War letters

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Sue
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War letters

Post by Sue » 18 Feb 2014, 17:28

I have recently plucked up courage to read through the suitcase of letters left to me by my Dad. Some have been particularly moving. Others have brought a laugh such as my dad signing himself as SUNNY JIM, as a child. My Dads family were prolific writers so I have a wealth of historical documents to work through. One I published on this site last week, but will put another copy here. However I will start with my Dads initial training with the RAF
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Sue
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Re: War letters

Post by Sue » 18 Feb 2014, 17:30

Dad received his call up papers in March 1940, ( RAF number 991804, Rank A.C.2) the day his paternal grandmother died. He was required to attend the RAF recruit centre at Padgate on April 8th from where he was later sent for initial training at Morecambe. Letters show that he attended his medical at 2.15 pm on March 21st where he was declared Grade I fit. Therefore I assume that his initial 6 week intensive training took place later that month and into May. A letter written towards the end of this time describes this training process.

Morecambe
Tuesday
Dear Mother and All

Received your parcel and letter today- and herewith enclose further samples. We are very very busy here, we only get about half an hour for lunch and very rarely get a rest at all during the day so from the word 'shun' at 7.45 to' Dismiss' at 5.15 we are on the go. This is what is known as intensive training and believe me it certainly knocks seven bells out of you. We are being passed out some time next week and in the short time we have been here we will have done a normal peace time 8 weeks drilling. Then in the evening to clean all the equipment etc takes about three hours and then you're ready for bed. In addition to which, if it is your day on house duties you've pots to wipe and potatoes for next day to peel. When I do potatoes I always do plenty and we get plenty of dinner next day and they say I do 'em well too- I should! We cannot remuster in Morecambe for Flight Mechanics but must wait until posted so it looks as if at first I shall be doing cookhouse jobs etc. We don't know where we are going either. Last Sunday we were inoculated in the behind and we couldn't walk it was so painful. We have got over that but the vaccination still hurts. No- I have not written to Aunties E and C yet, you see all the time I get for letter writing is between 6-0p.m and 6-45 and if we listen to the news - well. I'll try and write though but you see if they came up here I can't guarantee to see them because near Saturday we are working all day and Sunday we shall have all our kit inspected and perhaps another inoculation for the weekend ready for the C.Os inspection. So I'd rather wait a bit. Do you know since I've been here I've only been out twice. Last Sunday afternoon to a concert and one night the previous week to pictures. We are so tired we are glad to be in bed at 9-0pm. Thank you for the bill for the dentist but it is alright that is the amount I paid him and he put that amount through to make it right so I know about it. I'm glad Peter is better ( Peter was the family dog) and sorry the car couldn't be ready before I leave here. The food here is lovely, beautifully cooked very much like yours but I could sometimes eat a few chips, or some savoury stew like you turn out, with dumplings. That's one of the meals I'm ordering when I come home. I don't know when though. We have not been paid yet (2 shillings per day during initial training) and we still have not (got) to make allotments but they are very long winded in the Cash Dept. I have not had anytime for the girls here, all the nice ones seem to stay indoors and I don't blame them. The others throw themselves at you but I see that they miss me.

Love Jim
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Sue
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Re: War letters

Post by Sue » 18 Feb 2014, 17:31

Sheffield Blitz

During the Sheffield Blitz, Dad was on duty at a Barrage Balloon centre which was part of No 16 Balloon centre based at Norton. There were several sites through out the city that were linked to this centre .There were 300 men from each of 939, 940 and 941 squadrons of the RAF making up the unit. I think Dad was stationed in 939 Squadron which was based on Attercliffe Road , Sheffield. The blitz took place over the nights of the 12thh and 15th of December 1940. On the night of the 12th December almost 50 balloons were hit and damaged by shrapnel from our anti aircraft defences. The day after Dad wrote a letter to his mother, Nellie, dated 14th December 1940. She copied it out I presume to send copies to members of her family such as other sons and sisters living in Burnley. I have a copy of this letter and this is what it says.

Dear All
Just a line thats all. As you can see I am OK up to press. I was on duty through it all last Thursday night. We got the red warning at 7.3 and they were over immediately, At the beginning of the raid we were the first to be hit. They dropped several incendiaries on our building but our lads had them out in double quick time. The guard put five out straight away on the road by putting dust bin lids over them. But it was all to no purpose. Ours being a residential district, there were soon four fires burning all around us. One of the St Marks Church was burning like fury. Of course when Jerry came later he made straight for our end of the city where the fires were. Soon all the shops on the Moor were blazing so he made them his target. About 9 O' clock I got a phone message,
“ Big waves of bombers approaching” “ Take all cover” .Of course I was on duty-it would be my night. Soon after that we heard the planes and shortly there was a terrific crash outside. The first of many and in came the windows and part of the frame. It blew my colleague off his chair (he was nearest) and he bumped into me and we both went on the floor. Luckily we had a cloth blackout over our side or we might have got cut. We put the blackout up again straight away as we were showing a light and found we were still on the phone. After that it was one long succession of thuds which shook the building. Then in a lull we went outside and Ye Gods all the city was burning the length of the Moor. Our H.Q. is ringed by craters and we were lucky not to have a direct hit. The phone went dead about 1.00a.m but we still had a private wire to our control room. The C.O up there kept in touch with me all the time. By this time we were in the passage outside my office because there was a danger of glass, and I was blown out once more when I went to answer the phone. Then things went fairly quiet until about 4,00 a.m., a delayed action bomb went off next door. I thought it was all over and got under the staircase and held my tin helmet on and hoped. The building sprayed us with bricks and clods of earth (it was mainly in the garden). It blew up two of our motor transports and badly injured three of our men. At 4.30 the All Clear went and so I went down to the hospital with the injured and got a lift part way home. My! !hat a journey but I walked home the rest of the way. It was terrible . Fires burning everywhere, but the worse place was the casualty ward in the hospital. The injured I mean. Anyway I got home, safely ( after walking past umpteen delayed action bombs) about 7.00 o'clock and found everyone O.K.
That's about all I know. I've seen the damage but the others can describe that. But what shocked me most of all was that hospital. I'll not go into details but I hope I never have to go in again.
I am now going back on duty. Three of our lines are now working so I will say Cheerio!
Jim
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Sue
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Re: War letters

