Letters Home, WWII; Letter 1, 29 Dec 1943.

I have been working up to writing this long series of transcribed letters for some time. It is to be an emotional journey, revisiting these stories once again. I hope you will enjoy them, and think of your family as you read.

family stories, joseph

Joseph Henry Thompson was born in June 1925. He was my Uncle, though I never knew him. The eldest of 4 children, and brother of my father (dad being the youngest).

He was born in Birmingham, England’s second largest city, in a relatively poor neighbourhood. His father had died in 1941, leaving his Mother a widow and WWII raging.

Joe ‘joined up’, along with thousands of other young men, in 1943 at the tender age of 18. The RAF was his chosen destination, and he said goodbye to his family and left for training in December, which is where these letters begin.

family stories wwii letters homefamily stories wwii letters homefamily stories wwii letters home

Joe arrived at the Air Crew Receiving Centre in Regent’s Park, London, to commence basic training.  It seems clear that the excitement quickly turned to reality once the physical challenges of the training ahead became apparent.

Letter transcript:

“Dear Mom and Kids, 

I got here ok at about 3 o’clock on Monday.

You must excuse my writing as I’ve first had two of those injections and may have another tomorrow or soon after. The ones I’ve had up to now have made us all feel groggy and our left and right muscles painful and stiff. 

We’ve had all our kit – tunic, cap “with white piece in front”, trousers, great-coat, kit-bag, all webbing (12 pieces), mess tin, water bottle, gas capes, gas mask, 1st aid pack, tin hat and net, shaving brush, boot and brass brushes, ‘house-wife’, knife, spoon, fork, one pair of boots, one pair of shoes, one pair of pumps, 2 pairs of gym shorts and some vests, 2 ordinary vests, 2 pairs of Aertex pants, pullover, scarf, 4 pairs socks, 3 shirts, 6 collars, tie, one rain-cape-cum-ground-sheet, and lots more odds and ends. We had to march TWO miles with that lot at 140 paces per minute!

The grub is a bit rough but it’s all right. We’re in some very ‘posh’ flats in Maida Vale. There are ELEVEN blokes in our room and they’re all pretty decent fellas. We have arranged a rota for cleaning the room out. We scrubbed the floor and cleaned the windows today! I must pause now to go on parade………and to continue…

We’ve just had our swimming test also a blood-goading Parade. Blimey, my head aches! It’s those injections!

We’ve been told we’ll be here 19 days or so and then we may be posted to Whitny Bay or some other place I can’t name. We’ve got another injection next week. By the way, I’ve just had a vaccination with the rest. Feel B—— awful!

The tailor is coming tomorrow to check out clothes. We parade each day at 5.30am and get to bed at 10pm if we’re lucky!

Must leave now.

All my love, 

Joe”

Joe’s full story is beautiful and tragic. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories.

I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

Other posts you might like:-

Life’s a Journey. Week 1: My earliest baby photo.

Life’s a Journey. Week 4: Bestest Friends

The Middle Ages

A tatty old box full of memories

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46 responses to “Letters Home, WWII; Letter 1, 29 Dec 1943.

  1. I have to see those posts! What a lovley thing to have in your possession, and what a great task – can you imagine how proud he would be to have you writing about him like this?

    • His brother and sister(my dad being the former) still find it desperately difficult to discuss him. It is, however, my Nan I keep coming back to, and how she must have reeled at the loss of her 22 year old son after he survived such a terrible war.

  2. Pingback: Letters Home, WWII; Letter 3, 5th January 1944. « SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  3. Pingback: Letters Home, WWII; Letter 4, 8 Jan ’44. « SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

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  13. i enjoy reading about this lovely man. we must never forget these people and the lives they lived, to make us what we are today. god bless you.

  14. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: Don’t worry, Mum « SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  15. This is very interesting. In my father’s letters he also talks about the vaccines and how he could not move his left arm. I guess they did the left so they could still use it, too bad Dad is left handed. He also tells that he was in bed two days from the shots and feels so bad from it he thinks he should still be in bed. I wonder how many others got sick from them?

    • Makes you wonder, eh? They certainly gave them a thorough medical ‘going over’! Joe talks about the number of teeth he had to have filled with ‘special’ fillings that could withstand the high altitude of flying!!!

      • Wow! and those are the nuggets we need to preserve! It is kind of like my chapter 6 The Yoo hoo incident. It was my fathers’ regiment’s claim to fame. We were told it as a bedtime story. And it was the theme of every reunion dad went to. Now there in only a small mention of it if you read LTG Benjamin Lear’s bio. The story was almost lost had I not revived it. It was big news in 1941 and spread all through the USA…. now forgotten.

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  23. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Gigalo Joe sits in his first gun turret” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  24. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Meeting a War Hero” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

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  26. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Man vs the Potato Peeling Machine” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  27. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Passing Exams & Fending Off Girls!” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  28. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Bonnie Scotland, here we come” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  29. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “The Coal Heaving Incident” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  30. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “‘Mae Wests’ & Smashin’ WAAFs” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

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  33. Pingback: “The grub is a bit rough but it’s all right…” | 'Just' is a belittling word...·

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