Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


She writes of greeting new year. Continues mentioning that she has sent a clothes parcel and lists the items in the parcel; that some of his clothes have been moth-eaten and she is trying to mend them; of taking her daughter to church for the first time for a special carol service, and of her activities in the evenings.Reports arrival of several of his letters and mentions taking daughter to a clinic to be weighed.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


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Start of transcription
To Sergeant J.R.M. Valentine,
British Prisoner of War No. 450,
Stalag Luft III, Germany
No 42
[stamp GEPRUFT 32]
From Mrs. Valentine,
Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, N.W.4.
January 1st 1943
[inserted] R 11/2 A 13/2 [/inserted]
My darling Johnnie,
A happy new year to you! happier than the last at any rate and maybe one of the high spots of our careers. I dashed back from the factory [inserted] last night [/inserted] just in time to tune in to Big Ben and drink a glass of ginger wine to you and me and the future. Ba was asleep in bed, but I roused her out to drink to the New Year too – she dropped off to sleep again at once.
On 30th December I sent off your third clothing parcel – and I suppose any day now I shall get a letter from you telling me exactly what you do and do not want in it. I only hope I have guessed right. Anyway this is what I have sent:- Your khaki corduroy shorts (I tried to buy a new pair but could not so hope these will be O.K.) a khaki sports shirt (old one of yours) and a new white towel sports shirt (advantage of this, it looks its best not ironed and I suppose you don’t have such refinements), hair-brush and comb, toothbrush and 2 tins toothpowder, tins of black and brown shoe-polish and two smallish brushes meant to act as shoe brushes, your brown brogue walking shoes complete with new shoelaces and a spare pair of dittos, your white tennis shoes shaving stick refill, tobacco pouch, pipe, some spare buttons, a pair of small nail scissors (I am not allowed to send anything larger or more serviceable in the way of scissors but these are at least sharp), some chewing gum – don’t snort, you might find it refreshing and if not you can give it away as prizes or bribes, and lastly a turkish [sic] towel. I thought this might be useful if you can get some bathing in the summer, you might find it more useful to cut it in two and use it as two small ones, or you could cut a piece off to use as a face flannel as the weight of the parcel forbade me sending a separate one. As it is, I don’t know if the Red Cross will enclose any chocolate because the finished parcel weighed a little over 9 1/2. lbs – it was those wretched brown shoes of yours, they weighed nearly 4 lbs on their own. I hope I have sent the things you need and nothing useless.
Now I have a terrible confession to make – I am very ashamed about it. When going through your things for the shorts, I found to my horror that the moth has got at some of your suits which were hanging in the white cupboard. Worst of all they have devoured the plus-fours of your Harris tweeds. I took them down to the tailor, Mr. Turner, and asked him if he had or could get any matching tweed to make a new pair, but he said Harris tweed isn’t being made now and anyway he is not allowed to make plusfours. So I went home very depressed and set to work to darn them with threads drawn from the inside seams. It is going to be a terrific work, because the threads are short and I have to rethread the needle at every stitch, but the part I have finished doesn’t look too bad, and I think they will do for knocking about in when repaired. I try to console myself that they were pretty old and rather faded, but I couldn’t forget all the good times we have had together when wearing this suit and it filled me with nostalgia (pronounced your way or mine) The rest of the suits are not bad and I think I can have the few small holes invisibly mended, but it certainly is a revelation to me what moths can do. After all you were wearing some of these things in May, and I have had them all out in the garden at least once since then. Anyway I am not letting it go any further, and have turned out the Chinese chest, which is camphor wood and really moth-proof, and have packed your things in there. You will be glad to know that your fancy dress (kilt and so on) is intact. I wish you would come home and [underlined] wear [/underlined] your wretched suits!
By the way, I have oiled your brown shoes well in the hope that they would stand the journey better and be softer to wear, it has darkened them a bit, but I hope you think it worth it. They needed it, for they fairly drank it in.
[page break]
Last Sunday they had a special carol service up at St, Mary’s, and I took Frances up because I thought she would enjoy the singing, and because I want to connect Christmas not only with presents and over-eating in her mind but also with its real meaning. She was very impressed with the church and the large congregation, also with the first carol, “Once in Royal David’s City”, sung in procession, and when choir, organ and congregation were going flat out she joined in lustily (a different tune of course) and insisted on being put down on the floor so that she could dance (we were in an obscure corner, so it didn’t matter). Then came a prayer, and she started to make a noise, so we had to come out. Pity, for I’m sure she would have enjoyed the rest of the singing. I ought to have taken some sweets to plug her during the lessons!
Your double letter 26 and 27 of 11.11.42 arrived last Sunday, thank you so much for this lovely long and newsy epistle. Glad you had such a lot of mail, I have duly acknowledged all the letters you mentioned. Lucky you did not write to Irene direct about her Australian fiance [sic] since she is now safely married to a Scotsman! As regards your abandonment of the quest for religion, of course it is no good kidding yourself or being hypocritical. But on the other hand you must promise me not to take this as the final answer nor to shut up your mind on the subject. The fact that you haven’t found anything doesn’t prove that there is nothing there to find. So just leave it at that for the time being. I think you are very wise indeed to limit your activities and concentrate on doing a few things thoroughly. Goethe had, inevitably, a saying on the matter, more or less like this “Es zeigt sich im Beschraenken erst der Meister”, which is a little lesson I have never been able to learn. Recently I have been concentrating my reading (what little there is of it) on mediaeval history, but already I can feel myself slipping off in to modern politics again, and of course I have hardly touched the fringe of mediavel [sic] history yet. Now and then I make a spasmodic effort to keep up my languages or realise with a pang how many of the English classics I haven’t read, but really it is pretty hopeless for me just now, my evenings at home are so busy. I give myself an hour off, from 6 – 7 p.m., when I look at the Times or NS&N or some book, but then I have to pitch into whatever is the scheduled job for the evening, ironing or mending or factory or letter-writing or whatever it is, and so the time goes. Just as it should be in war-time I suppose. When Mother comes, in the warmer weather, I am really going to try to practise the piano regularly. I am so proud of you for your energy and determination in taking up the violin, we will have some fun together when you come home with the Haydn and Mozart sonatas for violin and piano, even if we are not up to concert standard. A wood wind might have been easier to learn but there is incomparably much more and more interesting things written for the violin. So stick to it, in spite of the really formidable difficulties that you have to overcome as regards tuition and practice.
I took the puggie [sic] down to the P.O yesterday to have its contents put into our joint account – it came to 9/2, which I contend is a record. I have bought a large fire-guard today for the nursery because Frances will fling her toys out of her cot in the mornings when the fire is on and several times they have landed dangerously near. I have also bought a new Pyrex dish to replace one that got broken.
Today your letter 29 of 20.11 arrived, in which you were feeling rotten with tummy trouble. I do so hope this has cleared up, I’m afraid it may be caused by the unsavoury localities where you practise the fiddle.
You ask which was the last date we saw each other – it was Thursday 21st May – do you remember the Nat. Gallery concert we went to?
I took Frances to the clinic today and had her weighed – she is now 30 lbs 2 oz – no mean weight! She is as bonny and cheerful as ever. On Thurs. went over to Barnet to collect 6 eggs for Frances, and some apples, they were very welcome. Had pleasant chat with Grandma. With all my love, Ursula



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 18, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20001.

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