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, Olive (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.
Letter 15 – 3 ‘Joes’ and top test scores, 3rd February 1944
Dear Mom and Kids,
Just a few lines to let you know things are still OK around here (strangely enough I’ve got a free night for a change). My pals and I are going out to get broke, but well filled, with ‘grub’! We ‘discovered’ a small corner cafe the other night where we can get Eggs – chips – bread and butter and tea for 1/6!! Yes, they’re real fried eggs too!!
My pals, by the way, (none of which come from Brum) are: Den Maycock from Reading, Smokey Joe Lee from Liverpool, Joe Lyons also from Liverpool, Stan Dunne from Walsall and Ken Dilworth from ‘outside Manchester’. They call me for some unknown reason “Mac”. Perhaps I smell of Haggis or look like bag-pipes but they won’t say!
By the way the Sergeant of our flight gave me (and others) the enclosed slip about your allowance. Let me know if anything comes of your enquiries as I’m allowed to do ‘nowt’. I can of course reduce the weekly deduction.
You will have been to Gran’s by the time you get this, how is everybody, especially Gran and Uncle Horace? Let me have Aunt Glad’s address as soon as poss’, as I must thank them for the P.O. and letter.
Had 3 more teeth filled today and the fillings (all of ’em) are a silvery
mettle metal (can’t spell!) The one tooth, a double, gave me hell! The dentist said as I left, “Only another half dozen!” Anyway, I got out of 2 hours square bashin’!
We had a progress test in Morse the other day and I got ’em all ‘reet’. Also got 25/25 in Aircraft Recognition progress test. Cor, I’m real ‘ot!!
Must close now as it will be lights out soon and I’m stuck for words. Cheerio for now,
Love to you all, Joe. xxxx
P.S. Only 3 weeks now!!!”
Today’s letter had the tiny slip enclosure still folded neatly within its pages. “Your claim to Dependants Allowance has been disallowed…” As ever, Joe is doing his best to ensure that his Mum and siblings back home are well cared for, and continues to send money home from his wages to help their survival during these harsh times of need.
It’s hard for the present generations to consider the excitement of a real egg!!! We truly have lost the skills of ‘make do and mend’ that the 1940s housewife/mother found to be such a mandatory part of her life. (And my word, do I ever feel pride that Joe’s test results are so perfect!!!)
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:-