Jeff Downing's Notebook

MDowningJJ418648-160914-03.pdf

Title

Jeff Downing's Notebook

Description

A book of messages for Jeff from his mother. Written after his death in the form of a diary. She describes her daily life and friends that visit her.

Date

1945-02-10

Language

Format

38 handwritten pages

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

MDowningJJ418648-160914-03

Transcription

[indecipherable front cover of diary]

[inserted] newspaper cutting]

So you crossed over and the trumpets sounded for you on the other side.

PRIVATE.

Jeff!

Waiting beyond life's sunset for you. M.

Without farewell you passed into the Great Beyond. A happy face a loving smile a broken link I can never replace.

[page break]

You gave yourself generously, knowingly devotedly.

[page break]

[indecipherable word]
11-4-45

Dear Jeff.
I just feel I must write to you. It is just 9 weeks last night that the tragic news of your death came to me. I was home alone. Guy Wells brought it. The shock was profound. I couldn't believe it. I was home alone except with Peter he understood what it all meant, at once, he said he was very sad. Guy Wells took him home to [indecipherable word] and I was here alone, at quarter past 6pm the news came so I stayed here alone. I don't know what I did all that time until Dad and Pat and Henry arrived at 1-45 a.m. We talked about you and wondered how such a thing could happen. We were grief stricken our hearts torn to shreds, after a while there was nothing

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2

to do but go to bed, I couldn't sleep. I got up about 7am and did the usual chores, got the breakfast, we couldn't eat it.

By 9 o'clock the news had got round the town the people were horror struck. Mr Onion died on the Monday afternoon so you can imagine the state the towns people were in, your death and his so close together. People came continuously to express their sorrow, and admiration for you, everyone loved you, the boy with the frank open face and the erect carriage as you were so often described.

Your last letter came on 15th two days afterwards, I was so glad to get it I knew it would be the last, but I cherish that one, and all your letters, & have them in safe keeping, they are very precious to me.

Friday 15 your photos came, they are just “you” it was very good of you to

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send them, they are away being framed now, they are going to stand on your table in the sitting room and when I walk into the room I can say “Hello Jeff” you look just as though you want to speak. The tweed came about a fortnight later, it is just lovely I'm going to have it made into a skirt and long coat and I'm going to make it carry me through the remaining years of my life whether they be few or many, and I hope if ever I get a chance to go to England I'll wear it to go and see where you are resting. I hate to feel we are all over here and you in England alone. We have had many comforting letters from Padre Anderson and another Padre, George Kloeden, Mrs Robinson, Tony's mother, you wrote such a lot of Tony. Mr. & Mrs. Dockery came up to see me on the week following, they,

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4

needless to say are grief stricken too especially his father. We have had three very nice letters from “Micky” also from Jerry and Peggy. Jerry was shocked. We let Margot know that night, both Mr. Jackson and Margot were, and still are as stunned as me. Dad and Mary had visited Micky's sister Mrs McChrohen, only a few days prior to your death.

On 4th March Dot Peter and I went to Ocean Grove for a fortnight the holiday had been planned long before Xmas, it was very restful, I was able to be very close to you down there, it is a very nice place untouched by the modern trend of civilisation, a lovely beach, lovely scrub country and countless well built gay week-end homes, it is just where I would like to have a little house.

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5

Jeff: I have had agonising days during these last eight weeks, sometimes I work and knit and that helps me, there is no mistake about it, work does take your mind off trouble. I have three or four photos of you in my room, you remember where my desk is and how my bed is situated to it, consequently I am able to talk to you first thing in the morning and last thing at night and I always do in the day time. I am endeavouring to live up to the sacrifice you have made for me, but I did want you back. I felt I needed you so in my declining years. You were always so generous in thought and deed. I won’t forget how fearlessly you drove home through that burning forest. I wonder if you remember that. It was Jan 14th 1944

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6

on your final leave. O! that I wish now that you hadn’t gone. 12th April.

