Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Meeting a War Hero”

family stories

I’d like to make a special mention this week to the boys of Bomber Command, who were rightly and eventually honoured by the British Government for their incredible, thankless endeavours to end this most terrible of wars.

A bit of background for newcomers

Joe was my Uncle, but we never met. His precious letters have come into my possession some near-70 years after they were written. It is my honour to transcribe them, and the poignancy of hindsight about what happened to Joe makes this all the more difficult to write, but all the more important that I do.

One letter will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday.

Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

In today’s letter, Joe is at his new barracks/station in Bridgnorth, Shropshire (much closer to home!)

Letter 23 – March 26th 1944

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Letter transcript:

“Same.

Sat night.

Dear Mom and Kids,

I hope that you’ve not been worrying over the delay in my answering your letter of Tuesday. I got the letter on Thursday morning but as we get our exams a week on Monday I (and the rest of the Flight) have been swottin’ like mad every night this week! The trouble is, we have to do a 6 weeks course in about 4 so we shall NOT get the usual clear week for revision and swotting! That also means that we will still be learning stuff right up to the day of our exam.

I have got about FIVE letters to answer before I turn in as I’ve been fortunate all this week and had a letter every day! I received one from Bert Thomas today, he’s in bed suffering (?!) with tonsilitis (hope that’s right!) I think he likes it really as he says his girl has been to see him every day so far!

Right now I don’t feel in a very good mood, nor does anyone else in the ut. You see we should have, by rights, a Sunday off this weekend but they’ve suddenly decided to put the lid on it by giving us all a guard duty for the Sunday night, free of charge! That’s enough about myself for now.

By the way I didn’t know that Bri* had been away from school. Glad he’s ok now tho! I’m glad to see that our Kid’s job isn’t boring him yet, he always does suffer in silence. If he doesn’t mind it’s all the better.

Thanks for writing to Aunt Em and Co for me, I wrote myself later. Don’t you ever send me any money for ‘Pete’s sake’ as I know what a job you have to make ends meet these days. I’m going to the Accounts Office on Monday morning to see if there’s a chance for a War Grant or summat like that for you and the trip. Will let you know the results if and when I can.

Tell the ‘mob’ that I still nip round for a second bashin’ of dinner etc., when the Orderly Officer ain’t looking. I’ll demonstrate the method to you when I get home again, you see it’s all done with the aid of mirrors!

Yes, I have been to the Pictures here, TWICE, that’s all I had a chance to see! Joyce is making her debut in society (the green grocery type!) this Easter I see! Hope she has a good time all the same, the FAT little devil!

The Officer of our Flight, by the way, is really an ‘Ace’ in his line, as we found out t’other day! He is an Aussie’ with the D.F.M twice AND the ‘Conspicuous Gallantry Medal’. He has donefamily stories 60 Opps over Germany in one of the four famous “Path Finder” Squadron. His score is really amazing, 12 shot down for certain with 10 probables besides!! He got the C.G.M for shooting down a Ju.88 AND and Me.110 in one night with the side of his turret blown off and 7 bullets in his left leg!!! I’ve seen a photo of his turret after that raid, it does look a mess! While he was in hospital, his crew were all shot down over Germany and captured! He was sent to this place fo his 6 month stand-down fro Opps and he’s cheesed off! I reckon he’s done his share!

Another case is our Sergeant Instructor, his name is Frost. We have learnt a lot while under him. We’ve been snooping around and found out that while on his last Opp he was shot down (like Norman) but he got back here from occupied territory without being captured! He is sworn to secrecy as to how he was got over here until after the war. The RAF treated him rotten after his lot, the rest of his crew got D.F.Ms but he got nothing. Neither of these stories are ‘line-shooting’ as the stories have been confirmed by others. Nearly every Sgt A.G here has a decoration or more and they’ve all done one or more ‘tours’.

I guess I can’t think of much more to write here so I’ll slow up. I’ve got to write a letter to Marie and others in a bit!

Don’t put yourselves out for a cake for me but IF you get a chance, I can eat ‘em! The food here is still lousy both in cooking and quantity, it’s the worst part of this Camp.

Here’s til the next time, sorry over the delay, honest.

Cheerio, Love Joe xxxx

P.S. The envelope situation is serious and the writing pads too!!?

P.P.S. Some of the blokes have lifted a chap’s bed up on to the beams in the hut, blankets and all!!!”

*my dad

A ‘tour’ was approx. 30 operations.

DFM = distinguished flying medal

Norman Williams was the man to which Joe refers here. Quite an extraordinary story, which you read here at TheTartanTerror Blog.

Wow. I still am left with the impression that Joe is slightly star-struck. Training to kill is a world away from killing. I wonder whether these boys truly comprehend the horrors that they are soon to face? They can surely have no inkling of the 70 years’ lack of acknowledgement of their braver and endeavours which will follow after the war ends…..

family stories, josephJoe’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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Other posts in this series:-

Letter 1 – 29 December 1943, arriving at Recruit Camp

Letter 2 – 31 December 1943, settling in

Letter 3 – 5th January 1944, confined to Barracks!

Letter 4 – 8th January 1944, meeting a boxing champ

Letter 5 – 10th January 1944, theft and wrongful punishment

Letter 6 – 13th January 1944, preparing to leave basic training camp

Letter 7 – 13th January 1944, high jinx and punishing schedules

Letter 8 – 14th January 1944, posted to Bridlington

Letter 9 – 18th January 1944, arrival in ‘the dump’ for 6 weeks training

Letter 10 – 21st January 1944, an introduction to firearms

Letter 11 – 25th January 1944, a fellow cadet in killed

Letter 12 – 27th January 1944, pork pies, live rounds and dimwits

Letter 13 – 29th January 1944, 10 fillings & the Browning machine gun

Letter 14 – 31st January 1944, Don’t worry Mum

Letter 15 – 3rd February 1944, Three ‘Joes’ and top test scores

Letter 16 – 10th February 1944, Meeting ‘Monty’ & Military Secrets

Letter 17 – 15th February 1944, Clay Pigeons and Dirty Washin’

Letter 18 – 17th February 1944, 9 days til leave!

Letter 19 – 21st February 1944, A Date Planned & Condemned Billets

Letter 20 – 6th March 1944, Arrival in 2nd Camp at Bridgnorth

Letter 21 – 13th March 1944, Eatin’, Stealin’ and Flirtin’

Letter 22 – 18th March 1944, Gigalo Joe in his first gun turret

12 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Meeting a War Hero”

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