Family Magazine

Joe’s Letters, WWII: “A Scorched Backside & Pigs’ Toenails”

By Saveeverystep @saveeverystep

family stories

A bit of background for newcomers

Joe (aka ‘Mac’ to his RAF comrades) was my Uncle, but we never met. His precious letters have come into my possession some near-70 years after they were written. It is my honor to transcribe them, and the poignancy of hindsight about what happened to Joe makes this all the more difficult to write, but all the more important that I do. One letter will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done.

Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

In this letter, Joe  is 6 months in to his RAF experiences and is wearing his newly acquired Sergeant stripes with pride. He is now stationed at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire.

Letter 42 – 23nd June 1944

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family stories
family stories

Letter transcript:

“Same Place.


Dear Mom and Kids,

Hello, how’s things at ’16′? The weather here is terrific hot all the day and every day. It can stay like it for me! I’m getting a tan the hard way while it lasts!!

Today we went down to those 400 yard ranges as I said we would. We had a great time; doing nothing for about 4 hours!!! The trouble was we kept setting fire to the grass with tracer. Gosh it spread like a forest fire and we had quite a time chasing it but sometimes it chased us too!! I had quite a shock myself! While beating out a lot of flames the grass had caught behind me and consequently I got the ‘Hot Seat’!! Oh boy, I must have jumped

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about 6 feet!! Of course the rest all got a laugh but a ‘Hot Seat’ is a ‘Hot seat’ all the same! I was pretty mucky after that so after tea I had a bath. Good old carbolic!

By the way when you answer this letter it may be some time before I get it as when it arrives we will probably be at Barford. Write all the same. I shall send you my new address just as soon as I can get it. I shall write from here a few more times yet, all the same.

That 10/- is sure coming in useful!! I just paid a Mess bill! Only 2/6. Not bad considering the food and service we get. I hope the food at Barford has improved by the time we get there!! Today we had for dinner:- Roast pork, stuffing (good too!), cabbage, roast spuds and some nice onion gravy. The sweet wasn’t too bad and we had the usual bread and cheese and a ‘cupper tea’ to follow. We had cold pork and salad for tea. There was brawn too but I always think of pigs’ toe nails when I see it!

I guess I’m stuck for real news at this place. I can’t even get inspiration!! By rights we get paid tomorrow. I hope!!!

By the way if I get a chance (and some spare money) I’ll ring you up some time while I’m here. I may as well ‘cos it isn’t too far!! Well I’m afraid this is all for tonight so cheerio.

Love Joe xxxx

P.S. 3011227 Sgt Lee

c/o Sgts mess

RAF Station



Drop him a line if you have the urge!”

Sounds like a hoot for the lads but a sore backside for Joe! Lesson learned there, methinks! Sgt Lee was Joe Lee, with whom our Joe was best friends throughout their training. They have now joined separate units and Joe Lee appears to have been sent to Silverstone (now the legendary Grand Prix race track). I am trying to trace Joe Lee and/or his family, with the little information I have to go on….

family stories, joseph

To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story.

He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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Tagged: 1940s, family, genealogy, history, Joe, letters, memories, nostalgia, Royal Air Force, stories, World War II, writing home

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