Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


She writes long account of about her efforts with house hunting in Hatfield Herford, Ashdown Forrest, Essex and possible financial solutions to buy. Mentions going to Epping Forest to visit Sir Hubert and Lady Llewellyn Smith.



Temporal Coverage



Two-page typewritten letter with added handwritten notes


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Start of transcription
To Sgt. J.R.M. Valentine,
British P/W No. 468
Stalag Luft III, Germany
[stamp GEPRUFT 32]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Lido, Tenterden Grove,
Hendon, London N.W. 4
Sunday 11th July 1943.
[inserted] R & A 20/8 [/inserted]
My darling Johnnie,
There have been terrific comings and goings again this week on the housing question. On Tuesday Mother said I could have the day off and she would look after Frances, so I jumped on my pushbike, cycled over to Barnet and caught a train out to Hatfield. There I made enquiries at the local estate agent but drew an absolute blank. So I cycled across to Hertford where the agents again gave me no hope at all. I went into the local newspaper office, read through their advertisements – nearly all wanting houses not offering them – and decided I might as well put in an advert myself. This should have been published on Friday so if anyone were to answer it might come tomorrow, but I am not expecting anything. In the newspaper a certain estate agent at Roydon seemed to have things to offer, so I decided to go over and see him. He was more hopeful than any of the others, and gave me four or five addresses in Essex, which made me feel a lot better. However it was then 3 p.m. and a terrific rain storm had started, so I decided I couldn’t make Essex that afternoon; instead I hiked into Broxbourne, took the train to Edmonton and cycled home from there. I was soaked to the skin and it is a wonder I didn’t catch a cold, however I am none the worse for it.
I had intended to go and look at the addresses in Essex the next day, but in the Times next morning there was an advertisement for a bungalow with 3/4 acres of garden in Ashdown Forest, which sounded rather nice for £1350, so I decided to go for that first. It was Barbara’s day off and she said she would come with me. We met at Charing Cross at 10 a.m. and believe it or not but we didn’t get to that bungalow till well after 1 p.m. When we did find it it turned out to be a horrid poky little place, we couldn’t have got our bedroom furniture into it at all, the garden was not at all attractive and the people on either side had built tin shacks and sheds of all kinds around it. Anyway it was far too far and devious a way for you to have got up to town. We got home about 5 p.m. after a totally wasted day except that it was glorious weather and the views in that part of the country are simply grand.
On Thursday I was allowed out again – I hardly seem to have seen Frances this week! This time I went for the Essex houses. I cycled into Liverpool Street; in the rush-hour too, and caught a train by the skin of my teeth out to Chelmsford. The first place I went to turned out to be about 6 – 7 miles from the town; it was described as an attractive well arranged small holding of 8 1/2 acres and turned out to be the most depressing dump I have ever seen. There was no sanitation or bath, an ancient range to cook on only two bedrooms (instead of 3 as stated), dark poky rooms – and all this without being old or attractive, just a Victorian villa dumped down among pig-styes. [sic] These styes [sic] were extremely up-to-date and roomy – in fact we should have done better to live in them ourselves and let the pigs have the house! Moreover the owner announced that he was asking £1450, not £1300 has [sic] stated on my particulars, so what with one thing and another I went off in disgust. On my way back into Chelmsford I noticed an attractive old black and white house standing empty and I had a bit of a look at it. I then enquired from a local shop and the pub who the owner was, but nobody knew. So I tried an estate agent in the town and eventually ran to earth the agent in charge of it. Of course he was out to lunch, but a dopey-looking girl took down my name and said they would send me full particulars, which they have so far failed to do.
[page break]
After this I set out to look for the next two on the list, near Southminster. This turned out to be a long slow train journey down a branch line and long before I got there I saw it was no earthly use for your daily travel. However I went to look at the better one, a fruit and poultry farm of 5 acres with 3-bedroomed house for £1250 and when at last I found it, they told me it was sold long ago and the new owners well installed! I didn’t bother to look at the other address because you couldn’t possibly have got into town daily from there. Another address had been a pair of cottages, devoid of any modern conveniences of course, for £650, but there wasn’t time to get there after the long-drawn out crawl to Southminster. A porter there was chatting to me about the difficulties of getting a house and said he would like to take my name and address and let me know if anything turned up, only his wife was rather a jealous woman and he thought he had better not! I thought this was rather funny. However he did write out the names of some estate agents he knew and handed them to me when I changed trains, which was kind of him.
So I haven’t really got any further yet. I saw an advert. in the Times a couple of days ago for a cottage at Princes Risborough. It is to be auctioned in about a fortnight and I have written for particulars and hope to go and see it, maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow also my parents are going down to Devon again to see a house at Salcombe that Daddy saw before and I rather think they will take it if it appeals to Mother. Then it will be all up with me. Of course it would be lovely to go down to Salcombe with them for a bit, specially for Frances to be by the sea, but oh how I wish I could get all our belongings into our own home first. I’d give almost anything to have you with me for a week or two now! It seems to be totally impossible to rent unfurnished, and if I buy, the house is sure not to come up to expectation in every way and one of us may be disappointed. However it does seem to me that the first essential is to have a home of some sort, and I am going to do my damndest [sic] to find a home fit for [underlined] my [/underlined] hero to live in! One point I have to clear up is how much and on what terms I can borrow the deposit money. Mother says she can’t lend it to me, so I suppose I shall have to borrow from the bank, and I suppose I shall have to give them your life insurance policies as security. I wish I knew whether or not I ought to go to your father about [inserted] it [/inserted]. I intend to tell him, if ever I find a house, and if he will, get him to see it before I clinch the matter. If only I could talk to you on the phone for ten minutes! However I feel fairly sure that you wouldn’t want me to borrow money from him – worse still, ask and be refused. I have been so worried about it all that I ought to have lost weight but I don’t think I have!
Yesterday we, i.e. my parents Frances and me, went out to Epping Forest to spend the day with Sir Hubert and Lady Llewellyn Smith, whom I told you I visited on my bike a couple of weeks ago. Frances was very thrilled with the train journey and thoroughly enjoyed herself. She could not get her tongue round “Lady Llewellyn Smith”, so simply called her Lady Mif, and that went down very well. It rained all the time so we didn’t see much of the country, but had a pleasant day.
I have had a note from the Red Cross saying your skates are being sent to you separately from the clothing parcel, which maddens me a lot because I could have put heaps of chocolate and stuff in to make up the weight if only I had known they would take them out.
[underlined] Monday [/underlined]
Nothing further turned up on the housing question. Bish is coming here to tea this afternoon.
All my love to you, my dearest, & a big kiss from Frances. Yours always Ursula.
[inserted] P.S. The enclosed photo is known as The Duchess of Kent, for its haughty expression! [/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/20049.

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