Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


She writes of her containing house hunt and that she went to Exeter to look at houses with her father and of the difficulty in finding one for her and John. She also writes about the garden, her job and her Current Affairs Club where the speaker was a doctor talking about the proposed state medical service, also their daughter’s activities



Temporal Coverage



Two-page typewritten letter with added handwritten note


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Start of transcription
To Sgt. J.R.M. Valentine,
British P/W No. 467,
Stalag Luft III, Germany
[stamp GEPRUFT 74]
[inserted] 23/8 A 25/8 [/inserted]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, London, N.W. 4.
Sunday 4th July 1943
My darling Johnnie,
This week has been another of alarms and excursions about houses – not our house, I am sorry to say. I meet with nothing but blank refusals wherever I turn. One agent in the Epping Forest area sent me particulars of a house in Buckhurst Hill for £550, which seemed too cheap to be true. So I wrote to enquire further and found it was in the middle of the town, thoroughly dilapidated, lavatory at the end of the garden and altogether hopeless. Otherwise there have been no bites at all. But my parents had various offers of houses down in Devon and decided to go down and see them. At the last moment, i.e. at 7 a.m. on the morning they were going, Mother suddenly thought it would be a good idea if I went with Daddy instead of her to do the preliminary selection, which she said might be tiring and fruitless, and she would come down later to make the final choice. Actually it was a kind of plot to give me a change of air and scene for a couple of days. After much protestation I finally went – it seemed very foolish to me. However Daddy and I had a pleasant run down to Exeter where we got rooms at a hotel and after visiting the estate agent, trotted off, by bus, to see the first on the list, which turned out to be a small 2 1/2 – bedroomed bungalow overlooking the sea, for which the hopeful owner demanded £3,000! The next day we went off early by train to Totnes to inspect two houses in a most delightful steep wooded valley, one a newish house in a not very nice garden, the other an old and slightly dilapidated house in a perfectly marvellous garden – if we had been free to live down there I should have loved the older one. Various people were after these but we persuaded the owner to give us an option for a couple of days, so that Mother could see them. So I caught the afternoon train back to town while Daddy went on to look at another place, arrived home about 9 p.m. to find that our daughter had behaved herself very well in my absence. Yesterday Mother went down, taking with her a letter for Daddy which had arrived meantime offering him a job in Edinburgh. Apparently when Daddy saw it he decided to apply for it and so the whole business of the houses was dropped and they both came home on the night train arriving early this morning. Everything seems to be topsy-turvey, everybody’s plans are in a state of flux and no one can get anywhere. Even Ba may be leaving her job and going into another which would take her away from home; I can’t find the house we want and shall probably have to put our own furniture into store and go with the parents if I can’t find a cottage before they leave here – [underlined] if [/underlined] they leave here; Daddy wants to get a job but hasn’t yet found the right one; Mummy wants them to retire quietly to the country and give up trying to find jobs and just live happily ever after. In fact Frances is the only one who has no problems and she sails through life as blissfully as ever. I suppose things will sort themselves out in time but the interval is rather unsettling and trying.
I have your letters up to [missing number] with only a few exceptions. I suppose I shall soon be hearing whether or not you have moved, perhaps Grandpa was right and you went to Offlag 2lb but the Red Cross didn’t seem to think this likely. I only hope all your mail and your parcel will get sent on without too much delay. Your letter of the 12th May has now at last arrived intact and I was very interested in what you wrote. [inserted] Thank you so much for everything you send, I just love getting your letters [/inserted]
[page break]
[inserted] Glad to hear you are going to take up some professional studies again. What about The Institute’s offer of professional literature? [/inserted]
I have written to thank Grunfeld for the Swiss parcel. The poor man had his shin broken by a kick from a horse some time ago, but I expect he’s better by now. Roy Cowdry rang up the other night when I was out at the factory, i.e. some time before midnight, I gather from Ba that he is back at work now but had had a very bad attack of bronchitis and has to go carefully. I only hope it is nothing worse. He works far too hard. I can’t understand how it is you know so little about my work. Are my letters heavily censored? I leave home at 6.49 or even later and get to work at 7. I really do quite enjoy it. I have been duly impressed by the way you prescribe a REAL HOLIDAY for me this year in almost every letter, and as I believe I mentioned once before I am hoping to take this down at Gable End helping their farmer friends with their harvest while Frances disports herself with Muriel and Robert. I haven’t yet fixed the date because of the uncertain state of affairs here at home, but anyway there is plenty to be done on the land for a couple of months yet. I should however like to avoid the potatoe [sic] harvest, for that must be the most back-breaking of all! We have been getting a grand crop of fruit from the strawberries and raspberries and logans here in the garden, the peas are ready too and things are looking quite promising in general. I should be sorry if we went away before the beans and tomatoes come into action. I haven’t been doing any bottling or jam-making yet because of the general state of uncertainty, for the transport problem is going to be thorny enough without complicating it with endless jam-jars. I only hope our fate is decided before the plum-crop comes and goes!
Last Wednesday our Current Affairs Club had another meeting; this time I had to be in the chair because nobody else had been appointed in time, though that must be out of order since I am secretary. However it doesn’t amount to much, merely a couple of polite speeches introducing and afterwards thanking the speaker. This time we had a local doctor whose wife is a friend of Mrs. Boyd’s to tell us about the proposed state medical service. Unfortunately the man has a kink on the subject and made some pretty slanderous remarks of an ultra-tory kind in the course of his talk. I being chairman had to preserve a semblance of impartiality, but Clare weighed in to the attack and he answered her as illogically as those sort of people always do. At past 5 p.m. I managed to get away leaving him and Clare still arguing about the dole, rents, Christianity, Beveridge and the Government in general! Frances had been rather trying. A fortnight before when I brought her she cried and made a fuss most of the afternoon chiefly because she was cutting four double teeth, I thought, and poor Mrs. Smith who looks after the various children had a busy time with her. This time as soon as we got inside the door Frances set up a bleat (as Mrs. Donovan would have said) and clung to me and didn’t want me to leave her. I tried everything I knew to disentangle myself but she just howled. Obviously some hidden fear or unpleasant memory was worrying her so I thought it best not to force her and I took her back home to Mother, in disgrace of course but she seemed so relieved that I’m glad I didn’t make her stay. It’s impossible to tell all the funny little thoughts and fears that may crop up in a child’s mind and I think one can do much more harm than good by forcing them in a case like that. I wonder if you think that was spoiling? I don’t think so myself. I told her I thought she was just a silly little girl and now she wouldn’t be able to play with little Susan and the others, but she seemed quite willing to forgo that. Today Mother and I took her to the church fields and she had a grand game with two other little girls there playing ball with their balls. She’s generally very sociable and not at all shy. She talks more fluently every day and at night when I kiss her goodnight she always says “Goodnight Mudder, goodnight Fardar”.
All my love to you, my dearest. Yours always Ursula.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 27, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20048.

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