Joe’s Letters, WWII: “10 year old parsnip wine…”

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. He has recently written to tell his mother that he plans to marry Jean, the girl from Liverpool whom he met less than four months ago.

Letter from Olive; 23rd October 1944

family storiesletter olive 23 oct 1944 page 2letter olive 23 oct 1944 page 3letter olive 32 oct 1944 page 4letter olive 23 oct 1944 page 5

Letter transcript:

“Wednesday night.

Dear Joseph,

Many thanks for letters received Monday and today, it’s the first thing I look for when I get home at night and the second thing I look for is my slippers!

You will be glad to know that I like my new job very much, it’s really interesting to make up the orders of the 100 and 1 (or 1000 and 1) different tools, and complete with papers and pencil in hand – looking important but feeling still a bit awkward – go around checking everything up. None of the work in my section is heavy and there are only 2 more women besides myself – both of whom have been very helpful, and I just couldn’t wish for a better foreman, so that once I’ve trained my feet and legs to walk all day long on concrete floors, I might be OK. The money would be more if I did Sats: but I have Sat: mornings off to do the washing and shopping, so it leaves me with about the same money as I had before.

Don’t stop sending your washing for me to do for you, I’m glad to be able to do it and keep them a bit better than the laundry, only try and send it on Tuesdays or Weds, so that I can do it all together on Sat. Send your socks so that I can wash them properly, no wonder your feet are bad again, I’ve just remembered this ointment it might ease them and be sure if you can get it to rinse your feet in some salt water as often as you can.

We had a sort of breaking up concert at the Black Horse last night and after a real good time altogether, Mr Stone took a few of us over to the Grange and we were there drinking – among other things – some 10 year old parsnip wine which had a kick like a mule! I felt tired this morning when I got up but the outing did me good. I never knew I was so popular, or am I?

family storiesPlease remember us all to Jean.

Joyce’s hair is growing nicely now, I’ve promised to take her and Brian to ‘the Northfield’ to see ‘This Happy Breed’ last week. ‘Gone with the Wind’ has got as far as Rubery, so there’s hopes for us now. Did I tell you that Freda’s husband has had his promotion, W.O. I think she said and told me to remember I was talking to an Officer’s wife when I was talking to her, but I told her she was still Freda and would never be anything else as far as I was concerned (she quite agreed).

Well I must close now, I’ve still a lot to do so I’ll say goodnight and God bless you son.

Love from Mother and trio. xxxx

Be sure and send your washing early next week.”

I am loving Olive’s high spirits here (literally!) The thought of this rather serious old lady (as I remember her as my Grandma) drinking too much parsnip wine and waking up ‘tired’ is really very comical to me! Way to go, Olive!
It’s wonderful to think of the excitement of the first release of Gone with the Wind in the UK being at the time when my dad was a little boy. 

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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