Letters from WWII: The 66th anniversary of Joe’s loss

family stories

In recognition of the fact that this weekend marks the 66th anniversary of Joe’s death, I thought I would make this a special post.

medals 2

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.


During the process of researching Joe’s story for my book, I have become part writer, part detective. I have searched genealogical websites, posted on military history forums, written letters to squadron associations, ordered birth and death certificates, and traced descendants of families who have not had contact with each other for almost 70 years.

service record death extract

I have had the absolute privilege of making contact with the following people –

Chris, son of Joe’s rear gunner, Ivor Turley; Ann and Mary, daughter sister of Joe’s former fiance, Jean;  Jenny, daughter of Joe’s pilot skipper, Harry Warwick and many others. Each of these people has helpfully provided me with their memories, photographs and treasured memorabilia from this important period in their respective relative’s life, for which I shall  be eternally grateful.

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I am coming to know Joseph as if he were still alive, and often find myself bizarrely caught up with motherly sentiments towards this young man who has the eyes of my own father. What a life he lived, all 22 years of it, and what a terrible pity that he could have lived and learned so much more.

It has been a difficult task for my dad and aunt to help me with my many questions about their big brother. The pain of his loss is still etched into their faces when they speak of him, and their lack of memories is, I suspect, due to their involuntary suppression rather than their fading over time. I do not doubt that this was the only effective way of dealing with such a major tragedy in the midst of their war-riddled childhood.

funeral card crop

For my part, I aim to make sure that Joseph, although long gone, is never forgotten.

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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3 responses to “Letters from WWII: The 66th anniversary of Joe’s loss

  1. Very poignant, Helen. What a tragedy indeed, and I do hope you writing Joe’s story helped your family, especially your Dad and aunt, despite how painful for them your research was. xx

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