Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


She writes whilst she is on fire watching duty. She says that their daughter Frances went to tea on her own and that she has finished her diptheria immunisation. She writes that she and some friends went to tea and that she has been practising photography. She mentions she has been bottling and preserving fruit and talks of daughter's activities as well as those of other friends. She ends her letter by hoping her husband will return, and they both must keep busy and cheerful till then.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter with handwritten annotations


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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, N.W. 4. London.

No. 17.

August 23rd 1942

Darling Johnnie,
It is now 10.30 p.m. and as I am on fire-watching duty until 2 a.m. it seems an ideal time to settle down to write to you. Mrs. Hazard has come to spend the night, as her husband is watching up in town, and she and Barbara have gone off to bed, so all is peace and quiet.
This afternoon Frances went out to tea, all on her own, to the Greenish’s. I took her round at 3 p.m. and fetched her away at 5 p.m., and they tell me she behaved well in the intervening two hours. Of course they were astonished, as everyone is, at her friendliness and compete lack of shyness among comparative strangers, she just takes life as it comes and seems to find it enjoyable. The other day I had the sweep in to do the dining-room fire, and welcomed him, as other visitors, with a beaming smile; the poor man was extremely gratified and said rather wistfully, “Not many kiddies smile at me like that, they mostly cry and run away!”
She has finished her treatment for diphtheria immunisation now and passed the test, so that is a comfort – not that there have been any cases that I know of, but it is nice to know that she is prepared against any epidemic. I am wondering about getting her immunised against whooping cough too, it can be done nowadays though I believe it is not always 100% effective. I think I shall enquire from Dr. Bethune.
On Friday we all three went to Perivale to tea with Bish. He has rooms in a rather ordinary, dingy but clean little house, and his landlady is friendly but too talkative, as is the custom with the tribe. Anyway he has a piano in his room, and seems very happy there. His vicar popped in while we were there, he is a hearty young man, hardly older than Bish, and I should think they make a pretty good pair in that parish. We had tea with Bish and then went to see his church, a modern affair with the main body of the church divided off from the choir and altar with double folding doors, so that it can be used as a hall for other activities. At the time it was being prepared for use with the local flower and vegetable show. Bish looks good in his cassock, much better than he does in an ordinary suit because one doesn’t notice how terribly thin he is.
Today we have been doing more photography. A friend of Barbara’s from the ambulance station came to have her portrait taken for her husband, who is in the Navy, and Ba took one of me, one of Frances and one of us together, at the same opportunity. A few days ago another girl came to be photographed who said, when she saw your picture in the dining room, that she thought she knew you. Her name is Norah Whitehead, and her husband Noel Whitehead, used to play rugger a lot in Herts, Eastern Countis [sic] and round about Barnet generally – I thought it might in that connection that your face was familiar. He used to work with Shell Mex, so I hardly thought you would have known him from that. They live at Radlett, but he is abroad with the army now. Do let me know if the name is familiar to you. The girl has a round face, blue eyes and dark curly hair, quite good looking and smart.
This evening I have been pruning the raspberries. I have
[page break]
[margin text] Received your P.C. No 11 This morning. Am doing all I can for food parcels.
2nd chess. P-K4.
Peter has failed Latin again and is giving it up this time and is going to take some diploma instead. [/margin text]
[page break]
always wanted to try to do it but lacked to courage to start. However this year it is obviously up to me, so I pitched into it and of course found it fairly simple once I got going. The canes that fruited this year are black, and next year’s are still green, so you can easily sort them out and cut away the old ones. It all looks much more orderly now, and tomorrow I must have a bonfire of the prunings.
I believe I forgot to mention that Grunfeld gave Frances his toy dog, a very good model of a spaniel, whom we have of course names Jane. Frances simply loves her soft toys now, her teddy, Jane and another scottie dog which Eileen and Peggy gave her, and she generally carries one or two of them round the house with her. Today I had got her all dressed up to out to tea, in that blue woolly frock that I was knitting for her at Rain Bozend (seems centuries ago!) when we started this photography and I had to make her look where I wanted by means of a piece of chocolate, which she simply loves now. Of course the wretched child had to dribble it all down the front of her frock, and had to be changed once more before she could go out! She generally gets a piece of chocolate after lunch each day, and thoroughly enjoys it, sucking it, dribbling it, taking it out of her mouth several times to see how it is getting on, before finally swallowing it. I only wish I could make chocolate last so long – that is one of your accomplishments, and one which will come in very handy just now! The sweet ration is being doubled next month, making a pound each a month, which is an enormous amount compared with the nothing-at-all that we got before. I only wish I could send some to you. I am busy just now bottling and preserving fruit as fast as I can, chiefly plums, greengages, and Blackberry and apple. I like to imagine that you will share some of it with us.
I had a letter from Vera a few days ago. She is up and about again now but stayed in the nursing home a bit longer in order to get the baby on to 4 hourly feeds before taking him away. He is still only small, 6 lb 10 oz, when she last wrote, but apparently looking more human. I have sent her Frances’s christening gown as there is no point in her buying a thing like that specially. The son is to be called Michael, as she and Norman had previously been decided.
The Neals came back from their holiday last weekend, and when I went in to hand over their keys etc, Mrs. Neal gave me an envelope with a present for Frances, saying they would have liked to have brought her something back, but there was nothing they could bring. The envelope contained 15/-, with which I promptly brought Frances a savings certificate. Wasn’t it sweet of Mrs. Neal? I was really touched. How I would love to take Frances to the sea! We must really make an effort next year, all being well, she would so love to spend hours digging and paddling on the beach. If Mother and Daddy are safely home by then, things will be much easier, because I shall be able to leave the house. I’m beginning to long to have them back. It is no good letting myself long for you, so I try to keep the thought out of my mind, but there is a reasonable prospect of their being back in April or May, and I feel that if I can last out this winter somehow, things will be easier then. It is striking midnight already, time passes quickly even in the night. I intend to spend the rest of my watch sewing Frances’s winter frock, if I can keep my wits about me for long enough. You know how hopelessly sleepy I get in the evenings! I think I’m getting better at that gradually.
[margin text] I wish I could send Frances to you in your next parcel! You have more time on your hands than I for running around after her & tidying up the messes she makes and she’d keep you all cheerful.
I bought Frances a new pair of blue shoes last week – size 6 They look enormous but 5’s are definitely too small for her. I’m afraid her feet are going to take after both yours and mine! [/margin text]
With all my love to you my dearest one. How I long for the day when you will come back. We must both keep cheerful and busy till then. Yours always, Ursula.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 28, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/19971.

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