Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Reports no letters from him and then writes about offering their house and temporary home for expectant mothers and the arrival of the first one. Continues with news of arrival of new bookcase and catches up with news of friends and family. Writes of recent activities and contact with neighbour. Concludes next day with report of arrival of a letter from him and comments on contents.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


IBCC Digital Archive


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Start of transcription
To. W/O Valentine J.R.M.,
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.
February 20th 1944
[inserted] 13/5 [/inserted]
My darling Johnnie,
No mail from you since my last letter, but a slight change has come our household. At the beginning of the week I wrote to Fulmer Chase, the maternity home for officers’ wives, to ask if they ever need a temporary home in the district for their expectant mothers, and if so to offer them accomodation [sic] here. The objects of this move were three; one, to help the said E.M.’s, since I have had personal experience of what it is like in digs at that crisis in one’s career; two, to provide myself with occasional company which, however, had the advantage of being strictly temporary; and three, to make a spot of cash. I had no answer from them until on Friday a gentleman by the name of Clarkson Webb called on me, and explained that he and his wife had been housing these E.M.’s for a year or two now, but that it was getting too much for his wife, specially since she had had several doses of flu and was very run-down, and would I kindly take one right away? Unfortunately Barbara was invited for three days from Monday on her way back from her holiday in Devon and I had pointed out to Fulmer Chase that I couldn’t start till next week – however, Mr. Webb didn’t know that and he was in a bad spot, as his wife was ill in bed and their only maid had temporarily deserted them because her husband had come home on leave, and the poor man was trying to cope with three or four of these wretched young women, including taking them by car, generally in the dead of night, to Fulmer when their labour started. So of course I said I would take one for the weekend, and again after Barbara had gone, and so on Saturday, with practically no notice, I found myself a boarding-house-keeper! The lady in question is a Mrs. Kay, a rather ordinary sort of person, who has still a fortnight to go, so she is coming back to me when Barbara goes. The Webbs charge their E.M.s 3 guineas a week, so presumably I shall do the same, and if this goes on I shall be able to pay for the having the house repainted much sooner than I expected! Of course it is much easier to cater for three than just for Frances and me (incidentally Frances, who lost her appetite recently, has now found a horse’s, and I am having no further trouble on that score), and altogether I am quite enjoying my new role, though this particular guest would never be a bosom friend of mine, still she is quite decent. She comes from London and is glad to be out in the country for her last few weeks, so I feel it is a good arrangement all round.
The other main event of the week was the arrival of our new bookcase. It is a massive thing, with seven shelves, reaching from the skirting to the picture rail, and it fits its corner like a glove, which says a lot for my measuring as well as the accuracy of Betula Ltd. I haven’t yet had the bill, so don’t know what the damage is. It is painted cream, as I told you, and I think it looks very nice indeed in the room. Certainly it is a great relief to me to have the books put up in good order instead of stuffed away wherever I could find room for them. They fill this bookcase completely, and overflow into that small bookcase of mine, so I think we shall eventually want more shelves put in to the recess in the diningroom, but that will have to wait, like so many other things.
[page break]
I had a letter from Vera Bowack this week, returning to me the rompers I had lent her for Michael. She is coming up to London sometime soon, so I hope to see her, perhaps she will spend a night here, (if I am not full up with mothers-to-be!) I also heard from Ann that Bunty’s third infant has arrived, another daughter, weighing 8 1/2 lbs, and to be called Margaret Jean. I gather that they are both doing well. I bet Bunty is glad that it didn’t turn out to be twins after all, as she seemed to fear at one time.
The dancing class last week went off much as usual, but there seems to be some fear that the classes may come to an untimely end. They are held in a Masonic hall on the first floor, and below is a restaurant, and it seems that the proprietor is complaining about the noise and thumps. I’m not sure whether he is in a position to turn the class out, but anyway Mrs. Mawer, who runs it, is searching vainly for alternative accomodation, [sic] which is of course very hard to find. She suggested some hall in Stoke Poges, but that is a long way the other side of Gerrards Cross and it really would be a bit of a bore to trail right over there every week. I would rather try to find another class. I’m sure Frances would miss it sadly if we had to give it up altogether.
Another social event last week was a tea-party we gave to Mrs. Sharpe and her small son Phillip. She is the kind soul who put me up when I first came to Chalfont to get the house ready, an impecunious but really good woman. Her little boy is three, so he and Frances had a good time together, though she teased him unmercifully, knocking down the houses he built and pinching from the hoards of toys he kept assembling for himself in one corner of the room. Incidentally Frances has an unfortunate habit of mutilating the names of her acquaintances, Robert was always Rubber, Phillip is Fillet, and now Mrs. Kay she calls Mrs. Cake! So far none of them have taken offence.
One reason which makes me glad that I have undertaken this housing of E.M.’s is that it has brought me into contact with at least one nice family in the neighbourhood, viz the Webbs. They have one grown-up daughter, a very pleasant girl whom I like, and they live in a really lovely house about five minutes walk from here. They are very charming people altogether. Incidentally Mr. Webb still undertakes the transport of the maternity cases, and as soon as my E.M. shows signs of trouble, I trot her over there and they take her to Fulmer by car. If it happens in the middle of the night, as I suppose is likely, I shall have to trot over and call him. Oh for a telephone! I am going to apply for one, but haven’t the faintest hope of getting one fixed during the war. Mr. Webb is arranging a bell-pull out of his bedroom window so that I can get him out in the night if necessary without rousing the whole house. Seems queer for me to be doing the serenading, but that is how it is these days!
[underlined] Monday [/underlined]
Hurrah, your letter of Nov 30th arrived this morning. I will write to Miss N. Savage as instructed. Your fears about the financial side of the house make me feel nervous lest I have done the wrong thing, tho’ I don’t see what else I could have done, & feel pretty confident myself. I’m so sorry you are still tasteless. The Red Cross have sent off 4 bottles of Argotone to you & presented me with a bill for 17/-! I do hope it will arrive safely & do you good.
All my love to you, my darling one,
Yours always, Ursula.



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed January 26, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20202.

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