Letters, diaries and photographs from World War II

Letters and Diary

Same as usual

10th March 1946

My darling Janie,

This is Sunday afternoon and I’m at Wharncliffe Gardens. I got up early this morning and went to church. 

On Friday morning I learned there was to be a C.O.’s parade. Well, I didn’t want any more parades. Fortunately on Thursday when I was on guard duty I got permission to wear shoes so of course when I heard about the parade I intimated I should be delighted to take part but in shoes. Of course that was about the equivalent of offering to wear a Porkpie hat and the upshot was that I did not attend the parade. You see I have a corn and to wear Stephen’s boots on it is several sorts of agony.

Yes, as you have discovered I found out from yr British Optical Association that as self-respecting oprticiand we are not allowed to dispense for the National Eye Service which means that as they don’t dispense for themselves presumably Curry and Paxton will send a representative to take orders and do fittings. Now I believe young Brown of Browns the Jewellers works at Curry and Paxton in Taunton and so you may possibly see Browns blessing out as prescription opticians as a sideline. Try and find out what ophthalmic surgeon is doing the testing.

Well there isn’t much we can do about it except produce an even better service at our own place so that people will stick with us.

It’s all very unfortunate but by no means tragic. From a publicity point of view I think t’s best to ignore it as beneath contempt. You know it may even act as a useful buffer against the serious competition of another good optician who may be looking out for a pleasant place to have a practice. 

I went to Edgware on Saturday to take Dave’s glasses and the developing tank that I had bought for Stephen. We took some indoor snaps then made up the chemicals and developed the film straight away. They were tickled pink with the results. I was lucky. Exposures—guesswork—was correct. The results were sharp in spite of length of exposure.

Today has been a quiet and pleasant day but unfortunately not quite enough to write you a decent letter my sweet.

So here I am on Monday again and I’m in my office again.

You know I’ve met quite a number of people who before the war were quite content to live and work in London, who, coming back after six years’ service don’t know how they are going to stick the place for the rest of their lives. So I don’t seem to be alone in my desire to live my life where nature is close by in the open countryside. This feeling was given point yesterday when listening to the radio. It was the six o’clock news and we heard of the football tragedy at Bolton and of various international troubles, followed by an excellent talk by Dr.Summerskill about the good shortage and the starving million. All these horrors were followed by “Country Magazine”and what a wonderful contrast to the ears. Here no greed or selfishness or suspicion, just a few ordinary country men, a farmer and shepherd, a country doctor etc saying why they loved their particular part of the country and the enjoyment of their various country pleasures. None had much money but they were really living and enjoying every moment of it.

Contrasting with the lousy news was some lovely music. I had my first dose of Beethoven’s 5th symphony and then in the evening the “Unfinished” produced in a most unusual manner helped me a lot.

Stephen rang last night just as Jane Eyre started. His first words were “Are you listening to the play?” I said, “Yes” so he said, “I’ll ring you later.” Your father, who wanted to speak to Steve was all for ringing him up in the middle of the “Unfinished” but I said “I bet he’s listening to the radio and as soon as it’s over he’ll ring you again. I was right.

I had two good sermons as well yesterday and so all in all I had a slack, enjoyable and refreshing day and the news from Minehead gets into its right perspective.

I’m longing to see you again my sweetheart so roll on Thursday and you and Anthony.

All my love is yours as always

And so am I

Johnnie xxxx

Same as usual

21st February 1946


              Good news indeed—I am to be released on Tuesday 26th March. 25 group is commencing on the 14th as was originally suggested.

If I can manage it I’ll stay on in London until Thursday so that I can attend one more Refraction Hospital lecture.

It was nice to hear your voice last night and I really didn’t mean to be rude but it was rather like getting a telegram, I thought that there was trouble and I wanted to know what it was straight away. So I hope that I’m forgiven sweetheart.

At 6.30 am this morning I heard a furtive tap at my window and when I looked out there was Maurice. He came in and had a wash and breakfast with me and then I went up to St Johns Wood station with him and even then I caught mty usual train from Charing Cross.

He seems very well and looking forward to coming down to Minehead. He’ll then shoot off to Bournemouth.

I had another long talk with Stephen last night but that can wait till I see you.

Oh darling I am looking forward to seeing you on Saturday and perhaps I won’t have to say Godbye to you for many years, perhaps not a serious Goodbye at all.

Till I can prove it all my love is yours my sweetheart, to forgetting Anthony.

Always your own sweetheart,

Johnnie xxxx

Same as usual

16th February 1946

My Darling,

My mind is just full up but I do so want to talk to you. I can’t write—and here is my class so I’ll have to stop for now.

You see I’ve been to see Mr.Aitcheson about this deal of partnership. He read it through and said that it was a proper document and as far as he could Cranmers or Pickfords had sacrificed their right to pass the business on to John Pickford by not obeying the clause of the document. But then the document is very badly drawn up. It’s vague where it should be explicit and detailed here it doesn’t matter.

