Transcript of letter from Squadron Leader Jack V Hay to his daughter Sheila



Transcript of letter from Squadron Leader Jack V Hay to his daughter Sheila


Starts with some banter about war news and comment about German fifth column operations and other war news. Continues with other news and gossip about recent journey. Goes on about Germany atrocities and casualties and situation on the continent. Includes comment of RAF operations and his activities.




Temporal Coverage



Six page handwritten letter


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Letter from Squadron Leader Jack V Hay (retired later, as Wing Commander) to his daughter Sheila.

Jack Hay had been in the Air Force in the First World War – not [deleted] Shore [/deleted] [inserted] sure [/inserted] whether in RFC or earliest official RAF days.

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Same address.

15th June. 1940.

My dear Squeaker,

I’d be obliged if you did [underlined] not [/underlined] address me in the language of the most [underlined] pestilential [/underlined] use of bastard sewage rats to be found still living today! I’ve been waiting an opportunity to answer yours of 16th May – a fateful morning – which did not reach me till 1st June! At which date I had 25 letters, for first time since 14/5/40. And not one single letter has reached me since! I’m so damn tired that this will probably be completed tomorrow. Dont make any mistakes about Hun parachute troops being funny, as would appear from your abysmal ignorance. Some of our folk watched two drop, as Franciscan monks or something. They were shot on spot. Others have dropped as nuns, & doubtless been [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] similarly dealt with, & I have promised myself the pleasure of putting a bullet through the head of any parachutist I may look if he is dressed in any uniform other than his own. [underlined] And [/underlined] in cold blood without any compunction. Pity all our delightful refugee enemy aliens were there up at the start. Many are genuine, lots are not – we have lots of information about [indecipherable word] I’ve only had one bath in the Atlantic about 3 weeks ago. Yes, we made a considerable mess of Hamburg – Bremen, also of Ruhe, Balische [three indecipherable words]of Frankfurt & Mannheim, & other places. Since you wrote, we’ve done lots more, & over here we have a colossal reputation with the French, military & civil. There will shortly be a raid starting out – about 20 mins. It doesn’t matter mentioning it as it will all be over by time you get this, & there is nothing herein to connect to a unit. Well, that’s your letter answered, & so now for history Writing small as running short of paper – 2 sheets & 1 envelope left. You have probably heard of my engagement on morning of 10th May by now from other sources. Anyway, if not, apply to Ian, I cant do it all again! From 10th to 15th up at 0300 daily & out with my troops on dawn parachute patrol. On 15, told managing director I’d get someone else out for a change, & was not getting up till 0730. At 0200, said bloke digs me out full of apologies, but would I please arise, collect one 30 cwt. lorry, put on board a cook, & nine men, avec kit, also myself with all kit, & prepare for an Odyssey forthwith. By 0415 I’d packed, got lorry, men on rations for 2 days on board & reported ready to leave. At 0430, I got the off. At 0730 the place got bombed! [underlined] After [/underlined] I’d gone

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But nothing damaged. I trekked west, and north – lovely weather. As it is now very old news, I breakfasted in Meaux, where refugees told their tales of nights in the open & of roads gunned by Hun aircraft during day. So on to Seolis, where held up by enormous tank lorries! After long search, found Hun tanks (only about dozen) had shot right through to Forest of [indecipherable word] where they were being rounded up. Finally after long delay, got through (or round by another line) on to Hun side of lorries, & towed rest of forest with battle bowlers & loaded guns. Incidentally, forest of Ermenonville is full of wild lilies of the valley in vast profusion. I trekked on to Amiens, & thence to Abbeville for orders. (You will appreciate I can only mention place names now as information would be useless to Hun.) At the latter place I was chez-moi, but ordered to go 17 Km. out to farm & new Hqrs. There found it was imposs. so dug in on spot & said I would move when given orders where to go – which I never got. In the pub. (known by a rude term) I found the same old chambermaid, now well over 70, of 25 years ago, who remembered me. I also found another knowledgeable inhabitant, who told me my little Paulette had married an anglais! [sic] Even had two offspring (not mine!) & revisited the town whiles. And lots more about folk I knew. Opposite was an armourier, & being down to 10 rounds for my special gun, (having discharged 20 at Huns on 10th May.) I managed to buy up the whole stock of 80 rounds. Next door a café, kept by voluminous but amusing female of 35 or so. Where one could always get drinks out of hours. I shall refer to her later. On the Sunday I lunched with the local county court judge & the public prosecutor & we did fine. At 2300, I was undressing, very ready for bed, when I got a call from a [indecipherable word] padre that it would be well to get out. I wouldn’t, but suddenly got a hunch later, packed kit, & left about 0030., going out to woods near aerodrome where I’d left my troops 6 Km. out. To go back, also at lunch on Sunday I met a French Colonel (tanks) whom I’d last seen at Chalmes weeks before. With him a French General. Neither had washed, shaved or eaten properly for 5 days. The general himself told me of a road he’d seen, for about 2 1/2 miles just one

