Letters, diaries and photographs from World War II


Wharncliffe Gardens
25th September 1945

My Darling,
So you’re ‘browned off’ with me for not writing. Sorry, pet, but we were phoning so often I thought that counted. But if you want letters you shall have them.
Well, I wrote it my application for compassionate posting, then rang the colonel ad asked for an interview. He said he’d come round or send the car for me. In point of fact he did neither so I shall have to see what tomorrow brings. To Dr.Bain’s letter I have added the secondary reasons that I am unable to supervise the business and continue my studies.
Today I got Anthony his school bag. Now what do you want me to do? Save it for his birthday and send it along then with a few other little things I can collect between now and then to fill it? It’s your mother’s suggestion and I think it quite a good idea. So I now await your orders my love. It cost thirteen shillings and sevenpence and is worth about two shillings and sevenpence but it was the best of the bunch from the manufacture point of view.
Today the weather was rough and cold. I shall soon have to start putting on some more clothes. So far I haven’t.
I went for massage today and it was decided that I should see the specialist at 10.15am on Friday and I suspect that will be the end of the treatment. I haven’t felt the pain for some time and the masseuse or whatever you call the woman who tries to do me in says she can’t find anything to massage these days. She does my neck as well these days because I said it was stiff. It was, and she nearly broke it for me, but it’s much better now.
Well, who do you think has turned up at the workshop now? None other than John Westbrroke. So of course we had a long pow-wow. He’s brought back a wife with him, a French girl, the one he mentioned in his letters. He’s just the same as ever. He asked after you and Anthony.
Your mother has other distinct views that you should be with Anthony on his birthday and that she’ll stay on here, then she’ll come down after and you can come up here for a week or so. Can you work anything out on that basis my sweet? Though, as I’ve said before I’m prepared to stay here by myself and let you all be together.
Well, that’s all for now Darling.
All my love is yours and Anthony’s
And with or without letters
I’m still your own,
Johnnie xxxx



I’ve just been to see the “old man” and he turned down the original draft and recommended that I omitted the sentence crossed through in the enclosed letter. He says they have no interest in business reasons.

I’ve sent him the re-written letter using you as my only excuse. He says he’ll forward this second letter with one from himself recommending my case and stating that in any case he is anxious to keep me as chopping and changing of instrument officers is adversely affecting the instrument workshop production.

Well, darling, this is better than I had hoped for. So now we;ve done all we can and we have got to wait for results.

Tonight I’m on duty at the barracks. It is more quiet than usual as the crowd have gone to the swimming gala. For my part I have just returned from the London Refraction Hospital where we have just had another two and a half hours of brain boiling. I’ve got three of the other opticians from this workshop going there now and John Westbrook will be joining as well.

After a lousy article in the News Chronicle about REME officers and Staff sergeants being delayed in demob I see tonight that we are to have authentic news at the end of the week from the Minister of Labour so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Of course this course goes on until the end of March next year at the present rate of progress (quite quick enough from the mental effort point of view) so it’s not much use being demobbed before then, always supposing I’m left here.

Oh darling, please get me a bank statement from the beginning of the year for our account so that I can check what I’m being paid by H.M Paymaster. I haven’t had a pay slip yet.

Well darling, all for now. I do hope you are getting on well at the business. I’m lonesome for you and although I’ve only been back a couple of weeks I want you badly. I’m getting worse and worse and I love you.

My love to you both,

Your own,

Johnnie xxxx


Wharncliffe Gardens

24th September 1945

My Darling,

How glad I was to hear your voice over the telephone last night. I really was tremendously cheered. I do feel Darling that you handled the situation vey well. It couldn’t have been done better. The situation for you of course would have been intolerable, one person doing the cash and one the books.

CP certainly told her a thing or two, something he can do in  o uncertain manner if he has to. So be magnanimous in your victory. I’m sure you have been. You know, I’m rather proud of your effort. It only remains for you to prove to the others your efficiency and everything in the garden will be better than ever.

It’s lousy news about the demob of officers isn’t it darling? Snag after snag, it rally is most disappointing. And at the same time they are making it more and more difficult for the young lads to become officers and at the same time not allowing certain regulars to continue their commissioned services for a year or two.

Still, if this compassionate posting comes off all may be well as the course I’m taking will at the present rate of progress last into April 1946.

I’m hoping that in time you’ll be able to cut down the amount of work you do in the shop and be able to come and stay up here from time to time.