Stephen is looking into the document for me as I want to know if possible where I stand. But even if I found that I was within my rights to fore them out I couldn’t do it.

However, I’m getting to know as much about my position as possible and then I shall talk things over with you and we’ll decide our line of action.

This slackening off of the business is most interesting and makes one realise that the “Indian Summer” of the war in Minehead is over.

As a matter of fact I’m at Orchard Close at this moment. I spent the night here—ok, Dave and Stephen were here as well, and so this is Sunday morning and I’m trying to finish this letter off to you. Any moment now Steve is going to cross examine me about this deed.

On Friday night I went out with your parents and took them to the Gaunt. I wanted to see “Brief Encounter” and it was one of the nicest flicks I’ve seen and I shall take you to see it at the first opportunity. Your mother was very fidgety all the way through but as it all ended well she decided that it was a good picture.

It’s a beautiful morning Darling: sunshine, fresh air and good company. I hope I have some weeks like this on leave. I’m so looking forward to some walks and cycle rides with you.

I got up and made the tea at 8.30 this morning. I doubt if I shall do as well next Sunday as bed has singular attractions when your head is on the pillow next to mine. However I gather our son has “laid on” tea, did he say what time?

Well, Darling. Steve is bursting to get to work sp I’ll stop now.

All my love is yours my darling and until I can prove it, take care of yourselves and tell Anthony I’lll soon be home.

And your very own,

Johnnie xxxx

PS Just heard from maurine: he will come down with me on the 23rd. 

Same place

13th February 1946

My Darling Snooky,

Please excuse this writing paper but I’ve hunted high and low and just can’t find any.

I hope I managed to convey to yo that my leave is on so I’ll be along on the last train on Saturday 23rd. In this connection, don’t forget the tyre for my bicycle because if yo can’t get one you end-inner tube as well, let me know and I’ll try here.

Evie has just been on the phone and I’m going up there on Sunday and the Sunday after that, oh boy, oh boy I’ll be in your arms again. No, we must not stay in bed all day for I’m in desperate need of some real fresh air, my lungs are getting all clogged up.

Say, don’t forget to stop my Auto car magazine on Tuesday 23rd February as I shall need it at home not up here and in that connection last week’s arrived in perfect condition, in heavy armour-plating of brown paper—please thank them.

I am enclosing letters from Maurice, my Dad and Auntie Edie. The former should be home any day now and so might quite possibly come down to Minehead with me, is that ok sweetheart?

I got a ten pound box of digestive biscuits today from our canteen. Your mother is anxious for one half. They are in a proper tin box as you see in grocers’ shops, they should keep for months if you want them and may come in useful for our summer entertaining.

I was cheerfully sitting on the lavatory today minding my own business when I heard shouts of help. I was unable to do anything, of course but fortunately the cries were heard by others who pulled an old boy out of the bathing pond behind the Instrument Shop—he had nearly drowned. 

All for now sweetheart, except to send you my love until I can give it to you.

Take great care of yourself.

Your very own,

Johnnie xxxx

As usual again

11th February 1946

My Darling Janie

Boy, I did enjoy my weekend. Short but very sweet and that’s an apt description for you as well. What a lot of blurb this is but all I’m trotting to say is Darling that I did enjoy myself. It’s wonderful to m sweet that you are ready to be so frivolous and enticing and on the other hand you can just as easily be practical and sensible. Being the right thing at the right time is an art.

I was impressed Darling with your new hold on your handsome infant. Good show Darling.

Now with regard to the letting of the flat. You have told me tat before taking the house at 45 King George Road you ask Charles Pickford if it would be in order to re-let the flat to help against the extra cost of the house. He, you said, replied to the effect that such an arrangement would be ok. Well, DArlog, I can’t find that letter among the ones yo gave me last time I was home in December. So would you be so good as to have  look around. It doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the situation as they have agreed t the present arrangement until my demobilisation. but it would definitely put me “in the right” if you see what I man.

I had a very good journey back in a carriage wit three other occupants and the train running on time so I arrived back home very little the worse the wear and also before your parens name home from the evening church service.

Well, my darling, thank you again for a simply lovely time.

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

Take great care and I’m your very own,

Johnnie xxxx

NOTE: I have pleasure in informing you that my leave has been granted: 25th February to 5th March as originally requested. The demob date of March 14th is still unofficia. This date has still not been published. “Jock” Henderson was in the same boat as I am with regard to leave and after making a lot of official enquiries he discovered that the order disallowing leave had been cancelled and that the demob date of March 14th was unofficial, hence the rule didmc apply.

So I shall be down the evening of the 23rd as arranged I hope, although after all this confusion and mess anything might happen s expect me when you see me.