Post by Sue » 18 Feb 2014, 17:37

My mum, Sallie became engaged on her 21st birthday, April 1944. John , her fiancée was a musician and song writer. Here are two letters written to her. It was very difficult for me to read these letters as I have never read them until I wrote this article. I feel like I am prying into a secret and private world of my Mum. However the war letter is a piece of history and I have added it to my essay that I wrote last week I hope eventually to have this article published in the U3A magazine

A Poem sent to Sallie

POEM REMOVED

It was this same year, in September, that tragedy struck. John was killed on the Western Europe Campaign, I believe, blown up by a hand grenade as he tried to throw it away from where it had landed near his comrades.

Probably Johns last letter

Pte Oldfield J 4399527
A.COY 9. Platoon
7th Green Howards
B.L.A.

Sunday 2.00pm 3.9.44

My own Dearest Sallie

First of all love I must explain for the queer writing, I am resting the pad on my knee so I cannot write so good, anyway sweetheart to continue. I received two letters from you which were addressed to the Green Howards Nos seven and eight, just at present I am sat in a field the sun is lovely and warm today, the lads in the platoon seem to be having an argument with the CQrms. They seem to think they are not getting their rations, admitted we are not doing as well as we used to do when I was in the Yorks. but we have to think that we are advancing pretty quickly as you will have heard on the wireless and our supplies have to be brought a great deal further than they used to have to bring them, anyway love I don't think we shall starve although we aren't getting a lot of food. Well love I will try to tell you as much about what I am doing and where we are and where we have been as far as possible, as you seem to be a little curious (a previous letter from Sallie in late August had asked these questions). We are now somewhere nearest to the Belgium border than the place where I joined this battalion which was about 40 miles the other side of the river Seine. Since then we have been to quite a few towns and villages, most of them I cannot remember the names of, as they are such funny names but where --- we have been we have always been very much welcomed with wine, flowers and handshakes, At a place called ALBERT where we was a short time ago, about s big as Rotherham we was having a fine time, we had to clear the town of Jerries first, but the free French helped us quite a lot in rounding them up, me got about fifty to eighty jerries from the town and there was quite a lot of equipment lost be Jerry, that is to say Jerries stuff not ours. Before I came to this battalion I went to quite a few places in Southern France, Caen and Cherbourg and Bayeux and stacks of villages around them. By the way love, I haven't received your parcel yet and it must be a fortnight since you sent it. I hope it doesn't get lost.
The country here is very much like England, in fact there is no difference at all. French girls dress exactly the same as you do love, they paint and powder up just the same, their clothes are just the same, the men wear the same clothes as we do in England with the exception of one thing and that is that they wear quite a few black berets instead of a mick (?) hat or flat cap. They are very religious and go to church regular. Oh there is a hundred and one things I can tell you about the life out here but I cannot write it down on paper, the war will be soon be over now so I will wait until I get back and then tell you.
I am glad our Connie ( John's sister, who is still alive)is enjoying life on the farm( where Sallie was in the Land army). I suppose she will have gone back by now.
We don't do any marching while Jerry is retreating so fast , we ride in trucks. If we didn't we would never be able to catch up with him. All we are doing is mopping up pockets of resistance, collecting all the Jerries. As the armies go pushing on the lads take all manner of things from the prisoners such as matches and cigarette lighters, belts , photos and their wallets. They practically strip them of all their personal belongings. Some of the Jerries put up a fight when we are mopping them up and others just walk up with their hands above their heads. Many of them only lads of sixteen or seventeen and are frightened to death of course. That is only some of them. There is the other type who will fire on you till he has used up his last round and then he comes out from hiding. Well I shall have to close now, love, so look after yourself, All my devoted love

Your own loving Johnnie
X X X X X X X X

John's death was announced in the Sheffield Star on September 27th, some three weeks later.
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LizG
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Re: War letters

Post by LizG » 19 Feb 2014, 06:52

You're very lucky to have the opportunity to read these, sad though it may be. Keep reading, you'll find they fill in holes in your history.
Liz

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Wendyf
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Re: War letters

Post by Wendyf » 19 Feb 2014, 08:42

I still haven't got down to looking at the hundreds of letters my parents sent to each other. I really want to read them while Mum is still alive to answer my questions, but it does seem like I'm intruding on some very private stuff.

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Sue
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Re: War letters

Post by Sue » 19 Feb 2014, 08:50

I removed the poem I added because I decided it was too personal
If you keep searching you will find it

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