Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Reports arrival of letter and postcard December and January and notes how they raise her spirits. Goes on with discussion of his and her financial arrangements and about a song she wrote which failed to get published. Continues writing of recent activities including lodgers, redecorating and other domestic activities. Discusses subject of watches, naming their house and comments on his description of his feelings in his letters. Concludes with chat about daughter and other activities.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


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To W/O J.R.M. Valentine, From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
British P/W No. 450, Felmersham, Bottrell’s Lane,
Stalag Luft III, Lager A, Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.
Germany. 13/5

Sunday, March 12th 1944.

My darling Johnnie,

A lovely letter and a postcard from you this week - it is amazing how my spirits and temperature go up when I see your dear handwriting! The earlier letters of December have yet to come, these are dated 20th December and 9th January, the latter being a departure from your usual practice. In the letter you mention again the various steps you have taken to increase my finances, and you will know by now that everything has been safely received. I am so grateful to you for your generosity and for your complete trust in me and my handling of our affairs - the latter I find particularly inspiring since I know, and you must know too, that I am not too hot on the mathematical side. However, everything seems to be well under control so far, and this week I have proudly banked my first earnings as “landlady”, £7.7.0, which goes into Establishment account, towards paying for the house-painting. (Incidentally the work hasn’t started yet, because Mr. Hatchett has been ill, so perhaps I will have the £21 ready by the time he is finished - not that I haven’t got that much, there is still over £50 in Establishment account, which I wasn’t counting on when I undertook this venture, so I want to get through without using it if I can). This landlady business seems to be much the surest of making cash, there is a terrific demand for accomodation [sic]. At one time I thought I would like to get rich quick, so I wrote a song about the RAF, very patriotic and all that, called “Good Show, Bomber Command”. You can imagine it was pretty bloody, but it didn’t seem to me to be much worse that [sic] the rest of the slush which comes over the radio. However, the music publishers didn’t agree with me apparently, and simply wouldn’t see what they were missing by not publishing it. So it is doomed to obscurity, and long after I am dead will perhaps be discovered and acclaimed for a masterpiece. It has four verses and a chorus, and when you come back we will render it as a piano and violin duet and give ourselves a good laugh. I have had other harebrained ideas for raising cash, but the only one that brings in the goods is letting the spare bedroom! My Mrs. Kay began to have slight pains last Friday and decided she would be safer in Fulmer Chase, so Mrs. Webb carted her off in the evening. Mrs. Hodson, the New Zealander, with her month old baby, were due to come on the Monday, so I heaved a sigh of relief for a quiet weekend, specially [sic] as I had already decided to redecorate the dining-room, which has been annoying me ever since we moved in. It was papered in a darkish brown colour, with a hideous dado round the top, and worse still a sort of rising sun effect over the mantlepiece which was really getting me down. I decided I must do the redecorating before mother and baby arrived, so I set to work on Thursday evening after I had got Frances to bed, and proceeded to wash down the walls and then scrape off the paper with a special tool I had bought for the purpose. Some of it came quietly, but mostly it was tough, and by 11.30 pm. I had only done about a third of the room. On Friday night I resumed the good work, and was looking forward to a weekend on my own to finish it, when on Saturday morning bright and early another E.M. [expectant mother] turned up, said she knew Mrs. Kay and so deduced I had a room to spare, and could I possibly put her and her husband up for the weekend, as the wretched man had 48 hours leave. Of course I could hardly refuse, leave being what it is, so I has a hectic time turning out of the the double bedroom into the single room, and doing a lot of baking. The gentleman in question, a Lt. in the army, turned up for tea, quite a harmless creature. But I was struck once again with how very dull and insipid other people’s husbands are. Of course they can’t all be

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As lucky as I, but I feel quite sorry for some of these girls, even though they have got their husbands conveniently to hand. These two have been very little trouble, and leave tomorrow. This afternoon I decided to ring up Mrs. Hodson to find out if she was coming tomorrow, for if so I should have to distemper the diningroom [sic] tonight, but luckily for me she i [sic] isn’t coming for a few days because her husband has a chance of leave, so that gives me time to get my breath back and finish off the dining-room. Even now, with the walls stripped and bare, the room looks infinitely better, lighter and larger. It has no picture-rail, for some unexplained reason, so I am going to distemper it cream right up to the ceiling, which will add to the appearance of height as well. The old paper stopped short on a level with the tops of the doors, which was unnecessarily oppressive.

To return to your letter and the subject of watches, which I disguised so carefully and tortuously. I was referring, as far as I remember, to the watches Mr. Grunfeld was getting, but as that seems to have come to nothing anyway there is no more to be said. Perhaps I had misunderstood you anyway. As regards the name of this house, I think Idwal Cottage is definitely good. In general I have always laughed at people calling houses by the names of the places they went to for their honeymoons, but your suggestion has my approval. However, I don’t really know how one sets about changing the name and it would certainly cause alarm and despondency in the local postoffice, [sic] so altogether I propose to leave it over until you come back. Now to your postcard of 9th Jan. My heart stood still when I read “I don’t know if I shall ever be free again…”, but on thinking it over I decided you are entitled to be a bit despondent sometimes, indeed it amazes me how cheerfully and vivaciously you always manage to write, however you may be feeling, and I sincerely hope there was no special grounds for this remark. Of course you will be free again, fairly soon I hope, and both Frances and I are simply living for that day. She seems to have been thinking a lot about it recently, and remarked the other day, quite of her own bat, “won’t it be lovely when Father comes down the road, and you open the door and there he is in our house!” You sure said it, baby! You are constantly in our thoughts and conversation, and Frances is relying on you confidently to give her pick-a-backs and tickle her - I don’t lift her more than necessary these days, she is no mean weight. Also she is concerned lest you don’t know your nursery rhymes, and has undertaken to teach them all to you. So you see what you are in for. I think your idea of my having a present ready here for you to give her is an excellent one, and I will keep a look-out for a suitable one - have you any suggestions? But don’t imagine that it will be necessary to win her love - she proudly points out your photo to strangers in the house and announces “That is my dear Father-Daddy”, and told me the other day that you are her sweetheart. I am quite sure that you two are going to get on fine together, she is really a dear kiddy. One day this week she fell down stairs, I was cleaning the bedrooms at the time, and when I had picked her up and she had got her breath back she immediately started to explain to me that it all happened because she was trying to carry two toys at once, her bricks and her motor-car, whereas if she had done as Mother told her and only had one toy at a time, she wouldn’t have fallen. I was rather struck by this evidence of a guilty conscience! I have made another pleasant acquaintance this week, a Mrs. Smithson who lives a bit further up Bottrell’s Lane in a flat-roofed white modern house. She has two sons, 14, and 10, and they seem to be a very gay and unconventtional [sic] family, playing various musical instruments, and generally alive and interested in life. Funnily enough she was down in Salcombe last autumn with a friend who has a small girl of 4, and we met and played with the friend and daughter, though I don’t remember seeing Mrs. Smithson. I visited Nancy Blaikley in her nursing home her new daughter is called Shuna. Pat Blaikley has got married in India, Erica has had a nervous breakdown. Robert’s wife has had a baby too.

All my love to you, dearest, Ursula.

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Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20208.

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