Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula



Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula


Writes that daughter is down with gastric flu and of other domestic chores. Catches up with news of previous house owner and ex-lodger. Reports that daughter has shown interest in reading and mentions her progress and dress making efforts.



Temporal Coverage



Two-page typewritten letter


IBCC Digital Archive


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Start of transcription
To W/O J.R.M. Valentine,
British P/W No. 450,
Stalag Luft III, Germany
From Mrs. J.R.M. Valentine,
Felmersham, Bottrell’s Lane,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.
Monday, November 20th 1944
My darling Johnnie,
Our poor wee Frances is suffering from gastric flu just now. She started off by being sick last Friday early in the morning for no particular reason, and has been off her food ever since, and today she complained of a pain in her tummy, so I thought I would be on the safe side and get the doctor, who duly came this evening, prodded her carefully to see if it could be appendicitis, which I am so afraid of in children, and pronounced it to be a touch of the gastric flu which is doing the rounds just now. She is sleeping quite happily and doesn’t seem particularly ill with it. It is a pity though, for we were due to go and stay with Bunty on Wednesday, and I expect I shall have to put that off now.
I have managed to get one more job done this weekend – the new screen for the roses. After a lot of chasing round I tracked down a man who sells posts and timber – he turned out to be a villainous looking old ruffian with one leg, but anyway he delivered my six posts on time and they look good strong ones, so I’m satisfied. Luckily for me, Peter was coming for the weekend, so I got the ends of the posts creosoted and partly dug out the holes, and then on Sunday morning, in a gale of wind, we put them up, and in the late afternoon, after fetching Frances back from her Sunday School, I proceeded to stretch the wires across them and get the roses trained up in the way they should go, and it looks a lot better now. The posts cost 12/- and Daddy gave me the wire, so it wasn’t too bad.
Gwen Milliner, Horswell’s daughter, has just had a big internal operation, and I went over the other day to the Horswell’s new house to enquire how she was getting on. I found Horswell, his handyman and his son-in-law all up to their eyes in paint and working away as hard as they could at the interior decoration of the house. It is a fairly old house and by the look of it hasn’t had any repairs done for about 20 years. It had no electric light, but he has managed to lay that on himself, and one way and another he is going to have to spend a good bit on putting the place in order. He told me he gave £5,600 for it, it has 4 bedrooms and a dressing room, diningroom, [sic] sitting room and lounge hall, very poky kitchen quarters with old coal range; and about 5 acres of land consisting of garden and a field adjoining. He says it will cost him about £7,000 all told to get it organised and if he’d realised what things are like he would never have sold his old house!
This morning the Hodsons descended on us to collect their belongings, Pat, Frank and baby Carol. They hired a car and piled everything into it – it was a sight to see! Frank is on embarkation-leave, due to go to the uttermost ends of the earth, I am afraid, and of course Pat is very glum about it, but maybe it won’t be so long
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for them either now. Pat has now gone to live with a young couple in Hampton, they seem to be rather bohemian in type and I don’t think Frank altogether approves. The wife, Avril Cummings, suffers from some nameless complaint which obliges her to stay in bed for the greater part of each day, although they are just moving into a new house with all the work that that entails. Pat says the place is filthy dirty, as well it may be if the lady of the house does no work, and so Pat appears in the role of efficient housewife, which makes me laugh a lot, because when she was here she showed no sign whatever of housewifery and didn’t even keep her own bedroom clean and tidy which according to our bargain she was supposed to. Also when she first came here she used to retire to bed nearly every afternoon and stay as long as Carol permitted her to. It looks as though she has met her match now, and I shall be rather interested to see what happens. Anyway, she has finally removed all her belongings from here, even including the three piece suite and timber from the garage – also of course the sewing machine, which I shall miss. However I made good use of it while it was here. We still seem to be on friendly terms, though knowing Pat as I do now I shall be careful to keep it on a tea-party basis. I can’t help feeling sorry for her, as one does for so many thousands of other young wives in the same position, though I don’t think she puts up as cheerful a show as most of them do.
Frances has begun to show some interest in reading, and we have a session at it every evening. She is quite hot stuff at three letter words. But really what an awful business it is learning to read in English, more so than in other more logical languages. I hadn’t thought much about methods of teaching till the problem came upon me. In schools now I believe they don’t learn A B C in the old way but use the “look and say” method in which they are just shown a word and told what it is, over and over again till they memorise it. There is something to be said for this, for once you are past the “bat, cat, mat” stage there start to be more exceptions than rules in spelling. However those more difficult stages I shall leave to her school teacher, I think the best I can do is to teach her the letters and what they say, let her work out easy words for herself, and when I read to her show her the words as I read them, so that she gradually familiarises herself with the look of some of them. At the moment it is terribly thrilling to work out c-a-t and d-o-g and find that they really spell words she knows. She loves her Christopher Robin poems and stories too. Her main request for Christmas is for a scooter and I shall have to try to get her one, I think – I had got her a miniature mangle, but someone else has given her one in the meantime, so I shall give mine to Muriel I think. She has also been given a wee clothes horse, so that laundry work is becoming quite a passion with her. So is dressmaking, she is constantly pestering me for needles and cotton, pounces on every scrap of material from my rag-bag, and proceeds to cobble them up into what she variously terms dresses, petticoats, nightdresses, aprons etc, for her large family. She swathes them round her dolls and then I have to tie a belt round the whole thing, and she is more pleased with the effect of that than with any amount of properly made doll’s dresses. However, Barbara has knitted her a really smashing scarlet and white outfit for her best doll Mollie, for Christmas, and I think she will be pleased with that when she gets it. The trouble is she’ll probably want to wash it right away!
All my love, darling and a special New Year Kiss
Yours always Ursula



Ursula Valentine, “Letter to prisoner of war John Valentine from his wife Ursula,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 6, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20406.

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