Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Writes of her recent activities with daughter Frances and friends. Mentions that she has heard that food parcels from the United States have been stopped. Writes of contacting Red Cross education books section and news of friends. Continues with mention of daughter's musical appreciation and chat about neighbours. Concludes with asking if he is receiving Red Cross parcels and about camp facilities for plays and concerts.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter with handwritten annotation


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To Sergeant J.R.M. Valentine,
British Prisoner of War No. 450
Stalag Luft III, Germany.

From: Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, London N.W.4.

No. 15.
August 17th, 1942
My darling Johnnie,

Frances and I have been having a grand weekend, - we went over to Wimbledon to stay with Grunfeld. We left here after lunch on Saturday, with a small suitcase and Frances on foot wearing her pram harness so that I could restrain her if she went too far ahead. We went by tube all the way, and it is only about 5 minutes walk from Southfields station. Frances thoroughly enjoys going in buses, trains, tubes or anything else, and behaved very well. On arrival she was met by Barry, the St. Bernard dog – do you remember him? An enormous great ox of a creature, gentle but stupid. Frances made friends with him at once, and when he lay down out in the garden she walked up to him and patted and stroked him, trod on his head and pulled his tail, and he took it all with the utmost good humour. Of course the Grunfelds were delighted, and everything went well. Just before bedtime she fell over and banged her nose rather hard, making it bleed, and cut her lip, and this upset her rather and she didn’t settle down quickly when I put her to bed, however our room was at the top of the house so she didn’t disturb the company, and eventually dropped off to sleep. She may have felt a bit strange in the different bed and room. Mr. Grunfeld’s younger brother and his wife were staying the weekend also, so there was quite a party, and on the Sunday Dr. Dispeker and his wife came over too, and the wine and beer flowed freely. The time passed pleasantly with lounging in the garden, playing desultory games of croquet, teasing Barry and watching Frances disporting herself – she behaved very prettily and really did you credit! We also achieved our main object, vic. To get Grunfeld to get his south American friends moving on your behalf. He says he will write to them right away, and also says he will himself send you some cigarettes. I shot them a line – if that is possible – and I really think they will do their best to help.

I had one piece of bad news from Freeman on Friday. He rang up to say that he had heard from a friend in U.S.A. that food parcels to prisoners from there had been stopped as from end July. This is an awful blow, because most of my main hopes were over there. I haven’t had it confirmed from other sources yet but I’m afraid it is only too likely in view of the shipping situation. Still of course we are trying our best from other places, and your father in particular seems to know people in the most hopeful positions! He is certainly doing all he can for you. I only wish I were more influential and could do more for my dearest.

We arrived home this morning in time to do a large wash before lunch, and this afternoon Bish came to tea. He couldn’t stay to supper, so we just sat in the garden and watched Frances, clad in a diminutive sunsuit, disporting herself with a bucket of cold water, a wooden spoon and sundry glass and rubber balls. The photo I am enclosing of her today is commonly referred to as the “Champ”, and I am sure she means it as encouragement to you.

On Friday I sent off to the Red Cross Education Books Section my collection of German grammars, including some of yours and Leslie’s, and your dictionary. They will send them to you, I hope. I removed all the marks from them very carefully, so I hope there will be no trouble with censors. I still haven’t been able to get a copy of Watson & More’s “Agriculture”. The Education officer of your unit says he will do what

[inserted along left side of page] I have bought an ironing[?] board for the future home. The price has gone up a lot, but it is a really nice one. [inserted along left side of page]

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[inserted upside down across top of page sentence hard to read]
He can but isn’t too optimistic about getting hold of a copy. If he does he will send it direct to you and advise me. I am also trying Foyle’s and the Services Central book depot, an address I found among your papers given you by the College of Estate Management. I haven’t had a reply from either of these yet.

My fears for Heath’s safety were apparently groundless. I wrote to the chaplain of his station who replied that he has moved from there but is definitely not “missing”, and meanwhile a friend of Heath’s rang up on Saturday with a complicated story the upshot of which was he wanted to leave his home telephone number with us for Heath to ring up and collect. Unfortunately there was no one in the house yesterday, when Heath was due to ring, so we couldn’t help much. But anyway Heath seems to be as full of life as ever. There is still no news of Norman or Frank. Eileen came round on Friday evening to bring a little dress she had knitted for Frances out of some silk I gave her. It has turned out very well, so I have sent her away with enough silk to make another! It really is extremely useful for me, and she seems to enjoy it, so we are all happy.

Frances has been showing marked signs of musical appreciation lately. Whenever she hears music she listens attentively, and now she very frequently picks out the rhythm correctly and claps it or sways to it – all without the slightest help or encouragement from others – music simply takes her that way. She tries repeatedly to sing notes too, but if the music goes too fast or is too complicated she can’t manage it; but if it is slow and sustained she often sings quite a true note in imitation. And she invariably sings the “All clear” because that goes on long enough to give her a real chance. You wait and see, we have probably produced a prodigy of some kind! But whether or not she turns out to be a musical wonder, she is certainly a darling and the mainstay of her poor old mother. Today in the underground coming home she suddenly took it into her head to stand up on the seat and kiss me, not once but heaps of times and put up her little hand to turn my face so that she could kiss the other cheek. It was an entirely unsolicited testimonial, and must have made the other people in the carriage very jealous!

Mrs Hazard has decided that she doesn’t like being in the house alone when her husband is fire watching, now that David has gone, and so will probably come round to spend the night here. It happens once in 11 days, and if it is a night when Bas is on duty, it will be quite pleasant for me too. Some people are spoilt, she ought to try being on her own every other night and see what that feels like. I am seriously considering getting someone to live here before the winter really comes. It has its disadvantages of course, loss of freedom and incompatibility of temperament probably, but I really begin to find it a bit unbearable when the blackout lasts from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m! I should like someone who would pay a bit, if possible, but if not I think a Waaf would be better than nothing.

Do let me know if you are receiving Red Cross parcels now and if so, how often. Tell me too about what equipment you have for amusing yourselves. The Red Cross tell me your camp is a well equipped one and I wonder what they understand by this. At some camps they seem to get up plays, concert parties and all sorts of fun and games. Perhaps you will do that sort of thing too when the camp is better established. Have you anything of a library? Or are books of all sorts, novels and so on, among the things you would like to have sent? I sent off a couple last week, but if you let me know, I try to get others to send too.
[inserted handwritten] Thinking of you always, with all my love to you, my own darling. Ursula [inserted]

[inserted along left side of paper] The Greenfelds all sent best wishes & kindest regards to you.

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Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 19, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19969.

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