Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Writes that she has sent forth parcel and provides a long list and description of contents. Continues with news of holiday in Sussex describing availability of food from farm and new farming methods for tomatoes and lettuces. Goes on to describe their host's daughter and her interaction with Frances as well as other activities.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


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To Sergeant John R.M. Valentine,
British Prisoner of War No. 454,
Stalag Luf III, Germany
[post stamp] GEPRUFT 68 [/post stamp]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Lido; Tenterden Grove,
London N.W. 4.
[inserted] A & R 24/S [/inserted]
Saturday, March 27th 1943.
My darling Johnnie,
Today I have sent off your fourth parcel, containing the following items: an RAF shirt and 5 new collars which don’t exactly match but will do, I hope, also a new black tie; the usual toilet things, toothbrush, 2 tins of toothpowder, 2 tablets of Neko soap, that antiseptic soap I sent you before, which I hope would be of help in case of infections a small glass tube containing dental floss, which I hope you will use in 5” – 6” lengths to clean between the teeth) ; a tin [deleted] s [/deleted] of black Kiwi, a pencil, a refill shaving stick, 2 used pipes from your father, a belt, a face flannels and a very small sponge, the largest I could get. Then there are two pairs of long stockings knitted at your request, one pair by me and only finished yesterday by forced marches, the other pair knitted up aby Auntie Harrie and hersister [sic] – hers is the nicer pair; also a pair of socks, I believe these are the ones Auntie Harrie knitted and sent to go in the last parcel but there wasn’t room; a pair of knitted gloves, a sleeveless pullover, knitted you long ago by Barbara, a pair of suspenders, not new for they are unobtainable now, but snaffled from Peter, 4 hankies, and RAF scarf, an inflatable rubber cushion which I hope may make your nights more comfortable if it is allowed through; 1/2 lb of chocolate, from Frances’s ration actually but we have plenty of milk chocolate for her, since I have nobly given up sweets for Lent, besides 2 lbs of chocolate which I have ordered from the Red Cross; a tinder light-er and 2 packets of flints which Ba tracked down after much hunting, I hope you will be able to make it work, it looks very queer to me but is the only sort of lighter I am allowed to send. I believe you first of all have to burn the end of the wick a bit to make it easier to light, and on subsequent occasions you just strike a spark from the flint and blow on the wick, and it [underlined] ought [/underlined] to glow sufficiently for lighting a cigarette. Let me know whether or not you can make it work. The largest item is the kitbag, made up partly by the Red Cross locally and when the working party there had broken a number of their sewing needles on it they gave it up in disgust and I got the local cobbler, whose wife works in the factory with me, to finish it off on his tougher machine. Anyway I hope it will be useful and will come in handy when you start travelling again. We are starting work on another patchwork rug, for your June parcel, which should arrive before Christmas, and I am going to see if I can get any skates for you too, clip-on ones I should think, for I don’t suppose you want me to send your proper skating boots, do you? After all, you might have started for home before they got to you. Well, I hope this fourth parcel reaches you safely and finds you fit and cheerful as ever, and it brings you all my love.
Frances and I have been away this week on our holiday, staying with Ann Warren-Davis and her people in Sussex. They have the most beautiful great house and garden, with farm and about 66 acres attached, and as far as food is concerned really don’t notice the war. We had eggs at least twice a day, to Frances’s great joy for she just loves them now, milk and cream, apples from last year’s crop still, but most marvellous of all to me were the perfect tomatoes and crisp lettuce which Mr. Doxford grows in his greenhouses by a most interesting new method. They don’t grow in soil at all, but in cinders or gravel or sand or whatever you will just to support the plant and its roots, and the food is supplied in the form of a chemical solution which is pumped into the benches and drained out again
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a number of times daily. The plants seem to love it! You should just see his tomatoes, nearly 6’ high and over 9 months old now, and they have been bearing steadily all through the winter and still have lots of fruit forming. The great advantage of the system is, as Mr. Doxford expounded, that you can control exactly what you are giving the plants, as you never can do with plants grown in soil because no method has [deleted] x [/deleted] yet been found of analysing all the chemicals in soil. One or two chemicals only need to be present on minute amounts but are absolutely essential for good growth, and it is these that it is impossible, as yet, to control or even detect in soil, but which can be accurately analysed when dissolved simply in water. So he analyses his “nutrient solution” as it is called once a week or so, finds out what is missing and easily make up the deficiency. Of course he is experimenting a lot, since the system is not yet fully worked out, to find out what happens if he puts in more or less of certain chemicals and is amassing a great amount of valuable data. It is a fascinating business, and is used on quite a large commercial scale in some places in America. There is no doubt that it produces amazing quality and quantity of all kinds of fruit and flowers and vegetables (I believe hardwoods are rather more difficult but roses seem to be managed successfully in America). He showed me a book on the subject, and I am going to try get you a copy if I can.
Ann’s little daughter Charlotte is six months older than Frances though not any bigger; she is a sweet kiddy, talks much more than ours, both in French and English since she has a French nanny, and she and France got on very well together. There was a certain amount of smash and grab over the toys but I think they both learnt quite a lot about the laws of give and take and to my amazement Frances gave up coveted toys quite docilely when required to. We had a great time helping Ann look after her numerous valuable rabbits, gazing at the animals on the farm and looking for eggs with the farmer’s daughter. Frances showed not the slightest sign of fear of any of the animals, I was glad to note, and was specially attracted to the pigs. We lived a lovely lazy life, breakfasting at 9 a.m. and spending all the day out of doors in the lovely garden and park. Unfortunately Ann developed a temperature and spent the last two days of our stay in bed, but Frances and Charlie enjoyed themselves as much as ever. I do like Ann tremendously and I am sure you would too, she is such a very sincere and intelligent person. I haven’t met her husband, he is a painter in real life, and they too propose to take up farming as a side-line to their artistic careers. When we came away we were loaded up with a dozen eggs and a magnificent great bunch of spring flowers from the garden, daffodils, narcissus, jonquils, hyacinths and violets, and the sitting-room is full of their perfume and freshness. We got home last night, and today has been chiefly occupied with getting your parcel ready and packed up. When I got home your letter No. 45 of 24.1. was waiting for me, a very pleasant home coming; [censored text] remark that there are doughboys in your hut. Sorry to hear that your Dutch friends are not more cooperative in your efforts to learn their language – you will just have to take your courage in your two hands and [underlined] force [underlined] yourself to talk to them first, as soon as you start to get going you will find that they will be more interested. I much enjoyed talking French again to Ann’s mademoiselle but found that my knowledge has grown lamentably rusty. I must try to read more French.
[inserted] Frances looks very grumpy in The enclosed snap, but you can see how curly her hai is. Her expression is usually more like that yoad [sic] photos taken in the bath.
All my love to you, darling, for always, Ursula. [/inserted]
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Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 17, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20019.

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