20Th November 1944
My dear Barbara
I have already apologized for not having written before, but, as I previously said, I waited until I returned from Scarborough so that I should be able to write a long letter full of “gen”.
Here is the aforementioned epistle, and I trust that that gentle loving heart, enhanced in beauty and the milk of human kindness by many generations of generous Francis’s, will forgive the delay!
Well, Scarborough may be an absolutely wizard place in the summer, but in winter I think it stinks! Cold as hell, wet as water and about as amusing as a piece of cod, boiled cod. However, I enjoyed myself, although I don’t think I have any chance for the RAF. We were billeted in the “The Manor Hotel” and had our meals etc. at the “Grand”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? – and actually the food and accommodation were good. I shared a room with four other chaps, and we had a sink with hot & cold in the room, and an adjoining bathroom (with a bath and necessities) which we could use any time we pleased. The virtue of this room was further enhanced by the pictures stuck on the walls by previous ATC cadets, who, I should imagine, took a distinct pleasure in studying the bare essentials of life! See what I mean?
When we first arrived (about 400-500 of us) we were kindly and cheerfully informed that about 6 of us would be retained in aircrew, and we were then given a chance to back out and volunteer for the army, which some blokes did. However, the majority, including yours truly, decide that they would see it through. We arrived there about 4.30pm, by the way. The next day the “fun” started. First came a medical in which they tested, examined and re-examined everything (with the accent on “every”!) We were X-rayed for TB, tapped all over and told to cough (I know I’m crude – it’s just that I haven’t got Scarborough out of my mind yet!) Then we had aural tests and last and worst the eyesight tests. These latter were in two parts day-vision and night-vision. The day-vision was the usual stunt:- reading cards etc, but the night vision, well – my God! It is too complicated to explain in a letter, but to tell you how difficult it was, out of 32 objects you only had to get 8 to pass. I got 28 so I was OK on that. We were told that this new aircrew medical is probably the stiffest in the world, and since I passed A1 you have probably got a potential Tarzan writing to you!
After the medical came the pencil and paper tests. These were easy but very searching, and, in lots of cases, very catchy. The main trouble was, though, that they didn’t give you enough time to hardly start a paper, let alone finish the bloody thing. After these tests came the aptitude tests which consisted of sitting in various seats and twiddling various knobs. That’s a bit vague, I know, but it is very difficult to explain them. Anyway, I think they were the best part of the whole time.
Last, but by no means least, we each had a personal interview with an Advisory Officer. Mine was a Group Captain and a jolly decent bloke, actually. He told me what I already know – in other words, that I should probably have to go into the army, and asked what I would like to be in the army. I said paratroops or airborne and he said in that case I should be called up about Xmas (or very soon after, have my training over by about next September, and by this time next year be well on my way to Burma to knock off a few Japs who, apparently, are still to be found meandering around the place in considerable numbers! Thus, sweetheart, unless a miracle takes place and I go into the RAF, it looks as though I shall never fly a fighter or bomber. It’s no good my saying I’m not disappointed, because when a fellow has worked and trained towards a certain objective and then finds that ambition, through no fault of his own, completely crushed, he is bound to feel a bit of a knock. I don’t mind admitting to you, Barbs, although I wouldn’t to anyone else, that when I came away from Scarborough, realising what a tiny, meagre chance I had of RAF, I came nearer to tears than I have been for a good many years! That may sound soft to you, but I was not the only one. I think most of the other boys felt the same, and although I know they are only little ATC cadets, it takes a hell of a lot to bring them to that state of girlishness. However, after I’d thought it over for a bit I realised that it had got to be done, and anyway, to tell you the truth, I’m bloody sick of hanging around being a civilian, while most of my pals are fighting. Anyway, I always wanted to see a jungle, and I’ll bring you home a couple of Jap skins which you can use as bath-rugs or something!
By the way, Dave was up there at the same time as I was but I couldn’t see a lot of him, as he was a day ahead of me. I don’t think he wants aircrew much now.
Well, darling, I’m afraid this hasn’t been a very cheerful letter up to now (if you have read this far!) but until I know for certain in about a fortnight’s time I shall be perpetually browned-off. I wish I could see you sometimes (no kidding this time) it would cheer me up considerably.
Hell, I should think all this is getting you browned-off, so I will endeavour to cheer the party up a little. Also, I think I’ve said enough about myself!
Rene and Chris have had a row. I am not quite sure what it is about as I didn’t think it wise to enquire too closely into the details. I & Dave are in the somewhat awkward predicament of being friendly with both parties, and also of being regarded as potential enemies by both parties! However it is amusing and passes the time!
We had a rocket about a mile away on Saturday morning – somewhere in Holborn I believe, and, hell’s bells, it was the biggest bang I’ve ever heard. I am, therefore, now suffering from shock as well as a broken heart. The broken heart was caused by your casual remarks about flippant flirtations with Yanks. Also, I shall never now get married, or, if I do I shall quickly get a divorce. A cleverer bloke than I once observed:-
“Love is the fever;
Marriage the headache;
And divorce the aspirin”
Seriously though, Barbs, I’m damn glad you’re having a good time, and I hope the Yanks & RAOC are decent guys. I ought really to warn them about your siren-like attitude, but, since I love you passionately (can you hear the heavy breathing!!!) I won’t. At least, no one can say about you “Even her best friends wouldn’t tell her!”
