Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Reports arrival of two letters from him and mentions she is anxious to hear his views on size and cost of new house. Says she should be able to proceed with looking after parents arrive home and discusses possible locations and high cost of buying furniture. Mentions agricultural studies, states that they may now write letters as well as letter cards but need to keep numbers down to one a week. Says she was interested in his description of fellow prisoners and the continues with news of her activities. Mentions asking the Red Cross to send argotone.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter with handwritten notes


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Start of transcription
To Sgt. J.R.M. Valentine, From Mrs. J.R.M Valentine,
British Prisoner of War No. 450 Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Stalag Luft III, Germany Hendon, London N W. 4.
R4A 5/4 [rubber stamp]

No. 49 Thursday 18th February 1943

My darling Johnnie,

Lovely surprise this morning, two missives from you, rather old ones since they date from 24.11 and 7.12. There is still one missing and I am rather afraid that is the letter in which you intended discussing our future home. I do hope it will turn up or that you will repeat the contents some time. I am very anxious to know your views on the size of house you are thinking of, maximum and minimum, ditto of the ground, and above all the maximum price that we can budget for. Mother and Daddy should be on their way soon, and once they arrive I hope to start prospecting in earnest, and I simply must have all the gen from you first. The idea rather appals me in any case, it is rather a responsibility to undertake without you, and I have an idea that we may find it advantageous after all to postpone buying a house in the country until after the war. At the moment houses within reach of London are pretty full up, the movement of population tending to be out of London, but afterwards a lot of people will presumably move back into London itself and it may then be easier to find the sort of house we want at the required distance from the city. However I intend to go into the whole matter in in detail once I have a few ideas from you as regards price etc. to go on. I haven’t bought any more furniture lately, though I am hoping to get either a bed or a chair from Jean Chapman, mother of young Richard who lives in Mulberry Close. She is a queer girl, completely nuts as far as I can see. Her flat was quite adequately furnished with good pre-war furniture (she has been married five or six years) when suddenly she decided she would like a change, now, when furniture buying is a nightmare, prices soaring and quality very questionable Anyway, she sold her solid old stuff for a mere song – I wish I had known about it in time – as has been spending weeks trying to get other pieces to replace it. Why she didn’t get the new stuff first, nobody knows. For some weeks the flat was more of less bare, and her husband was very, very angry. But she is still not cured and proceeds to pick up odd things here and there. The latest is a small divan, with a head-board. She can’t decide whether to use it as a divan in her sitting-room, and sell me one of her easy chairs, or to have it as a bed for Richard, and sell me Richard’s present bed. She more or less besought [underlined] me [/underlined] to decide whether [underlined] I [/underlined] would rather buy a bed or a chair, and then she would use her divan to replace whichever piece I wanted. He’s nuts, obviously. At the moment nothing is decided, since obviously I refused to decide her furnishing problems for her, over her husband’s head. I hope she makes up her mind to sell the bed, for we need that more urgently than a chair, though her chair is comfortable and well-sprung, no mean virtue in these days.

Talking of life in the country, I read a very interesting article in the Observer the other day which I think you would have enjoyed The gist of the man’s argument was that farming nowadays is becoming increasingly complex and technical and few ordinary working farmers are able to cope with all the scientific research and development, marketing, financial and accountancy problems and new methods. On the other hand, British agriculture could not easily be adapted to communal methods, it really needs the detailed care that individual farmers give it. So his solution was that a smallish number of adjacent farms, covering 2000 to 3000 acres for instance, should employ a small central board of experts in the various

[inserted] The missing letter arrived this morning – many thanks, will reply next time. [/inserted]

[page break]

branches of farming, a veterinary surgeon, a farming accountant, a soil expert, breeding expert or whatnot, according to their needs, whose services would be available to all the members. It seems rather a sound idea to me, and a scheme into which you might well fit.

We have now been told that after all we may write letters, not only letter-cards, to be carried air mail all the way, but are still encouraged to keep the quantity down to one a week. I’m so glad, for it means that you should receive the photos I send within a reasonable time. The enclosed picture of Ann was taken the weekend before last when she stayed here. Your Mother was very pleased with it, and I am sending out a copy to Leslie too.

I was so interested in your description of some of your fellow prisoners. Is Podle’s wife in this country? If so, it might be possible to get in touch with her. So glad you like Lensing, his uncle and aunt are very charming people too. So you don’t expect to be home till my 29th birthday – I wonder how much news you get and what you base your surmises on. Far be it from [sic] me to encourage baseless optimism, and we are certainly not out of the wood yet, but anyway I am having a kitbag made ready to send in your next parcel, and hope it may come in handy soon.

Charles Swindall rang up this morning, he was just going back from leave. He seems to be enjoying life reasonably well, and said he would write to you again sometime.

I have been doing a spot of gardening, since the weather has been so inviting. On Sunday I got down to it in a big way, started by planting out 2 .lbs of shallots, in the side-bed by the loganberry and blackberry. Now we ought not to be destitute even if the onion crop is a failure. I then examined the compost heap which you made originally behind the shelter and found the loveliest black squishy mess, which I dug out and spread about the most deserving parts of the garden. Taken together with the horse manure I have got and the NOM I bought some weeks ago, the garden ought to do better this year. I then dug a fresh pit for compost, underneath the shade of the tree where nothing will grow anyway, and also managed to get a bonfire going. I decided to try and get rid of those wretched old garden chairs which have cluttered up the place so long, so I popped one on the bonfire and it roared up like mad, nearly setting fire to the tree and then blown by the wind right up against the fence. Frances greatly enjoyed all this activity, wasn’t the slightest bit afraid of the bonfire and went far too close to it for my peace of mind. She had her little wheelbarrow out and was very busy all the afternoon transporting pebbles and mudpies. When the bonfire was really roaring I thought I might as well burn some of the blackberry and rose prunings and had to drag all the stuff down from the top of the garden, with the result that I am still excavating for thorns in my hands! I have also pruned the roses – Mrs. Hazard insisted I must cut the bush roses practically down to the ground, so I a very doubtful whether they will ever bloom again!.

Frances and I went out to tea with Mrs. Boyd again this week and this time I took Mary Simmonds and David along. A good time was had by all, as usual, and as soon as Alistair Boyd (aged 8) came home from school he set to work to dress Frances up in some of their fancy-dress clothes – a cross between a gypsy and a chinaman it turned out to b [sic] this time. Frances thoroughly enjoys it all. The factory work goes on as ever – we are pressing for a rise to 1/6 an hour now!

I am writing to the Red Cross medical section to ask them to send you another lot of Argotone, since the first arrived so quickly. What a wonderful organization!

With all my love to you my darling. It is so lovely to get even a postcard from you, what [indecipherable word] will it be like when we are together again for good? Yours for always. Ursula.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20011.

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