There has been a wonderful turn of events this week. After last week’s letter, in which Joe talked about his Gunnery instructor and flying ‘ace’ Norman Williams, I was put in touch with Norman’s family. Amazing! His son and I have been emailing. He was touched to read Joe’s description of his father, who by all accounts was a truly courageous and fascinating man. It has been a humbling and heart-warming experience to ‘meet’ someone whose father had such close connections with Joe, and could add a further depth to my understanding of Joe’s story.
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 24 – March 30th 1944
Dear Mom and Kids,
I got your parcel on Monday and was VERY glad of it as I was ‘skint’ and it filled up the gap at night when I usually go to the NAAFI!
I read that letter from Mrs Clarke and I can honestly say that I was shocked beyond speech. It seems as if I only saw him yesterday. He was one of the best guys one could meet, a bit on the wild side but a decent chap all the same. I wrote a letter to his Mom during a break period yesterday. I must write to Stan too but I don’t know what to say to him. He must be feeling awful. I have promised to go to see Mrs Clarke and family as soon as I get a chance. I only ever saw Sid’s wife once but I found her very pleasant to talk to. I saw his baby two or three times, (a little girl named Anne). I wonder how Elsie feels, as she and Sid always stuck together a lot. I think it’s the rottenest luck. When Sid and Stan were together they were always talking of the things they would do after the war in Canada. All their plans have gone in a puff now. Since I read that letter I’ve felt rotten all over. It will soon be April 21st won’t it?
By the way, about leave, there’s just a chance (and only a chance) that I’ll be home this weekend, probably Sat night. I’ll try to ring you up before hand and let you know for certain. I may bring Joe Lee but I’ll wait for your approval first!
When we have finished our exams we have arranged a bit of a ‘do’ at one of the 57 pubs in Bridgnorth. We have invited “Frosty” our Sgt A.G. Instructor to the affair. He’s one of the best and he’s taught us plenty.
I had a nice letter from Aunt Em and co today with a 5/- P.O. inside as usual, I really can’t thank her enough.
Well, I must finish now as I’ve got some swotting to do on Pyrotechnics damn ’em. Please excuse the busy scrawl.
Love Joe xxxx
P.S. Envelopes? I scrounged this one off Joe Lee
P.P.S. Good luck Den!
Please send me those two photos of Sid and Stan if you can find them”
There is a new tone to this letter. Clearly Joe has heard some tragic news and a pal has been lost. Perhaps the realisation of war is hitting. This is not an adventure, it is training to kill and to potentially be killed. I can feel Joe’s grief with every word.
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.
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Other posts in this series:-