Letters, diaries and photographs from World War II

Letters and Diary

Same as usual

16th March 1945


My Darling Janie,

Thank you for your letter dated 8th March.

We have another officer staying with us at the moment. He’s on a course. He’s a very nice little man indeed and is keen as mustard. He’s a school master in civvy life and so is able to take things in quickly. Moreover, he’s just done an Infantry course and is very useful for instructing my chaps in their usual training. With he and Tom Moffatt get about a letter a day from their wives. Sweetheart, that isn’t a nasty hint. The wives just haven’t got anything else to do. No, I’m getting one each week from you and that’s grand. I’m now in the happy state of having practically done my time (I hope). In any case, I think I have, which is the same thing from a “hope” point of view and so I say to myself (hopefully) “Well, any time now” and it’s a grand feeling and anyone I speak to, should say “Oh, of course,, you’ll be going any time.” (Unless they say “Oh, you specialists don’t stand a chance.” But in any case they look at me with envy and I feel a hell of a veteran, and that’s a nice feeling as well.

For nearly two years I was being overpaid on basic pay and underpaid in allowances and as a result was sightly in my favour, I kept mum (bad type, this husband of yours darling). Anyway, it has now all come to light and so I owe the authorities 760 Rupees, about £60 so I shan’t get any pay for three months, starting from March. It’s too much to expect to leave India before I’m paid up. Of course nothing happens to your money. Say, I suppose that it is coming in regularly? Or hadn’t you noticed? If not, check it. I’d sooner make corrections at this end an not the other. 400 Rupees a month (about £30) since August 1942. Try and remember to answer this as my last two monetary queries have met with the usual nil response.

I played in an Inter-Section football game on Thursday and instead of feeling damaged I felt better after the game than before. What with new chaps (footballers) coming into the section I’ve lost my place in the team, wguch of course I expected.

I can see that our little man needs sunshine and days on the beach. That would put him right I’m sure. Children need the sunshine more than adults. By the way I’ve had very little catarrh since I’ve been overseas. Of course it always follows a chill in the head as it used to but without any effort on my part goes off. What I used to do at home was to draw a normal saline solution (one teaspoon of salt to a pint of water) up my nose, and also gargle the solution. See if you can get Anthony to do this. It’s very simple after a bit but the first once or twice was lousy but there’s no doubt it cured it.

Don’t be too hard on Diana sweetheart. She does work in an office from 8am to 5pm and there again there is a very great shortage of women for the dances and so on that are held in the various army establishments. Why, even Nathalie feels duty bound to go out twice a week to such affairs. However, let’s leave it at that.



Diana Franklin, daughter of local tea plantation owner, and friend of John’s

I do hope that you also enjoy Maurice’s stay my love. I’m sure he will. 


Maurice Askew, John’s younger brother, who had recently been widowed.

It’s very interesting to know that you are re decorating the homestead for my benefit. To be sure it is going to be very strange for me to have a house and garden of our own and you can’t guess how much I’m looking forward to it. I’m wondering how I shall take to gardening. Being a normal sort of chap I think I shall like it, but we shall have to indulge in original layouts. I want trees and flowering shrubs and nice grass with just odd beds of flowers so that good maintenance doesn’t take too much time. 

Just imagine Russell is getting forty five shillings fir just a part-time job, about the same as my lower paid chaps for campaigning overseas.


Russell Barker, Janie’s younger brother


You know lots of young chaps are earning wages that make Russell’s look like petty cash. He is going to get a shock when he is called up. Must be rotten for Russell waiting so long for hs results. But it’s good for you, my sweet.

Well, that is all for now my sweetheart. Not too long now and before you know it I’Il back with you. 

All my love is yours sweetheart and our little boy’s.

Take care and your one and only will be along to show you he’s your one and only,

Johnnie xxx

In war news at this time March 9th saw the US firebomb a number of cities in Japan with heavy civilian casualties.On the 11th March Nagoya, Japan was firebombed by hundreds of B-29s.
Same as usual
12th March 1945
My own darling Janie,

This letter should have been written yesterday. As a matter of fact I was writing to your mother at the time, about two thirty, when I suddenly heard an almighty crackling and dashed back to find that the grass at the side of the tent was ablaze. We had that out fairly quickly as it might have caught the tent. I then had a bath and tea (that’s our evening meal of course).
I went to look around after tea and found a little empty tent behind our tent had quietly burned down and set the grass alight behind. A spark from the other fire must have smouldered unseen in the tent as I had looked over it an hour before and seen nothing. Anyway the fire was proceeding away from the camp and in a direction it could do no harm. Good incidentally as it clears grass and insects. At the head of the combe the hillsides are nearly vertical. Well, when the fire got there it simply jumped up the hillside and in a matter of seconds the hillside was bare and black.
Well, all that was all right but the fire started to creep around the other side of the combe and would have got back to the camp and at the rate it was going (against the wind) would have arrived about midnight which was not considered a good thing! So we burned a path right up the hillside a few feet away over past which the other fire would not pass. This did the trick and at 2.30 am all was quiet.
Fun while it lasted but hot and sometimes exciting work.
I don’t know whether I told you but I have received a third lot of tobacco, this time Cut Gold Blend, and I don’t know who this was from either but I think it was from Russell. Ask him my love and if it was thank him very much indeed.
I was out in the Jeep the other morning and the road I was going along was in a deep valley. Along the edge of the road was a rocky river. You know darling it looked just like parts of the Dunster/Dulverton road along the Exe valley.
Most of the trees except pines were bare and the grass was brown, giving the effect of a late autumn morning but scattered about were trees with new buds and leaves. You see darling the leaves only come off the trees just before the new buds arrive. So there I had autumn and spring all mixed up but it was lovely and so very much like home.
Another lovely tree that’s it now is “Flame of the Forset”. It’s a big tree with no leaves at all, just big red blossoms. The whole looks odd but very beautiful.

