Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Writes that she was thinking of him on his birthday and hoping she could share the next one with him. Mentions returning home from Devon and that lodger was glad she was back. Reports on progress with painting, other repairs to house and state of garden. Continues with other gossip of activities, arrival of new bed, other purchases, garden planting and herb garden.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


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To. W/O Valentine,
British P/W 450,
Stalag Luft III, Lager A,

[inserted] 19/9 [/inserted]

[postmark] GEPRÜFT 109 9/postmark]

From Mrs. J.R.M.Valentine,
Felmersham, Bottrell”s Lane,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.

Sunday, April 16th 1944

My own darling Johnnie,

Yesterday was your birthday, and I kept thinking of you all day long and wishing terribly hard that you were here, and hoping that we shall celebrate your next birthday together. Surely it must be over by then, if not long before. I long above all things to be able to make you happy, and to try to make up to you a little bit for all you have had to go through.

The last time I wrote was from Salcombe where Frances and I were enjoying a peaceful Easter holiday with my parents. We came home again last Thursday, to find everything alright at home, and Pat very relieved to have us back again. I think it had been a bit much for her looking after the baby and the house, and her in-laws, who I imagined were staying here helping her, only came for 2 nights and apparently didn’t do a thing for her. Anyway it is all ore or less in running order again now, and I can hardly remember that we have been away at all. The house- [deleted] several words [/deleted] [inserted] painting is finished [/inserted] but the gates haven’t come back from being repaired yet. The paintwork looks very nice to me, dark green and [deleted] several words [/deleted] [inserted] cream against [/inserted] the red brickwork. The Horswell’s have now left nextdoor, and I am very sorry to see them go, they were such kind neighbours. The old boy who is moving in there, Mr Hubert Brown, hasn’t yet taken up residence, and I haven’t met him. Pat says he looks as though he won’t last long!

The garden has come on quite a bit since we went away. The earliest row of peas is up, in patches, the broad beans are well throu [sic], the peach tree is in bloom and the pears will soon be out too. There is a lot of weeding and sorting out of the flower borders to be done. We have several lovely bunches of polyanthus, and the rockery at the front of the house is looking very pretty with muscari, hyacinths, arabis, wall-flowers and those purple primulas. I have tried to mow the lawns, but our lawn-mower, the little one from Lido which Mother gave us, is a temperamental sort of machine and only cuts when it feels like it, and then not very close. Also we have no shears, as yet, so that I can’t trim the edges, and it really doesn’t look very smart at the moment. Shears are hard to come by, I was thinking of giving you a pair for your birthday but haven’t been able to find any. So I shall have to try to borrow some. If the Hoeswell’s had still been next door, that would have been easy; now I shall have to look further afield. The step-ladder for the loft which O ordered and paid for at the end of March has not yet been delivered so in the absence of the Horswell’s stepladder I have no means of getting up there. I hope mine will come soon. The dining-room is looking lovely just now, to my eyes. On the sideboard there is a big bunch of yellow forsythia in that dark Swedish vase, and a pewter tankard full of dark red wallflowers. On the canteen is the small tankard full of red and yellow polyanthus, and in the big green vase on the mantelpiece are chestnut sprays in full leaf. It is lovely to have plenty of flowers about again. Seeds are awfully hard to come by this year, I have a few 2d packets of hardy perennials to grow this year ready to flower next year, in your honour, and these I sowed yesterday, and hope very much that they will do well

[page break]

Frances had a second birthday when we got back here, consisting of a couple of parcels waiting here for her, and our present, the famous grocer’s shop. Your people sent her a telegram, which of courseshe [sic] did not appreciate very much, she had a card from Roy Cowdry and Eileen Johnson sent her a very nice edition of The Water Babies illustrated in colour. Pat had made her a cake, iced it and put on F.M.V., and also gave her a discarded feeding bottle complete with teat, which Frances thinks is marvellous and uses constantly for feeding Bunny or some other luckless toy. She was very thrilled with her grocer’s shop too, I filled up the various little jars with real groceries for a start, a few lentils, beans, a bit of rice, flourr [sic] cornflakes, broken biscuits and so on. She got the idea at once, announced that she was Miss Pusey (our grocer), and proceeded to mix the contents of the various jars together into one glorious mess. I made a wee pair of scales too, and she had a lot of fun with those. Tomorrow we are having some friends to tea for her, Gwen Milliner with [indecipherable word] and wee Robert, and her friend Mary from the Dog’s Home with her small girl Leila, both the little girls being about 3. Robert, of course, is more of a companion for Carol! I shall have to get busy tomorrow, to do the washing and baking in the morning. For on Tuesday Ann arrives to stay, I am not sure for how long. This afternoon we had a couple of U.S. soldiers to tea, [censored] quite pleasant for a chat. This morning I went to church down in the village for the first time, Pat holding the fort at home. I very much enjoyed the service, not the sermon particularly, but there is quite a decent choir and they take trouble over their music. It is a lovely old church too with most interesting frescoes, or remains of them, on the walls. The vicar is a great burly man, I don’t really like him as well as Boyd. Apparently he called here while we were away.

Our new bed has arrived, the Utility model, and I am very satisfied with it as far as I can judge. The bed-head and end are in plain dark oak, otherwise it is almost exactly similar to the one I bought from Jones Bros at about 3 1/2 times the cost. The mattress was more expensive, costing £6.15,0 but it is a good reconditioned hair one, which are not easy to get. The Utility ones, which is the only alternative, are really not worth buying. I have also invested in a small crock this week to use as a bread bin. We had nothing before and the bread just had the sit on the board occupying space in the larder. How I wish we could get a refrigerator, we shall need it this summer, for there is not awfully much larder space, and in default I think I shall have to get a meat safe to hang outside somewhere in the cool.

When we left Salcombe Daddy gave me a number of seedling for the garden which I carried home tenderly in tins. There are three cucumbers, six bush tomatoes, about a dozen early cauliflowers and a few cos lettuce. Daddy has done wonders with improvised cloches, and of course in his greenhouse and proper hot frame, and he has overcome the shortage of flower pots by using tins, split open a bit to make them the required cone shape, lined with paper, with a hole bored in the bottom, and then filled with soil. I think I shall have to do likewise. My herb garden is now established just outside the kitchen door, planted with parsley, chives, balm, marjoram, thyme and tarragon. We already have plenty of sage and mint in the garden. We are eating our own rhubarb now too, which is rather a thrill for me. We have several large clumps of it. Our garden may not be as large as I would have wished, but it is plenty to look after with the house to run as well, and can be made very productive.

All my love to you, my own darling,




Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 26, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20215.

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