Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Bonnie Scotland, here we come”

family storiesI’m considering the possibility of writing a book about Joe and his time with Bomber Command. I’d love to hear your feedback about this. Please use the comments box to give me your thoughts. Novel, or non-fiction? Do you think it would make a good read?

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 been transferred from Bridgnorth, Shropshire Air Gunnery School to Stranraer in Scotland, where flying training will commence.

Letter 27 – 10 April 1944

family storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesLetter transcript:

“3050664, Thompson JH

Hut 13 1 Site

39 Course RAF Station

Castle Kennedy

Near Stranraer




Dear Mom and Kids,

Well, I arrived here after travelling for about 18 hours! We left Bridgnorth at about 6am and arrived here at 11.15pm and we were well and truly ‘cheesed’! The first thing we had was a goodmeal, infact a super meal. This morning we had porridge WITH sugar in and milk on too and it was grand. We’ve always had porridge on its own but this

family stories

The Miles Master II

was “IT”! After that we had fried egg on fried bread with the usual bread and butter (white bread with accent on butter). The tea was tea with sugar. Oh boy, that was a good start.

family stories

The Avro Anson

After an F.F.I. and a dental, we went for an examination on the Frazer Nash’ hydraulic system and Browning gun stoppages and remedies. That exam was very important because it decided whether we were good enough to start the course straight away or go as a ‘Pool’ for extra instruction. The ones in the ‘Pool’ have to do fatigues til 12pm and after that take extra instruction on their worst subjects. They do that for a week!

After a smashing 3 course dinner we heard the results with drawn breath and many a crossed finger. Joe Lee and I passed!!! We are on the course straight away and start flying next Sunday! This course will last 7 weeks, the planes we train in are “Avro Ansons”, a twin engine type of plane used for training. The target towers are “Miles Master II”.

This camp is very widespread, by that I mean you have to walk a long way to everything! We have orders to wear FULL flying kit at all flying details, so they must be going pretty high over the Irish sea at that rate. The officers seem pretty decent but they are VERY strict just like the discipline around here.

At this place we learn yet another new subject, “Sighting”! From what I’ve seen of it, it’s pretty sticky too! Last night we all slept like ‘logs’ although trams pass right by our hut, five paces away!!! By the way we have got some new blokes in our hut and one of ’em has the number 3050665 next to me! I remember seeing him at Viceroy Close!

The one thing that bother me here is the lack of washing facilities and the mud, we are between a wood of pines beside a large ‘Loch’ (dunno what it’s called) and in the sun it’s  a grand sight. 

Well I can’t think of much more to say right now but I write tomorrow if I get time. I’ll let you know when to send my skates and stone later. May try to phone you too, let me know when you’ll be ‘on’ in the next few weeks so that I can catch you.

Cheerio, Love Joe, xxxx

P.S. What writin’!

P.P.S. Envelopes?”

I love this boy. He’s  clearly excited that the flying training is drawing nearer. Olive must be so proud of his  academic prowess too. 

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.

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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’

Letter 22 – 18th March 1944, Gigalo Joe in his first gun turret

Letter 23 – 26th March 1944, Meeting a war Hero

Letter 24 – 30th March 1944, Reality Bites – A Pal is Killed

Letter 25 – March 1944, Man v the Potato Peeling Machine

Letter 26 – 6th April 1944, Passing Exams & Fending off Girls

7 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Bonnie Scotland, here we come”

  1. Book! Book! Book! Please. I had a great uncle who served in Bomber Command was killed in Feb 1941 coming back from a mission. I didn’t even know he existed until about 10 years ago – no one talked about him. Joe’s letters are great – and they give me an insight to how things must have been for James. Glad Joe got a good Scottish breakfast – you need it up here ;-)

  2. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “The Coal Heaving Incident” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  3. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “‘Mae Wests’ & Smashin’ WAAFs” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  4. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “‘Bad rain stops play” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

  5. Pingback: Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Oops. Runaway Guns!” | SaveEveryStep – family stories past & present·

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