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2nd October 1943

Dear Olive,
Well love I have at last received my airmail form but couldn't get last weeks so you will just have to make twice the fuss of this. I think I told you in my Airgramme that I had had your seventh letter also one from Mam. I'm glad you give me all the titbits about you all and I would love to see our baby Michael progressing and Sheila with Scottie. I bet Sheila and David have a lot of fun together like Keith and Colin did. I hope Keith will soon receive the letter I sent him although I think it will take about three weeks to get home to you each week.

 I'm sorry to hear about Ernie and have sent a letter to the address you gave me in the hope that he will get it before he leaves. He is about 200 miles from me so there is no chance of getting to see him. In any case by now I'm hoping he is well again and there is nothing serious about his illness.

 I see Mabel has written to me but I have not had it yet. I've had Mam's airmail dated September 15th and if Mabel's was an airmail I should have had it by now. Airgraphs seem to take about 14 days to come.

 Well love I'm still seeing films and on Thursday night I saw 'Holiday Inn' for the third time. It was better watching it this time as the weather was better. I don't mind how many times I see a film if is good and it certainly passes the time. I went last night and saw Abbot and Costello in 'In the Navy'. It was a good laugh and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

 There was a new moon and I turned over my little wad of francs. I didn't bother to draw my money this week and am going to see how long I can manage without it and then I may be able to send some home for Christmas from Daddy to the family. I don't think I shall be able to get anything out here to send home for your birthday, love, unless that chap turns up by then with that little present I bought on the boat.

 Still you know, love, even if I can't send you a gift, all my love is for you and I think of you night and day until we take up our partnership again in peace. I don't think I shall hate sand enough not to ever go to the seaside again. In fact one of our happiest holidays was spent at Mablethorpe with Keith and I want to see Sheila and Michael playing about the same way as Keith did with him as the older brother building the same castles and trains for them to sit in.

 We both will get as much enjoyment as they will in helping and sitting back in pride at the antics of out lovely little family. I often dream about it and I know that you do too. We will both have our worries and trouble to go through until then and I am proud of you making such a good job and putting on such a brave smile at home to keep it ready for me to share.

 I guess Keith will wear out the toes of his shoes many times yet but I expect that in England the weather will be too unsettled for playing outside on the lawn. He's a good kid and tell him and Sheila daddy will need the longest stories they have to make up for the time he didn't read to them. I see he has made a mess of his knee again and hope that nature has cured it as he won't let anyone else.

 Well love I managed to get half a day off yesterday after about three weeks without one and I went for a bathe with the corporal but the sea was rather rough and we just played about near the edge and had a good soak and lay on the sand afterwards for about an hour watching the waves and daydreaming. I can never realise the distance between us and I'm glad as I never feel lonely and alone especially as receiving you airmails brings us together. 

I'm fit and well and looking after myself. I am not in need of much except I would like a writing pad if you can send one sometime as writing paper and envelopes are almost non existent out here.

 I'm sorry to hear Mrs Gill is bad and hope she will get over her operation successfully. If I hear from Ernie I will let you know at once. I guess I had better close now. Keep smiling sweetheart and chin up until that day dawns. God bless you all and keep you safe.

10th October 1943 

Well love how are you after your cold. I spent an hour last night reading your airmail dated September 25th which I received on the 8th October picturing the family group around the fire after sipping the milk while you read the bedtime story. It brings it home to me how much I'm missing while I am away from you all and which I will never be able to catch up with. But for all that the next best thing is to get your letters telling me all the little things which I can base my picture on.

 I bet you and Keith laughed when Sheila threatened to smack his bottom. I feel more than thankful every day that we had her. She is so loveable and sweet and tell her and Keith that daddy will expect to get all the hundreds of kisses they are saving up for him when he gets home besides all those they have given you on your left cheek to pass on.

 Baby Michael seems to be showing signs of beating them in weight and we are a lucky pair to be blessed with such a grand little family. I should love to hear Keith reading his book and hope by now he has the letter which I sent to him and he is able to read it all by himself. I am looking forward to getting his letter which I am sure will be worth reading.

 I am please to hear that Ernie is getting on well and I'll let you know if I hear from him.

 Well love I'm sorry you didn't get any airmail one week but you'll know from letters I've sent since the reason. I went into town yesterday but the only thing I could get was a hair cut. presents were almost unobtainable and it wasn't worth buying the things they did have as a handbag cost about 1500 francs (£7.10.0) and my credits haven't reached that yet. Still I'm hoping to get you some little presents before long although I'm afraid it won't be in time for your birthday. We did see a few lemons but they are hardly ready for sending yet.

 I saw two films this week 'The Glass Key' and George Formby in 'Much Too Shy'. I guess I am just as up to date on films as you are.

 I have now replied to all the letter which I have had including Mabel's and Mam's. Airmails get here much quicker than Airgraphs so when they write again I would rather have airmails than Airgraphs as they can tell me more news.

 I only got one or two shells so far and can see I'll have to start collecting them in earnest if Keith is to get a boxful and Sheila won't think much of her daddy. I'd love to see her on Keith's bike and am sure that we will soon have to look around for one for her and pass the little one on to Michael.

 I've done my washing for the week but they have now arrange to get it done for us so we won't be scrubbing away with a bucket of cold water in future.

 Well sweetheart it is now Sunday morning after the quietest Saturday nights I've ever had here and that's saying something. We dashed around after tea and getting washed and making our beds and 7 pm went to see a film show. It started to rain a bit so I went back for the gas capes and nearly got back to the show a I saw everyone coming away as the film show had been cancelled.. We then walked back to the quiet tent but there were no seats and from there we walked to the YMCA tent. As it happened this was also shut and so we sat on the sand just feeling sorry for ourselves watching the lamp. Then they took the lamp away so we walked back to the tent, got into bed about 8 pm and talked for an hour or so before going to sleep.

 While we were waiting outside the canteen in town yesterday we watched twenty Arab kiddies playing about and one little lad about as big as Sheila was making us laugh as he was trying to fight the older lads, None of them wear shoes and their feet are as tough as anything. They did a bit of pilfering of lemons from a tree inside a garden near by until one of then was nabbed by the owner and taken to the police. Soon after the policeman came round clearing them all way and some of them he caught had a smacked bottom. A few of them escaped by dodging amongst the queue of soldiers and we had a lot of fun about it all.

 Well love I hope to attend my usual church service tonight and I'll be close in my thoughts to you there. Loads of kisses for you all

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12th October 1943

Well love here's our midweek little chat. Have you got over your cold yet. I wish I could have been at home to make the fuss of you you deserve. I had quite a postbag yesterday, an airmail each from Mabel and Mr Plaskett and a letter from Bob. He told me Walter was about to join the navy and said he was keeping a good look out for me when some of the boats from the convoy put into Gib. Mabel told me how thrilled Keith was with his letter and Mr Plaskett mentioned the fruit and vegetable show the ARP held. Did you show my onions ?

It is quite English weather here at the moment with showers and sunshine. I went to the church service on Sunday and I like it more each time I go. We joined the library on Monday night and later in the writing room there was a Brains Trust. We had a few good laughs and it was a change. There was a film show last night " The Invisible Agent " but the sound track was nearly worn out and we had to imagine most of what was said.

Well love I hope you get my birthday greeting. I know it is a poor effort but you know all my love is in it and that's the chief thing. The gift will have to come later.

Well love I am still well and walking around in my boy scout outfit. I wish I could get a snap taken but am afraid it's hopeless.

Keep smiling sweetheart, time marches on. Chins up till we are all together again.  God Bless.

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18th October 1943

Well love here's my weekly airmail and I held it over until today in case I heard from you, I am pleased to say I had your airmail which you had marked AM1 and thoroughly enjoyed reading about your games with the kiddies. I would have loved to see Keith and Sheila looking for the bobbin and Michael knocking over Keith's bricks. Tell Keith I hope he carries on helping you by being good to Sheila and Michael and I bet he is a proud lad when he takes the register to Miss Bamford.

I'm expecting to have a letter from Keith before long and tell him I'll read all his John Bull stories for him when I get home although I expect he will be reading them himself to Sheila. By the way love will you note my amended address for future letters.

I have not been able to get into town for the last week or so but will let you know when I send a few lemons home. I've not tasted any yet nor even an orange but should be doing so any time now.

I hope you got my little birthday card but if not let me wish you sweetheart a very happy birthday and lots of love to you and pray god I'll be home well before your next birthday to give you my love myself.

I shall be glad to hear how Ernie is getting on and I expect his wound must be rather serious for him to be sent back to the UK. I only hope he is on the upgrade and the wound isn't as serious as it sounds. How did Harry like his Home Guard duties? I can just imagine him getting ready on a Sunday morning and Mabel making sure he's as smart as a husband of a Mason should be. Tell Harry to laugh that off. 

I'm glad your cold is a little better and hope the weather at home is not too bad. We are getting plenty of sunshine still here and although it gets cold in the night it is more like early September in September.

I went to my usual church service last evening and I always feel close to you there as the hymns are always suitable also the prayers and as the clocks here are an hour in advance of  English time it would be just after 6pm at home when the service begins so I can visualize you and the kiddies after tea clearing up for bedtime.

