Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Bad boy, Good boy”

family stories

A bit of background for newcomers

On the week of Armed Forces Day UK, as well as the anniversary of Joe’s birthday, I hope you will enjoy sharing in this latest letter with me. Spare a moment for the troops,  past and present, who have shared experiences like these…

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, 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.

Letter 67; 23rd September 1944

family storiesfamily storiesfamily storiesfamily stories

Letter transcript:

“As per -

Friday 8.30pm.

‘Don’t forget the snap!’

Hello Mom

How’s everything? OK? I was relieved to hear from you after so long, I got your letter written Wednesday at dinner time. I can’t think what delayed my first  letter to you. I posted it on Saturday last. By the way I have STILL not received that parcel.

I was put on charge today, went before the C.G.I. and got off light. Three days ‘disciplinary work’, generally known as ‘square bashing’ with de-faulter sergeants!! I shall probably be halting on the wrong foot! (Blast this pen).

By the way we had our finals today. We have ‘em as soon as we’ve finished ground school. I came second and Ivor my rear gunner came first. ‘”Gen-men!”

We got a new member to our mad crew today. A Flight Engineer. His name is Tom Waring and he comes from Sheffield. I’ve only seen him a few times but the skipper reckons he’s OK. He has seen more of him than the rest of us, as the pilots and engineers have most of their lectures together.

Well, I guess I’d better start to answer your letter now. Here goes:- to start with DON’T forget my apple pie!! I likes them!

I was surprised to read that bit about ‘Mme. Terry’ living here and also that her ‘husbing’ works on the station. Fortunately I don’t know him but I shall be on the look-out for the green-eye moster-ess!! I shall run like B– hell at the sound of her voice!! All you will see of me will be a streak of flame, fast disappearing over the horizon!!

I am curious as to what Buster is to do, especially as he’s still in RAF blue. Keep me informed.

I only wish I could see the lights on in Northfield. It will change its whole appearance.

You asked how the affair with Jean is going. Well things are going strong, in fact I still don’t know what hit me. I am due to write tonight  and will remember you to her. She sends her regards every day only I keep forgettin’ to write ‘em!!

Blimey! You WOULD kill them there fowl when I’m not around! That ain’t fair that ain’t! I will ‘ave a chat with ‘Butch’ Harris at the A.M. to see if I can get leave for Xmas!! If I don’t forget!

There’s a lot of this de-mobilisation talk going on in the papers just lately. Surely they’re getting a bit too ambitious? There is such a place called Japan to be beaten yet. I think the majority of people have forgotten a little incident called ‘Singapore’.

Well I must finish for tonight. I have to write to ‘Miss P’ . Till tomorrow, God bless.

And here’s hoping you don’t have to go to the Labour Exchange either.

Lots of love,

Joe xxxx

P.S. Repeat! DON’T forget the snaps! So long.”  

So here we are, on report one day and coming 2nd in the exam league tables the next. That’s my boy!! I love that Joe refers to Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris as ‘Butch’, as if he’s an old pal. It’s truly fascinating to hear him talking about  events which are now so deeply embedded in history, at a time when they had yet to happen, were in the future…  Joe would also at this moment be entirely unaware that he would himself be destined for a stint in Singapore when the war ends. More on that in future….

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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