My thoughts have been with you all day today, my mind never strays from you no matter what I am doing. By this mornings post we had a nice letter from Rhod Pope’s father with a memorial card to Rhod and his photo attached, what a nice lad he looks just a mere child, how they must grieve for their boy too. We hope to let the Popes have a photo of you.

I have done the usual chores today, Mary made some scones this morning I made a cake. I’m finding the meat coupons hard to go round but the folk in England are finding it still harder. We are none the worse in health for rationing.

Hilary Jasper came this afternoon with her young son, Graham, nearly 5 weeds old a very intelligent little chap, strong.

[page break]
Do you remember your last trip home? Dad went down to Essenden to meet you and you weren’t there and you rung an S.O.S. and you arrived home here about 12-30 and left again at 4-30 and that was the very last I saw of you and to think I am never going to see you again O! it is terrible too terrible to think over for long.

I feel better for writing this Jeff, I’ll write again later. Ever so much love. Mother.

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7

I wish you could see him. Mrs Gordon from Nth Drummond, and Mrs Green came later, we had a fire in the breakfast-room it was very cosy, we had afternoon tea of course, the room is rather crowded when there are so many in it.

We had the saw bench during the week the thing does make a beastly noise too, consequently we have sawn wood all over the back yard until Hocking comes tomorrow to stack it. We have had the front hedge cut right down to the level of the fence its a vast improvement one doesn’t feel so shut in now.

I have planted all, or I should say nearly all your tulip bulbs, there are about 18 left I’ll put them in later. A wretched cow got in the other night and trampled on them. I have levelled the ground again I hope they will be alright. I have asked Auntie

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8

Dorrie to take some yellow tulips to you before she leaves England. O! Jeff the world is much poorer by the loss of you six very fine lads, you could all have faced the troubles that lie ahead. Good night my boy. My prayer every night is “Please God help me to bear it all”. Mother.

[underlined] Friday 13th. [/underlined]
Hello Jeff! I have looked at your photo scores of times today and have had such a craving to talk to you, and I do and I feel you very near to me sometimes. The day has had its usual chores. Hocking has been and stacked half the wood. The day has been beautiful but no rain yet, I’m afraid. I don’t go out much I just feel I can’t face the people and have my thoughts directed from you. Mary is trying patiently to teach me to knit gloves, I’m afraid I’m not a very apt pupil. I must say it is a fairly

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9

hard pattern, I’ll persevere with them though. They will look nice when they are finished, a good emerald green. I hope to make some socklets to match, not that I’ll wear the socklets. I don’t know whether [inserted] I told you [/inserted], I finished the cardigan and it looks quite nice especially with a mustard coloured blouse I wear. I haven’t been very well today, I have a nasty pain in my side, I’ll see how it is tomorrow before I say anything about it. I expect Pat home tomorrow night, she has the Monday holiday, it will be good. I wish you were coming too. I’m writing this in bed, I’m pretty tired so I’ll say goodnight and ever so much love Mother.

Sunday 15 t h

Yesterday was a glorious day in the afternoon Dad had to go to Nth Drummond I went also, it is ages since I have been out that way. I remember when you were about

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10

2 we went out with Dad one Sunday morning it was a gloriously warm spring day the dandelions and wild flowers were out and we both sat down and pick and pick and made dandelion chains, somehow that morning has frequently cropped up in my memory all through the years, and now you are 22 how time fly’s.

The journey yesterday passed Pattern’s Hill is terribly rough the track narrower and rougher, crossing frequent dry fords and the country side all charred from the fires of last year, you would remember them, finally we came to a pretty clearing with a new up to date house the original house burnt in the fire. Such a lovely spot it is, the little lady of the house invited me in to a cup of tea, any suburban girl would envy her her nice home and all the things a young girl likes in her first home. She gave me some cream

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we weren’t to have that pleasure. Now you have gone on that long strange journey – with those five other lads who were your pals in a Lancaster Bomber – and you have left me here to carry on – not alone altogether because I feel you very near to me. I speak and you seem to answer me. You are still so real to me. I hope I can be as brave on my journey here as you have been on yours.

Pat’s home for the week-end she and Mary have gone out to Greens’ it is a very lovely day for a drive. Au revoir Mother.
It does me a tremendous amount of good to write to you.