I am still fit and well and I forgot to mention a delicacy we get in abundance. Onion Sauce. We gt it on corn beef pasties, sausage rolls and on meat so you can tell I'm enjoying quite a lot of food which wouldn't taste half as nice without it. We get porridge nearly every money besides powdered egg and fried bread or bacon and beans, a light lunch about 12.15pmand a good dinner at 5.15pm. The jam roll they serve here with custard is quite as good if not better than the ones we had at Weedon and altogether I think the cooks do us very well.

Last night we heard jackals howling somewhere in the distance. Apparently they hear them a lot around here at nights. They are I believe about as big as a fox but they are so frightened at anything not many chaps I know have ever seen one.

I am still working on the same job with Corporal Dickinson from Birmingham and we go out together when there is a picture show on or we have a quiet read in the rest tent. We have just seen Kay Kyiser and his band in a film which wasn't too bad and in any case it passes the time away.

I see you are sending a parcel which I think will take 5-6 weeks to get here. Of course if I move in the meantime it will take a little longer. I try to get your air letter done at the weekend love but sometimes when we are busy it is Monday before I can get going on it like tonight.

I've written to Bob and hope to write a few more letters to the others during the week.

Have you heard where Arthur Hull is. Perhaps Peggy could get to know. Well sweetheart I guess that's all I can put in this letter. Keep smiling love and god bless you and the kiddies till we are together again.

All my love and thoughts are with you.

Well love I've started this letter a bit early this week as it has to be done on bits and pieces when I have the time. I know, dear, that this letter will not reach you before your birthday but I will be thinking of you especially next Saturday when you have all your cards and good wishes and reach your prime old age of 33. It doesn't seem over seven years since we were married and so much has happened since then. We have had a happy time together even if I did appear to take things for granted and you've not had much time to spare with bringing up three kiddies besides looking after me. 

Don't let this war get on your nerves too much, love. I know sometimes you must think that it is never going to end but it has taught me one thing at least, how much you mean to me. I'll try when we get back to peacetime conditions to show you just how much I do care even if I'm not give much to making a fuss in the usual way. I would just like the chance of running round the pantry to see if there was a bit of custard pie or jam tart left which I could clear up. I guess Keith sees to it that food like that doesn't get left.

 I had had your air mail last Saturday in which you told me about Ernie arriving from Sheffield. I'm hoping to get another before this is finished so I can reply to it. I don't expect your parcel will be here for two of three weeks but I am looking forward it it. I still haven't been able to get into town to get the lemons but I'll get them somehow.

 Well I hope you are all well and getting a bit of decent weather. here it has been fine all week with the sun still hotter than summer at home but as I am working inside I don't feel the heat much. It gets rather cold in the evening especially if the flap of the tent is open. 

We have been to see two films this week and on Thursday there was a talent competition in the open air and it was a grand night for it with a clear sky and most of the lads were very good. I never realised that there was so much talent in the army. There was also a small ENSA party here yesterday but I was only able to see a bit of the show. Still these things help to make life easier and they are very popular. I've not tried to sing 'The farmer's boy' to them as for one thing I should need about four pints of beer to give me the necessary courage. Also after hearing some of the others I know that |I am not in the same street.

 Well, love, how is our family. Keith, love, I know how clever you are and how you like school. I'm expecting to have a long letter from you with one or two drawings. Do you still go down on your bike to watch the tram points ? Mammy tells me Sheila can ride your bike now and Michael sits up and knocks your bricks down and makes you all laugh. I bet your John Bull book is a beauty. Keep it nice and clean so I can read some of the stories to you when I come home again. 

Sheila, darling do you still give mummy lots of kisses for daddy. Smack Keith's bottom for him if he doesn't eat his dinner and look after baby Michael. You must be a big girlie now and I hope you help mammy all you can. Daddy will send you a letter all to yourself soon.

 I should like to send Harry Quin a line but I can't think of his number Perhaps you will let me know it. Have you had any alterations done to the house yet ? I know you thought about having it repainted but didn't hear whether you had had it done. 

How's your mum and dad these days ? I hope his neuritis is better and he can do his shoe mending again. Does your Mam still bring you the half pint bottle of medicine for you each Wednesday. I have not had a drink for about five weeks and I don't miss it. I am promising myself a good evening out with you when I come back and I hope you don't get tiddly on a couple of halves. I only hope beer is not rationed on that night.

 Sunday. Well love I had Keith's Airgraph and it's lovely. I showed it around to all the lads in to tent and they all asked how old he was and thought he was very clever to write such a neat letter to his daddy. I'll be answering it in a day of two. Mail seems to be very slow in arriving at present. I suspect that I shall get a bunch of them. By the way, love, I've had two oranges this week both rather green a not very big but I'm hoping to improve on the quality and the quantity in the next few days. Don't let the war get you down too much. W e shan't be long now. God bless you and keep you safe.

28th October 1943

Well, love I'm writing this today instead of an airgraph. As you say they get home in 14 days so we will see how this one gets on. As far as I know, I will not be moving from here just yet although it is not possible to say definitely. I know how this separation is hitting us both hard and making us lose our good looks a bit but who cares about little things like that when we get back to each other again. I myself don't feel half so young and handsome as I did but we will quickly get younger again and I don't suppose you will need the powder on your face to make it 'Dopey'92 as Sheila says. I can imagine Keith wanting to take her breakfast to her in bed. I bet she would be a grand sight sitting up like a little lady and eating it all daintily. You know, love, she is going to make a grand daughter in years to come and it's one of the things which I miss taking them out and being congratulated on their well being especially when someone says that they look like me ( I always was vain).

 I see that you are becoming a regular Mrs. Middleton and I'm glad that the cabbages which are a combined affair ( don't forget that I planted them out and weeded them) are doing as well. It's one thing I haven't had out here as beans and peas are the only second veg we get except carrots now and then and most days onion gravy. We get dried egg powder and no fresh eggs but it goes down O.K

 Tell Keith Daddy has fried bread and egg powder for breakfast sometimes and he is eating his dinner so well. Does he have any gravy on it yet or does he still want it dry.

 I went to the pictures yesterday. It was called Pittsburgh with Marlene Deitrich in it and wasn'tt bad at all except it hasn't been as warm in the evenings lately and we have had showers so we have to put our battledress blouses on in the evening.

 There have also been a few quizzes and spelling matches between various side in the quiet tent on some nights and we have some good laughs. I have not been in a team yet, thank heavens, as I might show myself up but I'm quite content to sit and watch. I've not go the box of lemons yet to send you but I've not had a chance yet to go into town for nearly three weeks. I haven't received your parcel or any papers yet but they will arrive in time, never fear.

 I will have to write and than Mrs Plaskett for the 10/- note you have and suggest you keep it towards the kiddies Christmas presents. I'm hoping to send some money along myself later on but at present I'm drawing my wages in case I see something I can buy to send you as a souvenir of this joint. I don't know how you manage to save so much money and the bank balance after the war including my little investments from Faire Brothers and savings certificates should help as well I see that you were thinking of having the house painted. I expect Keith will have plenty of ideas about the colour. 

By the way, love, have you given the allotment up as you said you would. I you do I would let Len know as he will have to give up the other half unless he wants to take up the whole lot as the plot is in my name. If he does we will have a chance of getting it back after the war as we will need one when all out back garden is lawn, rockery and fruit trees.

 I'm glad to hear that Ernie is making such good progress and hope he gets back his health and strength as before. Jack Richardson told me that the nurse at HQR married. Nurse Greenborough from Dunton Basset married her soldier sweetheart and has now left the hospital and is having a baby. There was also a romance between the chap named Jack Rowan who you remember was there in the spinal carriage and Nurse Meadows who was the nurse you saw most when you came to visit me there and a quiet girl but he says her family stepped in and stopped it. I have his address to write future letters to and they will forward them as he shifts about from time to time.

 I see that Keith has had a day out at Bradgate park and I bet Nora had a time looking after them all. Still it doesn't seem to worry her and I guess she is used to noise by now. I will have to thank everybody when I get home for all the things they have done to help us. I've not heard from anyone at Faire Brothers yet and I thought that I might write a letter to stir them up. I see that you are getting your quota of Guinness. . By the way love, don't send any cigs to me as we can get plenty. Writing paper and envelopes are hard to get but I don't thing there is much else I need. You can't very well send over any jam tarts or apple pies which I could just manage nicely. 

All my love. 

1st November 1943

Well, love I had a shower of mail after about 10 days without any. I know how you feel sometimes, love, and I guess it has been my fault in the past not showing how much you do mean to me. I saw a film the other evening where the man was I suppose like me and it wasn't until a woman told him wives didn't like being loved in silence but liked being told just what they meant to their husbands. I certainly made me think and although I can only tell you in letters you are the only one I love and will always be. I will try when we are together again to tell you what I can only tell you now in a letter.

 I don't expect you find life with the kiddies to manage on your own a bed of roses and they must present problems sometimes especially when you are tired after washing and don't feel too grand.

