Family Magazine

Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Stripes and Beret in the Bag!”

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 is now stationed at Stranraer in Scotland, some 5 months in to his RAF experiences. His Air Gunnery School training (phase 4 of his training) has commenced and he has finally got up in the air….

Letter 37 – 23rd May 1944

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Letter transcript:

“The same dump.

Dear Mom and kids,

I got your letter (of Sunday afternoon) today and I’m answering the other one of yours now while I have the time and at last a pen that writes!

Well the exams are over and I have been told that I’ve passed although I don’t get my stripes and beret til about Friday. I did very well in the Sighting exam which came as a surprise to me! I also did well in Aircraft

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Recognition but I have known nearly all the aircraft we learn for years as you know and as I am interested in the subject it comes easy to me.

I came third in Aircraft Range Estimation and that was quite a shock in its own as I thought I was all hell of a duffer on it. On Ballistics I didn’t do too bad but on Pyro’s I didn’t do so good either!!

Guns and gun maintenance went off pretty fair and so did my hydraulics and turrets. I shan’t know my exact percentage til tomorrow and as you can imagine I’m all on edge!

I guess my writing isn’t up to much cos I’m sitting in a daft position but I think you will be able to decipher it! By the way Joe Lee has got through ok too. Actually we took ‘Boards’ in 11 subjects but I can tell you more about those soon. Yes I HOPE to be home on Saturday 27th morning around 8 or 9am. I mean THIS Saturday!

If you see Buster tell him not to be too anxious about joining up because an AGS course is NOT a piece of cake the same as it used to be in the old d

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ays!! That is real ‘gen’, it will have taken me about 22 weeks to pass as an AG and I haven’t finished training yet by a long stretch! The whole of this course now is damned hard and I’m not kidding. There’s a lot of difference in 12 and 22 weeks as the course USED to last. Still I guess he’s clever.

By the way you must have misunderstood my other letter ‘cos I can’t remember having trie ‘palm’ Marie off on to Joe Lee?! I don’t intend to!

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Had a letter from Bert Thomas a day or so ago, I suppose you know about his accident. It surprised me.

I went to see the ‘Keeper of the Flame’ last night and have just come back from seeing ‘My Friend Flicka’. I thought they were a couple of good pictures myself!

My teeth by the way have been ‘finished with’ as the dentist said and that is a relief anyway!!

Guess I haven’t much more to say so til I come home Sat: cheerio and God bless.

Love Joe xxxx

P.S. I’m no writer!

Eggs & bacon?!”

The pictures here show Air Gunners training with clay pigeons in grounded turrets, and the ‘drogue’ that would have been used for mid-air target practice. Once grounded, the drogue was examined for bullet holes.

Joe seems more than a little relieved and surprised to have passed his exams! How handsome he would look with his new stripes. These intensive training courses must have been incredibly hard work, and yet these boys who made it to Sergeant during wartime had their stripes removed shortly after peace was returned.

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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 beautiful and 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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