Joe’s Letters, WWII: “‘Bad rain stops play”

family storiesI have been approached about writing a book on Joe and his time with Bomber Command. I’d love to hear your feedback about this. Please use the comments box to give me your thoughts. Novel, or non-fiction? Do you think it would make a good read?

A bit of background for newcomers

Joe (aka ‘Mac’ to his RAF comrades) 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 this letter, Joe is now stationed at Stranraer in Scotland, where his Air Gunnery School training (phase 4 of his training) has commenced and he will finally get up in the air….

Letter 30 – 21st April 1944

family storiesfamily storiesfamily stories
Letter transcript:

“Same.

Thursday.

Dear Mom and kids,

I am writing this in doubt as to whether you received my second letter. I have not had any mail from you since last Wednesday or Thursday and I have been worried, I hope everything is O.K. at home?

We had our first day off today, the weather has been terrible the last few days, it rains terrific hard here the wrost rain I’ve ever seen. I don’t know whether I told before but our hut site is in a pine wood something like the ‘Lickeys’*. As you can imagine the ground is in a terrible state and our overcoats and boots are wet through.

We spent our day off in Stranraer, it is a dump with a crowd of pubs and only two cinemas but by now as you’ll realise we are getting used to making the best of things! 

The weather here has stopped the flying and so we are all ‘cheesed off’ with having to sit in the classrooms all day. Sometimes when we have had our tea (about 7) we go to the billet and start re-writing our day’s notes and cleaning up for the next day. By then it’s 9 or half past and after that we try to write letters but it is hard. I can honestly say that I’m dog tired at the end of the day and am always sleepy, but I promise you I’ll write you as often as possible. I’ve only had time to write three other letters beside this since I came here. Two of them were yours!

Sorry this is short but it will be lights out soon, so cheerio.

Love Joe xxxx

P.S. Excuse scrawl”

* The 'Lickeys' is a large wooded area in the suburbs of Birmingham, known as the Lickey Hills, but referred to affectionately by locals as 'The Lickeys'.

Joe sounding a bit weary this week. The relentless Scottish weather can be enough to get anyone down, but when it has confined you to the classroom instead allowing you to be in the air, it must have been even worse.

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

Letter 23 – 26th March 1944, Meeting a war Hero

Letter 24 – 30th March 1944, Reality Bites – A Pal is Killed

Letter 25 – March 1944, Man v the Potato Peeling Machine

Letter 26 – 6th April 1944, Passing Exams & Fending off Girls

Letter 27 – 10th April 1944, Bonnie Scotland here we come!

Letter 28 – 12th April 1944, The Coal Heaving Incident

Letter 29 – 15th April 1944, ‘Mae Wests’ and Smashin’ WAAFs

4 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “‘Bad rain stops play”

  1. Just catching up with Joe’s story. Delighted to hear you have been approached with regard to writing a book. Have you decided whether to make it a novel or a biography? I think it’s a fantastic story, particularly as you have all the letters, so it’s a real piece of history.

    • Hi Trish, and thanks. I’m still undecided, but it feels like it would merit more than just non-fiction since it’s such a compelling story. Perhaps a thoughtful biography would do the trick?. What do you think?

  2. I think you would need to get some advice as to what would be more marketable. There may be lots of war-based novels telling stories such as Joe’s, but I suppose there might be a lot of historical documents too. For me, reading the letters is what makes the story special: the unique selling point that makes it stand out from the norm.

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