Your own,

Johnnie xxxx (Extras for luck) 

Same again

8th February 1946

Darling Janie,

Sorry I didn’t write yesterday but I had rather a lot to do. Anyway this should get to you before the weekend.

My leave has been cancelled in view of a London District Order stating that officers can’t take leave within six weeks of demob so I’ve had it. But in view of the fact that they said I could and then had to cancel, I bagged a long weekend but I’ll give you a tinkle about this tonight. My idea about the long weekend is to bring you back with me. We jar have to arrange the date.

As regards demob the day of my release will be announced later. Apparently vacancies are given to the various units and I take the first workshop vacancy. The reason for this is that they want approximately the same number through the demob centre each day. The second point is that I am told that you have to go to the nearest demob centre to your permanent address so it looks though I shall have to go to Tanton. This I feel may fit in with some plans that you may be concocting.

I’ve had a brainwave about a holiday: what about having a tour from time to time: two days here, two days there, go on buses or trains whichever suits best.

But it’s late. I will develop this theme in my next letter.

All my love darling to you and Anthony.

I’m still your own,

Johnnie xxxx

As usual

3rd February 1946


Just a little note to be included in your parcel. You will already have received the letter I intended to enclose but in writing I was too late to post the parcel so sent off the letter anyway.

You may also have gathered that while I was writing to you a letter arrived from you in which you say you hope the pyjamas have shape. You won’t think these have nor are they dainty so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Oh, in case it makes any difference I like them very much and I think they will suit you—see!

Russell got home about 12.30 this morning—church parade had ben cancelled so he nipped put quickly—and we are now about to have lunch.

Well, sweetheart, there is no more news and I want to pack up this parcel.

All my love is yours my sweetheart and Anthony’s.

Take great care,

I’m still your very own,

Johnnie xxxx

Same again

2nd February 1946 

My Darling,

Just to say alone I did it! As I said on Wednesday I went toSelfridges and saw nothing I liked, Pendleburys had but I was too late to get in.

On Friday morning I got off at Oxford Circus and walked along New Oxford Street, round Peter Robinson and Bourne and Hollingsworth. It was 8am and I had to content myself with looking in the windows and saw nothing at all and got to Charing Cross at 8.20am.

So I decided that the only thing to do was to get the 11.40 from Woolwich on Saturday morning This I did.

I arrived at 12.25 and started off with a further reconnaissance of Peter Robinson. This was unsatisfactory so I followed up with a full fronytsl attack on Bourne and Hollingsworth and after negotiating the moving staircase came abreast of the pyjama counter.

Well, they hauled me out one or two pairs but my eyes had already lighted on their creations and after a little persuasion they produced them. No sooner had they ben produced than a queue started to form on my left s I produced my money before I lost them. Now I’m fervently saying my prayers and hoping I didn’t waste eight coupons. My lady, your commendation is urgently sought so that I may again indulge in a night’s sleep.

The hankies I take no responsibility for whatever.

By the way, these pyjamas are to wear now not to keep till I get home. I am looking forward to seeing you wearing them for me and with that colour they should keep me warm as well. 

Your mother says—

  1. Shall she send on Anthony’s shoes as soon as they are done?
  2. She will send on some starch in a day or two
  3. Just found Anthony’s vest, it is enclosed

I asked at the office how soon I would be demobbed after the 24th and the old chap (Mr.Mortimer) said as soon as you like as long as the colonel agrees so I should get away that weekend, I have provisionally arranged t have my medical before I go on leave so that does not hold me up. It would seem that I can get my kit at Olympia or Taunton—which do you think my dear?

So glad that Anthony is on the mend, I knew he’d be all right with you. I’m enclosing letters from my Dad and from Russell.

The Indian letter was from Diana’s father thanking me for the subscription ti the club that I owed. He says Mrs.Franklyn has been ill. He speaks of Diana’ troubles, says it was due to booze. Apparently they are all coming home in mArch. The other letter was fro, one of my chaps and I haven’t read it yet ass I’m hurrying with this letter.

It’s too late for the parcel now so I’ll send it under separate cover so that yu get this on Monday morning. I’ll put another note in with the pyjamas so you’ll win on the deal.

All my love to you and Anthony my darling.

Take great care because I love you so.

Your one and only,

Johnnie xxxx

Same again

31st January 1946

My own darling,

It was grand to hear your voice over the phone last night and now I’ll tell you what started it.

On Tuesday your mother started fretting and was quite sure there was something wrong with you particularly as you hadn’t written for a week—I explained that your last letter was Friday and that I only expected one a week but when she gets a bee in her bonnet, well, you know what it’s like.

Then last night came your letter and she was simply dancing around wanting to know what was in it and I was misguided enough to tell her that you had felt seedy but the part of the letter dated Tuesday said that you were ok again, and then, another blunder, I said that Anthony was sleeping with you.