I have been picking tawny chrysanthemums and Autumn foliage today, you were with me, and will always be in my Gardening Treasured Memories. Mother.

[page break]

These Autumn days are delightful it is still and hot. I’m sitting under the Walnut tree and the leaves are fluttering down, red, yellow and brown, the glory, the peace and the quietude are just what you are enjoying. It would be lovely if I could see you here. I feel you very near to me, I know you are enjoying it too.

President Roosevelt passed over the Great Divide last Friday, I can just imagine you lads who went before he did forming a guard of honour for his triumphant entry into the Great Beyond, he was a great leader and the whole allied world is sorry to have lost him. My love, Mother.

Sat 21st .

Princess Elizabeth’s birthday, 19 yrs no celebration. Jeff, I have had two wretched days, I have no right to depress you with my troubles

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there is no one else who understands as you do, I thought I was better but it all came back again and I have been swallowing lumps all the time. I went down to the [indecipherable word] at Baynton St with my thoughts today I always feel better down there, I sit on the rocks and just think, it was very pleasant I felt you so near. I could talk with you so quietly. I used to go there about 16 years ago when another great calamity came upon us, I always felt better, I’m glad you didn’t know about it, the calamity I mean. There were some children racing and calling across the paddock this afternoon, some sheep browsing, a flock of big black birds with white parts. I don’t know what they were, and a lonely swallow flitting around just where I was sitting. Kirkhams’ bridge is still there. I wandered towards the weir and some how passed the hospital.

[page break]

I met Mrs Matthews just at our corner we discussed mutual thoughts and feelings, her boy has gone on also, he left before you, she is a very nice soul. We had word today Gerry had his D.F.C. just as you predicted, I felt quite envious of Mrs Jackson and Margot almost grudged them their good fortune. O’dear, I must not cultivate grudging thoughts. I’ll try to do better. It is good to get out as I did today, the house seems like a prison, I feel I’d like to get away from it altogether. This is badly written, I’M in bed, I hope I sleep better tonight. Love from Mother.

Monday 23rd

Jeff; I’ve had a dreadful day today, I’m sorry to tell you my trouble, but who can I tell them to, but you, I know you are so patient and understanding. I think it was because a letter came from Mrs Jackson telling of Jerry’s D.F.C.

[page break]

I know you will be as pleased as all the Jacksons, but it broke me up absolutely if I could only have had “you” back without the decoration I would have been just as honored [sic], but I must try and go through with it for your sake, I wonder if I will see the reason for it before I get too old.

I didn’t tell you Mary had her tonsils out and for a week she has been much off color [sic], is better today though, and should go ahead now. Peter is going to the Blind concert tonight, he’ll have a good laugh I guess. Love from Mother. Tuesday. Again I am writing this in be it is 10-30 pm so you see it is time I was in bed but I don’t sleep until late, I couldn’t read tonight somehow so thought I would have a talk with you although I talk to you frequently during the day

[page break]

and you help me such a lot, your memory is very precious to me. I have been feeling better today although I don’t seem to be able to mix with other people yet, I suppose it will come in time. Dad has been quite busy the last few days and I always think he is better when he is busy provided he doesn’t make himself too tired, he is much improved since his long holiday although I have been worried about him on two or three occasions. I’ll make another effort at reading and then try and get to sleep. Cheerio for the time being. Much love Mother.

Jeff; Anzac day today 30 years since that dreadful slaughter on Gallipoli, I remember how the wounded came back to us in hundreds, there should never be another such war after this. O, how I wish you had been spared to return to us. I put

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some roses and berries for you today for precious remembrance of you, there were other flowers there from other mothers. Mrs Lewes and Mrs Sanderson have been very good to me since you left. I do appreciate it. I don’t know what I would do if I hadn’t them to go to. Mrs L. has her niece staying with her a very nice woman much the same age as I am, I showed her your photo and she at once said you were like me it made me so happy because I am so proud of you. Off to bed I am. Good night, Mother.

