Letters, diaries and photographs from World War II

World War Two letters

Note: The Africa Star was awarded for a minimum of one day’s service in an operational area of North Africa between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943.

Letter 1st April 1945

Nowhere in particular

1st April 1945

Darling Janie

Just another short note my sweet to say that I’m on my way to you and have covered the first part of my journeying across India.

I’m now staying at my first swank hotel since I left Bombay over three years ago. I don’t go for these places at all but we have time to kill before getting to the next place.

You’ll notice I said ‘we’. Tony Yarwood is my companion. He’s from the Regiment. He’s a grand lad but is going to be a little difficult to keep out of mischief. He’s a trifle high-spirited if you see what I mean.

The programme is: swimming pool, sleeping under the fan and movies in the evening.

We intend to leave on Saturday and go elsewhere.

Be certain of one thing sweet, this business is going to take time/

We have met other lads on the same racket and all have three or four months more in than we have. One and all seem to boast the Nortb Africa Stars, I’ll be shamed into wearing mine soon.

On the two days preceding my departure I received jolly letters from you sweetheart. I’d love to see your face when you start getting my letters.

All my love is yours my sweetheart.

Take great care of both of you.

Your own,

Johnnie xxxx

War news at this time was good: on 22nd and 23rd March US and British forces crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim.
By this time it was clear that Germany was under attack from all sides. On the 27th the Western Allies slowed their advance and allowed the Red Army to take Berlin. On the 29th the Red Army entered Austria. Other Allies took Frankfurt; the Germans were in a general retreat all over the centre of the country. On the 31st General Eisenhower broadcast a demand for the Germans to surrender.


45 King George Road

31st March 1945

My darling John,

Well, here I am in bed again but with a difference: I have a fire in the bedroom, not because I am exciting but because Anthony is ill, he has measles! I have been up with him all week at night with a cough and on Thursday night out came the spots! I rang Dr.Bain up on Good Friday to come. He had not turned up at eight pm and as Anthony’s temperature was very sneaky 103 I got worried. Anyway, he cme today. He says he jas got it mildly and to keep him in bed until his temperature is normal for twenty four hours.
Anthony seems better today. He is a little interested in food. When I give it to him he does not eat much. His temperature is almost normal now and so soon he will be abe to get out of bed. Then after48 hors he can go out but not if his cough is still there. He is in quarantine for 14 days from last Thursday night.
No wt answer some of your queries. Yes, the £30 monthly is ok and also the £100 has arrived. The amount in the bank is about £400. Of course I paid your dad £115 so I think I am doing well, don’t you? That is with your £100 received of course. As regards investments I have asked your dad and mine and neither of them will advise us as it’s a risky business and so the money is in the bank. I think it had better stay there until you come home now as that will be so soon.
With regards to the tobacco. I sent you two half pounds and Mother sent you half a pound. Shall I send you any more? Oh, Russell says can yo bring him back some cigars or cheroots or something. He loves cigars John and they are so expensive.
With regard to towels sand sheets, well darling, I would be very glad if you could bring some home as household linen is very very expensive and practically non-existent, esp[ecially sheets and I do badly need at least two pairs of single bed sheets for Anthony’s bed and also my double sheets are wearing out now after seven years of hard going. Also can yo get pillowcases and tea towels? I shall be grateful for anything you can bring. Towels and tea towels are on coupons here and if we want them we have to give up our precious clothing coupons for them so you can imagine the state of the linen cupboard these days! My mother would also be very grateful for anything you could bring her home as she is as badly off as I am. Of course she would want to pay you.
By the way my mother is coming all the way from London on Tuesday to look after Anthony while I go to the Fireman’s Ball on Wednesday 8pm to 2am. Then she is returning on Thursday. I am wearing my long green velvet evening gown.
I got the bed back from Bury over two years ago and that is the one in the back bedroom with the wooden dressing table from Anthony’s suite. In Anthony’s room is the bed and the little chest of drawers belonging to his suite.
We need several things in our home. The armchairs very badly need upholstering I am afraid. We are endeavouring to get a decent lawn for you but the dogs and Anthony don’t agree! Russell has taken over the kitchen garden while he is here and I do the flower garden, the lawn, the fruit trees and the strawberry beds.
Did I tell you Girlie has had a miscarriage? Well, she has. She wrote telling me all the details.
Re the business. Mr.Hart wants your testing room divided into two, one for a testing room, one for an office.
I wonder how the war situation will e by the time you receive this. Why, it might even be over. or very soon eh? And then what? How would that affect you dearest? Have you heard anything about coming hone yet?
Anthony has just said, “Give Daddy my love won’t you?”
Do you think I had better bring my green velvet gown wen I come to meet you?
Byt the way I sent off a parcel to you on Wednesday, your birthday parcel. I am wondering if it will follow you out there and find you’ve left and then follow you home again! Watch out for it in about eight weeks or so time.
My Jake is a wonderful dog. Dr.Bain is absolutely “gone” on him. He adores spaniels and kept telling me what a beautiful dog he is. He seemed surprised to think he was mine. Everybody goes nuts on him. I do hope you ill love him. He’ll sit for hours waiting for someone to throw his ball for him.
As i sit here in our bedroom by the fire I can imagine how wonderful it will be when you are here with me and we are going to bed.
Well, John darling we have been married almost seven year of which we have really been married only two. Here is wishing yo Happy Wedding Anniversary and may you be home long before the next.
Dr.Bain wanted to know all about you and said we have been separated for a large slice of our lives.
Russell’s records are either highbrow or hot jazz stuff or strict dance tempo. Bussell taught Maurice the basic dance steps while he was here. I do hope he will be able to give you some lessons as Russell is such a good dancer, He likes me to partner him as no one else down here knows his steps.
Have you sent Mrs.Jones any tea yet and what about the Briggs’s?

