Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Clay Pigeons & Dirty Washin'”

monty visits - family stories

General Montgomery, 1944. Image courtesy of © IWM (B 10113)

family stories, joseph

A bit of background for newcomers

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.

Letter 17 – ‘Clay Pigeons & Dirty Washin’ – 15th February 1944

family storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily stories

Letter transcript:


Tues, Y.M.C.A.

Dear Mom and Kids,

Here’s answering your Saturday morning letter. Sorry about the delay but as it’s drawing towards the close of this course, things are getting to all hell of a pitch and I don’t have a great deal of time to myself. family stories

Anyway, I’ll be home in 10 days all being well for about 7 days’ leave, so we can talk plenty then!

About those photos, I’ve not yet received them and when I do there’ll  only be three. Therefore it will be best (and cheapest) to get copies and dish ’em out then. I’ll certainly send one to Gran & co., and then one to Aunt Em’ too if possible, if not I can send a copy later.

Hope you have a good time at the Panto, “you lucky peepull!” With eleven of you I can’t see you having a dull time! I’ll bet our kid is lashin’ out right left and backwards with his pocket money now he’s going to (work?)!

When we get to E.A.G.S. at Bridgenorth I won’t have to go far for ‘pictures’ as there are 3 cinemas on the station so some N.C.Os told us. They ought to know as they’ve come from there to prepare this place.

By the way have you had anything from my old workmates yet, I’ve written to one so I’m good for my 5/- now!

Those cakes of yours are a real blessing especially if we miss our breakfast. That is generally through no fault of ours, it’s just because the “Fire-Rickets” wake us too late to get down in time. I can tell you I’ve felt damned hungry many times soon after dinner. 

As you’ve asked about the weather here I can answer you right now!! It’s damned cold!!!

I don’t expect I’m on that picture of ‘Monty’ as the ones in that picture were all soldiers out of his own 8th Army! The photo was taken at the back of the Bridlington Council House-cum-Town Hall.

About the washin’, we’re a week behind but I couldn’t send it home as we are expecting a Kit Inspection soon and by rights we’re not allowed to send it to an outside laundry. The officer might have got a little peeved when he saw the gaps in my kit!! So it looks as if I shall be bringing some dirty washing home! What with flying kit, Battle Dress, flying boots and Wellingtons, I look like having a nice little pile!!

The main subject I must swot on now is R.A.F Law! We’re asked such questions as, “Can a Flt Sergeant be given C.B. (confined to barracks) by a Subordinate Commander of Sqdr Leader rank?!” There’s pages of the stuff! Anyway it’s not going to worry me.

War Office training manual 1944 family stories

War Office training manual 1944

We managed to get a game of football on Monday (kit was provided). I got a lovely kick on the bean but I gave a few out as well! 

We’ve been firing the Sten Gun again and the clay pigeons! The latter is very important as it teaches us coordination of brain, hands and eye. Our instructor is a world’s champion! The target is about 3 inches in diameter and shaped like a saucer. It flies through the air at 40 mph or over. All we have to do is hit it!!

I guess that’s about all for now so, cheerio with love to you all.


P.S. Hope you’ll excuse the writin’.”

family stories, josephJoe’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:-

Letter 1 – 29 December 1943, arriving at Recruit Camp

Letter 2 – 31 December 1943, settling in

Letter 3 – 5th January 1944, confined to Barracks!

Letter 4 – 8th January 1944, meeting a boxing champ

Letter 5 – 10th January 1944, theft and wrongful punishment

Letter 6 – 13th January 1944, preparing to leave basic training camp

Letter 7 – 13th January 1944, high jinx and punishing schedules

Letter 8 – 14th January 1944, posted to Bridlington

Letter 9 – 18th January 1944, arrival in ‘the dump’ for 6 weeks training

Letter 10 – 21st January 1944, an introduction to firearms

Letter 11 –  25th January 1944, a fellow cadet in killed

Letter 12 – 27th January 1944,  pork pies, live rounds and dimwits

Letter 13 – 29th January 1944, 10 fillings & the Browning machine gun

Letter 14 – 31st January 1944, Don’t worry Mum

Letter 15 –  3rd February 1944, Three ‘Joes’ and top test scores 

Letter 16 – 10th February 1944, Meeting ‘Monty’ & Military Secrets

14 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Clay Pigeons & Dirty Washin'”

    • Thanks JayJay, it’s really nice of you to stop by and comment. It’s my privilege to get the chance to scan and read these wonderful letters, and I will continue to share them!

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