Dr.Bain’s letter has not come to hand so he must be giving it a great deal of thought. I’m wondering what line he’s going to take as he knows you’re staying in Minehead at the moment. 

I have just arrived home and found Dr.Bain’s letter waiting for me. It’s quite well done.

He says “There is no doubt that your wife’s health has suffered in your absence. The responsibility of a somewhat difficult child without your health and advice was rather more than she was equal to. No serious damage has been done in her case but you should use every effort to remain in this country where you can supervise your household and give her the support she needs.”

Well, from his point of view it is a masterpiece. But it leaves me quite a lot of work to do. Keep your fingers crossed ny dear.

Not only do I have to go to my lecture on Wednesday but I’ve got to double back and go on duty on Wednesday evening . Then on Thursday afternoon I’m one of the official time keepers at the Sports Day at Woolwich.

I haven’t found a good school bag yet and the prices are fantastic for the junk they represent so I’m still looking.

Could you please send my “old flannels” and razor strop please darling. Oh yes, and could you cut a little bit off the inside of the sleeve off your new shirt so that I can try and get a blouse for it or would you rather leave it till you come to town.

I don’t exactly hurry back here these days but get off the train at Baker Street and walk through the park. I spent most of the weekend swatting but went out for a couple of hours on Saturday on the bike and had an hour’s stroll on Sundayover Priumrose Hill. By myself on both occasions. I felt lonely. I’ve kind of got used to having you around. Still, the end sometimes appears in sight and every day is one day nearer so “chins up” and let’s keep that big smile.

I do so love you my sweetheart and bed is so cold and empty without you.

All my love is yours and Anthony’s and I’m still your own,

Johnnie xxxx

My Darling,

Thanks for the phone call. Please excuse me sitting on your ideas. You know how self-opinionated I am, but I do think I’ve got it right.

I feel that by far the most important part of our scheme is a suitable letter from Dr.Bain.

Should he, and it’s like him if he feels like it, insist that he won’t write any letters unless you live in London, then so be it and we’ll have to make arrangements about the business.

Of course I can’t be certain that our ideas will come off but I shall do my best and I feel that I’m in the right.

Goodnight sweetheart,

I love you,

John xxxx

1st July 1945

Darling Janie,

It was nice to hear your voce on the telephone las night my sweet. t’s such a long time since I heard it. 

Yes darling, I had thought of you coming up here while your parents were in Minehead but I really didn’t feel that I should mention it. I should love coming home to you in the evening but you do realise sweetheart that I have to leave just after seven ion the morning and don’t get back until after six thirty in the evening. Of corse I’m back by one thirty on Saturdays but it does mean getting up eaeky, six am at the latest. Am I really worth it?

I’m suggesting that you take the 2.30 train on Monday from Minehead that gets to London about 7.30 and I would meet you as porters are hopeless.

Plese bring my watch, pen and another pair of shoes.

Don’t forget sweet that as yet I have not received permission, though I can see no reason for it to be withheld.

I’m off to India Office tomorrow to try and sort out my pay. Keep your fingers crossed my love, it’s our car going up the spout!

Can’t make head or tail of what I’m supposed to do at Woolwich yet, twiddling my thumbs seems to be the most important part. I’m getting quite dextrous.

Russell was on the phone this moron. He’s at Caterick now o course. He will apparently be due leave in about a month.

Yesterday I went to the cricket match with your father and it was a very pleasantly spent two hours.

Your mother and I went to Abbey Road Baptist church this evening and I saw los of people I knew. Everyone asked after you and Anthony: George Lines, Rose Seale and the whole family of Rae’s. Of course your mother and I fell to talking about them on the way home and your mother laughed when I said “Just look what I could have saved poor Hilda from.”

Well, darling, it’s time I went to bed. It’ll be fun when I go wit you but we mustn’t forget we have to be up early.

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

I love you,

John xxxx

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.

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

Tuesday 8th May 1945

It’s Victory Day today. Thank goodness the first part is over. I can’t raise any enthusiasm for celebrations. Thanksgivings, yes, so I attend the service, I listen to the speeches of Churchill and the King.

It’s getting boring and the flies are as bad as ever.


Monday 7th May 1945

I’m up at five thirty this morning and see Ismailia. Spend the rest of the time until 11am watching Egypt for the last time (?) We have reached Port Said in eight days less three hours which is very good. Shore leave doubtful. they still load dhows to sinking point.

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