 Well sweetheart, I was thinking about you on Saturday and wished you Happy Birthday in my heart. I went to town in the afternoon but all I could get was a box of lemons to send home. I know it will sound comical but I didn't mean to send them as a birthday present. I'm saving up to buy you something worthwhile for that. I sent a box home early last week and have sent a second box today. I hope they will arrive in good condition but I think it would be best the burn the packing and wash them well before using them in case stray mosquitoes should be inside the box. I've not sent any oranges as I thought you can easily get these in England. Perhaps you will have one or two to spare to give to the family and maybe one or two for the ARP post to raffle off for funds as they have been very good to me since I joined up. 

I had a letter from Harold Simons enclosing a couple of writing pads from Graham Evans so perhaps you will ask Peggy to thank them and I've written a sea mail in reply.

 He told me that Bill Parker (Big Bill from Stuart Street) is expecting to become a father in December so watch the Mercury and let me know when it comes off.. He also tells me that Arthur Hall is at Bradford, Les Kenn at Brinston, Norman White in Sicily, George Henderson in India and Peter Rooke near Cairo. I'm bound to meet a Faire Brothers lad before I've finished ! Walter Kirk is coming abroad with the NAAFI and I guess that will shake him.

 I went to the evening service in the church tent last night and there was a Scottish padre who gave the address. The tent was full and it's funny how each hymn seems to fit in with each ones feelings. We have 'Sun of my soul' and 'From Greenland's Icy mountains' among others and afterwards I went to the quiet tent and wrote to Harold.

 The weather is still quite good and we are still in shorts. I'm looking forward to the photos you are sending. I only wish I could get one done of myself but there doesn't seem to be any chance here. I'll have to tell you what I look like or get one of the chaps to sketch me. One of the chaps had an airgraph from his wife with half of it taken up by her photograph. I don't know how it was done but it came out very well.

 I'm often wondering how long it will be before baby Michael starts trotting along and it must be a job for you at present watching him. I expect you will soon be getting the playpen out and then Sheila will love paying in it with him.

 I see you have had a siren although nothing happened. You've not told me yet how the onions are progressing but expect you have them picked and stored by now. Did Mr. S dig your garden up. Perhaps it is not clear yet but when he does tell him to give it a good dose of lime if you have any left. I did my washing yesterday dinnertime and it's all drying nicely although it's not quite Persil white.

Well Love., I've not mentioned Sheila and Keith. Tell them Daddy loves them and all the kisses you have sent on from them have been taken off the letter by him. I'm longing to get back to you all again and enjoy home life once again

5th November 1943

It seems a miserable day here for Guy Fawkes day with a proper bit of English weather with showers every little while and much colder than normally. Still I prayed for this weather a short time ago but I'm in the wrong country to enjoy it. Well, love I will just have to make the best of it as I know you do in your job.

How are you, love, are you finding the kiddies too much of a handful now and again. I guess you must be and the whole job must get on your nerves sometimes. Don't let yourself get rundown will you without getting a tonic from Dr. Mann. You know love that I'm looking after myself and hoping that the grey hairs on my head don't develop any more and although you have a lot more worries on your shoulders just keep faith and chin up. Sometimes when I am laying down at night in my hard bed I wonder how long it will be before I can slip into the bed at home and feel really content. I don't think I will want to go camping out ever again  and I shall fee like spending a week in bed to get acclimatised again and make up for the time lost. I guess with the three kiddies we shan't be able to toss up to see who gets up first in the
morning to make the breakfast.

I saw another film last night called 'The Pied Piper' and it was a good show. I expect most of the films we see have already been shown in England but as you know I didn't go much while I was in England so they are all new to me

How is the family progressing. I am looking forward to the photos you are sending as I've just received the first batch of papers and John Bull's. I see from the Mercury that a chap named Arthur Mitchell  who worked as a postman at Faire Brothers for years has died. He had been ill for a long time, I know.

I bet the weather here would just suit Keith as he could paddle in his Wellingtons very messily through the stream which is running outside on the road. I'm wondering how I will get down to dinner if it doesn't stop soon. Did Sheila get her Airgraph. I expect Keith will want another now. and I shall have to send him one.

I see in the news today that their was a 1000 bomber raid on Willhemshaven. Did you see many planes going over ? By the way I have just over £4 in credits and £2.10.0 in my pocket which I accumulated since I have been here so if you have any money handy at home (I know you are rolling in it) will you get yourself a Christmas box from me and also the kiddies and I will send along about £5 in two or three week's time. I know Keith is saving for his electric train but I guess he will be pleased with a present from Santa Klaus until he can get one.  I leave it to you, love, as I hear that the authorities are allowing more toys to be made the Christmas.

Will you be able to get the fairy lights mended as I think they went wrong last year. Of course we had other things on our minds then didn't we love. I'll never forget sitting in the kitchen that night with Mrs. Brown waiting to know when the new baby would be born. I hope he doesn't cry at the sight of the strange man when I come home but in any case I can quickly change that, I think. Do you remember Sheila looking frightened the first time I came home,
bless her.

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8th November 1943

I had three letters today love and spent quite an enjoyable half hour reading them. First was you airmail dated October 25th and an airmail letter from our Glad and an airmail from Mam.

I'm glad you enjoyed my birthday greeting love even if it was a bit early. I hope you got many more greetings and had an exciting time with Keith and Sheila opening them.

I guess you had a shock with the open front door and the A.R.P. comes in handy.

Mabel has been a real good pal to us and am glad you are able to enjoy the little treats you do get through her and Bernice. We'll have to look after Harry for them now and again when they go out after the war.

I've heard from Glad about Mrs. Gill and mam tells me Glad doesn't look very grand herself. It's funny you mentioning about the playpen for Michael as I mentioned it in one of my letters about the same time you were writing the letter I've just had. I hope the lemons arrive in good condition. 

You are right I am proud of our family and even more so the mother. You deserve a break after it's all over and I'll do my best sweetheart to see you get it.

As regards leave I've not had any yet and it seems to be given as circumstances permit. If I get any leave I'll see that I am not ashamed of anything I do. You know you can trust me dear in that direction.

One of the chaps has given me a birthday card for Sheila which I shall post in a few days time, let me know what she thinks of it.

I've written to Aggie so she might get it while Ernie's on leave.

Goodnight sweetheart all my love to you and the kiddies. 

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12th November 1943

Well love, it's Friday, pay-day and I had hoped to have had an airmail from you so I can find inspiration. Have you sent me the photos along yet. I'm longing to see them so I can show them around to the other chaps and have a good look at them when I feel a bit homesick.

I have one of my sniffy colds at the moment which make smoking less of a pleasure than usual but I had a couple of aspirins last night, put everything I could over me in bed and feel much better today.

Did I tell you that we have an EFI canteen here now. It's somewhere to go and sit in the day even if it is a long job to get a cup of tea and we generally just sit down and have a game of solo. Although we put the scores down on paper we're not paid out as there is so little in it so we don't bother.

I had a letter from Bob the other day and I should like you to clear up one thing. I had his wife's name down as Hilda instead of Elsie. He had told me in a previous letter that I think it was Walter who had been called up for the Navy but now he says they haven't heard anything at home about it by October 11th. So Walter, Bob's boy and Dennis (Who he's given me the address of in the navy) Harolds lad ? I always did get mixed up a bit between their families. I hope you saw Ernie on his leave and he is OK.

I've been sending off as many Christmas Airgraphs as I can get hold of and have also written an airmail to Glad in reply to hers, Mam and the birthday card to Sheila. The nights are drawing in quickly now as they are at home and we have little to do in the evening.

By the way, Edie in her letter said that you might teach Michael better manners as he did a fire extinguisher act in Winnie's eyes when she came up to see you. I should like to have been there to have heard you all singing even if the Mason well known choir voice was missing.

With regards to staying here, we never know if or when we are moving but if you don't get my usual weekly letter you will know that I may have moved to another address.

Still your letters should be forwarded to me. I haven't heard a report yet about the home guard since Harry joined but I bet he raised a few laughs over it. Have you given your notice to quit the allotment yet ?  I expect you are already looking round the shops to see what you can get for Christmas. That is if you have the time. 

Does Keith still enjoy his school. I can just see him coming in with his boots dirty after splashing his way from school and can hardly realise yet that I have had two winters away from home. I guess I shall miss you more than ever after this winter being out here but I feel it will be the last one and next Christmas I will be helping you to put your feet up in front of the decorations as usual.

I heard them give the football fixtures on the wireless last night and the City are playing Derby County. I think they lost at home last week and I wonder if Harry Quinn went to see them. I've not heard much news of him lately but with night school, and ARP you don't get him popping round as often.

Well Keith, how is your schooling going. Do you still take the register to the Headmistress ?
We have not had any snow here yet. Are you teaching Sheila to draw on the blackboard ? I bet she draws some funny things like you did when you were a little boy. Can she draw engines yet. I'd like to see Sheila playing with baby Michael in the play pen and I guess you have lots of fun. Wait until Michael wants to play with your railway lines. Still by then I would think you would have an electric train. Just be a good boy and look after mummy for me till I come home and then we can all have a real big holiday at the seaside altogether and we will teach Sheila and Michael to make engines and castles in the sand.. Don't forget to give mummy lots of kisses for me.

