Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Gigalo Joe sits in his first gun turret”

family stories

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 is at his new barracks/station in Bridgnorth, Shropshire (much closer to home!)

Letter 22 – March 18th 1944

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Letter transcript:


Friday night.

Dear Mom and Kids,

“I received your letter on Wednesday night but I can honestly say that this is the first real chance I’ve had of answering it! Last night I wrote in answer to a letter from Aunt E and Co (complete with her ususal PO!) so I do hope you’ll excuse the delay. 

Yes, I did phone you on Sunday (or at least tried to), I got the operator to get your number rung but when I came to put in the 10- I found that the box was full and wouldn’t take any more! I didn’t try to ring for any particular reason but the box was empty so I thought I’d try to get through. I suppose if I’d gotten through you wouldn’t have been at the other end! Let me know what time, (after 6pm on a weekday) that I can get through to you and we can have a ‘gas’ being as I’m not so far from home.

I don’t know whether I mentioned it in the other letters, but we may not get 6 weeks here, only 4 and no leave. We go either to Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man, Wales or Scotland for the A.G.S*. I only hope that it’s the Isle of Man because Joe Lee has got a smashin’ cousin over there!

I’ve told Joe about your invite, but about rations I don’t know what we can scrounge. If we get a chance I’ll let you know before-hand. It may be tomorrow-week.

Tell Joyce I’m very ‘thorry’ to hear she has a ‘code’ but she wouldn’t get ’em if she didn’t keep gorging fir to bust!

I see you’ve got a decent room at Tinkers after all!

About my fan-mail, I haven’t had a letter from Alma or Marie for quite a few days now and I’m wondering if I put the letters in the wrong envelopes or not! I’ll soon know!! I haven’t heard from Stan for quite a while if he should write, the letter will go to 16 Elmdale Grove and you’ll have to send it on to me. I wrote to Bert Thomas the other day. I haven’t had an answer yet. Buster will soon be bashing the Browning won’t he?

Today we went onto the turrets (grounded) for the first time. They’re a marvel! We were firing the Browning the other day for the first time too. My ears are still ringing to the noise of four guns now! Their rate of fire is 20 bullets per second per one gun!! They get red hot after a few short bursts!

The only subject I’m not friendly with is Morse on the lamp at 6 words per minute! It takes all my time to write that fast!

There’s not much else to write about now, so I’ll close till the next time.

God Bless,


P.S. Cake?! (etc?)

P.P.S. My 4th pen has been swiped! Hence the pencil.”

*A.G.S = Air Gunnery School

Such high spirits and testosterone!! He seems to be loving this new adventure which he’s embarked upon. I wonder how many of the 55,000 boys just like Joe from Bomber Command who died felt the same way….?

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

Letter 17 – 15th February 1944, Clay Pigeons and Dirty Washin’

Letter 18 – 17th February 1944, 9 days til leave!

Letter 19 – 21st February 1944, A Date Planned &  Condemned Billets

Letter 20 – 6th March 1944, Arrival in 2nd Camp at Bridgnorth

Letter 21 – 13th March 1944, Eatin’, Stealin’ and Flirtin’

11 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Gigalo Joe sits in his first gun turret”

    • I know! In his previous letter he’d talked about receiving a bunch of ‘fan mail’!!! I am guessing a good looking boy like Joe, away from home and in uniform, was quite a magnet. Who can blame him for keeping his options open?!!! So bloody tragic he didn’t make it past 22.

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