Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Cutting the engines at 8000 feet!

family storiesI am 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, biography 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 is now stationed at Stranraer in Scotland, where his Air Gunnery School training (phase 4 of his training) has commenced and he will finally get up in the air….

Letter 32 – 27th April 1944

family storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesLetter transcript:



Dear Mom and kids,

I received (with a sigh of relief) my skates and stone on Tuesday! I don’t know if you have written any other letters besides, if you have I haven’t had ’em yet. The mail here is VERY irregular. As I write this (in my new pad, thanks) I am in the ‘crew room’ on the air drome waiting for the officer to tell me and the rest of my crew to get into our flying kit etc. We are going out on an exercise over the Irish Sea in about an hour.

We have got a lot of work to do this week as we get some important progress exams on Monday. It’s a mid-term test. By rights we should get a day off tomorrow, I hope!!

The other day we had a Polish pilot for an exercise and he gave us all the scare of our lives! He ‘cut’ his engines at 8000 feet!! Blimey, I nearly went through the windscreenas we lurched forward and then my lungs tried to come out of my ears as we dived to about 1000ft!! One of the other pupils was just getting out of the turet as we dived but he got rammed back in the hard way, and VERY quickly!

We have been up on what’s called cine camera gun exercises and taking moving pictures of our target as we finessed our triggers. We saw our own films of the target in mid-air toda and they weren’t TOO bad. By the way that Polish pilot is called Szczelski! Wow!! 

Joe Lee had a scare two days ago, the plane he was in ran into bad storm over the sea and they raced back ‘home’ about 20 feet above the sea!! He laughs now!!

I forgot to tell you but I got a letter AND the usual 5/- POstal Order from Aunt Em and co yesterday too! It never rains what it pours! I shall try to write her letter while flying  for a bit of originality (look it up!)

I must close for now as we have to be briefed in a short time. Have found out that we may not be able to go skating! Ayr is in a ‘banned’ area! I’m not sure yet anyway! 

So long.

P.S. Excuse pencil.

Love Joe xxx

P.P.S. I was thinking of you and the kids at home on April 22nd. It seems so long ago. Let me have, if possible, a cut out of that memoriam notice some time please.”

Joe is still in good spirits, considering the mid-air adventure he’s been through! The 22nd April was the date when Joe’s father passed away in 1941, leaving Olive and her 4 children alone. Sadly I’ve not had any joy in a search for the story of the crazy Polish pilot. If anyone has any information which could help me trace him or any of Joe’s former crew members, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

family stories, josephTo read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his beautiful and tragic story.

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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2 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Cutting the engines at 8000 feet!

  1. I think I’d enjoy a non-fiction book :-) Have sent you an email with some links which might be useful. Looking forward to the next letter already! Jo

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