Letters, diaries and photographs from World War II

on active service

Wednesday 27th June 1945

See the colonel this morning. Am shown over progress in some little detail. I then go to the Dockyard and get a lowdown on the Instrument Workshops. We get no work until we see Major Ellis. Still feel in the air and very browned off.

The ATS, Auxiliary Territorial Service, was the women’s branch of the British Army during the Second World War. It was formed on 9 September 1938, initially as a women’s voluntary service, and existed until 1 February 1949, when it was merged into the Women’s Royal Army Corps.

27th June 1945

My Darling Janie,

Just a few lines to tell you the latest news.
I’m feeling rather browned off at the moment. I always do when I get to a new place everything is strange and I don’t know anybody. On top of thus my fate is still undecided and until a certain major gets back on Friday I shall be none the wiser.
I am hanging about the Instrument Shop, which has several departments and not only has one to cope with ATS, but civilians, man and women, which is an impossible situation.
Also it doesn’t look as if people stay here any length of time and I can’t go taking control if I’m likely to be shifted at a moment’s notice. Finally of course the fate of my third pip is unknown. I don’t now where I stand.
As to living out, it is only allowed if you are living with your wife so as regards that we’ll wait until after your holiday and look at the situation again. It’s just hopeless trying to plan at the moment.
The situation at the moment is that I’m living at the R.A. Mess. The feeding arrangements are very good. My accommodation is three quarters of a mile away from the Mess. The room holds twi beds so my valise has come into little use. The remainder of the furniture is two chairs and a table. Oh yes, and a cupboard.
One batman may have as many as ten officers to do. Mine hasn’t that many but he doesn’t seem to be very clever so that pleases me.
The Instrument Workshop is at least a mile from the Mess so you see I’m going to put a great deal of walking in.
The hours are 8.30 to 12 and 2 to 5.30 so no one could find fault with that. Half day Saturday, so I should be able to make an odd weekend dash home. I shall have to work out the trains.
After I’d reported here I dashed back to your parents after lunch on Tuesday and got my valise and got it here on a bus. My, I had to smile hard to laugh that one off.
I shall go to your parents this weekend so I must try and get a ration card because I’ve already had a meal there and no coupons.
My best love to you both,
And I’m still your own,
Johnnie xxxxx
PS Don’t you get blue sweetheart. The browned-off-ness is only a passing phase.

Tuesday 26th June 1945

Go to Woolwich. See the adjutant and get fixed in RA Motor Transport Shop. Am billeted in Married Quarters three quartets of a mile from the Motor Transport shop. Dash back to Janie’s parents’ house and get my valise and manage to get back to Woolwich in a bus.

A regimental adjutant, garrison adjutant etc. is a staff officer who assists the commanding officer of a regiment, battalion or garrison in the details of regimental, garrison or similar duty.

46 Wharnclffe Gardens

25th June 1945

My Darling Wife,

I do hope that you are OK my love. I’m fine but rather tired so after I’ve written you this my love I’ll lie down and wait for your parents to come back.

Well, to start at the end I’ve been posted to No.7 Central Workshop REME Royal Woolwich Arsenal and now to go back to the beginning and explain how I got to Woolwich.

When I got to Taunton I found there was an unadvertised train that led Taunton for Paddington at 12.30 non-stop, getting into London one hour before I expected so I was here by 4pm.

From Paddington I phoned No.2 Group Workshop and they said to come along tomorrow, not to bother to bring all your kit. So I trotted along to them this morning and saw a major who explained that there wasn’t anything there for but I would probably be posted to Donington. By this time I’d made up my mind that I wanted to stay in London so I explained that as I probably only had about eight months to do I wanted to stay in London and start evening classes to prepare for demob. I told him about the business situation etc. He explained that the reason for posting to Donington was to avoid my lower rank (a thing they do their best to avoid). I, however, contended that my studies are more important than the extra pip. I’ve suddenly become very sure of that. I hope I’m right. Anyway, he said he’d arrange that I should see the brigadier in the afternoon.

Well, from then till five o’clock I wandered around and had lunch at the Officers’ mess.

At three o’clock I turned up and was shown to the boss. He said “You want to stay in London?” and I said “Yes.” He said “Well, I was down at Woolwich this morning and they want an officer there who can do most things. Can you only do instruments?” So I said “All my Motor Transport and Guns is self-taught but I’ve had about four years on it.” He seemed satisfied and said “You shall go to Woolwich. I’ll give so-and-so a ring.”

So, I’m going there tomorrow morning and by the evening I shall know a little better how things stand.

I was tipped that there is no accommodation for REME officers and that I might have to live in the R.A HQ Mess. So your mother and I have put our heads together and Im investigating the possibility of living here with your parents in view of my attendance at the London Refraction Hospital, though I shan’t start there until they return from holiday.

Say, do you know who I met in Regent Street today? Diana’s husband, back, I gather, on compassionate grounds. He left Calcutta about four days ago and is staying about three weeks. We had a long talk and the came in the bus with me to Baker Street. You’d have thought we were bosom pals.

And now thank you darling for a wonderful holiday and thank you for a wonderful home in which to spend it. It’s really wonderful how you managed to make it look fully furnished. I’ll write and tell you more about my reactions when I’ve thought them more. 

John reunited with Anthony June 1945


Your parens are well and looking forward to their holiday. The dogs both look very well and well groomed. We took them to the park last night.

All my love to your dear self and to our little “load of dynamite”.

Your adoring husband,

John xxxx

Wednesday 30th May 1945

We take Evie and Stephen out to “Private Lives” followed by supper. Janie has a new hairdo, short and curly and she looks fine. I buy her a necklace. 

Private Lives is a 1930 comedy of manners in three acts by Noël Coward. It concerns a divorced couple who, while honeymooning with their new spouses, discover that they are staying in adjacent rooms at the same hotel. Despite a perpetually stormy relationship, they realise that they still have feelings for each other. Its second act love scene was nearly censored in Britain as too risqué. Coward wrote one of his most popular songs, “Some Day I’ll Find You”, for the play.



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