My mother is busy getting read for your homecoming. You know she real;ly does think the world of you darling and so does Dadda. Mother always refers to you as “dear old John.”
It is now Monday. Somehow I simply have not been able to finish this letter. This afternoon Anthony got up and came downstairs but you know he has got terribly thin and he won’t eat. He is now looking forward to my mother coming tomorrow.
Russell planyed the first potatoes today. Maybe you will be home to eat them with us darling.
The wallflowers are out in the garden nw, also the forget-me-nots, primroses and polyanthuses an now the marigolds are coming out and the irises.
This writing is perfectly awful. I know but I do s want to get this letter off tomorrow.
Do you my hips are positively aching with the continuous running up and downstairs to Anthony since he has been ill. And my back, lifting Anthony up in bed etc., is making itself felt now. Still, the war news is good and I have tons to be thankful for.
As soon as the war is over I am going up to town to do my shopping in case you come home quickly.
Anthony now has his school blazer. It is grey bund with blue and the badge worked on the pocket and he is proud of it! He told me that Sister Margaret, when fitting it, said “My goodness you do look a darling Anthony in it!” (Hush! I haven’t had the bill yet!) I have bought him some grey shorts to go with it so he is all ready to meet you darling. Oh, I do hope you will think I have made a man of him and not a sissy. At any rate I have done my best to be father and mother to him for the four long years you have been away so don’t be too strict in your judgement.
I must stop now. Take great care of yourself sweetheart.
All my love is yours sweetheart, you know that.
Hoping to see you soon. NO HARM IN HOPING, EH?
Always your adoring wife,
Janie xxxx

Same as usual

26th March 1945

My Darling Janie,

Just a short note but I think you’ll find it sweet my darling.

My ‘relief’ arrives by air today and I shall be moving on the first part of my journey in two days’ time. I have to arrive at certain places at certain times but I can give you no idea of the finish yet. Not before my birthday I imagine but within a month of that date is my guess.

The chap who is taking my place seems to be a hood type and I am quite satisfied at leaving my precious boys in his hands.

I have just received a jolly letter from you full of your spirits and I’m sorry that I won’r receive a letter from you when you get to know I’m coming. My darling, don’t write any more as the letters will only reach me months hence when I’m in England. 

My pals can’t understand why I don’t show my feelings. They say to me “I should have been over the moon when I heard”. But I can’t get all excited. I’m just keeping my eye on the ball and making no mistakes at this stage. I really do want to come home to you.

