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.
In today’s letter, Joe has recently had a few days on ‘leave’ at home, and has now arrived at his new barracks/station in Bridgnorth, Shropshire (much closer to home!)
Letter 20 – ‘Welcome to Bridgnorth’ – 6th March 1944
20 Squad. / 5 Flight
Dear Mom and Kids,
Sorry I’ve not written before, but we have only been put into our Flights and Squads tonight and therefore I couldn’t complete my address.
Well, when we arrived at this dump (at 3.10pm) we had a nice 2 1/2 mile march in our full kit with Kit Bag! Oh boy, was I glad to get to bed that night!!!
They have put us in huts which isn’t too bad. We have got fires in them so we don’t get too cold. The food so far is lousy! We had cream-cheese and beans in tomato sauce all on one plate and it tasted as bad as it sounds.
The discipline here is strict to the extent of being ridiculous. As far as I can see you can be put on a charge for anything except breathing. The Corporal told us that no weekend passes would be issued unless on compassionate grounds, but don’t be surprised if I glide in one weekend!
This course lasts for 6 weeks at the end of which we hope to get another 7 days. We hope the one consolation about this camp is that there is hot water and proper baths instead of showers.
By the way, while I remember, could you let me have some hankies as soon as possible as I haven’t got one.
We went round Bridgnorth today (what there is!) and the locals told us that there is 1 cinema and 57 pubs in town! It’s a fine place of you don’t want to do anything at night! There is a cinema in the camp and a dance hall with the usual NAAFI and Salvation Army huts. The camp has a barbed wire fence 5 miles in circumference around it so you have an idea of the size.
Our Flight Officer is an Australian with the Distinguished Gallantry Medal and the ditto Flying Medal twice! He’s an Air Gunner by the way. There’s not much more to say right now but I’ll write in a day or so, so Cheerio and God Bless,
P.S. Please excuse the writin’ and the pencil.
I continue to be intrigued as I read these letters by one thing. It may be 70 years ago, but Joe was just a boy, away from home, working hard day by day, but still seeing the adventure in his endeavours. It seems to me that there is, as yet, no awareness or admission of the terrors and reality of the war which he is soon to face. Perhaps these are thoughts that just do not have room to exist in a situation such as his?
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:-