Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Reports on recent activities including daughter's dancing class, clinic and visit to and news of neighbours. Continues with domestic matters and worries over when mortgage payments will start. Reports arrival of three of his postcards from October and November and comments on contents. Concludes with news of gardening and other domestic issues.



Temporal Coverage



Two-page typewritten letter


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Start of transcription
To W/O J.R.M. Valentine,
British P/W No. 450,
Stalag Luft III Lager A
[stamp GEPRUFT 25]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Felmersham, Bottrell’s Lane,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks
Sunday February 13th, 1944
[inserted] 13/5 [/inserted]
My darling Johnnie,
Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day, how well I remember the 14th February two years ago when you gave me my lovely gold wing, and I couldn’t remember what there was special about that particular date that you should give it to me then! No Valentines this year, I’m afraid, but perhaps next year they will return like other good things.
Frances and I haven’t done anything very special this week. Tuesday was the dancing class, when Frances was smitten with a fit of shyness, a very rare thing in her, and wasted quite ten minutes of the class in clinging to me. However, she got over it and enjoyed herself as much as ever. Did I tell you that the class is going to present “Snow White” at the end of the summer term and Frances is to be a rabbit? All those in the youngest class are to be small animals of various kinds, and Frances’s great moment comes when she and another rabbit come upstage and comfort Snow White who is crying. She did this with great compassion last week. I get a great kick out of listening to her conducting dancing classes with her toys at home “Now then, children, spread out, point your toes” and so on.
On Thursday I took Frances to the Clinic to fetch her orange juice and have her looked over by the doctor. She is as full of beans as ever but has gone off her food, sometimes she barely eats enough to keep a sparrow alive. The doctor could find nothing much wrong with her, except, to my horror, a small rupture by her tummy button, so she strapped her up with Elastoplast and I have to take her again in a month’s time. Apparently it is nothing serious, and I cannot imagine how she got such a thing. It would not have any effect on her general health, and I am hoping her appetite will pick up when the spring weather comes along. It’s no good forcing her to eat – but it makes cooking even less worth while than before. How I wish you would come home so that I could have someone really to cook for!
After the dancing class on Tuesday we went back to tea with Gwen Milliner at St. Peter’s, and Frances had a lot of fun playing with Pemma’s toys. They own a small house, not so nice as ours I think, her husband is in partnership with his father as estate agents at St. Peter’s. They are a nice couple, thought I have only seen Tony once so can’t really judge him. He’s in the army now, and while she was trailing round with him they let their house. When her second baby was coming and she wanted to go back into it but the tenants simply would not move out and at last they compromised by having two rooms each, which is pretty hard luck in one’s own house, isn’t it? Incidentally, the Horswell’s have now sold their house, and expect to move out by the end of March. The purchaser is a gent by the name of Brown, an elderly bloke who is going to live there with his valet! I shall be sorry when the Horswell’s go, they have been very friendly and helpful. Let’s hope the newcomer will be the same. I should think, at any rate, that he will have a few vices as a neighbour, even if few virtues. The Horswells want to get a real farm, I told you that was his hobby, didn’t I? They hope to be somewhere in the neighbourhood, they have lived here to 20 years. It seems mad to me to have sold their house without having bought another, I suppose they will live in a hotel until the right one turns up.
[page break]
I have been perpetrating more carpentry this week. It was the shoe problem that started it. It is a constant annoyance to have wet and muddy shoes waiting to dry off and be cleaned kicking around the kitchen, so I have made a very patent shoe rack. This consists of 3 pieces of a packing case knocked together to form two uprights and a top and painted blue to match the kitchen paint, about 2’ high; below two shelves are formed of 4 brass rods, so that wet shoes can be put there to dry and be cleaned. Since it was finished the weather has been consistently dry. However, it’s day will come. Emboldened by this success (for the thing will stand without support), I turned by attention to the bedside cupboard in our room. You may remember this has a drawer and a shelf near the top and then a high space underneath which serves no useful purpose. So I have fixed two rods across the centre to form a shelf for shoes (much less damaging to the cupboard than putting in an actual shelf and anyway I haven’t the timber to do that), so now four pairs of shoes can be neatly stowed away in there. Shoes are bulky untidy things and there is never enough accomodation [sic] provided for them, but I am going to do what I can for them.
There is still no news about the house, that is to say, nothing from the Building Society intimating that they would like some money. Both the Horswells and I have signed the agreement, so I wonder what they are waiting for now. Wonderful people, solicitors.
I have had three postcards from you since last I wrote, dated 10th and 25th October and 10th November, and a letter of 21st June! I’m so glad you have received the music and strings from Selfridges. I have ordered more strings to be sent by Chappells. I’m so sorry that your footwear is reduced to such a state, new brown shoes are on the way with my last parcel – but can’t you get army boots from the Red Cross in the meantime? I understand that they and battledress are provided. Or is it one of those myths? I’m very upset that your Father has stopped sending smokes. Does he mean by “contact is renewed” that you don’t devote enough of your mail to Barnet? I must find out tactfully whether he has started sending again, if not, I will do so. Thank you so much for your postcards darling. Your remarks on the weather do not seem to be appreciated for they are often censored. I do hope your fiddle is holding together now and that the new one arrives soon. I have started practising the piano again though there is not much pleasure in it with the instrument in its present sorry state. I have heard of a piano tuner and repairer in Chalfont St. Peters and have written to him. The other day Frances and I visited a house in the village which advertised itself as a Toy Museum, I thought it might amuse Frances. But it turned out to be much more high-flying. It is run by an old lady, Italian I should think, who used to be a concert pianist and is very widely travelled, and is a most interesting collection of toys of all ages and countries, absolutely unique and of great cultural value, she assured me. Frances of course admired all the wrong things.
I have planted out the shallots but otherwise haven’t done much in the garden, the weather hasn’t been inviting. The wind up here can be pretty cold – I am told we are 1,000 ft up, which should be healthy at any rate. I have sprayed the fruit trees with tar oil winter wash. The curtains in the sittingroom are now finished and hung, complete with pelmet and I think they look pretty good. The pelmet has an embroidered narrow border too, so I’ve had about enough sewing for the present and taken up knitting again. I’m also reading more Scott, “Fair Maid of Perth” this time, and enjoying it as ever. He’s a bit long-winded though, isn’t he?
All my love to you, my dearest one. Yours always, Ursula



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20194.

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