This emotional journey will revisit the stories of my Uncle Joe once again. I hope you will enjoy them, and think of your family as you read.
Joseph Henry Thompson (pictured, left) was born in June 1925 in Birmingham, England. The eldest of 4 children, and brother of my father (dad being the youngest). I never knew him and my father hardly had the time before his tragic demise post-war at 22.
Joe ‘joined up’ to the RAF, along with thousands of other young men, in 1943 at the tender age of 18. He left his widowed Mother (my Nan) and 3 siblings and left for training in London after Christmas. This letter marks his arrival at the Intake Training Wing (ITW) in Bridlington, just 2 weeks or so later.
“AC/2 THOMPSON J.H
5Flt. 96 Intake
15 I.T.W. R.A.F.
Dear Mom and Kids,
After an all night journey and a march in full Kit we arrived at this dump!! We’ve been put into private houses taken over by the RAF. The rooms were in a filthy condition!! There is no heating at all and we get 4 shovels of coal for 7 rooms, although some of them haven’t got fireplaces.
On the first night, Saturday, we didn’t get any coal for our room at all! Blimey, I was perished!! As we’re near the sea front the wind don’t arf blow!
Today me and my room-mate ‘accidentally’ broke two bannister rails and a drawer so we (had?) to burn them. In a few days some of us will be falling down the stairs! We are in the attic. The cookhouse is about a mile away in a big posh dance hall, the food is quite good and there’s plenty of it. But if you’re a bit late, well, “You’ve ‘ad it”!
The course here will take about 6 weeks and in that time you learn:-
Morse, Law and Hygiene, Armament, Drill and Maths! Our day will start at 6 and end at 6 after that you must ‘swot’!
The weather here is intensely cold and there seems t be a continuous fog. What a dump! We’ve only had a dental inspection today (I’ve got to have some filled) the rest of the time was taken cleaning out our room. The Pay Parade takes place on Friday here.
By the way I could do with some boot polish, 2 or 3 hankies, another black tie and if possible some sweets. Send them when most convenient. Add something for a bad cough too as I’ve had a proper dog’s bark since I joined the R.A.F.
We will be issued with a ‘Battle Dress’ while we are here. They look OK too.
The shops here have plenty of stuff to sell especially cake and buns which can be bought by whack, I get hungry round about 8 & 9pm! The reason for that I suppose is because the RAF cookhouse doesn’t serve suppers, whereas ‘Avenue Close’ did!
I’ve just been given the whereabouts of some coke which is simply yelling to be pinched! I must look into the matter in the morning! We’ve got another Kit inspection in the morning. Blast!!!
Must finish now as it’s ‘Lights Out’ in a few minutes. Please don’t worry if there is delay between my letters it may be because I don’t get the time or because the RAF blokes don’t collect ’em on time. I’ll try to write Aunt Phyll and Unc’ Horace and Marie later in the week. I haven’t written Marie yet!!
Cheerio for now.
P.S. Excuse erratic writing”
I always find myself reading these letters from the perspective of Joe’s mother. I suspect she would be worrying about his health in the cold, and feeling powerless to stop him doing something he may be punished for (like stealing coal!) Brave times for all concerned.
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:-