Joe’s Letters, WWII: “‘Mae Wests’ & Smashin’ WAAFs”

family storiesI have been approached about writing a book on 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 (aka ‘Mac’ to his RAF comrades) 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 this letter, Joe has recently arrived at Stranraer in Scotland, where his Air Gunnery School training (phase 4 of his training) will commence and he will finally get up in the air….

Letter 29 – 15th April 1944

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Letter transcript:

“Hut 13 / 1 Site

39 Course, RAF Station

Castle Kennedy 

Nr Stranraer, Wigtownshire



Dear Mom and Kids,

I received your letter yesterday and was very glad of it too. On the same day I received a Registered letter from Aunt Doris’s with a 10/- note inside from some pub’ or other called the ‘Albion Inn’, it seems as if I’m on the list for a regular ‘sub’ as well!!

So far this course has been nothin’ up to now, but we will have some revision to do on the guns and the hydraulic turret system as the instructors here seem to contradict certain details about those subjects. We were taught one thing at Bridgnorth and another here and it’s mixing us up a bit so far. Keep your fingers crossed for me all the same!

family stories

A Lancaster crew wearing their ‘Mae Wests’ and carrying the kit they’d wear for dinghy drill

I can’t write much more right now about that as I have a lot of rewriting to do later. Our Gunnery Instructor is an American (in the RAF) he isn’t too bad!

By the way, you remember me telling you in my Bridgnorth letters about our Flight Officer (DFM and BAR CGM) well his photo is in the April issue of the A.T.C magazine amongst the Aces! Some of our old Flight sent a copy to him! Tell Den to look in the page of “Some of the best” if he gets an ATC magazine! Top right picture.

Well up to now I’ve not had any time off and we don’t look as if we will get any here either! The country around here is really wild, so wild in fact that the English are still sending missionaries up here and some of ’em never get back!!

By the way tell our kid to be a bit more careful if he wants to stay healthy. Let me know how Geoff Payne is if possible. By the way, was family storiesthat P.S. a crack!?!! Well I must knock off for a bit now as I have a pile of work to do before I go to bed! Yes I said work!!

Joe Lee is practicin’ a tango, he’s got a date with a WAAF at the Station Dance Sat’ night and so have I! The WAAFs here are all ‘smashers’ not ‘tykeys’ like them at Bridgnorth!! Toodle -oo!

Love Joe.

P.S. Send my skates and stone when possible, put in a strong box please!

P.P.S. Excuse writin’!

To Joyce,

Thanks for your nice letter Joyce, send me another! Blimey, some people can’t even boil water!!”

Starting to see the cheeky side of Joe emerging now. He clearly has the normal eye for the ladies that you’d expect from a handsome 18 year old in a uniform! Only 5 days in Scotland and already fixed up with a date with a WAAF. That’s my boy!

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

Letter 27 – 10th April 1944, Bonnie Scotland here we come!

Letter 28 – 12th April 1944, The Coal Heaving Incident

2 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “‘Mae Wests’ & Smashin’ WAAFs”

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

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

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