Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


She writes about making some clothing for their daughter, and that they had both been to the allotments and described the work she did there. She writes that her and a friend spent some time in Central London having lunch, visiting the National Gallery and shopping. She writes that she bought an item of furniture for their home and goes on to describe it to him. Ursula and their daughter Frances went to a party with seven other children. She is still working at the factory and looks forward to a time that they can spend together.



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Two page typewritten letter


IBCC Digital Archive


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

From Mrs. Valentine,
Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, N.W. 4.

No. 43

7th January, 1943
My darling Johnnie,
I seem to have been spending some money since I wrote to you on 1st January. First of all I decided Frances must have a warm cloth coat and leggings and went out prepared to buy some ready made, as I haven’t much time for dressmaking nowadays. However the ones we saw were made of miserable cloth and cost 2 ½ guineas at that, so I decided I had better make them myself of decent cloth, and accordingly got some nice warm blue stuff from Lees. They will cost under £2 and be much warmer – provided I don’t boob the making up! I haven’t started on them yet, I shall have to leave it till the weekend.
Then last Saturday Frances and I went down to the allotments and had a chat with old Thompson. He always enquires kindly after you and is very friendly. I bought some shallots, which I haven’t had time to plant yet, and also 56 lbs of that favourite fertiliser of his, N.O.M.; we staggered home under this considerable load, Frances had to walk as the pram was too heavy, and then I proceeded to spread the stuff over the vegetable garden. It was too late to dig much of it in, and I was afraid we might get a frost which would make the ground unworkable. However on Tuesday Barbara took Frances out for a walk and I went at it and got it all forked in. So I hope we get a better vegetable crop next year. The extra forking will do the ground good, even if the fertiliser doesn’t! Thompson has now started a pigclub, and built the styes himself, next to the greenhouse. It is a flourishing concern and the pigs all look very happy.
On Monday I had a date with Bish – a pre-wedding-anniversary celebration, though he didn’t know it. We met at Leicester Square, and had a very good lunch at Quality Inn, then went to a National Gallery concert, at which a very young-looking boy pianist played exquisitely, and which we very much enjoyed in spite of the chilliness of the place; then we had some hot coffee to warm us up, mooched along Piccadilly looking at the shops – Roy enjoys just looking as much as any girl I know, he is real fun to shop with. He bought himself an expensive torch from Dunhill’s, we tried in vain to get China tea (found I had already spent my ration) and a gramophone record he wanted for his sister’s birthday, then called in at Heal’s to collect the tray I bought for our Christmas present, yours and mine – it had been damaged a bit in the post but they have repaired it perfectly, and I am very pleased with it indeed. I have now put it away in the Chinese chest, because I don’t want Florence to go and bust it before you see it. While we were there I saw to my amazement that the antique walnut cabinet which I fell in love with when I was there before Christmas, was still apparently unsold. We looked it over again and Roy admired it as much as I did, and encouraged me in a most irresponsible way to buy it there and then. He is really largely to blame for the fact that I [underlined] have [/underlined] bought it – I only needed someone to agree with me how very nice it was. Anyway I left it then, and all that evening while I was working at the factory I kept thinking about it (incidentally Roy came back here, played with Frances, had supper with us, stayed on with Ba’ after I had gone to work playing a few gramophone records and went home soon after 8 pm.) I was quite convinced that it was good value for money, a beautiful and useful thing in itself and a sound acquisition, but was worried lest £45 was too large
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a proportion of the money we have for furnishing to spend on one item. However in the end I decided it was worth risking, since if need be we can always sell it again, though I should be very sorry if we had to; and I am pretty sure you will love it as I do. So on Tuesday, I went up to Heal’s again and asked one of the extremely refined salesmen about it. he was very surprised to see that it was there at all, apparently is had been totally overlooked, and I can well believe that if it had been brought upstairs to the main showroom, instead of standing in a rather dark and obscure passage downstairs, it would have gone long ago. He remarked what a fine thing it is, and anyway I bought it (cheque on Grindlays, to be repaid out of saving certs, leaving one cert. for £75 in that book). Afterwards I asked him about what date it would be and he said 1730, in any case not later that 1750. I can’t remember whether I told you before what it is like; anyway it is walnut with attractive metal hinges and locks, 3 ft wide and somewhat similar to your cupboard in our bedroom only larger and differently fitted. It has 3 deep drawers and one shallow drawer below, and above two doors which open to reveal about ten small drawers round a still smaller pair of drawers which in turn open to reveal about ten small drawers round a still smaller pair of doors, which in turn open to reveal three wee secret drawers right at the back. I am already planning which drawers I shall stake out a claim on, though I suppose when the time comes I shall meekly give way and let you have them. I would love to have some for sewing and knitting things, some for games and packs of cards, some for photograph albums – oh, I expect we shall find plenty to put in them once we get going. At the moment there is some small restorations to be done here and there, the cost of which is included in the purchase price. I was going to have them keep it there and store it for us, but on second thoughts I wanted to have it home as soon as possible and shall put it in the drawing room opposite the music cabinet for the time being. So I have written today to ask them to get on with the restoration and deliver it as quickly as they can. I think I had better get out Private Chattels insurance extended to cover it, the premium won’t be vast on £45 and I think it is worth it. I’m so thrilled about it all, I sometimes think I can begin to visualise what our house will be like, won’t it be exciting when it all begins to come true! How I wish you were here to choose and decide with me, bus as you can’t be, I think I have been wise to buy these few things; now we have the nucleus of a home (though perhaps this cabinet wasn’t strictly a necessity!). I shall continue to get odd things for the kitchen etc when I come across them and can finance them out of income, but I don’t think I had better get any more big things, unless I find something very exceptional. Do write and tell me exactly what you feel about my spending our money on my own like this – I can tell you that I hate the responsibility of it, but feel I should be shirking it if I didn’t make some attempt to get things while there are any left. I only wish I had more time to look round the shops – but perhaps it is as well for our finances that I haven’t!
On Tuesday I went to see “In which we serve”, an excellent film about the Navy, produced, directed and starring Noel Coward. I very much enjoyed it. Yesterday Frances and I went to another party, this time at Mrs. Boyds. There were seven children, who played on their own in the playroom while we mothers chatted round the drawing room fire, and a good time was had by all. I do so enjoy going there. Today Frances and I have been to tea with Jean Chapman and her son Richard – he is a spoilt boy and needs several good spankings! However Frances managed to enjoy herself as usual. Work at the factory goes on as usual. If I keep it up long enough I shall have paid for the cabinet out of my earnings! I have had a letter from Joy Witton-Davis with photo of her son now a year old. She tells me Bridget has a daughter, must write to her. I thought of you such a lot on Jan. 6th – may the next be spent together! Always yours, Ursula.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 2, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20003.

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