Joe 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.
Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.
There are two letters in the envelope this week. The first addressed to Joe’s Mum, as always, entitled “Volume 1 – to be continued!”; the second addressed “To Fatty” (his young sister, Joyce, who wasn’t in any way fat as far as I can tell!) I have included both in this Post.
Letter 16 – Meeting ‘Monty’ and Military Secrets – 10th February 1944
My dear Joyce,
Well you big fat devil how are you? Many thanks for your nice letter. I liked it a great deal, please write me some more, tell Brian too!
You can stop holding your breath because I’m comin’ to Bridgenorth after all!
Let me know what the Panto is like. Pooh!
You talk about it being cold, blimey, you ‘wanna’ live up ‘ere!!
Tell Brian by the way, good luck in his new class he deserves it! Poor old our kid, fancy havin’ to get up at 1/4 to 6! We are just as unlucky only we have to get up at 5.30 which is really in the middle of the blinkin night to me!!!!!!!!!!
That’s about all for now, Fatty, so good luck in your exams. Lots of love, Joe.
P.S. I’ll soon be home to show you some of the Maths we do! Crumbs!!”
Dear Mom and Kids,
I must first apologise for not having written to you just lately but we have had one hell of a time for the last four or five days. I’ve just been writing letters, five of the B___ !
I think I told you that I had 2 Postal Orders last week (one from 4 Pearson St and one from Bent St), well today I received another one from Aunt Em’ for 5/- again! I must say it came in very useful as I was almost skint after paying got those photos. They will be ready on the 15th Feb; there’s only 3 and they are not very big but if I need to send many around it will be cheaper to have enlargements made than to have a lot of the originals. This letter by the way is answering both the last Wednesday’s letter and the one in the parcel.
I must thank you very much for that now while I can, the cake, by some miracle, was hardly touched! The chocolate was a real surprise it’s just the sort of stuff to have in one’s pocket on an afternoon as we finish dinner at 12.30 and don’t get tea till 6 or sometimes after. The crisps are worth about 1/- a bag in this billet!!
About that Austin 18/-, you had better keep it and when I send you the photo you can use to get some copies with. I have tried to get an interview with the C.O. but am told that he has left for Bridgenorth to prepare the way for our Squadron. Yes, it’s a ‘cert’ that we are going!!! We will finish our course here and get our leave OK.
Now to answer the second letter, first of all many of the very best on your anniversary. I’m afraid that’s the first time I’ve wished it to you, but you know just how self-centred I am.
Please give Den a ‘kith’ for me and tell him to use Amami!
How strange that a Terry party should go off well!? I’m afraid I must make a couple of request while I think about ‘em, can I have some razor blades and also that black pen of mine the one with the nib like a hook. Lord knows where it is but Den or one of the others may have spotted it.
We are in a bit of a mess this week over our dirty laundry as the Sergeant said “We’ve ‘ad it!” If I don’t get mine done I may send it home if it’s OK with you. Anyway, let’s leave it at that for a while as there are about 46 of our flight who have not had theirs taken either, so they may do summat about it.
I must write something about our course now in case you are interested, the Morse is getting to be a terror with some blokes here and I find it a bit of a bind as well. The constant staring at that bright green or red lamp gets on ones nerves and after a while ones eyes go a bit wonky.
The next is the Browning .303 m.g. which I find interesting but darned hard just the same! There are about 80 different parts to the gun and the different shapes and projections on those parts all have a name and do a certain job! The mechanism is easy enough on its own but when we have to remember such names as “sear spring retainer”, “keeper post”, we find that a bit of a bind also! Anyway, I’m enjoying the course!!
By the way we get issued with another Kit Bag here for Flying equipment, boots, helmet and goggles etc! We’ve seen some of the blokes from the old ‘Intakes’ with this second Kit bag on their way home for leave and what with full pack respirator at the alert, gas cape rolled at the neck and 2 Kit bags they sure looked heavy!! I think you’d better send our kid to help me!!
Oh! I knew there was summat, on Tuesday I saw General “Monty” of the 8th Army, he was here to see some of his men, a large number of which are “Tank” men all of them having the Africa Star and sometimes others aswell! He is a very popular chap with his blokes, they seem to worship him like a God! He stood in his Jeep and told them to get in a square around him whilst he spoke. They almost mobbed him, so he stood on the bonnet to speak!
By the way if you are wondering why we are going to Bridgenorth it’s because they are going to train all the Wireless operators here and make B’north an I.T.W. and Elementary Air Gunners School combined. That is a military secret so please don’t let it go far.
I’m afraid that’s all for now so I’ll sign off before this nib gets too hot!
Cheerio and love to all, Joe.
P.S. Only 16 more days to go!
P.P.S. This is a darned good cake!”
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:-