All my love  to you and all our family.

14th November 1943

What a pleasant surprise when I received your parcel dated October 3rd. It was like opening my xmas stocking and when I saw the pen you have sent me for Christmas I can't tell you how thrilled I was. I am sorry I couldn't tell you I had received it in my airmail letter I sent yesterday but it only arrived this morning and I posted my airmail yesterday.

This letter is the first effort with the pen and thanks sweetheart for it. I am certainly a lucky guy and I'll always love you dear night and day. 

I've not heard it on the wireless yet but one or two chaps who have sang it on stage at camp concerts and it always gives me an excuse for a daydream.

With the weather cooler and more like England I can't think I'm so far away from you all and as there is some good scenery in these parts I can easily imagine myself somewhere in England. As regards staying here, I really don't know how long it will be before I shift but I am definitely not attached to HQ for a posting. I hope to stay on this job for some time as it does mean I get your mail more or less regularly.

Thanks a lot for the watches you've sent love. I'm absolutely set up now with the right time on me and a pen to write letters in comfort in the quiet tent. There is a watch repairers in the town I shall take my watch to and as one of the chaps has given me an old watch which may prove useful to bribe the chap to repair mine.

I hope you will soon receive my boxes of lemons and I thought of getting a packet or two of figs to send along. If I do I don't forget to give them a rinse before using them although they look pretty clean.

Well love after sending your airmail off last night I also had your airmail dated November 1st. and I am pleased you had a nice birthday. I can see Keith saying his card was the best and don't knock his bowl of flowers off the wall, as I will expect to see it when I come home to you. 

Can you remember the trouble we had with Keith when he was about the same age as Michael is now. How I used to sit on the stairs and as soon as he heard the stair creak he'd start shouting again. It doesn't seem 5 minutes since he was a baby and now Michael is carrying on the good work. I'm glad I've helped with both him and Sheila since birth and I shall have to put it down to the old man's patient ways when 'the old lady' had gone and bumped her head or tried to produce a Christmas baby that they have turned out such good kiddies.

I see I am to be the lucky recipient of a family Xmas parcel and I am looking forward to it already although it will be another month yet as least before I can hope to receive it. By the way love, to make your mouth water, I have just eaten three nice little tangerines and only hope they don't make me loose in my stomach, as it is awkward in the middle of the night trying to find the communal lavatory.

I see you have given me Harry Quinn's address and I shall be able to drop him a line in a day or so. I'm sorry to hear about Harry Langdale and I hope to hear either from you or Mabel soon that he is getting on OK. I hope he's not had to do any Home Guard stunts already as he may easily knock himself up not being in form for such rigorous exercises.

They had a gramophone on in the canteen last night and it made me think of Keith and the gramophone at home. I don't suppose there is any chance of him getting it mended is there love.

Do you ever see Win Skipper now ? I don't suppose she has been up lately or you would have mentioned it. I should think Ann is becoming a nice big girl by now. I bet when you see Wal and Nora there will be some comparisons of children. Their kiddie must be getting on now, but I'd back our family against the lot wouldn't you love. They no doubt mean a lot of extra work and worry especially for you now on your own, but we'll reap the benefit later on love and wait till Sheila wants her first dance frock and tries to show us the latest foxtrot with her boyfriend. He'll have to be a good lad to get her and I guess I shall be a critical sort of father when these things start to happen.

Well love I want to get this letter off in the green envelope and hope it will get home as quickly as an airgraph would.

All my love to you sweetheart. Every word I write with this pen is full of love for you. 

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19th November 1943

Well love as I forgot to number one or two of my last airmails I have numbered this the number I think it should be and in any case I can only send one a week as that is all that is allowed. I'm getting into stride with my pen now and it's working well.

I seem to be having a job getting rid of the last of my cold and have taken one of the Carr's powders hoping that would put it right. Most of the lads in the tent seem to have a cold also and I think the weather has a lot to do with it as in England.

We managed to se a film on Tuesday night called 'Kiss the boys goodbye' but it wasn't as good as other films I have seen. I had a seamail letter from mam on Monday and also a letter from Billy and yesterday I had quite an effort from the Langdale family - an airgraph each from Mabel, Bernice and Peggy and I've written a letter to Mabel and will write and airgraph to Bernice and Peggy. They all tell me how good the photo's are of  the family even if you do think you look fed up on it and I'm hoping to get it soon myself so I can judge for myself.

Well love I have written all this before asking how you are although that is the main thought in my mind all the while. I expect you find the darker nights lonely after the family has gone to bed and Bernice tells me she has not been up for a week or so and expects a telling off from you when she does come up. Peggy told me about Les walking around the room with Michael and enjoyed it the night they looked after them while you went out. I told her they had wakened him on purpose.

I've not been able to get into town since I received the watch but did get a walk down to the sea yesterday. We met some Arab lads on the way and bought 10 tangerines for 10 francs (1/-) which we divided up among the chaps when we got back. It was a nice break for an hour or two and although we were warm by the time we got back the change certainly made us sleep better last night.

I introduced two of the chaps into the card game we used to play at home you know the one which three play and have 17 cards each, 6 faced downwards, 6 faced upwards and 5 in the hand. They quite enjoyed it for a change from solo which we generally play although we never pay out what little we owe each other at the end of the evening as the smallest note here is 5 francs (6d), everyone says ' oh let it slide'.

I backed a loser last night as we were going to the film show and as there wasn't one on we went to the whist drive and as soon as I got into the tent where it was being held they asked for a volunteer to fetch the big lamp from the padre's tent. Of course Billy Muggins Mason went and when I got back with it the drive had started without me and I didn't get a game. Just my luck eh. Still I had an early night and got into bed about 8.15pm.

It's surprising what little things we argue about when in bed. We were talking about the population of various places and one of the chaps said Birmingham has a population of  3,000,000 or thereabouts and a lad from Manchester he didn't think it was much over a million. Perhaps you will settle it for us by checking in our encyclopedia and let me know the population of Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

We are as good as a Brains Trust when we get going and as there is a lad from Birmingham, one from Leeds, two from London and one from down south somewhere and topics include Russia and if we are helping her enough, music and football. One of the chaps mimics Churchill very well and when he's made a speech in London we get this chap to give us the dope and he gives a good entertaining half hour.

I don't know if you have had the lemons yet but you should get them anytime now. 

I should think Sheila will soon be getting excited about her birthday and I hope my card doesn't arrive a lot too soon. Still you might be able to hang onto it till her birthday and slip it through he door then. I hear Keith is being a good boy and Sheila is a rascal, it used to be just the opposite. Mam told me about him laying the table for tea when she came up with Mabel and it reminds me of his previous efforts when he poked the fire as well.

I guess the garden is looking rather bare at the moment except for the cabbages. I've not had any since I came here and our second veg is generally beans or peas with carrots as a luxury (for some) now and again. Don't forget to plant the bulbs we dug out  and I'm expecting to see a good show when I come home next June. Won't there be a lot of kisses in hand. Are you still receiving them ? Don't forget it includes Michael's and let me know when he starts walking

Goodnight sweetheart and sweet dreams All my love to you and the kiddies.

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20th November 1943

Well love it generally happens that as soon as I've sealed and sent off a letter to you, one arrives from you soon afterwards and so I'm answering yours dated 9th November which I received yesterday. 

You seem to have had a bit of trouble with the family one way or another and I hope that the bout of sickness has gone and you are all OK again. I should have loved to have seen Sheila's face when the airgrammes arrived and to see her cuddling it and showing it around. Unfortunately we cannot get as many airgraphs as we would like or I would send them to the Kiddies more often.

 I'm pleased that you have at least received my little gift and like it. I think you will need it to make yourself pretty when the train pulls into the station but you may want to touch your lips up a bit afterwards and your cheeks also. I guess you had a nice long chat with Mr. prendergast and his wife when he came to see you and it was good of them to make a special journey.

 I did receive your letter about the garden now I come to think back and hope if you don't fancy onions for a few months, I can help you out with them. I'm sorry that I've not sent any oranges home as I thought you would have plenty but if I can get any during next week at that 'nice place' which may look nice in the picture postcards but smells too much for me of Arabs and sewage odours. I will try to send a box off. 

I've only seen a few miles of North African scenery since I came here and although at times it looks grand, especially around sunset, I'd rather see the sun setting over the back of Brading Road.

 I bet you had a shock when Keith met you with his face all covered in blood I guess that it must have been a good bang. He certainly comes out with some old fashioned expressions.

 I had three airgraphs from the Langdale family yesterday. One each from Bernice, Peggy and Mabel. Also a sea letter and an airmail from Mam. I've replied to Bernice by Airgraph and Mabel by Seamail and I'd written to Mam just before I received hers.

 I hope by now you will have had the lemons and if you haven't perhaps you could write to Mrs Dickinson, 85 Pamela Road, Northfields, Birmingham to see if she has had hers from her husband who I'm working with and to swop notes with each other as to how we are enjoying this life(?) etc according to each point of view. I know that she would be interested to hear from you and as they have two children so we are both old family men, I guess we both have a lot in common.

