Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Hi Mom, I’m getting married”

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, 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 73; c.18th October 1944

family stories letter 68 engagement page 2 letter 68 engagement page 3letter 68 engagement page 4letter 68 engagement page 5letter 68 engagement page 6letter 68 engagement page 7letter 68 engagement page 8

 

Letter transcript:

“Same place. 10.30pm.

Hello Mom,

How’s the cold? Hope you have seen the last of it. I got a letter from you today, written last Thursday. I was very relieved to get to too. I was going to write again tonight as it was. Now I have something to answer as well. By the time you get this you will have been at Austin’s and your new job a few days. I only hope you like it; I mean I hope it isn’t too boring or too hard for you. That firm isn’t exactly a ‘heavenly place’. It will be a bind for you, with the shopping especially. Are the rates of pay any better than the CP? I don’t want to know the exact amount but am just curious?!! It will be a change for you to be able to work ‘set’ hours instead of the A.R.P. rota (if one exists!) Don’t forget to tell me what you have to do. By the way, isn’t Uncle Horace in ‘Service’ too?

Now I come to the difficult part. Jean and I intend to get engaged in the near future. After she is eighteen of course. Do not think too badly of me. I realise what I am doing and am not ‘going in with my eyes shut’ as you sometimes put it. We do not intend to get married ’til after the war, so don’t think it will turn out to be one of the usual wartime efforts. Her dad and mom are agreeable but I put most importance in your verdict.

Please don’t think hard of me for this Mom, I have tried to put it to you as best I can and if anyone understands me, it’s you. So you will know how my mind is working as I say this. Write and let me know what you think as soon as possible. And for my sake please do not leave this letter around where the kids can mooch at it. I realise how much having read this will have shaken you, but please look at it from my side too, as I know you will. 

In your letter Dennis asks if he may wear my best overcoat! Well I guess so! It will only go to the moths if he doesn’t wear it! Wish Joyce the best in her cookery and tell her not to try ‘em out on her mates. S’dangerous.

I was very surprised that Buster is going in the Paratroops; still it is HIS choice but I’ll play safe and stick to Bomber Command any day. Norman Brown has soon got his wings hasn’t he? It generally takes at least 20 month to train a pilot, and then he is only in the primary stage. Good luck to him all the same. In regards to writing to Aunt Em and Co. Well, Mom I just haven’t the time. This is the first letter I have written to anybody for 3 days! We have far too much to do here to even go to the Pictures and when we get a day off (once per 3 weeks!) we are only too glad to relax. 

For all that I will write home as I promised them. If I am late in doing so, please explain for me. I may get a chance tomorrow night but as you know we’ve started night flying in these Sterlings and it is a big thing.

Well I must finish for tonight as it is late and we are due off the deck at 8am in the morning. Til the next time.

Good night and God bless.

Lots of love, Joe xxxx”

And so the big announcement. Joe and Jean were clearly very much in love by this point, and eager to make plans for their futures. A nervous Joe is not expecting a positive response from his mother, it seems. At just 19 and 17 respectively, would any mother be? There is, interestingly, little doubt about their positive futures. Joe is happy that he has chosen Bomber Command, clearly seeing it as the ‘safer’ option. I wonder whether this was the common view of the young men who volunteered for the RAF? Little knowing that over 50,000 air crew would lose their lives in the conflict by the time it was over.

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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8 responses to “Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Hi Mom, I’m getting married”

  1. Thank you for the letter. When Soldiers are far away. A lot of time to think. I like the letter. He wanted approval from his mother. Thank you for sharing the amazing letter.

  2. I love reading these letters, even though I don’t get to comment very often. And I think it’s so lovely that he wanted the approval of his mother, and tried to break the news to her as gently (but firmly) as possible

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