Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Her first letter to John since she heard that we was a prisoner of war. She describes the time when he was missing and the reactions of friends to the good news. Suggests starting a game of chess and asks him to tell her what he wants her to send him. Continues with news of her and daughters activities. Says she is longing for his first letter.



Temporal Coverage

Spatial Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


IBCC Digital Archive


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Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, N.W. 4,
June 19th 1942
My darling Johnnie,
I received the news this morning that you were alive and safe and my heart is almost too full for me to write coherently, and yet you feel so close to me somehow that I simply must talk to you. As a matter of fact, you have felt incredibly real and near to me often during these weeks of anxiety, specially at night just before I went to sleep, and I suppose you haven’t been out of my thoughts for more than two minutes together for the whole of the time. But just to know that you are alive is the most wonderful relief, and I have been in a maze all day long. It is now 10 p.m., and I don’t suppose I shall be able to post this for weeks, as I have no proper address yet, still I want to write.
We are awfully lucky to have got the news through so quickly. Your father speeded things up through an MP friend, and telephoned me this morning. But I had better tell my side of the story from the beginning.
As you doubtless remember, I spent the fatal week with Vera. The first blow was when Norman was reported missing from the raid before you – Vera heard on Saturday evening, and when we heard on Sunday about Saturday’s raid, my heart sank like lead. But there was no mean [censored] news, and I didn’t want to make a fuss since poor Vera ha[censored] of trouble while mine was still only fear. She wanted [censored] a bit with her, so Barbara went home [inserted] on Tuesday [/inserted],found the wire and [censored] that evening. After that we decided that I might as well stay a week or two, and somehow it was much easier for us both, knowing that the other had the same sorrow to bear, than it is to be surrounded with people who are sorry for you but don’t know what it feels like for themselves. Vera’s cottage is the most adorable place that you can imagine, in true Cotswold style, very comfortably furnished and with a large and lovely garden, so we led a very peaceful and quiet life, working, gardening, reading and sewing together, and the days went by very quickly. You will be amazed to hear that I hardly cried at all after the first evening; I thought and thought about you the whole time and remembered and lived over again all the things we had done together, and they were all such joyful memories, and every thought I had about you was a happy one, so that I had a sort of peaceful gladness that at least nobody could take all that away. Then your letter came, the one you had left with Harvey to be sent on if the occasion should arise. I must admit I cried a bit when I read that, it seemed so final, as though you were you were quite beyond my reach, and yet it made me so proud and happy to think that we had meant so much to each other. Your precepts for bringing up Frances are sound and I shall act on them in any case. Bless her wee heart, she makes all the difference to life just now. I spent my spare time down there reading Trollope’s “The Small House at Allington”, a delightful book in the Barsetshire series, and I made Vera a maternity smock out of some chintz she had. Her baby is due in August, I do hope she gets some good news about Norman before then.
[page break]
I only came back to Lido two days ago, and found the garden in a fearfully overgrown state. Last night I had to go round collecting the Savings money and face an absolute barrage of sympathy. All the neighbours have been terribly upset, as though you had been there own son, and now today when they have good news, several of them nearly burst into tears with joy! They were all most kind, and send you all kinds of good wishes.
About ten minutes after your father rang up this morning Mrs. Hazard came round to rejoice with me. She had heard through her husband, and while she was here Freeman rang, he had heard at the office. Bish is coming to supper tomorrow, he is overjoyed too. We have been putting up an absolute barrage of prayer, as you can imagine. I have had awfully nice letters from Cairns, Slee, Harvey and the Padre, so I suppose I must write now and give them all the good news. I haven’t seen any of your people yet, as I only got back two days ago and they are all down at P.M. this weekend, but I hope Ann will come and stay again soon.
I have been doing a spot of work in the garden, putting in a dozen tomatoes and more runner and French beans. It is not looking too good just know, so I have put some fertiliser on too.
I think I must pack up for tonight, it is nearly 11 p.m. goodnight, my dearest one, all my love and thoughts and good wishes are with you now and always.
[underlined] Tuesday 23.6.42 [/underlined]
Your father has sug[censored] may as well try writing to as much address as we already [censored] will finish this and post it tonight. Charles Swindall [censored] is home on 5days leave and sends you best wishes.
Shall we start a game of chess? As you can’t argue, I’ll be white and move P - Q4. I’ll keep the game played out on my small board. Would you like me to send you yours? If it has already occurred to you to suggest playing and you have started a game too, lets carry them both on. I’m afraid they will take long enough anyway!
I don’t know all the regulations yet about sending parcels, but do let me [inserted] know [/inserted] anyway what things you would like. I expect you will want some warmer clothing for the winter – would you like your warm dressing gown and slippers?
I had a letter from Olga today. Jack seems to be alright so far. I have heard nothing further of Norman yet. Kennedy is training overseas. John Wilford (subs) is missing. No more news of Oliva’s husband.
Frances is getting quite tanned – you can see the marks of her sunsuit-straps quite clearly, but she is not burnt. She now stands by herself steady as a rock and claps hands at the same time, and can also climb up stairs at a great rate, so I will have to have a gate fixed on the staircase. Her favourite words just now “Pretty, pretty” and “igogligogly” whatever that may mean, and she is sweeter and chubbier than ever. She sends you a great big kiss, probably a rather wet and stick one! And I send you all my love, my darling. We will keep the flag flying this end and just long for the glorious day when you come back to us and we can start our life together properly, at last. I shall love you for always and always. Yours for ever Ursula.
[hand written around the typewritten pages]
You can imagine how I’m longing for your first letter, to know whether you are wounded, how you are treated, and as much about the raid as you may tell me. How I long to look after you & see you are alright – thank goodness for the Red Cross anyway! I hope you with like chaps.
Do be a good boy. You know the song “Wrap yourself in cotton – wool”. What a good thing you had your teeth seen to recently. I only wish they had fixed your nose as well.
This letter seems all about me, when after all you are the chief actor in this drama. But you know I long to hear everything you can tell me and must fill up my letters with old & unimportant news from home.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 21, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19906.

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