Jeff – I have such an urge to write to you tonight, I haven’t written for some time, I haven’t forgotten you don’t think that for one moment, I talk to you two or three times a day. I’m always thinking of you. Mary, Peter and I are sitting by the fire in the breakfast room, it isn’t really

[page break]

very cold yet, although it is raining a little today the first for some considerable time. Mary and I are knitting a jumper for Mary, I’m doing the front, Mary doing a sleeve having already done the back. We are listening to some beautiful music, my thoughts always fly to you when I hear good music I know how you loved it so. I was always so sorry you hadn’t had the opportunity to learn when you were young, I do miss your little recitals although they were self taught. I picked some violets and roses for you today they are so sweet smelling, I know you love to have them.

Mrs Bakley came to see me the other day on account of you she said you visited her with the Jacksons prior to the Xmas you left, she spoke so well of you what a fine upright man you had grown, I’m so proud of you, I did want you for my

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later years especially, I know you will guide and help me because you are so near to me.

The war in Europe has almost ended, what rejoicing there will be in England. I did hope you could share in that rejoicing, but it wasn’t to be.

The frosts have come and finished the dahlias our Autumn ones were quite good, the Chrysanthemums are well out and I find very useful. O’ Jeff I do hope the opportunity comes for me to go and see where you are resting it is my one hope and desire. Cheerio my boy. Mother.

May 6th The day has been very pleasant hasn’t it Jeff. I have had the usual household duties, they have gone well, of course Mary is a great help although she doesn’t seem to me to be as well here as in town, perhaps it is there is not the mingling of girls her own age here, she had a lot of interest in the city.

[page break]

This lacking energy is a fearful trial I know it so well. Jeff; I went with Dad this afternoon to Chewton he gave the Mother’s Club at the State School a talk on infection as there is so much Scarlet Fever there and they were all worried stiff. The drive to Chewton after you leave Taradale is very pretty tree lined, winding undulating road with the hills ahead. I always think of you when I am out I know how you love the countryside and nature. I remember how in your letters you described the country round Crieff in Scotland I almost see you cycling along those beautiful roads and smelling in all that marvellous scenery it is all so magnificent and you are magnificent too in all the glory of the Great Beyond. O’ Jeff how I song to see you, you won’t go far from my will you? My love to you Mother.

7-5-44 This day peace declared.
8. today – a holiday. Thanks giving

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day for the cessation of hostilities. I have never felt so lonely in my life before, my heart is so full of sorrow. I hear over the wireless where Australians in England are making merry. I wonder in their excitement if they have given those who have lost their lives a single thought? or a thought to those who are suffering that loss. Joys and sorrows are very unequally divided in this world. I’m afraid I sound bitter, I cannot help it I have had much to try me through the years. I know you were never bitter or felt harsh with life, you have been avoided that. You are better off than I am, although had you lived, life would have been full of happiness for you. Don’t think I am asking for pity, I have never wanted pity I feel I would like less of the harshness of life. Thursday and Friday were hard

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although Thursday I took my turn at Red Cross tea I was well occupied and certainly felt better, as soon as it was all over that fearful emptiness came over me and that great longing to see you. Friday too was bad, I knew Mr Swanson was going to town so I rang him to see if he could take me, it was alright with him we left about 3 pm and arrived home about mid-night, the change of everything was good for me. Every time I drive to town I recall that last drive I had with you, that day of the fire Feb 14 1944 we left in such a beautiful morning to return through that blazing country. Jeff; my boy, I am always thinking of you and longing for you, I can’t understand why I was not [indecipherable word] to have you back. Cheerio Love and thoughts Mother.
20th May. Last Thursday we had a letter

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Jerry he and Peg had been to Scotland for a few days they also had been to visit you and left you some flowers for themselves and for us. Jerry had finished operations and was feeling fit after his leave. We also had a letter from Ian Douglas he had been with you frequently during yours and his training you cabined together on the voyage to England. I hope to meet him when he returns to Australia he will be able to tell me a lot I want to know. Also a letter from George Kloden he also had had a trip to Scotland and called on Mrs Walker and Micky, they liked him. The days weary along there is plenty to do I try to keep myself employed, in everything I do I think of you I miss you terribly it is going to be worse when they all come home though. Cheerio Jeff – Mother.