Not so long now. I can hardly believe it.

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

God bless you both and I’m your very own,

Johnnie xxxx

Same as usual

22nd March 1945

My own darling Janie,

I haven’t a letter to reply to so I’ll just have to shoot a line of my own.

Yesterday we had some fun and excitement. Just before we started off to football it looked like rain. After we had been playing for a few minutes there was a thunderstorm and it was raining in torrents.  We were all soaked to the skin but kept playing. It was great fun as it was so difficult to stand up when running let alone kicking and turning corners was quite out of the question. Of course it was an Inter-Section game and a great time was had by all and the game almost stopped for laughing.



The thrill was going home after the game. The road was more slippery than the pitch. We had to drive half a mile up the road to turn around, crawling along the road, going into the ditch. Then we came to an embankment just wide enough to take the vehicle. It went right to the edge and the wheel was crumbling it away. If the driver stopped or accelerated he would have overturned (it was deep). If all the men had been on board it would have fallen in. We were dead lucky.

Well, my darling, I started this letter two nights ago and then wasn’t able to continue last night. Are you ready? I’ve had a letter from a friend of mine who deals with repatriation at a certain important Head Office. He said my name is in the next bunch and that it would be through officially in a few days’ time. Now please remember, this is unofficial. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told you but I just couldn’t keep it to myself. So sweetheart, in plain English, I’m now expecting my repatriation to come through at any time. How much time elapses from notification to embarkation and disembarkation I haven’t the slightest idea. I should imagine that it varies tremendously. But as I get more accurate ideas I shall let you know. For security reasons I shall refer to possible date of disembarkation as FINISH. So I’ll hope to finish at such and such a time.

I’ve been to the Officers’s Shop today in order to get a good stock of socks, towels and sheets. I’ve got another pair of shoes and very nice ones they are too. I shall dispose of anything that is in slightly doubtful condition.

Well, my darling, I will close this and try and write again tomorrow.

All my love is yours my darling and perhaps our dreams ate coming true.

God bless you both and take care my loves.

Your very own,

Johnnie xxx

In war news at this time 16th March saw the German offensive in Hungary end with another Soviet victory. On the 19th March there was heavy bombing of important naval bases in Japan, Kobe and Kure and on the 20th Mandalay was liberated by the Indian 19th Infantry Division. Also on this date Tokyo was firebombed again.

In this letter I have been unable to find out what WASBY stands for. REME is Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

SEAC = possibly South East Asia Command?


45 King George Road


21st March 1945

My darling Johnnie,

You know I originally bought this writing paper to send to you and here I am using it myself! However, I will try to get you some more.

Do you realise that in two days’ time Russell will be twenty-two  and he hasn’t a girl yet, except me!

I am writing thus sitting up in bed. Does that give you a big thrill John? I should get  a bigger thrill if you were lying beside me.

This morning I received four pairs of silk stockings from your father. They really are beautiful darling and I am terribly thrilled. Before he went to Jamaica he said he would try and send some and so now dearest I shall be able to thrill you more on our honeymoon won’t I? He must have known!

We are going “all out” in the garden now to have it nice for your return, which cannot be very far off considering the German position.

I think I told you Russell has passed his exams but he did not pass the Admiralty board so in all probability he will get a commission in the army. That is, of course, if he passes the WASBY. Then he will try for the REME. 

In your latest letter you tell me I am not to go to Dr.Raby any more until you get back and go into the matter. But why John? Haven’t you any faith in him any more? The longer I leave it before I go again, the more painful it is likely to be afterwards. Look, I have promised you and him that I will be good, do as he says for that three months or whatever it is. Isn’t that sufficient for you? Darling, I don’t want to have my back X-rayed, really I don’t. Please don’t make me John and am I allowed to visit Dr.Raby and have I to wait until you come with me? Please reply John and don’t be cross will you?

It is Thursday 9.30 am. Anthony is at school and really this is the first time I get to myself. I have just read through what I wrote in bed last night. Naturally I will do as you wish about not going to Dr.Raby, although he says the longer it is “out” the longer it will take to stay in. Only don’t take four more years to come home. Let’s be hearing from you over this.

