A bit of background
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.
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. Joe is in the 131st Intake of recruits at the Air Crew Receiving Centre in Regent’s Park, London, where he is commencing basic training. It seems clear that the toughness of the task ahead is becoming apparent (transcript of letter below original).
“Dear Mom and Kids,
Well, things aren’t so bad so far, but we have been warned, (although we knew) that the ITW (Initial Training Wing) we get posted to from here, will be very tough indeed. The discipline here is very strict, they’ll put you on a charge if you don’t leave the cork out of your water bottle at Kit Inspection!
The places we may get posted to are Bridlington or Whitley Bay. I’m writing this against a wall so excuse the writing. We all got a late pass out tonight so me and about 5 others went to a Cinema, quite a posh place, then we went to the YMCA.
We are going to the Nuffield Club on Sat night, it’s in Piccadilly and a darned good place too, so we’ve been told! We’ve got to be woke at 5.20 in the morning!
By the way, can I have 7/6 of that money by about next Monday or Tuesday as we don’t get each week but every 2 weeks. I applied for your allowance and I am having 1/6 per day paid to you out of my 3-, the 6d being compulsory. If I find that I can manage on less myself I’ll send more on to you by post.
We’ve had a full pack parade today with our overcoats done up at the neck and our canvas belt done up as tight as possible, and after half an hour we were feeling well and truly cooked!
There’s a lot of mixing up in our room as 5 out of the 11 are named Joe!! We’ve got to send our cases home at the week-end and I’ll try and slip a letter somewhere, probably in the inside pocket of my jacket. You see, they look through your stuff to see what you’re pinchin’!!
We get a ‘Night Vision’ test on Friday and I believe it’s very stiff. I only hope I get through. When you send me a parcel will you try and get a box to hold my shaving kit in, something about 5″ long and 1.5″ deep. I’ve got to go on Dental Parade shortly, 1 out and 6 filled!!
I shall probably send my new brushes back if possible as there are no locks on the doors. By the way after square bashing this morning we had a 20 min break which took 50 mins. We were cussed in no uncertain terms! There’s always a queue at the NAAFI canteen about a hundred yards long and only 2 girls serving! The Corporal in his speech said that if you can’t get up to the counter in the time, “you’ve ‘ad it!“
There are all Nationalities around here:- Indians, French Sailors and Airmen, British Honduras, Canadians, New Zealanders and all the pick of the Infantry.
Must finish now, got to clean my Brasses!
P.S. Can I have some Lifebuoy Toilet?
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.
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