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23rd May.
Peter is having school holidays this week, he went to town with Mary yesterday for the day only he apparently had a good day brought home 1 bag of banana skins and another with a few grapes he apparently had a good feed in the train he also bought 3 history books which he was very thrilled about. Mary and Pat caught the 7 am train to Buffalo they are staying for a week. Bet Hardy is in the office up there. I’m running the house alone of course whilst Mary’s away. I’m afraid I can’t do so much as I used, I suppose it is to be expected. Jeff; I have longed for you today, not only today but every day, I talk to you a lot, if I could only hear your voice all would be well. I’m waiting, I’m waiting. I can still gather a few roses for you although it is May. They are so sweetly perfumed, I put Rhod’s and your photo together so you can share them. My love and constant thought for you. Mother.

[page break]

Mary and Pat had a very nice holiday at Buffalo. Bet being there made it easier for them. They did a lot of riding and altogether they enjoyed themselves. Pat remained home since, this morning she left here to enter the Royal Melb on Monday Morning. For about 10 days while Pat was home we had Enid and Gill Ballantyne staying it was a full house and there was plenty to do, it was good to have them they cheered us up, I miss them too now they have gone.

Jeff; the days weary on, some days are terrible I’m very unhappy at times, I do long for you and wish it had been your luck to come home with the other boys. I would like to know if you had anything to say to me before you passed on. I can still find a rose or two (although it is middle June) to give to you on the mantlepiece and some violets for you on my desk. I talk to you

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every night I get such a lot of comfort from that conversation and I feel happier.

May has joined Golf she played this afternoon and brought in her card of 154 I think it was. Mrs McPherson very kindly took Mrs Montgomery Mrs Angel and myself out the other day we did 9 holes had a lovely afternoon tea, it was beautiful out there the scenery is glorious, it did us all good. Mrs M is a very small person but a very generous large hearted woman she is always doing some good for somebody, she has a little nephew living with her at present who has recently lost his mother she is good to him and he is marvellously happy so she must be happy too. You know all the things I have done today, you must know all my thoughts because you are always so near to me. I’m afraid sometimes my thoughts are not always worth knowing I have much that that worries me here sometimes.

[page break]

I’m writing this in bed again Jeff, it is poorly written but I’m reminded of the times you used to come and sit on the side of my bed and talk, I did enjoy those talks Jeff I wish there had been more of them. I know you are happy. Good night, my boy. Mother.

Jeff; With the war ended, men returning from England, the gladness of some hearts and God bless them all I’m happy for those whose lot it is to be happy, but alas it is not mine nor a good many other Mothers. No one knows the agony of heart, some days are torturous to me, knowing you who I loved so much will never return.

The papers are full of the joyful tidings of prisoners of war, but I’m afraid not all are returning consequently there are some more hearts town to threads.

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No one except those who have lost those so dear to them know the agony of it. Why should some of us suffer so? I do want you Jeff my life is so empty. I planted 3 1/2 doz Petunias today with you in my thoughts all the time, the garden is a wonderful place to reminisce in I am reminded of you so much out there, your tulips are beginning to bud. The Spring flowers are very lovely lots of hyacinths, daffodils, the anemones are coming on well too, the flowering trees are thick in bud.

Mary has gone off to Mitchells’ to a party Pat was to have come home and gone too but poor girl missed the train, little things like Pat missing the train upset one very much she was very upset and so were we. I suppose it is the strain under which we have been living.

I’m having the material made up you sent me from Durban

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I hope it is going to look nice, the tweed is to be made after Xmas, it’s very difficult to get anything made up these days. I feel better for having a talk with you Jeff. Good night my beloved boy – Mother.

Contact with you does me such a lot of good I feel so refreshed afterwards. In boundless love you’ll live, such souls as yours endure forever.