I have written to my mother about you wanting to meet Anthony alone and don’t worry dearest we will arrange it. I wonder how long we shall be able to keep away from him. And darling we simply must take him back a present. Also a day or so in London with Anthony will enable you to take him out to the toy shops and perhaps buy him another little gift. This would greatly impress Anthony. He would probably “take you” as he knows London as well as he knows Minehead. You could also buy him a new dressing gown at the same rime as he insists on waiting for one until you can go with him. Strikes me that I shall be oddment out but I won’t mind John as long as you and Anthony, the two I love best in the world, are happy. It will seem very strange having to ‘share’ you with Anthony. Still, the nights will be our very own darling, at least for a while before we have another infant yelling his head off just when we are cosy! Pity babies can’t be born old enough to sleep though from seven till eight the next day. Still, we won’t be worried bu that for a while will we?

What a strange letter you will think this is. Well. I am in a strange mood! At the moment I want you so badly I don’t want to share you with Anthony or yelling babies!

Evelyn has gone up to Birmingham to see Stephen and also see the psychiatrist at the psychiatrist’s request. She is going to let us know about it. The specialist thinks that Evelyn would do Stephen good. Your doctor doesn’t think you need your wife by any chance?? Well, tell him, I want YOU badly!!

Anthony fell off his three wheeled bike on Tuesday and has a nasty cut about four inches above his knee on the inside. It made me feel quite sick when I saw it. However “Uncle Russell” did it up for him (he made no fuss with Russell) with a large chunk of elastoplast.

When Anthony “works” in the garden I always pay him for his help. Yesterday he earned tuppence as he helped with his wheelbarrow to move soil and carry turfs.

Anthony circa 1945

Well, I think I have written enough.

Russell has got a rise at his job of seven shillings and sixpence. Mr.Kemp badly wants him to do full-time. He says that Russell is doing more important work than he would in the forces!

Thank you darling for the SEAC papers. I am lending them to Mrs.Beale up the road as her husband is up the front at Burma. He used to be a hairdresser in Bagleys, for haired chap, name Clifford Beale.

Your dad has sent Anthony another book, on flying this time. When you write to him you might mention how thrilled we are with his gifts and how grateful we are as now I can go all glamorous for you. Tell him that.

Well, must stop now as it has gone eleven and I haven’t done a thing yet.

Take great care of yourself.

Oh, Maurice is going to save his leave now and spend it down here when you arrive. Do you mind? He seems to think you will be home by June/July. We all might go on the Norfolk Broads again in July as my father is very keen and would like to go. Maurice wants to too. 

All for now.

All my love is yours. I’d give you more if you were here you know that.

I love you best in the world darling,

Your very own,

Janie xxxx

War news at this time March 9th saw US firebombs hit a number of cities in Japan, including Tokyo.  On March 1th Nagoya in Japan was firebombed by hundreds of B-29s. On the 15th V-2 rockets continued to hit England and Belgium.

In this letter Maurice was John’s younger brother. At the time of writing, his wife Grace had recently died of Diabetes.

Mr.Palmer was the optician who covered for John while John was away in the army.

45 King George Road


17th March 1945

My darling John,

Thank you darling for all your cheerful letters. They are a tonic I assure you.

Maurice came down last Tuesday and left here this morning by the 9.10 train. I went and saw him off on my bike.

I think he enjoyed himself. I did my best to make him at home anyway. Joyce and John Pickford were staying down here at the Sundown Hotel so they were around a bit. Russell went to the flicks with Maurice and the Pickfords on Wednesday evening, Then on Thursday morning Maurice, Russell and I had a coffee in Newcombes and in the afternoon Maurice and I went to Dunster and walked up the Sugar Loaf and Grabbist, down Alcombe Combe and had to rush to meet Anthony from school. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk though. Then in the evening Joyce and John came over. On Friday after taking Anthony to school, Maurice and I caught the 9.10 train to Taunton and went up to Taunton School to join him and you as Old Boys. 



