Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Fattening cockerels for Christmas”

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 until they are done.

Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

At the time of this letter, which is written by Olive, Joe’s mother, he is several months into his RAF experiences and is now at RAF Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire, as part of the crew’s final stretch of training before active operations begin.

Olive – letter 65; 21st September 1944

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Letter transcript:

“Home, Weds afternoon.

Dear Joviss,

Many thanks for your two letters – yesterday and today – and I do hope by now that you have received your registered parcel sent last Thursday to your last address, containing your mended shoes and washing. I’m glad now that I didn’t put an apple tart in as it would not be fit to eat after being bumped about in the post so long, but if I can scrounge some cooking fat I’ll send yo one now that I’ve got your address.

Well, and what do you think of your latest dump? Are the grub stakes any better? You may, or may not! – be interested to know that Roma Terry’s husband is there where you are, and although she is at home for a few days now, they live in some cottage with a Mrs Wilson not far away. So don’t be surprised if she tries to ‘vamp’ you, especially if any brass hats happen to be around!

I had quite a thrill the other night when we saw the first lighted lamp in St. Heliers Road, although the house windows are brighter now, so that the black-out won’t hold quite so many terrors as it always has done, at least for me at any rate.

Denis tells me that Buster has been moved nearer home, to Kidderminster, and he is still in RAF uniform, but I’ve heard nothing else about him having to go in the army.

How is your affair with Jean going on? Poor girl wouldn’t have it quite as badly as she has if she knew you as well as I do! Remember us to her.

I have killed the two cockerels I’d got and bought three more to fatten up for Xmas, so it would be quite a good idea to have your leave then, you might tell the Air Ministry that.

Well I’m still in my job – touch wood – but shall not be surprised any to find that I’ve got to go to the Labour Ex:

Well, here’s wishing you all the best, son, and with love I’ll say Cheerio for now.

Mother and Nibs. xxxx

P.S. Joyce and I had a snapshot taken this afternoon. If it is any good I’ll risk sending one, in case you forget what we look like.” 

I’m loving how Olive has addressed this letter to ‘Joviss’, presumably an endearment intended to reverse the pronunciation of ‘Josiff’. Very sweet. She’s in great, teasing spirit in this letter, and was a capable, strong woman who had no issue with getting her hands dirty and killing the odd chicken or two for the pot! She clearly knows that the way to her son’s heart is through his stomach…her letters and parcels are packed with talk of food, pies and baking for him. Wonderful stuff.

family stories, joseph

To 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 fascinating yet ultimately 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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