From this she decided that her premonitions were correct and that you must both be hospital cases and that she must ring up straight away.

Your poor old father had to do the phoning (hence his attitude of pulling embers out of the fire) and when I see him on his own again I’ll tell him what you told me to tell him.

I believe you fully understood why my language was so guarded. At the same time I was trying to make it sound casual—your mother’s ears were particularly flapping or is it trembling?

I think your mother wonders why I don’t worry about you. She thinks I’m reserved and cold. Well, if I was working she wouldn’t be any the wiser. But I don’t worry sweetheart because I have complete confidence in you. I’m quite sure that if you are in difficulty you’ll let me know. You couldn’t have made such a thunderingly good job of the past five years if you weren’t very capable.

At the same time darling I know that this last bit is dragging and the burden isn’t made any lighter by our impatience—I’m just as impatient as you and Anthony. The last month with you was very lovely in spite of being spent in a home other than our own. I don’t think you took such a rosy view of it as I did but in our own home it’s going to be just wizard.

You know darling I have been thinking recently, taken by and large, how lucky we have been and how, ever since I have known you our little lives have worked out more or less to plan, and how we have been able to meet all our difficulties with something in hand. We got married two years before we anticipated, acquired a nice little optical business then along comes the way and instead of losing anything we have gained a home, a son, no debts and a lot of experience. This is why I can’t bring myself to be worried about the future: the National Health, Insurance, atomic bombs and so on. Our Lord was evidently helping us before and I don’t think he’s going to stop now do you? And that s one of the reasons I hope that you, my love, will give me another child when the time comes.

But you’ll think this is a funny letter so I’ll get on to more usual topics.

Supposing I am released about the middle of March I can see no reason why we should book up a holiday in advance, just go along and get in anywhere. I’m sure it will be vey easy although if we can make up our minds in advance it would be much better.

A short paragraph in the Express this morning informs 26 groups of officers that they are like t be held up for a further four months. Looks as though I’m just on the right side this time.

I’m taking my parade this afternoon so I’m killing time till  3pm in the Mess and so you, my darling, are getting a rather longer letter.

No beach hut this year sweetheart, let’s save or pennies so we can get that car.

I shall apply for the leave dates I mentioned originally, the 23rd, I think i can manage to wait a few days for you my sweetheart though I admit it will be difficult.

Take great care my sweetheart. I love you so much. My love also to Anthony

And I’m still your very own,

Johnnnie xxxx

26th January 1946

My Darling Janie,

Well, thus is Saturday afternoon. Mum and Dad are at the movies but I’ve figured if I went this wouldn’t get written—oh, I’m not beg a martyr I was too lazy to go out and see an indifferent movie.

I have just received a little letter from you darling. I prince on them just like always—I mean even the Auto car magazine had to wait till second so that proves I love you still doesn’t it?

John Westbrook and the next of rage 25’s had a 48 hours’ leave this week and then before you can turn round the 26’s will have gone as weell and mist of my seniors will be gone,

The colonel was involved in a car smash last night and had a cut lip and his mouth was badly lacerated with his false teeth. 

Yes, I can’t imagine why you shouldn’t come back with me t London, can’t see any snags myself—still don’t know where we’re going to go, can’t find anyone who knows Barmouth, or would you prefer it to be Cornwall? Probably safest as it’s the warmest part of this country. Let me know soon if it’s going to be Cornwall as you know plenty of places there already. 

No, I haven’t seen anything in the pyjama line in Woolwich yet. I do however know roughly what I want—oh, what’s that? Well,just mind your own business!

I shot home quickly today and managed to go to Foyles before they closed and spent that 7/6 token and after ferreting about I fund just what I wanted—“The World’s Best Photographs” — well marked down in price because the cover was so faded—its new  price must have been about a pound and 7/6 did the trick! There is some wonderful stuff in it just asking to be copied—which is after all my usual; method. I noticed that films and paper are coming off the restricted list. I should be able to get on with my Indian pictures.

I found that I had a full-blooded engraver in the Instrument shop so I got him to put my initials on the back of my watch and it really looks quite good.

I hope darling that you’ll go and see Dr.Bain about your hands so that you may get some treatment for them.

Since I stopped this letter I have written to Auntie Edie, giving an invitation for the summer; to Diana sending the money for those undies; and to Cyril. I haven’t really stopped since 4pm and I want to try and get some more done before your parents get back and it’s 7.30pm now.

So I’ll close this letter by saying how much I love you my sweetheart and miss you. Coming home in the evening is almost meaningless when your head isn’t resting on my shoulder and your body nestling close to mine. No lover there to make me feel romantic or to join in the pleasures of married life with me.

All my love is yours my darling and until I can again prove as much take great care of yourself and Anthony.

And I’m your very own.

Johnnnie xxxx

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