Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula



Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula


Writes he is very tired having had to put out fires all night and get up early. Describes daily routine. Complains he has had no letter from her for 5 days. States maths exam went well and now no more exams until end of course. Continues on 16/1/41 mentioning it was good to hear her voice and could be assured of her well being. but he is still concerned as no letter. Looking forward to her coming and asks for small cash injection. Writes of PT by moonlight and that he is feeling fit and enjoying himself. Complains of war in general. Mentions first night out since he arrived coming on Saturday. He has signed up as steward at RAF boxing tournament.



Temporal Coverage



Seven page handwritten letter


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1251404 AC2 Valentine
D flight 1 Squadron
Queens Hotel

Wed 15/1/41

My Darling Ursula, I am afraid that this will be a very short note for tonight I am absolutely dead beat. Last night I had to clear out about 20 fires, all of them still burning. It was a foul job for we got covered with fine ash & almost asphyxiated by the fumes of the large dustbin of glowing coals that we accumulated. When it was over & it occupied most of the evening the three of us felt as if we had had a dirty Turkish bath fully clad. I had no respite for I had to retire to my room in order to get all shaving, washing, boot cleaning & button polishing done before I went to bed. This morning I had to get up on the stroke of six, wash hurriedly, fold up my blankets, make my bed in the approved manner, sweep my share of the room, rush down for breakfast & tear up again after it in order to get down to washing out a bath, cleaning 3 lavatories, 2 wash basins & the floors of two rooms devoted to the use of such fixtures. All this had to be done before we started our days work. This included 1 hours drill, 1 hour PT, 2 hours Maths Exam, 1 hour Gas Exam, 1 hour Law & 2 hours Signals. Following all this I have spent over an hour writing up some notes so that by now I am dying to go to bed. The trouble is that most of the fellows in the room kick up a hell of a row by conversing long after the official 'lights out' at 10.30.
My darling, what has happened to you. If I receive a letter tomorrow it will be 5 days after the last. I hope this break in your correspondence doesn't mean bad news. Do try to let me hear from you fairly frequently just now especially. When you come down here you needn't bother to write nearly so often to me, I am longing for you to be here. We are still having perfect weather – such a pity that you are missing it all. I had a letter from Dundee today expressing (inter alia) appreciation of the gifts you sent for Xmas. I'll enclose it, if I remember. Our Maths went off quite smoothly this morning. The papers are sent to the air Ministry Examining Board for marking & we ought to get our results in a week's time. The Gas paper is marked here but I don't know when we shall hear how we fared. I thought it was easy though.
We have no more exams until the end of our course now. Do hurry here to help me to learn all about my subjects. If you give me a date before the week end, I will make an effort to book digs on Sunday. Too tired to keep going any longer dearest – I long for you – All my love, John
Thursday 16/1/41 Dearest Ursula Just a few more lines scribbled in the last few minutes before my 'retiral'!! It was lovely to hear your voice again tonight & to be re-assured about your safety & general well being. My last letter from you came on Saturday, so that even if the next comes tomorrow there will be an interval of 6 days. My apprehension has grown daily & I tried to argue with myself that no news meant good news. I knew however that no news might mean bad news at the present day if by some act of God Lido & its occupants were entirely wiped out. However I was very relieved to hear your cheery voice. My anxiety over you is another sign of how much you mean to me although I would rather not have that sign too often for it is not very pleasant.
I am looking forward terribly to your coming here although I am a little apprehensive about the finding of digs. My circumstances make the job so difficult. However tomorrow is our games afternoon & I might get off an hour or so earlier, depending upon the types of sport allotted. I have two small requests, dear, first is for a spot of cash. 2/6 will do me this time. The second arises from the soreness of my face after shaving, probably as a result of the bitter winds that whistle past us when we have drill & PT on the front. Could you send me a very small quantity of as masculine a type of cream as you can get. I don't want your 'Quickies' or any of Elizabeth Arden's preparations. I told you about today's new experience – PT by moonlight. We paraded at our appointed hour 7.45 & after a roll call we were told to go back & undress for PT. It was still night time with a most brilliant moon thick frost & a keen wind. Did we like the idea! We are not allowed to say 'no' & so we perforce obeyed, but the instructor kept us on the move all the time so that it wasn't so bad.
I am still taking your jellied eels & am feeling quite fit nowadays. My cough has almost gone & except for being so tired in the evenings I am in good form. This new programme is a real sweat, but on the whole I am enjoying the life here – except for the fact that we are separated. Nothing can ever compensate for that deficiency – I wish to Heaven I could see an end to this awful war so that you & I could settle down to a really happy & progressive married life doing what we want to do in our own way & at our own convenience. I have next to no rights now. I am bound to serve in a very rigid manner & get nothing for doing my duty, but a hell of a lot of punishment if I don't. You have to live an awful sort of life, you have no home of your own, when you most want it, are separated from me when I ought to be giving you of my best in the way of loving care & attention & shortly you will provide a new born babe with the most marvellous mother that any child could possibly have & you are compelled to journey into a bleak hilly land whose people speak a foreign tongue & go to Church on Sunday.
I have remembered another want of mine – a bar of soap - at your convenience – no hurry for a day or two. I am to have my first night out on Saturday since I came here I have offered to be a steward at a RAF boxing tournament. My reasons for volunteering are twofold, because it will be a change & because it costs nothing. I have a funny story to tell you about a method of proving the immortality of man but it is too naughty to put into black & white. Remind me about it when you come here & I will think again about the desirability or otherwise of passing it on to you.
I really must stop, my darling, with lots of love – as ever - John



John Ross Mckenzie Valentine, “Letter from John Valentine to his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 16, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19173.

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