 I thought I told you that e best thing to do with the 10/- is to put it with the money I told you to spend and which I'd send on soon through the paymaster.

 I guess the lads have been taking Sheila to play at 'Halt who goes there' and it's a good job that she is not on guard here as she would soon shoot the whole crowd.

 Bernice tells me that she expects a telling off for not coming to see you for a week since Les and Peggy have had a taste of married life waltzing Michael around. Still I think it would be a novelty for them and I guess that they enjoyed it.

 I don't think I will send the photographs by airgraph as the forms are folded before they are delivered and rather spoil it. Of course if you had a spare one it would be OK. I guess Michael will have changed a lot and it won't be long now before he is toddling around. Mabel said that Keith thought at first that Harry in his Home Guard uniform was me and I bet it was a big disappointment for him. I also here from Mam that Alf has joined the Home Guard and it should do him a lot of good if he can stand up to the training.

 My old pal, Agnes, seems to have let me down as I have not heard from her since I came out here. Still I guess when she does write it will be a long epistle with lots of news about Faire Brothers and I'll give her another week or so before wiping her off my mailing list.

26/27th November 1943

I held this letter back last night in case I had a letter from you and I am pleased I did for I've just had your airmail from the 17th. As you say it's easy for me to picture you all at home especially with you giving me all the little details and I wish I could say as much myself.

Life here follows a daily routine which doesn't vary much. We now get reveille at 7am and soon after roll out of our blankets from our beds on Mother Earth. We now have an extra blanket and keep quite warm with the tent locked up a wash and a shave at the open air wash stand and we are ready for breakfast at 7.45am. we always have porridge, sometimes made with oats and other times with crushed biscuits. We sometimes get bacon and beans or bacon and fried bread which keeps us going until about 10am when we get half a mug of tea. As I am working in a decent hut with matting on the floor we are pretty comfortable and there are about 6 of us in the office so I have plenty of company.

We knock off for dinner at 12.30pm and get the usual dinner of stew and dehydrated potatoes and peas or beans, and follow on with rice pudding or duff or sometimes stewed fruit and custard. We start our letter writing in the dinner hour usually and after our afternoon work we have tea at 4.45pm when we have finished for the day unless there is something and we have to work late.

After tea we read any letters which may have come and as the battalion post office is at the back of our hut we always get them quickly. We watch the bags of mail with interest and hope for the best each day when there is some in.

On Sundays I always go to church at night and then into the quiet tent for a read about 7.45pm. Mondays there is sometimes a show or a quiz which we attend and get quite a bit of fun out of. If there is no show we usually go to the canteen to see if we can get a bar of chocolate before having a game of solo and listening to the news at 9pm. We are generally in bed for 10.pm and sometimes have a chat for about half an hour before dropping off to sleep.

The scenery is pretty good with hills covered with trees and there are some lovely dawns and sunsets. I always feel closer to you sweetheart in the evening especially when I go to bed as I can picture you straightening up for the night, putting the kiddies clothes away and sitting down for half an hours relaxation.

Keith seems to be doing well at school and although I know the snow is a nuisance I hope he manages to get one snowman during the winter. I can see Sheila helping him a bit this winter. I have sent Keith an airgraph which I hope by now he will have received. Sheila certainly is making a fuss of hers and I'm longing to hear what she thought to her birthday card.

I have sent Christmas greetings to all of the family I could remember, if I missed anyone out wish them the best from me love. I've just had an airgraph from Mr. Coates and he tells me Mr. Fawkes is seriously ill. I'd write him a line if I knew his address. Perhaps Peggy could get it for you to pass it on. Agnes has also sent me a letter and a xmas card, also enclosing a 2/6d postal order which I doubt if I will be able to change out here in any case I'm not short of money in this dump.

I'm sorry to hear about Mrs. Brown and hope to hear in your next letter she is now getting better. She's been a good pal to us and I'll always remember last Christmas night when she sat in the kitchen with me waiting for Michael to arrive and how good she was to us.

So Mrs. Woodcock is trying to catch us up eh. I guess with Christine being taken away it must have been a shock to her and if she does find the baby can't be avoided tell her it will make her even with the Browns and the Masons and we'll all be in the same boat together. I think I shall have to arrange a communal celebration of the three families when we all get home again.

I hope you are looking after yourself love and don't let the war give you that ' What's the use' feeling. I know your making a grand job with the family but don't forget that to me you  are the most important member and I'm looking after myself to be worthy of you when that day dawns

It seems funny out here with the weather more like April than nearly December. I hope to have my first game of football tomorrow and guess I shall feel stiff afterwards as I've not had a game for ages.

We saw part of the film' 100 men and a girl' the other night but the film broke down before it had finished. We also saw 'Rookies' with Abbott and Costello last night and it had some good laughs in it. When '100 men and a girl' broke down one of the chaps shouted "never mind about the 100 men give us the girl" and there was a big laugh from everyone.

I don't know the song ' Coming in on a wing and a song' that Sheila sings and I hope she remembers all of them to sing to me. You know love it's a grand thing I can picture all the little doings at home. I miss you all so much love and there's so much I can never get back in watching the kiddies change. Still we'll just carry on to the best of our ability and keep our chins up and I believe it will be the only Xmas I shan't be with you in the flesh but I'm always with you in thoughts love wherever I am.

Goodnight love and god bless you and the kiddies. 

1st December 1943

Well love December is here, more like September here with the weather and I guess this month we shall feel the parting more than ever with Christmas away from each other for the first time and Sheila's and Michael's birthdays this month also.

I hope Sheila's card has arrived or arrives in time and I can see her making a big fuss of it.

One of the lads managed to get a box of oranges and a box of figs which I am sending off at once although I don't know if the oranges will keep as they are not so green as I would have liked.

I've just had a batch of papers from you and an airgraph from Arthur Hall who has been posted to my old depot where he understands Bill Parker now is. There was a big bag of mail in yesterday and I wondered if I should get one from you or if the photo's would arrive but was unlucky. The last letter from you was dated November 17th which I had last Thursday.

I hope you are keeping well love and finding comfort in the family during my absence. I hope your arm isn't troubling you too much and the kiddies keeping well to allow you to get down for treatment.

I couldn't get my watch repaired but yours is keeping pretty good time so I am OK. The pen is doing good work and I'm still wondering how you managed to get hold of it.

I am hoping to do a spot of washing later as the sun is quite warm. We saw a film 'Love Crazy' last night with William Powell. It was a good laugh and well worth watching. 

Well love I guess I will have to close. Goodnight sweetheart and God bless you and the kiddies. 

Well love how are you this morning. I can imagine you about this time getting the dinner ready with Michael in his pram asleep and maybe Sheila having an hour also or does she leave it until the afternoon. I expect you are feeling it a bit  out the back but hope you still get a bit of sunshine even if it is cold.

I have suddenly realised it is Sheila's birthday on Sunday and she will be getting her cards tomorrow. Is she getting excited as you told me you had promised to put up the trimmings which  Mrs Sutton had given her on the Christmas tree. It is nice and sunny here and not too warm but the sky is clear and although it gets cold at night we don't need a top coat yet.

One of the chaps went into town yesterday and bought me a box of oranges and a box of figs. I have sent off both to you, a small bracelet for Sheila and a little book of pictures which I though Keith might like before passing on the Sheila. I can't find anything suitable for him yet but I'm still hoping to later on. I expect they will take at least six weeks to get home and as the oranges are riper than I would have liked they might be going bad by the time they land. lso the beads for you have the cotton broken so mind when you take them out of the tobacco tin. Also don't forget to give the figs a good washing before using although they should be OK it is always advisable. 

We are still finding tinned stuff but I think fresh vegetables will be coming in and if it's cooked OK it will make a pleasant change to beans and tinned carrots. We went to t film shown in the NAFFI canteen last night and saw George Formby in 'Get cracking'. There is always a full house at these shows and it is a work of art getting a good seat. We were out at 7.45pm and went from there to a whist drive which is run in one of the mess tents. They have one each week for the Red Cross and we pay 5 franc which includes a good game, a cake, tea and a chance of winning a prize which are given a value of about 10/-, 7/6 and 5/-.

I've heard about a south African firm which we can send a postal order to and they will send direct to any address a parcel of fruit or chocolate and sweets so I might be getting in touch with them soon when I've drawn my next week's wages.

I seem to be short of mail this week as it's eight days since I heard from you and all I've had is an airgraph from Arthur Hall. Still we often find the mail patchy and I expect you do the same. One of the runners who works here traced four pictures from books which I chose and I hope you'll like it as my idea of how the family is looking. I should like to see how it comes out on an airgraph and if you don't find the kiddies want to keep it or you don't want to frame it I would like to see how it comes out so you could perhaps send it along in a sea letter or in any case keep it so I can see it when I return to you.

I just had a letter and a Christmas card with a slip on to take me back when the time comes. I'm keeping all I receive till after Christmas and then I'll send them on to you so you can see them. She tells me both Sid's wife (Gertie) and Jack's wife (Pat) are expecting a happy event at the end of February.