Please write soon, sweetheart, and cheer me up. I need it badly!
All my love
P.S. I hope your brothers are OK now. I believe you said they had the measles or something.
19th December 1944
One & Only
Thanks for the card & letter, received yesterday. I was getting really worried, because I didn’t know what was wrong. Why, you might even have gone and got married, or something repulsive like that, and just think what a catastrophic occurrence that would have been!
You appear to be having quite a hectic time on your quiet (?) Gloucestershire farm. As for the Spam-boys, sweetheart, you know where to kick them if they get too fresh!!
Well, I’m out of the RAF and by this time next month I’ll be in the Army, so it’s pretty certain I’ll see some service. Thank God. Dave and I will probably go about the same time, at least I hope so. Are you likely to get any leave in the near future? I would like to see you again before I go, since I shan’t be able to in Scotland, where I shall probably be trained. If you don’t get any, however, I will write and let you know how I get on, so long as you keep me informed of any change of address.
You mentioned a poem in your letter. Well, sweetheart, I’m working on one at the moment, but it is quite clean and quite serious, so I don’t know whether you would like it. Anyway, I’ll send it when it’s finished, and, risk incurring your displeasure!
Poor old Chris’s house has had it with a bloody rocket. Her people are OK but only one room is habitable, so they’ll probably have to move out. There’s one thing about it, though, Chris didn’t make any fuss, and everybody up here thinks she has plenty of guts!
Rene & Dave seem to be going pretty strong. I think Dave is trying to pluck up enough courage to ask her to go out with him. That guy is as slow as they make ‘em and I keep pegging at him to try and make him do something, but I am beginning to think he is the first failure in my young life.
About the mistletoe, Barbs. Whether there is any or not is perfectly immaterial to me! I believe in the Xmas spirit of give and take (!!!) and to hell with antiquated formalities (see what I mean?)
I don’t suppose this will reach you by Xmas, but here’s wishing you the merriest ever, and the best of the best in 1945.
Hoping I’ll see you soon
All my love
P.S. Please excuse LCC notepaper.
31st December 1944
To 3 Coy
Thanks very much for the card, letter, calendar and telegram. They helped to make Xmas a bit more like the Christmases I used to know. The calendar was very subtle and the telegram was very original. I’m afraid my phraseology is very poor, but what I want to say, sweetheart, is that I loved them all.
I trust you enjoyed yourself and I hope you didn’t drink too much or kiss too many guys. I don’t think the girls in the office were disappointed as regards the mistletoe, Barbara, but I wish you had been there. Our dear friend Douglas didn’t get a look in this year and I think he was properly browned-off.
Well, sweety-pie, I shall be damned glad when I go into the Army. Honestly, I can’t imagine anything more monotonous than the life of a civilian in wartime. I am completely fed up with the LCC and will be glad to leave, or will I? Of course, the other kids are OK and I’ll be sorry to leave them but even they get me down sometimes. Actually it’s probably my own fault because they are the decentest gang one could have the good fortune to meet. Nevertheless, sometimes I get fed up with talking about pictures and dances, and, when I start in seriously about politics or the war, the only person who seems to enjoy the conversation is Dave. I presume it is natural for young females always to be talking about amusements or giggling over the latest attempt at an “affaire d’amour” (hell’s bells, I sound like a grandfather!). I think you must be the exception that proves the rule, sweetheart, and I often think how wizard it would be to have a nice rowdy, abusive argument , with you about the woman’s place in the new world, etc. etc. Don’t you think it would be a damn good idea if, after the war, we hired a couple of barrels and a corner of Hyde Park one Sunday morning! Oh boy, would we tear the government to bits!!!
Having delivered the above piece of oratorical idiocy, which no doubt, caused you to snigger (sorry, you don’t snigger) cynically and say to yourself “What a complete twirp!”, we now turn to the lighter side of the jolly old epistle. Did you like my poem, Barbs? It was a bit “drippy” (as you no doubt would express it!) but you would be amazed at the depth of “drippiness” to which I descend from time to time! Isn’t it about time you wrote a poem for me? Of course, I don’t expect you to reach my heights of poetical achievement, but I always like to encourage the efforts of the amateur. (If that doesn’t spur you on to some masterpiece, nothing will!!!)
I hope you will get some leave soon, because I’d like to see you once more before I go into the Army. If you only get a little but, however, do you think you could phone me (ext. 6446 in case you’ve forgotten). I mean, just to hear your beautiful voice again, oh Rose of the Summer, would raise me to the heights of ecstasy. Anyway, I’ll just live in hope.
Well, sweetheart, this hasn’t been a very brilliant attempt at a letter and therefore I throw myself on your mercy and beg your forgiveness. Please excuse the pencil, but I find an inkwell rather difficult to manoeuvre on one’s knee in front of the fire. My fountain pen has given up the ghost, and is now in the latter stages of disintegration!
Cheerio, Barbs, all the best for 1945 and take care of yourself.
All my love
P.S. Love to Onyx