Joe’s Letters, WWII: “A letter from Mum”

family stories

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 until they are done.

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

If you’ve been following Joe’s letters, you may be interested to know that I have now successfully made contact with the surviving families of two of Mac’s former crew members, rear gunner Ivor Turley & pilot Harry Warwick, as well as with the family of Joe’s girlfriend, Jean. It has been a real thrill to discover each other and we are in correspondence regarding our combined stories and memories of the crew. 

This is the first of the surviving letters which Olive (Joe’s mother) wrote to him. Joe is now 7 months into his RAF experiences and is now stationed at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire.

Olive’s first letter – c. 5th August 1944

family storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesLetter transcript:

“Home, Sunday night.

Hallo son,

and how are you? I was wondering very much about you when I didn’t hear for a few days but could understand the delay when I read your letter – you wouldn’t feel much like writing after such an effort as last Sunday night.

I intended packing your washing tonight; it arrived on Friday – but the weather was too bad for any drying outside so they are ironed but not aired and all being well I’ll pack them tomorrow night and Brian can post it Tuesday.

We are all shaking our colds off and can now say ‘string’! I had a letter from Auntie Doris last week and she enclosed 10/- from the ‘Albion’ for you, shall I send it, bank it or keep it till you come on leave? or are you financially embarrassed? Thank you very much for the £1 you sent me, believe me it will not be wasted but I haven’t spent it yet.

Yes thanks, Mrs Adams is getting better now but I still go in to do what I can for her, she sends you her best wishes. Den says that ‘Buster’ is due for 14 days about the same time as you are home, so you may have a mate till you go  to Liverpool. I don’t expect Jean will manage time off to come this end again yet awhile, without she falls sick again!

Auntie Hilda has been to a  nursing home to arrange about having her baby and the doctor says she is not having one. After all, she is bitterly disappointed. She had left school at Xmas and was thrilled about it all when I was talking to her at Grans. Time will tell I suppose, but her own doctor seemed to think she was and would be OK, however we must wait and see.

Mrs Terry says Leo is expected home either the end of this month or the beginning of next from France. Peter Watson is already here. Mr Wright – the school master is using Jeff Payne as a P.T. instructor to the kids at school so he is having the time of his life – or is he?

Well son, I do hope this finds you fit and well and still smiling, we are OK and often miss your ‘ugly mug and long legs’ around the hearth! So once more I’ll say

Good night and God Bless you always.

With love from Mom and kids xxxxX

P.S. Joyce say TTFN Big!”

No one knows what happened to the letters which Olive wrote to Mac between December 1943 and this first surviving one from the following August. It is my intention to serialise Olive’s letters alongside Joe’s, in the order they were written. The unique perspective of a mother regarding her family’s experiences during this time provides a wonderful insight into the stresses and hardships of war. It is worth remembering that Olive was already a widow at this time, with four children.

family stories, joseph

To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story.

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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