Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Describes birthday presents waiting for him for this year's birthday. mentions family member's visit, describes activities and writes of news that Swedish friend of his fathers visited camp and reported him well. Describes anxiously waiting for his letters and reports that she has finally taken photographs of house and their daughter and will send then on as soon as possible. Continues with domestic chat and news of blown fuse causing cooker to stop working. Concludes with family gossip, thanks him for recent letter and congratulates him on grammar and music examination result.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


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W/O Valentine,
British P/W 450,
Stalag Luft III, Lager A,
[inserted] 2/9 [/inserted]
[stamp GEPRUFT 109]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Felmersham, Bottrell’s Lane,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.
Sunday St. George’s Day,
April 23rd 1944
My darling Johnnie,
You have now got two birthday presents waiting for you here to mark this year’s birthday, one from you Mother and one from me. Your Mother’s, which arrived by Ann when she came to stay last Tuesday, is an oval tray in some delightful, reddish brown wood, which might be walnut or maple, with an inlaid decoration in the centre, and neat brass handles. I should think it is a real antique, but in any case it is a very pleasing thing, and looks very good in our diningroom, [sic] as well as being most useful. I have, of course, written to thank your Mother. Ann gave you 2/6 in savings stamps, and I shall probably spend this on something for the garden, there is so much we still need, particularly in the flower line. My present to you, slightly late I am afraid but it will be later still when you get it, is a violin. I bought it from a woman in the village who is reputed to play well, and I have taken it to two other acquaintances who play and know a bit about violins and they both say it is quite a good one. The bow needs some repair and I am going to have that done. It is complete in case with mute, spare bridge, tuning fork and so on, and I do so hope you will like it. I feel such a fool knowing nothing of fiddles, but anyway it wasn’t devastatingly expensive, and perhaps you could choose yourself a better one later on sometime. To put your mind at rest about the cost I may as well tell you that it cost £4, which I think is quite reasonable. The woman asked £5 first but I beat her down because the bow has to be seen to.
Ann came to stay on Tuesday morning. It was grand to see her again, she is growing up into a very charming young woman, and her sweet nature seems quite unspoiled. She immediately set to work in the garden, and together we carried out all sorts of jobs that I had been wanting to do but had put off. To start off with we discovered a lilac! I suddenly noticed the buds behind the firs in the shrubbery, so we set to work, cut back a good bit of the fir branches which were stifling the poor lilac, and now it has some light and air and a chance to grow. It is a dark purple one, and over ten foot tall, though not at all bushy of course because the firs are too close to it. Maybe it will do better now. I am so pleased to think we have one. Ann then proceeded to make a rockery edging to the shrubbery with some of the numerous knobbly white stones we have around the garden, transplanting bits of rock plants from other parts of the garden, and we cleared up two other beds at the side of the house which were empty except for grass, and planted Michaelmas daisies, golden rod and such like there. Yesterday after Ann had gone I carried on the good work and dug the border in front of the lavender hedge and planted forgetmenots and marigolds there, and also fixed up the wires for training our espalier and fan-trained fruit trees against the wall of the house. Of course there is a terrible lot to be done just now, lots more potatoes to set out and sowing to do too. The earlier sowings aren’t coming on too well, partly I think because it has been so hot and dry, really like summer this past week, when we ought to have been having April showers. Tomorrow is washing day, so it will probably rain then!
I’m afraid Ann didn’t have a very eventful time when she was here, just housework, garden and babies, same as everywhere! One day we did venture down into the village and had morning coffees, but that was the extent of our devilment.
[page break]
She brought me one piece of good news, that a Swedish friend of your fathers had visited you about 6 weeks ago and had found you in good health and spirits. I was ever so cheered to hear that, it seems to bring you so much nearer to have news of you in March, since most of your letters are about 3 months old when I get them. I was particularly glad too because in your last postcard, dated 6th February, received yesterday, you mentioned that there was a lot of flu in the camp, and I was just beginning to get nervous when Pat pointed out that you couldn’t have got it because you were fit and well 6 weeks ago, or if you had you were better. The atmosphere in the house gets quite tense at 9.15 a.m. every morning, when the postman is due, and when we hear him we drop everything and dash to the door. Of course Pat gets far more letters than I do, four or five a week, but then her husband seems to be in action most of the time, so I am not envious.
You will be pleased to hear that I have at last taken some photos of the house and Frances, and Pat took some of me, and I shall take the film to be developed tomorrow and send you the results as soon as possible. That is my one and only film, so I hope to goodness the snaps are recognisable. I have been saving the film for a year or more now specially to be able to take a photo of our house, if ever we should get one, and now I have done it. The new step ladder has now arrived and the small shoe cupboard for the spare room, and I have given the latter two coats of white enamel, and I’m going to make it a blue curtain to match the curtain in front of the corner hanging fixture. I have also discovered one or two pieces of quite decent timber in the garage, slung up in the roof between two poles, and that is going to be very useful for some of the shelves I need. There are so many things I want to do, and not nearly enough hours in the day to get through them all! I have a lot of dressmaking on hand just now, altering several of Mother’s dresses to fit me, and letting down Frances’s summer clothes. It looks as though the summer dress I was going to make for myself last year won’t get made this year either and will perhaps emerge as next year’s new dress! Very economical method of dressing!
We had a slight contretemps on Thursday evening when the electric cooker ceased to function. I inspected all the fuses I could find and they all seemed alright, so I got an electrician in to look at it, and of course he found another fuse which had blown and soon put it right. I felt rather an ass for not having been able to cope with it, but as a matter of fact I hadn’t any 30 amp fuse wire anyway, so perhaps it was as well I left it alone.
Barbara has written to say that she has bought me an Easter egg from you, consisting of a coloured woollen square to wear as a scarf or headdress. It hasn’t arrived yet, but it really is awfully sweet of her to think of it. I have told her not to do it any more, she really hasn’t any money to spare. Perhaps you will be able to give me my next birthday present in person, anyway. Wouldn’t it be gorgeous? I long for you so much all the time, I long to be able to express all my love for you, and I must admit I long too to have someone to look after me and care for me again too; selfreliance [sic] may be a good thing, but carried to excess it beings [sic] to pall!
Mon. 24/4/44
Many thanks for yours of 15th December [inserted] received today [/inserted] – congratulations on Grammar & Music exam, well, I’ll certainly try to collect the certificate, well done! Do hope the Swedish friends will be able to send you a decent fiddle bow.
All my love to you dearest & a big kiss from Frances.
Ever yours Ursula



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/20216.

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