to be the reason. The nurse just saw before her a man in the uniform of the lower RAF rank & decided not to encourage him too much in case he was just making idle enquiries.
We now have to make up our minds & these are the main considerations – First FOR 1) London is definitely not the best place for an expectant Mother – in the last stages – even if she were not my wife. 2) a few weeks of the quiet & health of Aber. would be beneficial on those counts alone. 3) We should have one another's company until mid March at least. Second AGAINST 1) I might be whisked off to somewhere else just when the baby was due to arrive. 2) If there is no private ward, the visiting times of the general (containing 5 people) are limited to two occasions per week. 3) when you come out of the home you will be unable to face the journey home to Hendon with a small babe.
Now to argue away the AGAINSTs 1) When I am posted from here it will definitely be too late to make arrangements for you to come to my new place to produce your child. 2) as you will know nobody here, a general ward of only five might be better for you because the hours alone in a private ward might be very tedious. 3) Two possible solutions to this: firstly to hire a car to take you back to Hendon. On the other hand I think that till you become a normal woman the further you stay away from London the better for your own health & the baby's, & you of course will be feeding her/him. Secondly that we try to find a furnished flat here to which you could go with baby – possibly indefinitely, possibly until you feel strong enough to return home & to brave the bombs. Against that there is the practical certainty that I shall be away from here by the time you leave the nursing home, so that you would be awfully lonely.
It certainly is a bit of a teaser but I have reasoned it out in this way. 1) I regard it as of paramount importance that you leave London as soon as possible. 2) I regard it as of almost equal importance that you don't go back until a) You are sufficiently strong and b) that raids on the capital cease. 3) The fact that we would be together for most of the remainder of your 'condition' & probably (or just possibly) until baby in born means a lot to me (which should be ignored) but might even mean something to you. 4) I certainly won't know of my next habitation in time to make any arrangements there. Therefore Aber is the only place that we can consider to meet all these considerations.
What I suggest is therefore 1) that you come down here a soon as you can. Send 'luggage in advance' only enough clothes for living purposes & all the material for working on for baby's clothes. 2) that I find suitable digs as near as possible to my hotel. 3) that as soon as you come we go to the doctor whose name & address I have (I haven't seen him yet) & invoke his fullest aid. 4) that you look around here for a furnished flat or bungalow which you are willing to take for an indefinite period. 5) that when I get my leave I go back to Hendon (at the RAF's expense) & get together everything you need to set up a small home for baby & you & have it sent. This would only take a day or two out of my precious leave but it would relieve you of a lot of bother. You see, we could have full plans made of everything for me to do before I leave here so that I could dispose of it all quickly & rush back to spend the remainder of my leave in leisure with you That leaves at least one major possibility unsolved viz: that I might be posted before you go into the home or while you are still there, thus leaving you helpless & alone, unvisited from day to day & unde... when you come out of the home. Do you think that either 1) Barbara could get a few weeks compassionate leave to look after you in such circumstances or 2) Irene Gelet (or any other friend) could come down to stay at your new home (if & when I go) to visit you & to be with you for your first few weeks of unaided Motherhood.
I must stop soon, dearest for I have so much else to do. I think I have aired my views to the full. Let me know just as soon as you can what your considered opinion is for if you are to come I ought to make the booking at the Nursing Home as soon as possible. As for the actual date of your journey (if you make it) that will have to depend on you & Barbara, but don't try to bring down too much at first. Before I stop there are a few notes on other subjects. Our new timetable comes into force on Monday & won't affect you & me so much as I feared, for part of the extra time is gained by rising earlier. It is Reveille 6 am; breakfast 6.45; work 7.45 – 12.30 with ½ hr. break. Dinner 12.30 – 13/30. Work 13.30 – 17/45; Tea 17.45 – 18.00 hrs. so that I should be free shortly after 6 pm on all weekdays (Sat. & Tuesday might be earlier owing to games) but I would have to do a lot of swotting in the evenings. Sunday free after 11 am. Evening roll call 10 pm every day except Sat 11 pm. Keith Somerville is in Scarborough but Teddy Cook has come here – to another pub.
We had an aircraft recognition Test yesterday I got 28 out of 50, not good but much better than I thought. We had a Morse test of 50 words today at 4 per minute. I got 92% but that was definitely below the average. (I didn't learn Morse as a scout – we did semaphore). If you come, you would probably be quite interested in my swotting & might be able to help a lot by asking questions from my notes for me to answer. I loved your funny stories – so did my mates.
Really must stop darling. Love me for ever & I'll do likewise by you in any case. John
P.S. Any information about RAF I give you e.g. Postings coming from Ruislip & Observers remustering as Pilots please keep to yourself.
Emboldened by your stories Mary had a little sheep; she took it up to bed to sleep; The sheep turned out to be a ram; & Mary had a little lamb



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 22, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19167.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.