Taunton School, Taunton


Maurice had a talk to one or two of the masters, nice-looking Mr.French (I like him) and Mr.Williams. it was very funny, they all seemed to think I was Maurice’s wife!! Mr.Williams said “You have chosen a very pretty wife with the very pretty name of Winifred) By the way I paid for Maurice’s membership as well as he is very short of money. I told him to pay you just when he likes. I hope I did the right thing. They are sending the Old Boys’ magazines to you direct. I explained we had a small boy hoping to come to the school one day. They were very interested and badly wanted him when he is seven years old but I would not agree. By the way there is a three year waiting list to get in there so Mr.Williams suggests you don’t waste too much time before putting his name down. I watched a little boy of ten working in the carpentry shop and all I could see was my Anthony there. You know John it will be a terrible wrench for me to part with him and have him there and I shall worry terribly about him. I am not looking forward to to one bit. They have six new tennis courts. The headmaster is leaving next term. 

Russell has been busy teaching Maurice dancing.

Maurice Askew, John’s younger brother

Whenever Maurice and I were alone we talked about Grace. I let him talk. He told me he goes out now and then with one of the WAAF’s as it gives him a feeling of relaxation to do so but that anyone else compares badly to Grace and that he would have to go a long way to finds someone who compared favourably with her. I pointed out that was because he was not looking in the same place as where he found Grace. I meant in a church somewhere or something like that and that set him thinking and he finally agreed that I was right. So darling I don;t really think that you and Girlie have any need to worry about Maurice on that score. I tried to warn him against grabbing the first girl who sympathises. He knew what I meant. You know it is veto strange how people just seem to like to confide in me. Why, I don’t know, but they do. I leant Maurice your overcoat while he was here. I hope you approve. He said he is going to save his leave now until you come home and then he would like to spend it down here with you and me.

Oh by the way, Russell has passed his exam. Isn’t that grand? So he is not going to join up as a regular. He hopes to get in the Navy as a midshipman. 

Jack Ridler arrived home on Friday from three years in India. Also the husband of that blonde who works in Ridlers and has also been in India for three years.

Did I tell you that Mr.Palmer had got a job in Taunton, to spend half his time in Taunton and half at the Sidmouth branch but he can’t find rooms in Taunton yet. 

Maurice tells me (in confidence) that Girlie is trying to start a family but she is not quite sure herself yet as it is very early days yet.

Well, it is Sunday 6.30pm and I must soon put Anthony to bed, I have tons to do before you come home, all the house is re-decorated now, except the bathroom.

You know I simply can’t realise that you will most probably be coming home fairly soon. I shall really have to start in earnest and get my outfit sorted out otherwise I shall have nothing to wear and you would hate that wouldn’t you? Oh John darling I do love you so much and I am so glad you have agreed about postponing my back treatment for a while. You know, I was terrible afraid you would not agree.

Having Maurice down here, he is very like you now in his ways etc. I realised it with a jolt how like you he is and it upset my equilibrium somewhat.

Maurice tried to curb Anthony once or twice, especially sucking his fingers and holding his shawl. This upset Anthony and me terribly because Anthony came sobbing to me and I did not know what to do. Oh darling I do beg of you once again to go easy, very easy, on the disciplining of Anthony. I am afraid Maurice did more harm than good. But what worries me is that Maurice did as I know you will do. I do so want Anthony not to be afraid of you.

So some of your men are coming home? I wonder when you will come, if you yourself have any idea. Then I start thinking of where and how we shall meet each other. I shall be terribly nervous John and probably talk a lot of nonsense and as I sit here and imagine you taking me in your arms and kissing me. Well,  I realise how badly I want and need you my love. Russell says I’m so nervy and makes allowances for all my shortcomings.

Oh, Joyce’s baby is expected end of June I think. She does not show at all because I think she’s always fattish. She seems very calm. I only hope I shall be as calm when I am that way again. I often think that if I had had another baby soon after Anthony I should not have worried. It’s getting on for six years now since Anthony was born.

Well, I really must stop and get Anthony to bed as it’s seven o’clock. He is making an awful mess playing some game.

By the way, why not send Mrs.Jones some tea? Her address is 88, Girton Avenue, Queensway, London NW9. Also, what about the Briggs? 146 Ainsworth Road, Bury, Lancs.

