Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Mentions receiving his letter of 5 October and another from Caterpillar Club with membership card. Continues with news of domestic activities, the arrival of new lodger with baby which daughter Frances is thrilled to have in the house. Writes of financial arrangement with lodger and catches up with family news and daughters recent activities.



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Two page typewritten letter


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To W/O J.R.M. Valentine
British P/W No. 294
Stalag Luft III, Lager A.

[Censor Stamp]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Felmersham, Bottrell’s Lane,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks

Sunday March 19th 1944

My darling Johnnie,
This week I received your letter of 5th October – slightly out of its turn, but nevertheless welcome, specially as it gave me the list of your current wants, which I will try to fill. I have also had a letter from the Caterpillar Club enclosing a membership card for you, and apologising that they have run out of the gold pin which you are entitled, but they will send one as soon as they have them again.

When last I wrote to you I had Mrs Davis and husband staying here for the weekend. They duly departed on Monday and I then got to work on a big washday, and in the evening gave the diningroom [sic] a coat of cream distemper. It certainly doesn’t pay to do distempering by artificial light, the result next morning looked simply awful, so I had to go and buy another pot of distemper, and spend Tuesday afternoon applying a second coat. Maybe with this wartime paint you really need two coats anyway. Now, at all events, it looks pretty good, and the room looks infinitely larger and lighter without that dull dingy paper. I then had two days to get my breath back and do some basic cleaning, and then early on Friday morning Mrs. Hodson and her wee baby Carol arrived, and since then life has taken on quite a new aspect. I believe I told her about you in an earlier letter but may as well repeat that she is a New Zealander, aged about 25, married [censored] [/censored] and her baby was born at Fulmer Chase at the beginning of February. She doesn’t know many people over here, and her in-laws live in London in a house not very suitable for a young baby. So she seems to be very glad to be out here. I agreed to take her and the baby in the first place more because I was sorry for her as a stranger in our midst and all that, but now it looks as though it is going to work out splendidly, and I am thoroughly enjoying her companionship. She is a B.Sc in biology, keen on gardening, plays the piano at about my standard, likes all the same things to eat and is altogether adaptable and pleasant to have in the house. The baby, being only 6 weeks, doesn’t make much impression yet, she is quite good except that she insists on her 6 a.m. feed at 3 a.m. however, that is Mrs. Hodson’s wrinkle, and when the baby cries I just feel sorry for her, turn over and go to sleep again. Frances is simply thrilled with having a baby in the house. She insists on watching the bathing and feeding every day, and yesterday Mrs. Hodson let her hold the bottle for a little while, while the baby was sucking it, and Frances just was thrilled to bits. Now all her toys have become infants and I am constantly being admonished to be quiet because Bunny is sleeping or Teddy is having his bottle or Golly is on the pot. When she has a wee brother or sister of her own, there will be no holding her! It seems amazing that Mrs. Hodson has only been here three days, so well have we fitted in together. We have breakfast about 8, then I do the diningroom (sic) while she is sterilising bottles and preparing the feed and so on, then she starts bathing and feeding about 9.15 while I proceed to do the other housework. The baby is all ready and out in her pram by 10.30, so that there is a clear morning for cooking, shopping, washing and so on. We have lunch at 12.30 the baby lunches at 2; yesterday we went for a walk all together in the afternoon, today Mrs. Hodson had a rest while Frances and I had a frolic together over the fields, Frances collecting daises which have at last started to raise their heads. Then we have tea at 5. the baby is topped and tailed and fed at 6, I read to Frances while the baby has its bottle, so
[inserted] [indecipherable words] 31.12.43 received today thank you so much, dearest. [/inserted]
[page break]

That Frances can keep an eye on that important process, and by 6.45 or so the younger generation is in bed and we relax, read or sow. Another great asset of Mrs. Hodson’s is that she owns a sowing machine. She is keen on dressmaking and smocking too, so that we have lots of things in common. As to financial arrangements, she is paying me £2.10 prr (sic) week, and she provides the baby’s food. I suppose I might have screwed more out of her, but that seems to me a pretty fair figure, and Mrs. Hodson is quite content with it. So that ought to help a bit towards paying off our debt to my people, if she stays here for some time. I do hope she will, quite apart from the financial aspect, for we get on so well, and she is an intelligent, wide-awake person, and will probably save me from complete mental stagnation. But of course it all depends on her husband, if there is any chance to be with him naturally she will go. They have been married 4 years and have had altogether about 3 months together. He is hoping to get leave in a month or so and will come here. She tells me he loves making and mending anything in the carpentry line, so maybe he will do a few odd jobs for me! He is about your age, and from photos and descriptions sounds very nice. Incidentally Mrs. Kay, who stayed here before, has now produced a daughter, which was just what she and her husband wanted. Frances and I hope to go over and visit sometime soon.
I was interested to hear that you have a fellow P./W who knows Salcombe – pity about Mother’s telephone number being obliterated. As for next door, the exchange is obvious and the number you will have observed. There is a chance my Father may take a job after all, he has applied for one somewhere in the frozen north [indecipherable word] [censored] Scotland which seems simply [/censored] awful to me now they have that delightful home in sunny Devon. I suppose they would let the house, but I’m sure Mother will hate doing so. I’d hoped that daddy had made up his mind to settle down at last, but apparently the urge to work is still in him.
Frances’s dancing class was off last week because Mrs. Mawer, the teacher is in quarantine for mumps – there seems an awful lot of it about just now. So that means no dancing for three weeks, longer if she actually catches it, I suppose. She has said she will make up the lessons missed. Meanwhile Frances continues with her own kind of song and dance, which consists of skipping and hopping round in circles singing at the top of her voice. She is just bursting with health just now, eating and sleeping well, and not being more villainous than necessary. Her latest vice is the preparation of puddings for Bunny made of soil scraped up by hand from the flower beds and packed into whatever box or tin happens to be handy – and then often brought into the house if I don’t stop it in time. Not very serious perhaps, but it does make a mess and will in time totally denude the flower beds. We have started growing cress indoors in a saucer on a piece of flannel, and to my surprise and Frances’s joy it has done very well, we shall cut and eat it any time now. The spring seems awfully late this year, there seems to have been no visible change at all in the countryside. I’m simply longing for the green leaves and the flowers. We have lots of crocuses out and a number of daffodils in bud, but other things don’t seem to be starting. I suppose I’m just impatient. I’m impatient for you too, my darling, somehow when spring comes round this shocking waste of time out of our lives together bears down on me more heavily than ever. I love you so much and do so long to make you happy, and try to make it up to you for all you have gone through. I forgot to tell you I had a very nice letter from Mr. Neal saying he does not intend to send in a bill for his professional services in surveying the house because you are “one of the few..” to whom so much is owed.
All my love to you darling kiss to Father – Daddy from Frances, Ursula.



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/20209.

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