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 several of his letters and postcard and she is glad he now knows something of their new home. Describes her recent activities of cooking and notes impending visitors. Continues with domestic chat and mentions visit of Red Cross bigwig discussing her volunteering. Writes of daily activity, book she is reading and other domestic gossip. Discusses gramophone and records and notes unlikely to by any as there is 200% purchase tax on them. Concludes with news that they cannot fit electric immersion heater as insufficient power to house. Concludes with intention to enquire about to wife of a prisoner colleague who is getting no mail.



Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten letter


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W/O J.R.M. Valentine,
British {P/W 450,
Stalag Luft III, Lager A
[inserted] 20/9 [/inserted]
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Felmersham, Bottrell’s Lane,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.
Sunday, May 7th 1944
My darling Johnnie,
I have done quite well for mail from you this week, and at last your letters addressed direct to this house are beginning to arrive. I have yours of 27.2. and the postcard you wrote to Frances for her birthday, which thrilled her very much. It is so nice to think that now you know at [sic] little about your future home, and I do so hope that you are satisfied with it; I am, although of course there are always things I want to do to improve it. Anyway I think we ought to be happy here; perhaps we should be happy anywhere providing we were together, but much more so in a little home of our own. I have had a terrific “day of rest” today. It was my turn for cooking, not going to church (on alternate weeks I cook on Saturday and go to church on Sunday, and on the others Pat goes to church). So I did a vast bake, because we seem to be having a lot of people coming next week, including I hope Barbara and Vera Bowak; so I baked two cakes, jam tarts, flapjacks, savoury twists, three pies of various sorts, as well as the dinner. After lunch Pat was going out to tea so I had to go down to the bus with her to help her with the infant, and after that Frances and I came, and I proceeded to turn out hall and dining-room and do the floors with a new type of polish which Mother has found very good, called Glo-coat, which one paints on once and then no more has to be done to it for weeks. So I thought I would try it, and the polish is certainly very nice, but I find that it took a lot of colour out of the floor, which I had just got to a nice rich colour by daily polishing with Cedar oil, so I am not sure I am so pleased after all. Then I gave Frances her tea, and proceeded to have a session on the piano. I really must get into action again to be ready for you, besides I enjoy it so much, but it does seem difficult to make time for it. I don’t know whether it is just that I am getting used to the piano, but it doesn’t sound at all bad to me now, and I really enjoy playing. This was interrupted by a visit from a local Red Cross bigwig, asking if she could help me with my parcels to you. We discussed the question of my doing a spot of work for the Red Cross locally, so I may find myself charring in a hospital soon! Any moment now Pat will be home from her tea-party, and then it will be supper time, and after that I suppose more sewing. We both find that we never have time to do any reading, so now by mutual consent we devote supper time to reading, prop up our books in front of us and only speak to ask for more food or to read out juicy passages from our respective books. At present I am reading a book of Joad’s called Guide to Modern Thought, a very lucid precis of modern scientific and philosophical theories on life, and find it most interesting. Perhaps you will hardly believe it, but sometimes I actually [underlined] envy [/underlined] you! I envy you this unparalleled chance to tackle a new subject and extend the scope of your mind. I often tell myself that now is my chance to do the same thing, because when you come back we shall have other things to do with our evenings, but somehow there is just never time, so I have decided to concentrate on trying to do better some of the things I have already started, such as the piano, wood-engraving etc (though I haven’t got around to this latter yet.)
This past week has been awfully full again. Monday was washday as usual, and then Pat had a friend to tea, the Matron of Fircroft, the post-maternity home of Fulmer Chase. Tuesday was dancing class, the beginning of a new term. There was a much bigger attendance, and
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as usual Frances prances with the best of them. On Wednesday we had a friend of Pat’s to stay, a Mrs. Slater with whom Pat stayed when she was working in a bio-chemistry lab in Oxford. Mrs. Slater is a most interesting and well-informed person, and I very much enjoyed her visit (lunch on Wednesday till Thursday morning). She is a bit of an expert on antique furniture, and admired our Queen Ann cabinet. I also showed her the oval tray which your Mother gave you for your birthday, and she said it was Sheraton, or at least made between about 1790 and 1820, which confirmed my original surmise that it is a genuine antique; it is certainly very lovely, I should love to know how much your Mother paid for it. She got it from Searle’s second hand store in Barnet, so it is possible that she didn’t have to give much for it. Mrs. Slater has travelled a good bit on the continent and speaks various languages, so we had a lot in common. On Friday I went into Gerrards Cross to collect the films which Pat and I had developing there, and I hope to enclose some of the snaps with this. Unfortunately my camera is still leaking light rather badly, so the photos aren’t too good, but they may give you a slight idea of the house. That was my one and only film, and I am afraid it is very unlikely that I shall get hold of another. In a week or two the Polyfotos of Frances ought to be ready.
I have been doing a good bit of gardening at odd times, have sown more peas, also the runner and dwarf beans, and more spinach and lettuce, and the winter greens. Nothing is doing particularly well because the ground is so terribly dry. We had a little rain this week but not enough to make any real impression.
I quite agree with your suggestion that we should convert the gramophone with an electric pickup. I have already got Peter on to the subject, but in the end decided that it is an unnecessary expense for me just now. We can do it any time, when you come home, and anyway I haven’t got many records – most of those at Lido belonged to Barbara or Mother. Doubtless we shall collect more in time, I hope so at least, but just now there is 200% purchase tax on them so I am not likely to be buying any. Your wireless is working very well, and that is a great blessing. Another of my projects has fallen through, viz fitting an immersion heater in the hot water tank. The electricity company say that they cannot further increase the lead at present, so we shall just have to do without it this summer. I haven’t heard any more from David Haes about the cupboard he is going to make someday for our bedroom, but I don’t suppose it is any use worrying him about it for he is most unlikely to have the timber. He said he would put out [sic] name down on the list, and that is probably all we can do for the present, though I would very much like to have it by the time you come back. I have bought some pinks for the garden and have planted them along the edge of the bed just outside the diningroom [sic] window. They are Mrs. Sinkins, i.e. white ones with a strong scent, and should make an attractive edging if they do well. The house has been full of flowers this week, tulips and lilac from the garden, and big bowls of bluebells from the woods round about. One of the rhododendrons in the front garden is now in bloom, it is a very pale pink. The other seems to be a later variety, I hope it will turn out to be a dark red.
I am awfully sorry to hear of Frank Pepper’s total lack of mail. I am going to write to Olga and will inquire tactfully about Vera. She must be a pretty low sort of toad, the future doesn’t look too bright for them.
All my love to you, & a big kiss to Father-Daddy from Frances. Yours always, 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/20222.

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