Family Magazine

Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Oh, to Devastate an Apple Pie”

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.

Great news this week as my dad finally tracked down both Joe’s Log Book AND medals. I have posted them into this week’s letter. I am thrilled to now have everything all together safely. My

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Aunt (Joyce, Joe’s sister) also handed me a precious package filled with the letters she received from Joe all those years ago. I shall incorporate them in the right chronology as the time comes.

In this letter, Joe is several months into his RAF experiences and is now stationed at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, where the crew are completing their training on Lancaster bombers before active operations begin.

Letter 55 – 20th August 1944

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Letter transcript:

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“Back at Heyford.

Hello Mom.

I have just been to the phone to give you a ring. I got thro’ but you had gone. I left a message too, I guess you’ve got it by now. I got that parcel of laundry after so long today. It has been at Heyford all the time but the parcel was in such a mess it couldn’t be sent on to me at Barford. The other day I washed my socks and put ‘em on again as soon as they got fairly dry!! Crude but effective!

Well, I hope to be home on Tuesday but for how long I still don’t know. jean is coming on Wednesday and said she will send a telegram to tell the time of the train.

We have had one hell of a time getting cleared from Barford. We all have a printed paper with the names of different parts of the Training Wing and ‘Drome on it. Against each place name we must get an officer signature to prove we have got cleared at that particular section or on the particular subject if it is at the School. As you can imagine, we have been walking miles trying to catch half of ‘em. Oh! Boy was I cheesed!! Now we’re here at Heyford we have got another form to clear us here!! It’s bigger than the other too!

Well I guess this is where I finish for tonight. Hoping to see you soon. By the way can you arrange for me to ‘devastate’ an apple pie and some bacon and eggs?! You know the sort of things!

Cheerio and God bless,

Love Joe xxxx

P.S. I had no ink so I had to borrow a pencil.”

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Such an enormously inefficient way of signing off trainees! A bit of ‘job creation’ perhaps? Joe looks set to demolish some home cooking and replenish the sock drawer on his leave. It now sounds a fairly run of the mill event to be joined by Jean, which is lovely.

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

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