Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Announces that she had received her first letter from him and that postcards seem to arrive more quickly. Mentions writing to padre and central depository to get personal kit released. Writes of contents and number of parcels allowed and letter from Red Cross. Says sorry to hear about his skipper and writes of other acquaintance who have lost fiance. Concludes with sarcastic comment on letter numbering.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter with hand written inserts


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Start of transcription

To. Sgt. J.R.M. Valentine, 1251404
British Prisoner of War,
Stalag Luft III, Germany.
Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, London, N.W.4.
Sunday July 12th 1942
No. 5
[inserted] rubber stamp GETRÜFT 32 [/inserted]
My darling Johnnie,
Since my last letter to you, No. 4 on Wednesday last, there has been one great event – the arrival of my first letter from you. It was dated June 2nd, and arrived almost a fortnight later than the card sent to your Mother, dated June 3rd. Apparently postcards get through very much more quickly, so if you have anything urgent to say, e.g. things you want sent in the next parcel and so on, it might be better to write on a postcard. Needless to say, I would rather have a letter if there isn’t anything so urgent.
It was just marvellous to see your handwriting again and to read your writing of my name and all the affectionate things you said. Not that I ever doubt our love for a moment, but it is so nice to read your loving messages. I wrote to the padre at once, as requested, and hope to get his reply before I post this. I also sent on your letter to the Central Depository in order to get your personal things released from there; since you asked in so many words for them to be sent to me I hope they will take it as sufficient authority for releasing them. It wouldn’t have been possible for the padre to do anything about it. I will certainly include socks and toothbrush in your first parcel, but I haven’t dispatched it yet because I do want to get your prisoner-of-war number first, as you said in your postcard to your Mother. Since I can only send four a year it would be too bad for any to go astray. I had a letter from the Red Cross yesterday saying that their reports of your new camp were very good, so I am hoping that you are comfortable and in pleasant surroundings.
I was terribly sorry to hear about your skipper, but of course I am glad and proud that he acted so well in the emergency, as you describe. Today Eileen Johnson came to tea, Frank’s fiancée, you remember. Poor girl, she had heard only at lunch-time today that Frank is missing from last night’s raid – a daylight raid. I thought it awfully plucky of her to come out to tea after that, and she bore it very well. She is a nice child, a simple soul, very suited to Frank I should say, and I do hope she will hear as quickly as I did that he is safe and perhaps in the same camp as you. She has carried off some wool to knit for Frances, which was very nice of her.
I didn’t like your crack about numbering my letters correctly! As a matter of fact I am noting them down in my diary, with the number against the I post them, so things ought not to go wrong. I only hope you too will be successful in your numbering!
Peter has now gone back to work, so life should settle down into a more ordered rut – if anything can be called a rut when Frances is about! She is getting on marvellously with her walking. Immediately after her breakfast she starts toddling up and down the dining-room, turning neatly at each end, generally waving a spoon or stick and talking volubly to herself all the time. She keeps this up pretty well incessantly, with short breaks for excursions upstairs, until she is put out to sleep at 10.30 or 11 a.m. After lunch the same thing starts again, generally in the garden, and yesterday when I had to go round to Mrs. Greenish on Savings Group business; we [underlined] walked [/underlined] round together, much to Mrs. G’s delight. It is such an obvious thrill to Frances to walk that it is really fun to watch her. She keeps her little legs rather straight and waddles like a wee duck, but she is pretty steady nor, and doesn’t mind her occasional bumps at all.
[page break]
[inserted] Your letter No2. of 10.6.42 just received. Am going to send off your parcel without further delay & hope for the best. Roy’s cousin’s name is Sara Freeman. I am quite O.K. for cash. Have not heard anything of £5.10.0., will enquire [undecipherable words] [/inserted]
Did I tell you that I managed to get my bicycle tyres pumped up for me – you know I have a real talent for getting others to do it for me. This time it was Heath. Last Sunday when he was here and we went swimming, he left his watch at the swimming pool so I offered him by bike to pop down and fetch it, and of course the tyres were flat, so he pumped them up for me. I’m wondering who I can lend the bike to next time they want doing!
I believe I forgot to mention a purchase I made for our future home the other day; not a very exciting on, perhaps, but useful. It is a wire vegetable rack, in three tiers, shaped to fit into a corner. It is very much nicer than keeping vegetables in baskets. We had peas from the garden for lunch today, but there isn’t a very large crop. The raspberries are doing well, and we had nearly another pound the other day and still they come. The strawberries didn’t function at all this year, I do not know why. They flowered and the fruit seemed to be setting, but just nothing ever ripened. I have started planting out leaks, because I am really more concerned for winter vegetables than anything else, there is plenty to had in the shops just now. I have almost decided against keeping hens after all. More and more restrictions are being brought in, we have to give up our egg ration in order to get meal for the hens, so I think it is too risky for a complete beginner like me. Also I could only have 3 hens, so it doesn’t seem worth it.
You ask in your letter how soon I heard you were missing tc [sic]. You will probably have gathered the answers by now from my earlier letters, but here they are. The wire probably arrived next day, but I didn’t hear till the Tuesday, since we were away. 17 days later I heard you were p-o-w. As to how I took it, it wasn’t somehow as bad as I’d always imagined. You seemed incredibly close and real to me, and I hardly cried at all after the first night. I just thought and thought about you and about all the lovely things we have done together, and all my thoughts about you were so happy and full of joy that for the first few days the hard truth was hardly borne in upon me. Vera and I talked all the time about you and Norman, rememberings [sic] things we had done and your funny little characteristics, and this was not painful somehow, but soothing. After about a week I began to think less about the past and to face up to the future, and made up my mind that I mustn’t bank on your being safe, otherwise I might be in for a second knock-down blow, but might as well make up my mind to accept the worst and decide what I was gong to do about it. I thought I wouldn’t take a job for three or four years if I could manage without, till Frances could go to school, and in the meantime would take a degree by correspondence in something like economics which would get me a better job later on, something constructive to help build up after all this destruction. I’m still toying with the idea, though now of course it need not be anything too utilitarian, since I hope I shall never have to have and office job again after all. The snag is to make time for it. I’m reading just now a book of George Moore’s called “Heloise & Abelard”. It is a bit long drawn out in parts but I am enjoying it thoroughly and shall try to send you a copy – after all, time is not your limiting factor!
Several of the quarterly bills have been coming lately, so two days ago I wrapped my head up in a wet towel and had a session with the wee bookie, as a result of which I find that house a/c has a debit balance of 6/2. So I am “laying low and saying nuffin” and praying for the end of the month.
I think I only realised quite what a shock the news of your being missing was when I heard that you were safe – then it was as though an enormous weight were lifted off my heart and the world seemed almost normal again. I think about you all the time darling, & my love for you seems to get [undecipherable words] than ever as the weeks go by. Always yours, Ursula.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 22, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19911.

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