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jumbled mess of dead civilians – mostly of course, with that unnerving selective acumen of the Hun, women & children. All machine gunned from the air till none left alive. The Hun does it with relish – but hates a Hurricane as a target! However, over 3000 of the bastards have been shot down since 10th May – pity they didn’t all come down in flames or burn slowly. And on one road I took, 17 Km. took 2 hours, choked with refugees of all classes, mostly pathetic sights, & had to walk the last 5 Km. directing traffic to get it cleared. Clear it we did – the poor b. f’s could hardly think for themselves. To return, at 0030 I got to wood, & walked about till 0300, when a vacating sqdn. forgot a camp bed on which lay till 0500 when round troops. (N.B. They also forgot half a bottle of Black Label, which I removed from Hun temptation!) At 0620 I heard bombs crack off back of Abbeville. At 0625, whilst at morning devotions, six cracked off an aerodrome! Not so good. I waited till 0700, then gave orders to trek. Knowing the coast road would be fully choked with refugees, infinitely worse than in 1914, & also knowing some of lanes in the old cavalry training area, I took by-roads all way. The other alternative I’d turned down was gunned & one village on way, bombed. So just by luck got out again at night time & took right road. At Dieppe the army were rather unhelpful, so headed for Rouen. There found one of the biggest C.F. town major I’ve struck. He told me I ought to be back where sent, N.E. of Abbeville. I told him whatever curious ideas the Army might hold, it was no part of an R.A.F. officer’s duty to allow himself, troops & transport to be captured if he could avoid same. He did’nt [sic] like me at all! We ran out to stay at a little pub at Villequier, which you may know, for the night, a most delightful spot a full moon – all most peaceful, & excellent cuisine by proprietor. Half way through a wizard meal, he rushed in to say his belle soeur had just phoned from 15 km. out (can just hear our bombers going off to Italy) & was a refugee from Abbeville, which shook me more than somewhat. This was the owner of the café previously referred to. When she got in she was a bit shattered. The town had been bombed for 5 hours by relays of up to 30 aircraft, H.E. & incendiary. Her café had been burnt over her head, including her two dogs shut up in kitchen, while they were in cellar. The street, full of refugees

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had been turned into a shambles, & about a third of town burnt out. And the first thing she could get out was “Mon Dieu, votre R.A.F. sont merveilleus.” During a lull they had come up to see what was on, & found two fighters alone attacking 30 Huns & going on pegging away at them. Eight did they shoot down between them. Which reminds me of another rather shattering episode in her café 3 nights before. We were sitting one side having our nightcap, when a French woman, sitting t’other side sobbing quietly to herself, with two small kids, suddenly rushed across to me, said she was a French, [underlined] not [/underlined] Belge, refugee, she’d billeted English officers at Amien; she had no-where to lay her head that night or for the kids to sleep (about 7 & 5) & that the French could do nothing about it Although the French authorities could do nothing, she was sure English officers could. And for once I was too shattered to say I wasn’t English! However, she got her bed that night. And was dully appreciative when I saw her next morning. I’m getting too damn tired to continue – to be concluded in our instalment of the 16th – 16/6/40. Having dined, a short space before I go out from 2200 till past midnight. From there went day trekking on to another place which perhaps should not be mentioned, expecting there to get news of my Hqs. which I expected to be several hundred miles away. Instead of which, I found my journey ended for the moment, for they were there! We’d been pulled out to rest etc. After a few days, I got sent off up the line again on a special job, which mostly meant working all over the place & getting back towards midnight. But where we were might have been a Thames resort – when in, we dined alongside river & a damn pretty spot; boats etc for hire, but never had the chance, being too damn tired if one did get back in time. After a few days of that, back to where I’d come from, by air this time, both trips being over one of the famous touring localities of France. We aint arf seeing the country. Again dodged some bombing by not being there when it happened. Finally we got orders to trek. I’d hoped to come down by road, but had to accompany the managing director by air. Got up at 0300 to help seeing troops strike camp, then left at 0630. We were quarter of an hour late getting off, in brilliant & very hot weather. Course taken was

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not direct, & in aircraft it was so hot that I had to remove coat before we’d made south of Gironde. And that not much after 0900! The only cool sight were the tops of the Pyrenees covered in snow, whenever we changed course. The blue of the Mediterranean would appear to be no more so than the sound of [indecipherable word] on a fine day! Thence on to our hush destination, & on landing, the heat simply got up & hit you in the eye. The country where I now am is a bit extraordinary – rock, limestone hills, crags & cliffs, flat arid plains, stones, lizards, olive & almond groves, cherries of extraordinary size about 1 1/2d per lb., peaches in orchards just ripe – hedges of red japonica, quaint villages, & until 2 days ago, blasts of solid heat, which nearly flattened even me the other morning. I just got to a shady café & outside some iced beer, in time to [deleted] pref [/deleted] prevent going right out. Bought a toper that day, & dark glasses essential. Then we had couple of thunderstorms which cleared the air, & last night the mistral started blowing, following thunder, & has been blasting all day. We are in an exceedingly pleasant & secluded spot here, & the French are absolutely flat out to do anything for us. One old crone checked up to us the other day & said, “Messieurs, mes felicitations.” We blindly asked just why? “Parque c’est vous qui sont les ocais sauveurs de la France – plutot que l’aimee, plutot que femme.” If you cant translate, buy dictionary! We are still entirely cut off from all outcoming mail, & I cant see any near prospect of getting any at all at present which is damned annoying. By the way, here’s a true story of an unarmed Spitfire, who “beat up” an I ty (or eye-tie) bomber the other day, & so frighted the brave Italians that, petrified with fear, he dived into the sea in frantic haste to get away! And a single [indecipherable word] attacked ten Wop bombers – the one he picked out first he did’nt [sic] hit, but all the crew stepped out in parachutes, very quickly

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The only thing I hope is that both those bastard little Musso brats get shot down in flames & burn quite slowly. One, though, is very safely staying in S. America – its safer there, & the R.A.F. are more dangerous than Abyssinians. Well, its time for me to go out into the dark.

Best love,



J V Hay, “Transcript of letter from Squadron Leader Jack V Hay to his daughter Sheila,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 24, 2024,

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