Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Writes of returning home after holiday in Devon and meeting Americans on journey. Catches up with news of family and friends from letters received while she was away, Continues with activities to get new house organised including planting of news trees. Worries about sending him his next parcel as she has not received any mail from him with request for items. Concludes with news of future plans.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter with added handwritten notes


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To [deleted] Sgt. [/deleted] W/O J.R.M. Valentine,
British P.o.W. No.450
Stalag Luft III, Lager A
[ink stamp]
From Mrs. Valentine,
Botterell’s Lane,
Chalfont St. Giles.
[inserted] The enclosed photo of Muriel and Robert may interest you [/inserted] R 22/2
My darling Johnnie,
Frances and I got back from Devonshire last Friday evening after quite a pleasant Journey. Frances made friends with some American sailors who fed her on peanuts, which she loved, and chewing gum, which she swallowed whole in spite of all our admonitions, much to their amusement. When we got back here, at about 7 p.m., we found an enormous pile of mail waiting for us, 35 letters and five parcels! I have been very busy for the last 3 evenings coping with it all. There was a friendly letter from Eleanour Kennedy, who has a third child, Anne, born last September; one from Mrs. Howie, who has been ill recently and in nursing homes, though she doesn’t make much of it; her sister Agnes dies this year, Iain now goes to the Academy in Ayr. One from Mrs. Greenis announcing that she has taken over the Tenterden Grove Savings Group – I wish her joy of it! Another was from Mrs. Aylmer – I sent them a card. There was a card for Frances from Fred Don, and a book from Bish, and a doll from Grandma, and a box of bricks from the Grunfelds. There was also a missive from the Inspector of Taxes wanting property tax. As the purchase hasn’t yet been completed I don’t actually own the place yet and don’t see why I should pay the tax. Indecent haste, I call it. Also, the things I bought for the house a fortnight before Christmas had at last arrived, including the gramophone from your people, still in working order though I hope Peter may be able to improve the tone somewhat; and the bed from Jones Brothers. To my horror I found that one leg had been cracked right through presumably in transit, so of course that has to go back and will probably take weeks to be replaced. Sometimes I feel that I shall never get the house organised! Certainly not for months yet. For the piano is due to be carried off for repairs, and then I hope to get the outside woodwork repainted this spring, and sometime I intend to strip the paper off the diningroom [sic] walls and paint it a lighter, fresher colour. The sitting-room curtains are waiting to be made up and embroidered, and so it goes on. Still, I have managed to put up three shelves in the narrow recess in Frances’s room, so that she has some more accommodation for her toys. There is room for five or six more shelves yet but I haven’t got the timber. My next worry is a hanging cupboard of some sort for the spare bedroom. Some day, I suppose we shall be able to buy a proper cupboard for that room and I don’t want to knock the walls about too much by putting up a corner fitment if it is only going to be temporary. I wondered if I could rig something up on the picture rail, but I haven’t got the timber for it at the moment anyway. When David Haes brings the bookshelves for the sittingroom [sic] (that’s another eyesore at the moment, having so many books piled up in the corner of the sitting-room for lack of accommodation for them) I may ask his opinion on this cupboard question. I have already mentioned to him in a letter the idea of a cupboard and shelves for our bedroom, and he has put us down on the list, to be attended to sometime.
While we were away the fruit trees arrived, I arranged with our nextdoor [sic] neighbour to the west. Mr. Palmer, who is a ratired [sic] head gardener, that he should put them in for me. This he duly did, though he is an old man of over 80, for the princely sum of 3/-. The trees look pretty good to me,, particularly a Comice pear, espalier trained,
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which i have against the wall near the diningroom window, facing south. We now have altogether five apples (one old established, two standards and two bush), two pears, one Victoria plum, one greengage, one damson, six gooseberries, 3 red and 3 black currants, three rows raspberries, and three small logans and a small blackberry. I don’t suppose we shall get very much this year, but at least they are started. There is one other good south wall, the back of the garage, which I feel deserves to sport a fruit tree, and I think I shall try to get a couple of cordons from the local nurseries. There is also a small japonica planted against the west wall of the diningroom, next to the new greengage, and Mr. Palmer tells me this would do better in a more shady position, so I intend to transplant it and put another fruit tree in its place. Just now we have a nice row of cauliflowers in the garden – we had cauliflower cheese for lunch today, much to Frances’s joy. I have bought a lot of 2d packets of flower seeds from Ryders with the idea of growing next year’s perrennials [sic] from seed this year Plants cost about 1/6 each, so I thought I would leave the herbaceous border this year to see what exactly is in it ( though I strongly suspect that it is mostly Michaelmas daisies), the this autumn I, or you, or both of us, will dig it over properly and plant it with the perennials grown from seed (delphiniums, lupins and so on.)
I am very agitated about your next parcel, due to go off at the end of this month. Honestly I don’t think it is worth while sending you a lot of stuff, the prospects are looking so much brighter nowadays. I haven’t had any mail to speak of for ages, so I don’t know if you have asked for anything special, except the walking shoes which I am hoping to get for you. I haven’t had time to do any knitting these last couple of months, as you can imagine! I’ve managed to get you some more Neko soap. So if it is a rather measly parcel, you’ll know it is because I was feeling over-optimistic. There will be chocolate in it anyhow, two month’s ration - and not mine either! When we were in Salcombe the good soul who serves in the small local grocer’s shop heard about you, and as it was near the end of the sweet rationing period and she hadn’t used hers, she handed it over to me to spend for you. Soon after a Devon woman who was with us, as maid for many years came to see us and also heard about you, and by the next post she sent me her sweet ration and her husband’s, and I’ve bought chocolate with that too. People really are awfully kind!
You will be amazed - and probably amused - to hear that I have started to keep accounts again. I thought it would be interesting to see what housekeeping costs here, so I have started off well, cooking the answer a bit so that it balances perfectly.
Frances and I have both got wretched colds just now. It is rather a nuisance, but better than flu, which I seem to have escaped so far. Tomorrow we are invited to tea with the Horswell’s elder married daughter Gwen, who lives at Chalfont St. Peter’s with her small girl aged 3 and a baby boy. The little girl goes to the dancing class in Gerrards Cross which I hope Frances will attend this term too. Frances is such a sociable person, and she longs to be with other children, so I must do what I can for her. Dancing will be good for her too. The lessons cost 25/- a term, and I think I can rustle up that much.
[inserted] all my love to you my darling – it won’t be long now. Yours always Ursula [/inserted]
[random text in margin] [underlined] P.S [/underlined] 12th Jan. Just received Power of Attorney P.O.S.B [3 indecipherable words] Many thanks. Will use latter to pay A.S.W but wont need further I hope. Also congratulations on your promotion to F/Sgt. On 1.5.43 & W/O on 1.8.43. My allowance has increased by 6/6 weekly, but that will be set off by G.A.T. Pity you haven’t got a W/O’s nice uniform!
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Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 4, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20077.

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