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 is from his first posting to the Intake Training Wing (ITW) in Bridlington, just 2 weeks or so later, where he has been sent for 6 weeks of intensive, tough training.
“AC/2 THOMPSON J.H
5Flt. 96 Intake
15 I.T.W. R.A.F.
In bed, Sat night.
Dear Mom and Kids,
Just a few more lines mainly to enquire if you have received the two previous letters I’ve written from this place. I have not received a letter in answer yet, and that is what made me wonder.
I had to ‘report sick’ this morning owing to my throat. As I said in my previous letters I’ve had a ‘bark’ since I joined the RAF and now I’ve got a ‘whisper’! The M.O. gave me a draught and about 6 different coloured pills and I don’t feel so bad now. My room mate reported sick with me (for the same thing), and he has been put in dock for a while. I was lucky and got away!
I’ve just been to one of Brid’s 3 cinemas to see “Five graves to Ciaro”, not a bad show. We finished at 5.50pm today and we don’t go on parade again till Monday at eight or twenty-to in’t morning, I don’t know which it is! At our last station, ACRC (Avenue Rd) we used to finish at 12.30pm Saturday, till twenty past eight Monday. I’m going to miss Sunday breakfast and have a nice lie in! After that I’ll perhaps stroll down to the jetty to watch these little fishing smacks and trawlers go in and out! It’s quite interesting to watch how they ‘ride’ the big waves.
They’ve been speeding up our marching from one class to another just lately it’s 140 paces per min instead of 120 now!
A cadet was killed on Thursday in an Armaments lecture room, some damn fool put a live round (which he’d pinched from the range) into a m.g., released firing pin and the fellow went out. There have been a few other instances also. I shall be watching my step.
I’ve got a nice pile of writing to be done tomorrow on almost every subject but there’s all day tomorrow as they say!
Love to you all, Joe. xxxx
P.S. I will write on Monday if poss.
P.P.S. This letter may not leave here till Sunday or Monday.”
I always find myself reading these letters from the perspective of Joe’s mother. He has told her that cadets are being killed in stupid training accidents, as though he’s talking of the weather! Her heart must have skipped a beat or two when she read this, and she was utterly powerless to do a thing, even to talk to her son….
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:-