Family Magazine

Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Long Johns? Are You Kidding Me?!”

By Saveeverystep @saveeverystep

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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 has left Stranraer in Scotland and moved (again). He is 6 months in to his RAF experiences and is wearing his stripes with pride.

Letter 39 – 15th June 1944

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Letter transcript:

“3050664 Sgt. Thompson

c/o Sergeants Mess

RAF Station

Upper Heyford


Night Weds.

Dear Mom and Kids,

The first day is over. Only just. Gosh, some day! First we had some special photos taken. Can’t tell you about that. Shhh!! We then had our docs signed in and our pay-books checked. Still don’t know the next pay-day. nobody does or so it seems!! We then had a Dental Inspection and dang me if I’m not due for a tiny filling! I’m haunted by all the stooge Dentists in this RAFF racket!!! After that we had our F.F.I and medicals. Then came dinner. Oh boy, some meal! After dinner we had a long security lecture, after that cam e a Kit inspection and after that came a Flying Clothing check-up! We then staggered off for tea. Oh boy, some  tea!!!

After we had partially recovered we went to the stores for a nice(?) big pile of extra flying clothing!! How I shall get home with that, I don’t know. It consists of 3 sets of what we call Long Johns. Those are long wool pants and vests! Blimey they make me cringe to think of ‘em! Thank goodness we only use ‘em on ‘ops’. We have also had a large thick heavy polo neck sweater! An oxygen mask – inter-comm and emergency oxygen  tube came last of all. I can’t get the darned stuff into my Kit bags!!! Hell what a time! 

By the way, while I think about it we are due for a day off next Tuesday. I say due. I may try to stagger in the general direction of Northfield. Keep your eyes skinned for a physical wreck in his best blue. If the day off is stopped I shall let you know.

Has Jean written yet? If she is still away I guess not. I wrote her last night and I guess I shall tonight too! I’m writing this in our Mess bar. Not a bad place at all. Tomorrow we get  about 8 hours on guns alone besides other stuff. Yes, we have to work here. 

When we start our flying we do  3-4-6 and 8 hours trips each time. Our trips may be out over the North sea for a bit then across England to the Irish sea and up north or anywhere. You can go a long way at 200 mph. for 6 to 8 hours!!! I’ll tell you all about the trips when I start.

Guess I’m run dry for news but I’ll write tomorrow if I can swipe some ink!

Til then Toodle-oo.

Love Joe xxxx”

*The F.F.I. (or Free From Infection) was a regular inspection carried out on servicemen. Men were required to strip (apart from their socks and boots) and be inspected for the presence of sexually transmitted diseases. Nice.

Settled in to his new base at Upper Heyford, Joe is finding out what it means to be Ops-ready. He is clearly taken aback by the amount of flying kit that they are expected to need (let alone carry) and obviously delighted at the prospect of wearing woolly Long Johns under his flying suit! Perhaps he will learn to love them when it’s 30 degrees below?

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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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