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, 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 70; 11th October 1944
“As per usual
How’s that cold of yours? Better now I hope. I have got a bit of ‘flu myself but am not in ‘dock’ so don’t get worried. I first felt shiverish on Friday night at Jean’s house, the next morning I had got a head like a sack of spuds and a throat that wouldn’t let anything down! I’ll be OK in a day or so.
Mrs P made me very welcome as always and made so much fuss of me when I said I didn’t feel so good!! I felt like a bloomin’ wounded ‘evo from Arnheim!!!
That funeral was hell for me and the parents too. The coffin was an hour late and the waiting broke up his people very badly. I felt deeply sorry for them. I rushed around to a phone to get in to the rail people and wake-em up a bit.
There was a grand display of flowers. He was the only son, (they have one daughter) and from what I could make out theu worshipped him.
He was due for a week’s leave on the day of his funeral. His girlfriend and parents were there and she was in a bad state. She did not say a word all the time but just stared, not even crying. She looked very ill. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl quite as pretty as she.
All day Friday I was gallivanting around the city trying to do 20 different things at once. You know, ‘bags of panic’!! I had to get him registered with the War graves Commission, then arrange for the receiving of his private belongings at this end (Liverpool I mean). Then sign about fifty forms with the railway people to pay for the transport of the coffin and flowers from 1651 Sqdn.
Saturday morning I was on the job again pleading with the R.T.O. to get my ‘warrant of duty’ extended so that I could finish the job properly. Hell! Never again.
By the way Mom I got my clean washing today. Thanks very much. I am in ‘dire’ need of a clean shirt and socks! The apples, although a bit ‘socky’ were bang-on! I have some more dirty stuff to send, hope it’s ok?
Jean sends her love and says she hopes to be down for Xmas if it’s ok. And so do I!!
Gosh! You should have seen the look on her face as she saw me outside the shop!! I had to laugh at the way she gaped!
Well I must close for now so ’til the next time God bless and get well soon, and properly.
Your loving son,
The funeral must have been quite a shock for Joe, having managed to avoid this kind of duty, or the loss of any very close friends up to this point. He seems to have been very affected by the stress of watching the family grieve, as well as the amount of work he was required to do to get things organised. His impromptu visit to Liverpool for the funeral gave him an opportunity to see Jean, and it sounds as though she was pretty surprised to see him!
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.
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