Jeff; The mail boats are leaving England about every fortnight, the two last I have watched their movement and thought how thrilled and happy you would be to be coming, the day before you would have sailed how busy you would be packing, paying last visits to friends you had made in England, sending a farewell telegram to Michie and buying last minute odds

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and ends to bring home and can you imagine my joy – but no it wasn’t to be – instead -splendid you passed, the great surrender made. Into the light that never more shall fade.

Precious memories on your birthday 29th Sept. Very much love and very much thought for you today and always.

30th It is my birthday today as of course you know, the 29th and 30th I have always felt were just our days and so they always will be but this morning I woke up feeling very bitter, I’m sorry about it and almost feel ashamed because I have tried not to feel bitter but I got over it when the rest of the family got up. Pat was home she and Mary came last by car. Mary went down in the morning by train and brought the gib car back after it having been repaired and painted it looks so nice

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too and we had hoped to meet you in a seemingly brand new car. Mary gave me a lovely pair of lamb’s wool slippers and Pat a very nice blouse and Peter and Dad each gave me a casserole so I did very well didn’t I. The day on the whole has been a happy day and I feel better tonight than I did this morning. What a marvellous day it would have been if you had been here Jeff.

15th Oct.

Time moves on I miss your letters more and more they were so full of the joy of life you seemed so happy with your crew your little jaunts together or in twos or threes made me realise that and the joy you found in nature especially in Scotland. What a wonderful country it must be especially the north and especially in the Autumn. When I look at Scottish pictures I think of you such a lot and feel you are

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enjoying them with me.

News that Jerry has left England and he is to arrive on 16th Nov, the Jacksons are all so very excited.

The day has arrived Jerry is home, I sent him a telegram he wrote saying he would come up.

Jerry came it was wonderful to see him he’s well. He says but he looks rather hollow eyed and drawn I thought – it was hard to greet him and not greet you too – but I stood up to it – it was wonderful to have him – he thinks the table is wonderful he is very pleased – it is a bit hard to let it go I had hoped you were to have it and when you had a home of your own you were to have had the chairs. He talks of course a lot of Peg and expects her on 23rd Dec, - he has gone up to Harcourt for 2 or 3 days and then back home

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Peg did not arrive on 23rd Dec instead it is the 29th her photo was in the paper looking through a port-hole she looked so sweet. I can just imagine Jerry’s delight so can you I guess, I’m sure they are very suited to each other. I must go down and see her as soon as possible, they were coming by here for a few days but owing to the reduced train service were not able but will later on. I know you will be happy that all has gone well with them. Again I’m writing in bed. Good night much love. Mother.

3rd Jan ’46 The Athlone Castle arrived with 2000 R.A.A.F but you were not one. Many wives and children arrived too, I suppose it won’t be long before all R.A.A.F men are home.

Barbara Mitchell is here she came to tea, Jeff I am always thinking of you especially over the past 6 weeks for 12 months ago you were so happy you had finished

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your course. You were expecting any time to take off over Germany instead you had to make a last trial flight, I know how disappointed you were that you were not allowed to fly any more and you crashed. I saw the picture, “I live in Grosvenor Square” and in it a plane came down and I saw [inserted] and heard [/inserted] you so plainly sticking to your position speaking out your direction and saying the plane couldn’t hold up any longer. You were so brave and so were all the others, I did long to catch you. I realised how disappointed you felt that you were not allowed to accomplish what you had set out to do. O Jeff what a gap there is in my life now, I am so very much alone, I have no companion to go out with, it is all work and far too much for me here, I get so dreadfully tired and worn. I so seek in Mary and Pat companionship when they are home. I’m alone, there is no one at home.

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Your clothes came some days ago and today I have been going through them. I suppose it’s the last thing I can ever do for you. I am putting them in the bottom drawer where Peter sleeps and as he grows to fit them I’ll let him have them there are lots of things more than I thought would be there such as your jacket the [indecipherable word] you and I bought at Clemens and books I thought you should have had but of course I can’t do anything about it, I’m very sorry though. Beloved boy you are always with me, you’ll never leave me, will You?

Citation

Jeff Downing's Mother, “Jeff Downing's Notebook,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 11, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/28537.

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