Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Lists contents of clothing parcel she is about to send. Writes that parents are possibly going to sell current house and move to Devon or Cornwall. Mentions that she is not allowed to send colour photographs. Writes about poor prospect of taking over a small holding. bur describes cycling round Epping Forrest looking anyway. Catches up with other family news and writes of furniture shopping.



Temporal Coverage



Two-page typewritten letter with added handwritten notes


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Start of transcription
To Sgt. J.R.M. Valentine,
British Prisoner of War No. 466
Stalag Luft III, Germany
[stamp GEPRUFT 32]
[inserted] R & A 5/8 [/inserted]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, N.W. 4.
Sunday June 27th 1943
My darling Johnnie,
I have just been packing up your fifth clothing parcel, contents of which are as follows:- One knitted patchwork blanket, the joint work of dozens of your friends and admirers, who all send you their love along with their knitted squares. I hope it keeps you really warm this winter, and perhaps next winter it will serve to keep us both warm together! Item No. 2., the skates and boots about which I told you in my last letter, the gift of a Mrs. Turner whose husband has been killed in the RAF. I tried hard to get you the clip-on skates you asked for but had no offers at all and could not get any in the shops, so I hope you won’t mind the extra weight of these and will enjoy plenty of skating. No. 3 is a pair of warm Glastonbury slippers, similar to the pair Mother gave you before we were married, except that I have had rubber soles and heels put on these so that they should literally never wear out. I hope you will manage to bring them home with you when they come, and anyway they should keep you warm till then. No. 4 is a pair of mittens, which I send rather apologetically, you may think them simply awful, but I thought they might keep your hands from freezing while you practise your fiddle in the cold weather – if not, you can always use them to polish your shoes with! The rest of the items are the usual toilet articles, tooth brush and powder, shaving stick, shoe polish and three razor blades. I don’t know what type of razor you have but hope these will fit. The parcel doesn’t seem as full of things as usual, but the skates and the blanket took up most of the weight allowance, and anyway you tell me not to send too much clothing. Next time I will send socks again, as there are none in this parcel. I also have an RAF shirt which Mrs. Turner gave me with the skates, with collar – would you like me to send this next time or not? Would you like an attache case ([underlined if [/underlined] I can get one, that is to say). Let me know if your underclothes are wearing out, so that I can replace them. [inserted] I have also sent a block of rosin. [/inserted]
We have all been in a state of uproar this week over the housing question. Mother is anxious to sell this house and move out into the country without delay, probably Devon or Cornwall. Daddy is still hoping and waiting for a job, which might well be in London or if it were outside, that would determine the district in which they have to look for a house. A local estate agent, a great friend of the Lowes’ has been to look over the house with a view to selling it for my people and seems confident of getting well over £2,000 for it – so you can judge how prices have gone up and what we are faced with. Meantime I am faced with a horrid problem. What I should like to do, of course, is to find our future home and move into it with Frances and the furniture we already possess and set about gradually acquiring the other things we need. But first I have to find the house and then I have to find the means to rent or buy it. Everybody I apply to tells me it is almost impossible to rent unfurnished nowadays and that I shall be darned lucky if I come across anything to buy. The whole problem looks so thorny that I should give it up entirely, go and live with my people and wait till you come home, if it weren’t for the fact that I know it will be far worse then, when the real scramble for housing begins – reaches its climax, at least. So I keep on trying, but with decreasing hope.
[inserted] [underlined] So [/underlined] glad the fiddle is making good progress. Keep it up! [/inserted]
[inserted] I now have your letters up to 39 with one or two gaps. Many thanks, dearest. I will be discreet & in any case have always grossly [underlined] under [/underlined] stated when talking to your people. [/inserted]
[page break]
[inserted] Sorry to say I’m not allowed to send the colour photos after all – so sorry to disappoint you, dear. [/inserted]
Last week I took your advice and wrote to the Executive Officers of the War Agricultural Committees in Herts, Bucks and Essex. They all said No, with varying degrees of politeness, but the Essex man was the clearest of all; he said “I do not think that it would be very advisable for you to take over a smallholding at the present time, as it is essential to obtain maximum production from all the land and unless you have had any experience in the working of a farm, my Committee would not approve of your obtaining possession of a holding such as you mention unless you were prepared to instal [sic] a competent worker and the area you mention would be insufficient to warrant this”. So there you are. I really think we shall have to give up any idea of getting a smallholding until after you get back. After all, you may not be demobilised for ages and the main thing, as I see it, is to have a roof over our heads at all. So I have now taken to pursuing a country cottage, so far with no results. Mr. Raymond, the estate agent mentioned earlier, is going to do his best for me but held out little hope of renting. One thing he suggested is that I might possibly be able to buy reasonably cheaply a house at present requisitioned by the local authority, live with my people till the end of the war and then take possession of it, though he agreed with me that the local authority is unlikely to have requisitioned a cottage such as we want. However it is an idea. He strongly advised me to go personally to local agents and look round the districts we favour, but that is not so easy. However, yesterday I jumped on my pushbike and pedalled over to Epping Forest (no mean ride for a dowager, must have been nearly 20 miles all told) where I called on Sir Hubert and Lady Llewelyn Smith, the parents of a young man who had stayed with my people in India. They received me most cordially, gave me iced lemonade and tea, but their cottage, which was the thing I was after, was unfortunately let already. They live in a most delightful village, on the verge of the forest, in rolling country, (far too rolling for this poor cyclist!) about 2 miles from Waltham Cross which would be ideal for you getting into town, yet completely rural. They have promised to look out for a cottage for me but I don’t expect anything from them and have tonight written to a local agent, also without much hope. The whole thing is getting so urgent, for when once my parents have found a house, I shall have to decide whether I am going with them and putting our furniture in store, or not, and if not, what the devil I am going to do. Once I go with them down to Devon or somewhere, I feel I shall be too far away to do anything much about getting a cottage near London, and you will come back with no home to go to.
Another blow this week was Mother’s announcement that she is not going to part with her double bed after all, so that we can’t buy the box-spring and mattress from her, as I had clearly understood we could. On Friday I went up to town to see what I could do about it; most of the big shops were quite hopeless, it looked as though I should have to buy a whole bedroom suite and throw away everything except the mattress and spring! However by a stroke of pure luck I ran to earth a spring to fit our bed in Spriggs of Tottenham C.R., a mesh spring, not a box like Mothers, but at least something to put the mattress on. It was £4.10.0, and I managed to get a good hair mattress, secondhand reconditioned, from Maples for £8.15.0, and consider myself lucky. That has set us back £13 which I am producing from my P.O. account. I have written to RAF records today to find out if they are paying income tax, as you asked, and also asked what balance you have there. If I have to buy a cottage for us, perhaps you could allot me a sum from there, though I would rather manage without if I possible can. I have handed over all the allowance back to my people, nearly £400 all told, so that I have now got about £100 in Sav. Certs, the other £100 being ungetable [sic] in our joint account. All my love to you darling, for always, Ursula.
[inserted] Frances announced today, without any suggestion from us “I love my Daddy, I love my Daddy” (She still only says “Father” when prompted) [/inserted]



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 16, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20047.

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