Elsie is going to live at Cincinnati after the war and wants us to go and see her. She is now Mrs. Schurmer.

Freda’s bull terrier died last wee from an epidemic that was going around dogs in town.

We are busy in the garden these days sowing seeds, digging etc. Although actually Russell is doing all of it.

Well, sweet, I must stop as Anthony seems precariously near breaking the window in his game.

All my love sweetheart is yours. God bless you and bring you home soon.

Ever your loving wife,

Janie xxxx

PS I have arranged with my mother for you to meet Anthony. Mother won’t “know” you. Oh John, I wonder what your first reaction will be when you see him. Remember, you will have to find Mother first otherwise you won’t know if it is Anthony or not. Can’t I join Mother and Anthony and “not notice” you joining us a bit later? I do so want to watch Anthony and you together. Bless both of you. I love you both terribly. 

PPS All being well, if Russell is still here, we are going to a Grand Ball at the Regal on April 4th. I shall probably wear my green velvet evening frock. Russell hates going yo dances without me as I am the only one who can dance his intricate steps!! I have asked Mother if she can come down and look after Anthony. 

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

War news at this time the 3rd March saw Manila fully liberated. 
Also on this date the Battle of Meiktila, Burma came to an end with General Slim’s troops overwhelming the Japanese; the road to Rangoon was now cleared.
On 4th March Finland declared war on Germany, backdated to September 15, 1944.

Mr.Palmer was the locum optometrist in Cranmers Opticians while John was away in the army.

Same as usual

4th March 1945

My Darling Janie,

Very many thanks for your letter dated 23rd February. It was a very sweet letter indeed. I shall reply to it later on.

I received a letter from my dad today and he seems to be full of beans. He says he has written to you. He hasn’t as yet received a letter from you.

All goes well with me here. The weather is definitely getting warmer. In fact full battledress isn’t really necessary now.

Yesterday I received two parcels of tobacco from you darling. I received four tins of ‘4 square’ Blue tobacco. I’ve a tin of Three Nuns ti finish before I get cracking on it. The other packet has four tins Barneys mixture but I can only guess that it was from your mum and dad and Russell, So you can see that I am very well off for tobacco sweetheart.

Now here’s something to tickle your ears. Another thirty five of the lads I brought out with me from England are now on their way back to England again. But of course none of them are officers and that makes a great deal of difference. But still it shows the direction in which the wind is blowing. Nevertheless continue only to expect me when you see me, then there will be no disappointment.

This Sunday has again been a pleasant easy day with ideal weather. You really wouldn’t believe there was a war on around here.

So glad Russell is enjoying his job. Do tell me more about it.

I’m reading a Sinclair Lewis book called Bethel Merriday. I think you might enjoy it my sweet.


Bethel Merriday

Harry Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885 – January 10, 1951) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Do let me know what records Russell has been adding to the collection. I shall be interested to know what stuff he goes for.

The Mrs.Palmer-to-be seems to be causing the old man a pretty average number of headaches, poor old chap. I suppose I shouldn’t ave any sympathy for him but I have.

I’m so glad that Anthony is really enjoying school now and I’m glad darling that you are giving him some tips to look after himself.


Anthony was at school in St.Theresa’s Convent in Minehead, now Minehead First School.

I’ve been thinking sweetheart, I hope that my bike is in some sort of order and will be able to do another turn before it goes where all good bicycles go. You see it will be rather far to walk home to lunch and back and even if we had a car it would be too short a run for car. So I’m thinking that the bike will have to come bad into use again.

I’m sorry that your back is troubling you again or should say continues to trouble you sweetheart but I dip wish you’d leave treatment until the buzz bombs are done and then spend a week or two in town.

When I get back we really must get cracking on some treatment really seriously. We can’t have it going on indefinitely like this. 

Well sweetheart I do hope you’ll excuse this slightly shorter letter in view of the fact that I’ve been doing better of late and am rather tired.

All my love you know is yours sweethearts and our little boy’s. Take great care and I still remain your very own,

Johnnie xxxx

Not to be reproduced without permission