Joe’s Letters, WWII: “A ‘Prang’”

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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.

At the time of this letter, Joe is several months into his RAF experiences and has just moved to RAF Stradishall in Suffolk, as part of the crew’s final stretch of training before active operations begin.

Letter 61 – 11th September 1944

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Letter transcript:

“Stalag 1 3/4 

Concentration Camp.

Saturday night.

Hello Mon,

Well, I’ve just come back from Cambridge, having spent a decent day off. We slept at the YMCA hotel last night. A damned good place too. SHEETS in the beds! Blimey! It seems ages since I slept in ‘em! On the morning we all went to a friend of the skipper’s house. A Mrs and Mrs Webster. We had a chicken dinner there too! They’re nice people, we all went on the afternoon to the pictures in the town. NINE of us! The picture was called ‘It Happened One Sunday. Although an English film it was damned good. I have never seen or heard of any of the actors in it. The film takes place in a town called Liverpool! A port from what I could make out! If it comes round our way, go and see it (if you get the chance to) – I think you will like it. The language gets a bit rich here and there but is not overdone.

I got your parcel the other day with the jersey in and letters. Gosh! I thought I’d had it swiped! When I got back tonight I went and got your other parcel! I din’t even KNOW I was a collar short!! It strikes me I shall discover something else missing soon! Keep hunting!! I am very grateful for the envelopes Mom. Thanks. I ran out a day or so ago.

I read Joe Lee’s letter and as usual got a good laugh. But further on I didn’t laugh so much. About a fortnight ago Joe was in a pretty good ‘prang’ but with a stroke of luck he and the rest of his crew got away without a scratch.  The engines both cut  out and after scooting across country at what we call ‘nought feet’ they came to a ‘drome but had to land across the runway as they hadn’t enough height. to make a circuit and come in properly. Joe says they went through the hedge on the perimeter of the ‘drome. This broke the starboard under carriage. The plane then swung round on its belly smashing the other wheel and fetching the starboard wing off! What fun!! He said that the ambulance driver was sulking for days after his disappointment at not getting his hands on a few charred remains. A ‘pretty’ thought, what?!

By the way Mom I guess by now you will have got my washing. Could I have it for Thursday please? Or is that a bit too soon? We leave here on Friday I believe. I DO know where we’re going but daren’t write it yet. I will give you a hint though! We won’t be out of Suffolk unfortunately! Oh! By the by, could you send on my other shoes please, the mended ‘uns? These new efforts have gone through the first leather already with so much marching. Hold tight Mom! here’s another want! How’s the ‘apple pie by post’ situation?! I get peckish at night here, as I have said before, FOOD is one of the great unknown quantities at this dump. “Don’t forget the liver”(?)!

Well I have thunked and thunked but can’t finck of nuffinck else! Till the next time Toodle and God Bless. Don’t cut our Joyce’s ‘air too short our Mom!!

Lots of Luv

Joe xxxx

P.T.O Important…..

….”Ever been ‘ad?!” “


Still very much enjoying life at Stradishall if the the address is anything to go by!! The tone of this letter puts Joe is very good spirits indeed. Lots of kidding and family chat in his native Brummie ‘dialect’. I am guessing that the forthcoming move away from ‘Stalag 1 and 3 quarters’ is seen as very good news!

The news that his best pal, Joe Lee has been in a very bad crash must have hot sharply home. His concern is clear, although his appetite still seems strong!

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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