They have just passed over some airmails but the only one for me was from Keith. I was sorry to hear of the death of  Mr. Fawkes as although I had heard he was ill, I hadn't realised he was so bad. He has been a good sort to me ever since I went to Faires and it has come as rather a shock. I think I shall send a few lines to Mrs. Fawkes in the next day or so.

Well love, how's the family ? Have you had enough snow yet for Keith's snowman. I hope he will find time to send me another letter soon. Is he teaching Sheila how to draw and can she draw engines yet ? I expect you are all getting a lot of fun out of baby Michael these days and I guess she will soon be toddling about by himself and you will need about four pairs of eyes to watch them all. 

Shan't we have a good time with them all at the seaside. I keep on as you do sweetheart with one thing in mind, the return to you and all that it means and I believe and pray that day is not too far away. This December it will be a case of I'm dreaming of a white Christmas and when I'm at communion on Christmas morning I'll feel very close to you. I know that a few hundred miles separates us according to the map but I never feel as far away as that and I'm glad that your letters give me so many glimpses of you all to carry me on.

3rd December 1943

Dear Mother and Dad

I'm sitting writing this on a pleasant Sunday afternoon somewhere in N. Africa where the sun is as powerful today as in June in England. I am fit and well and settling down to the new conditions which are entirely different to home and take a bit of getting used to. I expect you would like to be able to buy grapes as cheaply as we do but I should like many of the things you have in England.

I have managed to get two bathes in the Med  since I came here and I must say it was grand. However I don't have much time for such luxuries at the moment. I heard from Olive that Ernie was in hospital and I have written to him. I have also written to Bob in Gibralter. I guess he has heard from home that I am out here now.

I should have liked a snap of me in shorts to send home but so far have not had a chance of one being taken.I hope you are both well and that the weather at home has allowed you to get about a bit.

I guess I'd better close. Love Eric.

I have just received your airmail dated Nov 24th and am sorry to hear you have had tonsillitis and hope by now you and the kiddies are all about OK again. It was funny you saying about the letter arriving on Sheila's birthday. As a matter of fact I got it last night after getting in bed and I lit the candle to read it over. I had felt a bit more homesick than usual all day. I suppose it was with it being Sheila's birthday and at church on Sunday I didn't seem able to keep my mind on the service as my thoughts kept drifting home to you and picturing her birthday with the Christmas tree decorated for the first time with it's new trimmings and all the excitement of getting her birthday cards,(including mine, I hope) and hearing what she had to say about it all. I can just picture her dressing up as a nurse and she understates the case when she says 'Eila's nice'. She's grand and a lovely lump of loveliness and I'll always thank God we were blessed with her especially after us being so concerned about having her.

I'm glad Keith seems to be doing so well at school and I guess he will alter his mind about a scholarship in a couple of years time. You will have to get John to tell him about all the good times he has at the Wyggeston. I have had letters and Christmas cards from Billy, John and Eric and a letter from Mam and I can see I've got a busy time ahead of me replying to them all.
They all tell me how much Sheila enjoyed her Airgraph and mam says when she is told about doing anything wrong she just says 'Eila's sorry' and that's the finish of it. I had heard about Mr Fawkes from Kath.

I saw two good films this week one with James Cagney  'City for Conquest'  in the open air on Saturday night and Rosalind Russell in 'My sister Eileen' last night. I don't know if this last film has been shown in Leicester but if it does come it's worth seeing as a change from war stuff. I found myself rather stiff sitting down for an hour and a half as I had had a game of football in the afternoon. I'm sorry to say we lost again 5 - 2 but I did manage to get one. I find myself very much out of puff and playing on sand is much harder than on grass. Still it's good exercise after sitting around all week. The last week has been really nice weather and today I have washed out a shirt, towel and socks besides two handkerchiefs and hope they will be dry before sun down.

By the way love, I shouldn't bother to send John Bulls and Sunday Expresses out but I should like a Leicester Mercury now and again. Will you tell mam sea mail takes 4 - 5 weeks airgraphs about 15 days and airmail 7 -10 days. Parcels seem to take anything from 5 weeks to three months.

Well love, the news is good if not sensational  and I expect as the allies get moved out of Italy we may get moved. I shall send each week as usual one airmail and at least one airgraph and if I do move I'll send the new address as soon as possible. I've been lucky so far in staying at the same address and shall have forgotten what I know about depot work when I get in one again. I think Keith must be doing a lot of thinking on the quiet and his message to me 'Isn't god good letting us win the war' just about fits in with my thoughts. We certainly are winning now and if it seems that the end is further off than ever don't lose faith and let it get you down. We  have so much to look forward to together to let that happen when the end is in sight.Well love, it's getting dark in the office now and I'm getting to the end of my little talk with you so I'll have to close. I expect it will be Christmas when you get this and I shall be with you all the time dear

9th December 1943

Well love I've had my Christmas parcels and I felt like I was opening my Christmas stocking when I brought out the different gifts. Of course the photographs were the first items to be studies and while I can see the hint of sadness in your face you also seem to tell me to come home quickly and the smile will break through. They were lovely photos and I've shown them round to all the chaps who say what a grand family I have got. Baby Michael certainly looks bonny with his chubby lips and I guess he will be the biggest of the lot. Sheila still looks a wee bit serious the same as the last photo but it's just her and it's lovely. Keith they say takes after me and he seems to have grown quite a bit since the other photo last June. He seems really grown up and takes a good photo. He always seems to have that little smile and with these before me I shall never be lonely.

After checking all the gifts I can see that I will have no excuse for going unshaven or not having my hair nicely parted, no excuse for not writing to you all at home and even a pencil to use when the ink runs dry in my pen. You know, love, that pencil and Keith's comb case makes me feel a bit homesick as I've seen you writing so many grocery lists with it and can see Keith sewing the comb case so diligently. Thank him very much for it, it is just what I wanted with the comb as I lost one and only had about six prongs on the other.

The Christmas card is lovely and you should see the row of them I have on the wall behind me. I bet I have more than you do by the time I finish. I've all ready had plenty of chaps wanting to borrow the books but I'm not parting with them until I've read them all and have put my name in so I shall not lose sight of them. Thank Mam and Mabel for them for me will you love until I can write to them myself and also Mrs Quinn for the writing pad which I am very glad to have.

I can see that I can afford to have at least two washes and shave each day with so much soap and shaving materials to hand. Please also thank Peggy and Les for their gift. It was a good thought of Peggy to send refills for the pencil as I was wondering how I should manage without. Faire Brothers still comes in useful after all. Altogether the parcel was a grand gift
from you all love and although it will be the first Christmas I have spent abroad, I shall feel near to you all the while. I've replied to Mam, Billy, Eric and John in reply to their letters and Christmas cards and at the moment I'm up to date with my correspondence.

We went for a walk last night as it was a lovely night with nearly a full moon and some of the scenery is grand. One of the chaps says it reminds him a little of the Lake District or the Yorkshire Moors and it was pleasant change after sitting down most of the day. We saw a cowboy picture on Thursday which I am sure would have suited Keith. It was 'Wild Bill Hickock Rides Again' and never have so many villains been shot with so few bullets by one hero. Still it was not too bad and passed an evening away.

The weather has been grand this last week and I guess you thin that I'm lucky but I'd much sooner be sitting with you, dear, helping you to get the supper with a few fritters or some cheese and sauce even if it was raining hard and it wasn't fit to turn a dog out.You would have laughed to see me making a hurried exit from the tent the other night about 4.30a.m. to visit the lav. as we had had fresh meat for dinner and our stomachs don't seem used to it after all the tinned stuff. It seemed that half the camp was on the same errand. It was a good job it was moonlight so we could see our way. I'm hoping by now that the first box of lemons have arrived in good condition and will come in handy as much as the throat sweets you have sent to me and which I forgot to thank you for. Well love I've had two airmail letters issued this week so I'm hoping to send the other one about Monday. Until then, goodnight sweetheart, god bless you and the kiddies. A happy Christmas love and all my love to you. Keep your chin up and we'll win through.

12th December 1943

Dear Olive,

I am writing this letter to you to tell you of a way we have found to send a few sweets etc home to you. You will see from the enclosed that I have sent a postal order for 25/- with the order to a South Africa firm who will arrange to dispatch the articles required to the address we give.

As only one parcel is allowed to one address of a total overall weight of 5lbs I had to have two parcels made and have asked them to send the other to Mabel's. Of course it is for you too and I don't think Mabel will mind it being sent to her address. Perhaps you will be able to let the family have a little bit out of the parcels and I thought that barley sugar would be handy for our kiddies and hope you will enjoy the glazed fruits. perhaps your Mam would like a bit of the chocolate and the boiled sweets would come in handy all round.

I expect it will take about 6 - 7 weeks before you get them and if they should be unable to supply and send you the Postal Order, buy something for yourself out of it from me.

 I hope you soon receive the money from the paymaster £6.0.0. which I sent through and will let me know when you do. Also when the box of lemons (2) and the other box free of duty I sent along recently. Of course anything might happen to them in transit but I'm hoping for the best.