Flame of the Forest
Butea monosperma – Flame of the Forest. Native to India, Flame of the Forest is a medium sized tree, growing from 20 to 4O feet high, and the trunk is usually crooked and twisted with irregular branches and rough, grey bark.


I haven’t played football for a week or so now and at last my leg is on the mend. I’ll stay put and let it get better this time. Then perhaps it won’t come on so easily in future.

Another officer arrived today on a course of instruction. He’s a very good chap. I dragged in an old Humber chassis for him to play with, might make something useful out of it eventually.
I had some more excitement last night. About midnight the wind got up mightily and the tent moved. I thought it might take off at amy moment so up I got and paddled around i my bare feet to tighten up the ropes, by which time the wind had got normal again. At times like this I curse but actually i like a gentle breeze because as I have told you up the way in Assam for the most time the air was as still as could be.
Now as to spending our honeymoon in a walk hotel, of course I hadn’t thought of the clothes angle. It’s easier for me as I’ve only got to pit on Service Dress. Well, I leave it up to you my sweetheart. But I wanted both of us to live in luxury for a few days.
Well, my daring, all for now. Take great care of yourself and Anthony.
All my love is yours sweetheart and our little boy’s.
May God bless you both
And I remain,
Your very own,
Johnnie xxxx

In war news at this time March 6th saw the Germans launch an offensive against Soviet forces in Hungary. On the 7th the Battle of Remagen took place. When German troops failed to dynamite the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine, the U.S. First Army captured the bridge and began crossing the river. The Army also took  Cologne, Germany and the Germans began to evacuate Danzig.

Mr.Pickford was one of the other partners in John’s optical business, Cranmers in Minehead.

Same as usual

8th March 1945

My darling Janie,

Thanks darling for your letter dated 1st March. I’m trying to dash this letter off quickly as we have two officers coming in for a drink. The poor devils have just got out here looking very nice and pink and English (listen to your bronzed and yellow hero my love). Still, it’s up to us who have been to here to make friends with our new neighbours and possibly help them. One thing is certain and that is they won’t have to do as long as your humble servant, good luck to them. Anyway tonight we hope to get a recent close up of Blighty. Another reason why we like to talk to those who have just come over.

My Jeep is finished and is now looking very spick and span in a shiny, almost black, coat of paint, and with two huge headlights stuck out in front, it looks like a case of goitre!


John with his Jeep

I had another game of soccer on Wednesday and every bally time I tear the muscles of my right leg taking a mighty kick. I seem to have been limping for weeks. Miraculously the trouble goes off before the next game and reappears after fifteen minutes of play.

football team


I’ve just had a yen for rifle practice and so now we have been shooting every afternoon. I’m very bad at present and only succeed in bruising my shoulder.

We have our private range just behind the camp, higher up the combe, hacked out of the jungle. It’s most convenient and no time is wasted. 

Say, darling, let that back well alone until I get back. Nothing seems to do much good. Must go into the whole question very carefully.  I think some X-ray pictures may help.

I’m afraid I didn’t know that Anthony had decided he wanted to take a vacation in London at the same time as ourselves but I still think it’s feasible and desirable. And then we can go back in the train together. Boy, what a journey!

We’ll have to arrange with his Nanna that she only takes him certain places so that there aren’t any premature crashes.

It would still be possible for me to meet him, sort of by myself, to see if he recognises me, as I explained last week. Of course, if that’s agreeable darling.

With the same bunch of mail I received the 1943 balance sheet from Mr.Pickford. After spending some time looking at it, Tom pointed out that I had it upside down, but he’s promised to explain it to me sometime.

Yes, it’s good news to hear that Joyce Pickford is expecting a baby. I had a letter from her a few days ago. John Pickford tells me he is flat out just now, six nights out of eight, terrific going, still the mosquito seems to be one of the safest planes. Good luck to him, he’s doing a fine job.

You know my sweet I sometimes get browned off. The work this little workshop does seems to be so useless and it’s a really good workshop darling, really it is and could do so much more important work, highly placed people have said so, still I suppose that lots of others feel like I do. 

Starkey, my batman, has gone on leave and I’ve had to bring in another lad to do his job. I expect that I shall get very bad tempered about it. I like everything to happen without thinking about it. You know the sort of thing: my clothes put out, tea at the right time, always plenty of custard, plenty of drinking water. Oh, I’m dreadful, aren’t I?

Now I’ve received another lot of tobacco, Gold Block, that from Russell I suppose as again there was no name. Did your parents and Russell send separately darling? Well, anyway, I now have a marvellous stock, easily last me till I get home I hope, and four different makes for me to sample. My pipe, by the way darling, is still admired by one and all. I feel I shall have to keep it on a chain. My Staff Sergeant Motor Transport is the worst. He’s always saying that smoking is doing me no good and that I should stop and of course give him the pipe as a souvenir. His brother who is a Wing Commander has recently sent him a cherry wood pipe so now he is better placed.

Well, my darling, let’s hope Jerry chucks in soon so that I can get home to you again.

Sweetheart, I love you still and am longing to be with you.

Take great care of yourself and Anthony.

All my love is yours

And I’m your very own,

Johnnie xxxx

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