This emotional journey will revisit the stories of my Uncle Joe once again. I hope you will enjoy them, and think of your family as you read.
Joseph Henry Thompson (pictured, left) was born in June 1925 in Birmingham, England. The eldest of 4 children, and brother of my father (dad being the youngest). I never knew him and my father hardly had the time before his tragic demise post-war at 22.
Joe ‘joined up’ to the RAF, along with thousands of other young men, in 1943 at the tender age of 18. He left his widowed Mother, Olive (my Nan) and 3 siblings and left for training in London after Christmas. This letter is from his first posting to the Intake Training Wing (ITW) in Bridlington, just 2 weeks or so later, where he has been sent for 6 weeks of intensive, tough training.
Letter 14 – Don’t worry, Mum – 31st January 1944
“AC/2 THOMPSON J.H
5Flt. 96 Intake
15 I.T.W. R.A.F.
Dear Mom and Kids,
“I received your (friday) letter today. I’ve already answered the one that came with the second parcel, I hope you got it OK. I did not see the M.O. about my eyes as they had cleaned up when I woke next day.
I had two letters the other day, one from Aunt Em and the other from Unc’ Bill Beddard. The letter from Aunt Em & Co enclosed a 5/- Postal Order (very tasty!) and Uncle Bill’s had one in for 2/-! They came just right! I’m going to answer Aunt Em’s after this but I’m in a fix about Uncle Bill as I can’t find his letter. When you write again will you send their address on as I must thank them for the ‘dibs’. By the way, please don’t go to any trouble or expense for a parcel for me, they are very welcome but I know how things are at home. About that allowance, if it comes as you want me to withdraw the 5/-, I can send it to you by the post.
Please don’t worry about me when I say I’m going on or have been to the range as the slip that chap made last week* (*see previous letter) was probably 1 in a million. You see he put six bullets in the gun and only fired five and when he handed it to me to unload the sixth was up the ‘spout’.
Now I’m thinking of it don’t bother about me and washin’, they let us send some things to the Laundry each week and any other oddments which need it we wash ourselves. About socks, up to now I’ve had no darning to do on my ‘issue’ but that will come!
We went on guard again last night. I was put on guard with the usual sub-machine gun and truncheon, at Wing H.Q. After the supper man had gone, the Corporal of the guard said I could ‘oppit if I liked!! Oh boy, what a life!
By the way (once again) wish ‘our kid’ the best for me when he starts work. Was glad to see that Freda had heard from Norman it must be a great relief to her to write to him. Also thank her for her kind remembrance of the young ex-serf!
That picture you wrote of was round here last week but I never saw it worse luck. ‘Financial straits’!
Let me know how Leo Terry gets on. I see Roma isn’t wasting much time! I’ve first realised that I have never written to Aunt Phyll. The trouble is that I’ve so many to write to that I don’t know whether so and so’s had a letter from me or not half of the time. I do hope she will excuse the delay.
Those pyjamas by the way are very welcome at night, especially when we’ve no fire.
Now for the bit of good news! I’ve saved it to the end of my letter on purpose. I may get as much as 14 days leave from here when my six weeks is up! The officer said that it will be at least 5 days so keep your fingers crossed! When this course is finished we go to an ‘Air Gunnery School’ one of which there happens to be at Bridgenorth, about 30 miles from Brum*! I only hope that they send me there.
That’s all for now, so Cheerio,
Love to you all
PS. May also send a group photo later on, with 3 or 4 pals on too.
PPS. Haven’t got the first yet!
.. a bit more:- Thanks for the stamps, Post Offices are closed when we finish each day and they only allow 2 each at NAAFI”
*Brum = Birmingham (home town)
Even handling these 68-year-old letters makes me a bit nervous. Today’s letter was still held together at the top of the pages by the original glue from the flimsy RAF notepad on which Joe wrote. I had to gently prise the pages apart in order to scan them for posterity. I love to think of Joe handling the same piece of paper and tearing the pages out roughly….quite a contrast to the delicate hands and focused eyes which I am using today to read and protect his words….
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 in this series:-