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 letters and says how much she treasures them. Answers points he raised; glad to receive definite ruling on future housing, notes that future main source of supply would be Touche, plans to do agricultural course when he gets back and that he wants he to go ahead in search for house with small holding within reach of London. Mentions that nothing has arrived from Caterpillar Club and is shocked by wife's neglect of fellow prisoner. Discusses his studies and contents of parcels. Continues with financial matters and recent activities as well as providing news of daughter Frances. Writes short discussion on end of war and whether he might need to go out east. Concludes with current gardening activity and description of enclosed photographs.



Temporal Coverage



Two-page typewritten letter


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To Sgt. J.R.M. Valentine,
British Prisoner of War No. 461,
Stalag Luft III, Germany
[inserted] 61 [/inserted]
[stamp GEPRUFT 32]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, London NW 4.
Sunday May 16th 1943.
[inserted] R & A 4/6/43 [/inserted]
Johnnie my darling,
This week I have received your letters 9 to 23 except 11, 15 and 21. What a glorious haul – I only wish that my letters to you arrived as frequently! You are certainly an excellent correspondent, and I treasure all your letters, read them lots of times, read out selected bits to Barbara who is always most interested in your news, and generally feel on top of the world when I have just received a batch like that. Now I will attempt to answer some of them.
First to turn to the housing question. I am very glad to have definite rulings on this subject, and think that your advice to approach a County Agricultural Adviser is very sound. I shall do that first of all when I start taking active steps again – i.e. when the parents have arrived, which should be any time now. I will definitely stick to a £100 limit and renting not purchase, and if I can’t do anything, then we shall have to wait till you come – maybe that won’t be so long after all. If the County Adviser is as helpful as they are supposed to be, it will be very reassuring for me to have his expert opinion on the soil. In another letter however you mention that you are more and more of the opinion that Touche’s must be our main source of supply (I agree with this too) – but that doesn’t alter our ideas for our immediate home does it? but only our more future plans. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I gather that you want me to go ahead in any case in the search for a 10-20 acre small holding within daily reach of London. Your idea of our attending an intensive course on agriculture when you return sounds very attractive – could Frances come too I have also noted your suggestion that Frances and I should take up residence on a farm when the parents are back. I should love it for myself, but the arrangement would have to include someone to look after Frances if I were to do any real work, for she couldn’t be left to roam round on her own, she is far too much of a pickle. It would be marvellous if I could get the above-mentioned small holding for us, hire a man to help with the work and have my parents to live with me till you come so that I could really work on the farm. However my father will doubtless set about getting himself a job as soon as he arrives so that he and Mother won’t be free to come and live with me. We shall see.
Nothing has come from the Caterpillar Club yet, I’ll let you know when it does. Sorry about your ring splitting, I expect we can have it repaired when you come. I was very shocked to hear about Frank Pepper’s wife’s total neglect of him, it is difficult to imagine anyone being so heartless even if she has stopped loving him (which wouldn’t surprise me from what I saw of her). By the way you needn’t worry about Mary Griffin’s work in the slightest, it is only one minute from her home and involves nothing more lethal than a screwdriver. She works 3 evenings a week, and looks well on it.
You ask my advice on whether you should this summer go all out “hammer and tongs” as you picturesquely put it, for the fiddle to the exclusion of your other studies. It seems to me to depend largely on your instructor, I gather you now have someone slightly more interested in you and I’m very glad to hear that. If he wants you to put in more time and is willing to give you more attention too, it might be worth it, but on the whole I should think that 2 hours daily is a very fair ration and it would make your day a more satisfactory and balanced one if you devoted some time
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to other subjects as well. I will try to get you the studies you ask for, I hope to be going up to town this coming week, and am also going to try for some skates to send in your June parcel. I have got everybody working like blacks to make your knitted patchwork rug, helpers include your Mother, Bunty, Ann, Aunt Con, Florence, Ba and her friends, not to mention me – I don’t seem to get any mending done because there is always a square handy to be knitting! I do hope it arrives safely after all.
I will acknowledge the various cig. parcels you have received, so gld [sic] they are arriving safely. The 2 parcels from Rothmans were actually gifts from the firm – their registered customers were each allowed to nominate a P/W to received [sic] 150 free of charge.
As regards finances, I am doing fine. I will write to the RAF and make sure they are not charging you with Inc Tax. The Red Cross makes no demand whatever on next-of-kin but naturally we support them all we can. I have put my name down to collect in the streets on their next flag day in June and still peg away with the Penny-a-Week Fund. Our savings are mounting gradually, I buy a certificate nearly every week, often two, with my earnings, and have now taken to putting 3d bits into the puggie. The bank account is quite solvent but will be set back a bit when my dentist’s bill and the bill for repairing our dressing-table come in – but I think it will stand it alright. The bill for the house-painting, which hasn’t come yet, I am going to pay from my Grindlay’s account, so there! I really don’t see why we should pay it out of our wedding presents, after all we’re only tenants, not even that, merely caretakers. I’m sure my parents will agree and will be glad I had it done for them. They had it coming to them anyway.
Last Friday Bunty brought Muriel and Robert over here for the day. They came just before lunch, and the children got on remarkably well together. Remember last time, when Robert kept knocking Frances down? Now Frances is a good 3” taller than Robert and takes shoes 3 sizes larger!! I invited Mary and David Simmonds to tea as well, and Jill from next door, and the children had a grand time. It was a very hot day, so we dressed them up in sunsuits and provided them with buckets of water and sundry pots to pour it about with, and they had a glorious time. Frances of course poured hers over her own head and shouted with joy at the splash. Bunty is very keen that I should go down and stay with them later in the summer, and I should love to do so, for there is plenty of work I could do on the farms down there and Frances would be looked after with her two. It is just a question of getting away from all my various ties here, by August I shall be entitled to a total of 4 days holiday from my job! However, I shall try to manage it if I can.
It is strange that you should mention the question of what will happen if this war ends before the Far East war, as it is fairly sure to do. It has been my private nightmare for some time now. I just couldn’t bear it if you had to go out east. Anyway you will [underlined] have [/underlined] to get your nose attended to first, I shall really insist on that this time. It ought to have been done that time in Oxfordshire, I often remember that evening when you came back from the hospital and my heart sank as though our fate had then and there been decided. Thank God it wasn’t quite as bad as I feared.
I have been pretty busy in the garden today and everything is coming on well except the lettuce – I seem constitutionally unable to grow lettuce or else it is the fault of this garden. The peonies are out now, also lupins, geums, masses of forgetmenots, aubretia and alyssum, and our little lilac tree has flowered manfully. I do hope my parents will arrive while the garden is looking nice. Peter has passed his exam at last, Chris is very jubilant. The photos are of Frances “cooking”, more to follow; I now let her weigh out the flour, sugar, and fruit for cake-making and she loves doing it and of course makes a fair mess. But isn’t she sweet?
All my love to you, my dearest husband, Yours always, Ursula.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 30, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20028.

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