Well love it's only 12 days to Christmas day and I think tonight I will go to carol practice which is being held in the church tent. I went to the evening service last night as usual and the corporal I am working with went with me. It was crowded as usual and I think he was surprised at the number as it was his first attendance. Afterwards we had a read and for some time watched the moon which was a full one and I've never seen such a lovelier sight out here. The light from it was tingeing the clouds near it with a sort of orangy brown I have not seen at home and I can only thing that it is a reflection of the sand in the clouds which does it. I was thinking of you all and wondered whether it was as nice a night at home.

We went a walk the other evening and passed quite a few Arab huts which were rather primitive but they do do their best to cultivate what land they have. It seemed so peaceful with the hills all around us and trees covering the slopes and it was hard to realise that this is Africa.

 On Sunday afternoon I had my third game of football for H>Q> and we managed to win by 2-1. I did manage to score the winning goal about two minutes from the end although it was a gift and I'm hoping the exercise will do me good as I don't get much during the day in this job.

I've read two of the books which you sent along to me from Mam and Mabel and am using the Shavex for a change from the ordinary soap besides using the propelling pencil you sent.

Tell Keith how much daddy likes the Christmas card from him and Sheila and Mike and I'll be sending them an Airgraph soon. The mail at the moment from England is very slow. I'm hoping a big batch of letters the Post Office have just had will contain one from you which I can reply to

15th December 1943

Well love, only nine more shopping days for Christmas and I guess you won't get this before then so I'll start with a Happy Christmas to you darling and I hope you have lots of fun with the kiddies and you all keep well so you can enjoy it properly. I'd willingly go through the same lot as we had last Christmas and we never expected, love, the little baby you presented me with after so much pain would turn out to be such a fine big youngster. Wish him many happy returns of the day for me love and of course let me know if he walks by then.

I can see that you have been very busy buying presents for them all but don't forget yourself. I hope that the money which is on the way to you will cover a Christmas box to you as well. I have taken a note of Aggies address and have cheered up about Bob and Percy's wives and families. I had a letter from Bob yesterday and he is very well although we are all longing to be back home again. I also had an airmail from Bill part of which was written by Janet and I
hear that they will be coming to Leicester at Christmas..

I had hoped that by Christmas you would have received Sheila's birthday card. I also sent one box of lemons but I know that the Christmas rush has held up a lot of the stuff at both ends.
Your airmail which I had yesterday, too 14 days which is a lot longer than usual and I haven't had any more until yesterday for about 10 days. I did receive you Xmas parcel and have written back to you. The photos are the best Christmas box I could have received. Everyone says what a lucky chap I am to have such a nice looking and healthy family and am certainly
proud of you all especially you love so you have had the job on your own of bringing them up and a grand job you have made of it.

 I often dream about all of you love and sometimes it is so real. I feel real homesick when I wake up to find I am not at home with you.

I guess our dreams will come true before so very long and I almost feel afraid sometimes to look forward too much as I am sure we shan't realise everything is peaceful and normal again until we've been together again for a few weeks and shall have the feeling that the leave is up and I shall be going back to the army.

We had our first carol practice on Monday night and there were about 18 of us there. After deciding which parts we were to sing, we practised 'O come all ye faithful' 'Good King Wenceleslas' and 'Hark the Herald angels sing' and then finished for the evening. We have another practice tonight and it is certainly a change which I am enjoying. If this gets to you before Christmas, think of us singing them to you. Tell Keith, daddy will see that he doesn't get cramp again when he comes home and teach him how to rub himself to get better without calling you. He seems to be growing up so fast and I'm glad he's teaching Sheila. I guess he will be a proud lad when he takes her to school for the first time and I'll be then to see him by then. I'm sorry to hear about Mrs Gill's death although after so much suffering it is for the best. I shall always remember the good times we had up there when I was a kid pea picking.

I've not been into town for three weeks but one of the chaps who went yesterday said that there was very little display of Christmas gifts and what there was was not very good and not suitable to stand up to a sea voyage back to England.
The weather is still pretty good on the whole although it's rather cold at  night. We still have some grand displays of lightening at night  and some really strong winds. I've settle the argument about the population of Birmingham and it's peaceful here again in that direction. I went to see and outside show last night called 'Brother Orchid' with Edward G Robinson and one of the chaps had brought oranges back from the town so we sat there and enjoyed them thinking how you would have enjoyed one or two yourself. 

Well look after yourself for me and keep you safe until I'm with you 

19th December 1943

I was very pleased to get your airmail dated December 8th and I can see Sheila had a wonderful time at her birthday party and the description of all the good things you had for tea makes my mouth water. As John said I'd loved to have been there. They are certainly being well looked after by you love and I hope that by now you are all free from colds and looking forward to your Christmas. I'm sorry Sheila didn't get my birthday card in time and hope by now she has had it.

I've forgotten to send baby Michael a birthday greeting for boxing day but you know I love him just as much and will be with you in thoughts all of the holiday. I shall have to make believe the Christmas dinner we have is the same as I had last year and I should just love it to be true. How is Mrs. Woodcock by the way. Still wondering? 

The weather today is as much like English weather as anyone could wish for. Driving rain, a mist which hangs about 30ft above the ground and everywhere wet and chilly. Our football match for this afternoon was cancelled so I had a good hot shower and feel nice and clean again.

There was a grand film on at the camp last night. 'Random Harvest', remember it love? The only thing that made it different out here was that every time anything approaching a love scene came along some of the blokes had to pass one or two remarks which took a bit of attention off the picture. Still it was very enjoyable.

We had our usual carol practise on Friday night and from 8pm until 9.30pm about eighteen of us were singing the usual carols which everyone knows. Of course we let our enthusiasm get the better of us now and again and sing too loud in the soft parts but I think we shall make a grand show on Christmas eve.

We have started to get porridge again for breakfast after about a fortnight without and for dinner today we had fresh meat, tinned potatoes, chopped turnip, onions and peas with some very nice thick gravy, and a bit of steamed pudding and sauce for sweet. We are getting more oranges, mostly tangerines, and we average about two a day as sometimes we buy them from the NAAFI canteen.

By the way love I think most of the APO letters must have been lost or destroyed as I never had any and Cpl Dickinson who I work with hasn't had any also. I expect in years to come when the war is just a memory they will catch up with me at 2 Culver Road and we'll have some fun reading them out together. I forgot to mention I had your airgraph Christmas greetings love also Keith's and although yours came through very faint I could just make out your message and I pray that next year I can send you one which I can write at home when your not looking.

Keith seems to have turned poet in his and tell him I think it's very nice and thank him very much. I notice he still prints his d's as b's  but I can understand what he means and I expect he'll correct it in time. I've just had airgraph greetings from Mabel and family, your Glad and Gladys Wells at Faire Brothers. I also had a letter and a Gibralter Rock magazine from Bob which I shall have to answer in the next day or so.

So Bill Parker has a daughter. I think all the old gang are now daddies and I bet he will be every bit as  fussy about it as Wal and Nora were about theirs and if we only knew we were about Keith. I know one thing they will have to do well to get together  such a swell family as we have.

We haven't seen Churchill out here and doubt very much if we shall. I'm pleased to hear he seems to be getting on and it would be a great loss if anything happened to him. I think the man to take his place when the time comes would be Anthony Eden.

Well love its now Monday and I'm trying to get this finished early before I start the daily routine. We had another good service last night in the church tent and followed with the usual carol practise. We had all the old ones and one I think I remember Keith learning at school '  O little Town of Bethlehem'.  I didn't know it but soon learnt the tune and words and it is very nice. We also had ' Gloria in Exceliss' and we could do with a few voices like Peggy's to help us as there doesn't seem to be any natural alto's in the camp.

Well love I guess I shall have to close. Look after yourself sweetheart and the kiddies for me. All my love night and day and it won't be long now. 

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24th December 1943

Well love, here I am on Christmas Eve sitting before a flickering light about 6 p.m. with the night slowly closing in writing these few words of love and cheer to you as we approach the first Christmas day when we won't see each other. I can hardly realise it is Christmas with the tree green all round and although it is a little cold at night still warm enough in the day for English April weather. 

I feel a bit homesick, love, as I think about you at this time getting Michael ready for bed soon to be followed by Sheila and then by Keith. I guess they are all excited  at the thought of what will be in their pillow slips when they wake up in the morning and I thin it is one of the loveliest days of the year.

We have had some experiences at Christmas, dear, and I pray with all my heart that next year will be spent with you and the kiddies. You know love, I've missed a lot of Sheila's lovely ways since she was small and Keith's progress at school. I know how hard it has been for you sweetheart on your own and you will always be able to look back in the years of peace ahead at the grand job you have made. God give you the strength to carry on till I return to share it with you. I know you will also feel lonely this holiday and I will be thinking of you all the time..

Our Christmas arrangements are simple and I'm afraid that it is no good hanging up our stockings. We have a carol service tonight at 8.0pm and have several carols to sing which take me back to St. Augustines about 25 years ago. I think the one I shall enjoy most is 'Holy Night which I have always liked. I hear that we are due for a good dinner tomorrow but I shall be working in the morning at least after communion at 9.0a.m. There are concerts, Housey, Housey and a whist drive on in the evening and Sunday will no doubt be like any other Sunday.

