A bit of background
I have been working up to writing this long series of transcribed letters for some time. It is to be an emotional journey, revisiting these stories once again. I hope you will enjoy them, and think of your family as you read.
Joseph Henry Thompson (far left in top photo) was born in June 1925. He was my Uncle, though I never knew him. The eldest of 4 children, and brother of my father (dad being the youngest).
He was born in Birmingham, England’s second largest city, in a relatively poor neighbourhood. His father had died in 1941, leaving his Mother a widow and WWII raging.
Joe ‘joined up’, along with thousands of other young men, in 1943 at the tender age of 18. The RAF was his chosen destination, and he said goodbye to his family and left for training in December, which is where these letters begin. Joe is in the 131st Intake of recruits at the Air Crew Receiving Centre in Regent’s Park, London, where he is commencing basic training. It seems clear that the toughness of the task ahead is becoming apparent (transcript of letter below original).
“Tues (in bed)
Dear Mom and Kids,
I have received your two letters, they were very welcome, especially the second! I got over my injections ok and the Doc says my vaccination has ‘taken’.
I had a tooth out on Sunday and it was still bleeding Monday dinner so I had some sort of gargle and it’s ok now.
Our whole Flight was’ confined to barracks’ Monday night because one of our rooms was untidy.
The Duchess of Gloucester spoke to one of our chaps today whilst he was in the Dentist’s chair. She asked him if he liked the Service. He said “Yes, Ma’am, but not this part!”
I’ve written to Hilda and Ted thanking them for their letter and present, also Stan(?) If you write home please try and explain that I get chance to write about ONE letter a day and that one in bed!
That money has just come right. It seems as if I am buying odds and ends all and every day, and it soon mounts up surprisingly. A special marking pen and ink was the latest, we’ve got to put our numbers on all our kit.
Up to now we’ve had SIX lectures on different subjects and we’ve had a 6 mile march every time!!
Tonight we had a pass-out and went to the local YMCA which is usually a lively place. It was deserted tonight almost because there was a Concert of good music, a pianist, a celloist and a baritone!!
I’ve had 3 lots of PT up to now in Regent’s Park and it’s ok too. The meals here have been getting erratic here lately. Some days there’s plenty and good, other days little and lousy. By the way can you get me some ‘Carnation’ plasters for a corn, we can’t get ’em around here!
I must pause as one of my mates is playing his comb and he needs discouraging. By the way, I was complimented for looking so ‘slick’ in Air Force Blue by the Corporal! Wow!
I passed my Night Vision ok.
That’s all for today. Got to clean my walking-out shoes!
Cheerio, Love Joe.
P.S. Civvys on the way!
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:-