Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Runway Calamaties & Shooting Seagulls”

family stories

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 34 – 8th May 1944

family storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesLetter transcript:



Dear Mom and kids,

I do hope I haven’t worries you any by not having written for so many days but we had to have our mid-term exams in a hurry. I haven’t had a chance to do anything for the last few nights except swott!  I don’t know the results yet but when I do I’ll write. Now to set about answering your letter of Monday morning last. I got your telegram while I was down at the school but it didn’t scare me strangely enough! I had an idea what it would be about when I opened it! Unless they lift the ban on Ayr I shall have to send my skates back home!

As for thrills in the air, well we had a bit of one the other day. As we were about to touch down on the runway our plane was caught in a cross-wind! Our port wing just missed the ground as we were tipped up! Our pilot slammed the throttle right forward to get up again and the sudden lurch forward almost shoved my teeth through the back of my head!! Flying over the Irish sea does have its interesting and thrilling periods too! We see lots of things that leave us with popping eyes but I can’t say anything about ’em!

We sometimes go on ‘Air to Buoy’ firing details and when the sea is a bit rough we have to try and hit seagulls! It’s harder than it reads, I know! When I get some leave I shall be able to tell you of the funny (and browned off) times we’ve had.

The crew that Joe Lee is in has had some flying in! They had to do TWO exercises over again because they shot away their target drogues. Oh boy was he cheesed!!

Right now I’m fed up ‘cos we’ve just had an inspection, yes, at 9pm! We don’t get a great deal of time to ourselves because we are sometimes flying til 9 o’clock each evening and when we get back to our hut it’s time to go to bed.

About going to the Pictures, I sa some extinct film in town Thursday night last. I don’t think I shall ever go to see ‘Gone with the Wind because of my having read the book. (8 weeks, remember?!)

Blimey, how long have you been paying that 6/- income tax? I have had an increase in my pay but I’m saving it for you til I come home, ubt if ever you get very short let me know and don’t forget, I mean it!  Let me know what happens over your enquiries.

There’s nothing much more to say this time I guess. I had a nice letter from Marie a day or so ago and one LONG one from Alma. Joe Lee and I will be having all hell of a time soon!

I still have to answer a letter from Bert Thomas, he sent me his photo. I shall tell him it’ll be something to throw our new darts at! That will choke ‘im!!

I must stop for laughing. One of my mates has just flopped down on to his bed and the darned thing collapsed under him. An ‘accident’ I guess!

So long for now.

Love Joe xxxx

P.S. No pen!!”

In good spirits and enjoying the flying, by the sounds of it. Much larking about and I think you can tell that Joe is still genuinely very interested in the things he is doing and learning from his experiences.

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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