We have spent three evenings this week practising for the carol service tonight and as there has not been any film shows this week I have spent a lot of time reading a book  called 'O Absalom' which is a good story and all the chaps here have read it in turn. I have not finished it yet but hope to do so in the next few evenings.

The weather is pretty decent at the moment and I can see no likelihood of snow to make it a white Christmas. I don't seem to have had any mail lately and guess there is a hold up again somewhere. I did have a Christmas Airgram from your Gladys on Monday but nothing since. Still I expect I will get a pile of letters when they do come. I don't think we are sending any mail off from here on Christmas day so I thing I will leave the rest of this letter until tomorrow and tell you how our carol service went off. 

Just think of me love the Christmas Eve at home with you in thought whatever you are doing clearing the tea table, making up the fire, filling the stockings and later on having a few minutes rest before supper. Goodnight darling, I love you always.

Christmas day.

Happy Christmas, love. I've just had a grand dinner of Turkey, Chicken, Pork, peas, stuffing and apple sauce with Christmas pudding to follow and I enjoyed every bit of it. We were also given a bottle of beer each by the C.O. which I shall drink tonight. I must say it's the best Christmas dinner I have ever had and the cooks certainly did their stuff. I don't think there will be much work done  this afternoon and I think I shall take a walk to settle the food down a bit.

We had our carol service last night and I think everyone enjoyed it. The new church hut had been completed in time and is a nissen type hut like those at the top of Anstey Lane. The altar coverings had been made by women who are at the YMCA and the Padre and some helpers had transformed the place into a regular cosy church. There were about eighteen of u in the choir and about 100 or so troops turned up. We sang the carols with great vigour for over an hour and then came back to our beds. I was in bed before 10.0pm and lay for a log time thinking of you all. I guess the kiddies will be busy sorting out their presents and you won't have much peace but I know you'll be as happy watching them as the little arguments crop up when Keith tries to show Sheila how one of her toys works.

Well dear I will have to close. Just look after yourselves for me and God bless you and the kiddies and keep you safe. Let me know what you have all been doing this Christmas.

28th December 1943

Well love how are you. I guess you are feeling rather tired by today after all the Christmas excitement and I'm longing to have your letter which you might be writing at the same time as I am writing this (about 8.45pm.) to tell me how the kiddies enjoyed it all and what they had. I hope you have managed to shake off your cold as it is hard enough work for you in good health and I can see from your airmails had on Christmas day you hadn't been up to scratch. I think I told you that I had six airmails altogether and so far I've managed to send replies to Edith Evans, Sid and Gertie and an Airgraph to Bernie in case her other one got lost. I've also had a letter from Sid Baker at Weedon. I have sent an airmail to Winnie and Arthur.

 Well love we have settled into our routine. On Sunday I had another game of football and felt rather stiff in my springless bed at night. Of course love I still kid myself that I can still do my share and don't want to come home looking like a seedy old man. You know, love, I will want to have a might out each week with you and make up for the lonely time you are spending on your own.

 We went as walk up the road from here towards the hills and there are several Arab dwellings scattered about. You would feel sorry for the kiddies as although it is not as cold here as it is at home, they wear little good clothing and are always barefooted. They have nice eyes and are very friendly. When we had walked two miles we had a rest at the side of the road and watched the Arabs ploughing the fields with ancient ploughs drawn by two or more Oxon. An Arab lad who was not much bigger than Sheila came and squatted down near us and we tried to get him to talk. He knew several words of English and proud dad thought he would show him his family photographs so he could seen what kiddies in England looked like.

 He was delighted and repeated 'boy' after me for Keith and 'Girlee' for Sheila and ' mummy and baby' for you and Michael.

 I would love you to have seen us, four chaps just sitting watching over a valley about five or six miles wide with the hills stretching all around. It reminds me more of England at this time of year as grass in growing in some parts and plant similar to buttercups and daisies are growing and there are a lot of birds which look like Wagtails.

 We heard yesterday about the Scharnhorst being sunk and it's thing like that which help. |I feel big things are going to happen early in 1944 especially from England and I shouldn't be surprised any time to hear that the second front has started. I guess in due course the temporary job here will finish and we may go to the same place as the other RAOC who came here with us. I have enjoyed it here although there is so little to do at night except go to bed and as we were only going to stay here two or three weeks in the first place we haven't done so bad and knowing the army methods we never know how long it will be before they suddenly remember that we are still here.

 By the way let me know how long it takes this letter takes as I'm sending it in a green envelope by itself. I write the weekly airmail letter and one or two Airgraphs in the week so when I put three letters in a green envelope they seem to take about a month to arrive. The only thing about an airgraph, I can't say much on it. I've often wondered if you can read the small writing when you do get one.

 I'm hoping you have the lemons any time now and you should soon be having the oranges as well I sent. There is one box of them and since then I sent a box of figs which should keep anyway. I guess it will be about the end of January before you receive the sweets which I hope will arrive from that firm in Cape Town. 

I don't want you to worry about me on top of your other worries. I'm quite OK and just carry on knowing that each day that passes is one day near. I lay on my bed after making it up on Christmas day and just day dreamed about what was happening at home about the same time.

 I haven't been into town in ages and despair of getting anything in the way of gifts to send home. I did win a small wallet at whist which I shall be sending you but I would like to send Keith something. Tell him I will do so when I can find something which he would like. I can see him writing his Airgraphs to me and not asking how words or spelled. That's what I love about them as I know they are all his own work.

 Have you had the Airgraph which I sent with your family pictures on. The one with Sheila in Daddy's boots and Mammy in nurses cap on. I hope you like it and it turns out good

. Well love it's time for bed so goodnight darling. Pleasant dreams and look after yourself. 

31st December 1943

A happy new year to you dear. I believe that 1944 will be the deciding year and next Christmas, love, I shall be home with you to share all the joys and excitement and troubles with you. 

I have had your airmail and Bernice's yesterday and I am pleased to see that you are all recovering from the flu and colds in time to enjoy your Christmas as much as possible. I know that you don't feel like bothering a lot and I guess you would find my absence for the first time at Christmas the same as I did over here.

 It made me laugh to read Bernices description of the scene at home about 6.30 p.m.. I should imagine the night Winnie came up to see you with Edie. I see you are still getting your nip of stout and hope it has done you good.

 I can't imaging how you came to receive a box of mixed oranges and lemons as I think I sent two boxes of lemons in the first case and my third box was oranges only. I think one of the first two boxes must have landed and I was sold mixed fruit instead of lemons only. The fourth box I sent I think had some figs in, a few oranges and the beads and had a label attached. I have since sent to the South African firm to send those sweets etc direct and yesterday I sent another box of lemons which I hope arrive safely,. I see there were only two bad in the box of fruit which you had and I'm glad that the lemons came in handy for the colds.

 I am writing this letter on New Years day which is rather cold after a day and night of really mixed weather. It started blowing and raining yesterday afternoon and soon it was raining heavily. Later at night we had a hail storm and even thunder and lightening and several tents were blown down. We were lucky as ours stood up to it.

 I had a letter from Nurse Meadows at Wellington hospital and she told me that chap Jack Rowan who you remember was in the spinal carriage had got his ticket from the army and is walking about although his back will always be weak. I told you that Jack Robinson told me that there was romance in the air between Nurse Meadows and Jack Rowan but her people stopped it.

 I also had an airgram Christmas greeting from Mam and also a sea letter. Agnes has sent me an airgraph. Last night we had a game of solo after our tea and it was the first game I had had for weeks. I started having a game or two of table tennis as they have one in the recreation room and it's good exercise. I am glad you are putting 'from daddy' on a present for Keith and Sheila. It will make them feel that I am not far away and from the list you have written down they seem to be doing pretty well. I was suprised to hear of the death of Mr. Roberts. I had a letter the other day from Mrs Chambers the mother of that pal of mine at Weedon and I think he must now be in India. He's now a corporal and doing well.

 We've not seen any picture shows this week but Nat Gonella and his band are here although I've not been able to get to hear them.. I'm glad the family airgraph turned out well and shall be glad to get a chance to look at it later on. I think it is about time that I sent another airgraph to Keith and Sheila and will try to do so during the week. The mail seems to be getting through better now the Christmas rush is over and I'm hoping soon to hear how you got on over Christmas with all the excitement and folks dropping in. I guess you would be glad to go to Mabel's for Christmas dinner to save you a bit of cooking. Did I tell you that I had a parcel of books from Bill and Madge and Janet ?. The only thing is I don't seem to find a lot of time to read as if the weather is fine at night we go out for a walk. I don't think I shall be playing football this week as the weather is so bad.

 I'm glad Michael is taking after his father but can't think where his sandy hair comes from. I think, love, I shall find him the most spoilt of the lot as I know that his mum has always kissed him and also everyone else for that matter. I only wish I was home with you to get a lot of fuss myself. Still the news is good and I expect you hear plenty of our planes going over on their raids on Germany. I think the crack up will come suddenly when it does come so we won't believe it for a few days.

 All my love keep your chin up a bit longer and all will be well. 

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copyright Keith Mason 2001