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3rd October 1944 7th October 1944 10th October 1944 17th October 1944
20th October 1944 21st October 1944 25th October 1944 28th October 1944
31st October 1944 4th November 1944 8th November 1944 12th November 1944
17th November 1944 24th November 1944 29th November 1944 2nd December 1944
6th December 1944 10th December 1944 15th December 1944 17th December 1944
21st December 1944 24th December  1944 27th December 1944 31st December 1944

3rd October 1944
Well love I'm starting this during my dinner break for about 10 minutes and I am pleased to say the weather is a bit better after a few days of rain, rain and more rain. How are you love? I have been thinking a lot since your last letter or two about your leg and hope you are feeling a bit better about it. When I was in England I could scrounge a few hours off and come and see myself how you were but I feel so helpless so far away and wishing with all my heart the whole business was over so I could be with you. It's easy to write but hard to express how I feel love but I pray that you will keep your faith up and not give up love. It's hard to get your grip again on things once you've let go and we have so much to fight for in our life together love after the war. Just keep thinking that each day's one day nearer the end and what a wonderful day that will be and how proud I shall be of you love when that day dawns.

I am sitting tonight on the balcony of the canteen here in camp as I started off in the writing room and wrote an airgraph each to Keith and Sheila but then the lights failed and after waiting about 20 minutes I went across to the verandah of the canteen as the lights were on there.

Well love the lights have come on again in the writing room so I am back again. By the way apologise to Sheila when she gets her airgraph for my poor drawing of a camel (it should be a dromedary by rights anyway) but I tried two or three times on a sheet of paper and couldn't get it to look like the real thing. I'm see she's expecting plenty of things with a rabbit, a doll and a pram and I wish it was possible to send such things. I've not seen a rabbit out here and expect the ground is too rocky. I'm going to look round the shops on my next half day and may manage to get a doll for her birthday.

I hope you liked the little present I sent for your birthday love although it's not something you can wear. Still all my love for you comes with it. I hear we can send views of the country here so long as our address is not given so I might send a few views home at a time so you will see what Italy looks like and they won't get knocked about in my kitbag anymore.

I had a cold myself about 10 days ago and it's about OK again now although as usual I can rake up a couple of good coughs now and again. I think I shall have to indent for a few zubes as a standby. We used to get them last winter in the NAAFI but haven't seen any here yet.

I didn't get to church on Sunday night as we had been in most of the week and had on Sunday afternoon walked to the British cemetery not far away. I saw there were several lads from the 2/5 Leicesters and although I didn't know of anyone who had fell at that time I think the folks would feel a little comforted if they saw how much care and attention is given to the cemetery. When it's all over, there will no doubt be a lot of people over here to visit this place and if you did know of anyone who had lost a relation or someone near, I could get a few flowers put on for them I'm sure.

On Sunday night we went into town to see “Melody Inn”, good but not a patch on “Holiday Inn”. Monday was wet and as we had to go back to work making up pay envelopes for the civvies we stayed down at the office for a mug of real cocoa. It just reminded me of our usual supper love and on the way back to camp I told Dick about our usual procedures on Sunday nights – you know, you with a book on the settee in front of the fire till you dozed off to sleep, me reading in the armchair until the news came on (unless Mabel decided to pay us a visit) and waking you up later with a cheese or meat sandwich and a cup of cocoa. I make myself out to be the perfect husband, although I know love I often felt lazy and you can make sandwiches better than I can so I let you get supper sometimes.

Did I tell you that one of the lads bought in about half an apple tart the other night and the piece I had was about the same size as I used to nip into the pantry and slice off Wednesday's dinner (on Tuesday night). It was grand. I've not yet managed to win the sweep yet. This week I had Wolves and they got four but Blackpool won it with 6. They run a football sheet but I haven't had a dabble yet. After paying NAAFI and sweep money there's not a lot left over especially when I want to buy something special to send home. We don't spend much on fruit still as the grapes are still cheap and the apples also. We get apples every other dinnertime stewed anyway. I don't think I've eaten as many fried (or warmed would be the army style) tomatoes for years as we get them with bacon and beans at least five mornings a week, and most days with the salad at mid-day meals. Of course we also often get them with the evening dinner and I'm sure the supper soup often includes them so I'll have a red face before long. So long as it doesn't take the tomato (plum style) shape I don't mind.

The people here are still eating meltingano's the egg plant I tasted at home love but the more I see them between two slices of bread the less I fancy any more.

The interpreter wants Dick and I to go to dinner again on Sunday but I dread the thought of trying to stomach so much macaroni etc. again. Still I might go to see Dick try to get it into his mouth with a spoon and fork. He's not finished his role of film yet but I think this lot should turn out OK and we should get some good snaps to send home.

Well love its bedtime for us both. Goodnight sweetheart and pleasant dreams.

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7th October 1944
I was pleased to get your airmail dated October 1st on Thursday and to hear you are feeling a little better and hope the new ointment does the trick and makes your leg better quickly. The month's rest from the Infirmary should help a bit although I don't see how you will be able to go there regularly during the winter with the worries and responsibilities you have.

I was wondering the other day if Sheila had got over her nervousness for planes and am glad she has as it was rotten for you both. I don't like your crack love that Keith needs me but with a firm hand. Haven't I always been as firm with him as I have with you? There's a question mark love in case Keith reads this. At the moment I am finding it difficult to write, as where I am in the camp writing room there is no globe in the holder and the light is very poor. Still if you take your time love you should be able to understand it I hope with the aid of your glasses, if you can still see with them.

Well love the weather this week has been very mixed although yesterday and today were better. The only unfortunate thing has been the electric lighting has been on and off and so the cinema shows have been cancelled. We did have a break last night going into town to see 'Desert Song' but it was more like a story with bits of the desert song music thrown in and wasn't to hot.

On Wednesday night HQ had a dance which Dick and myself went to. It was held in the town and we went by lorry coming back by the same mode at 11pm. It was held in a big municipal building and the band belonged to 537 BOD so wasn't too hot. The floor was stone and the biggest part of the visitors included the usual family parties bringing their bags to take home as many cakes as possible.

 I'm afraid the Italian  style of dancing is more like double quick, quick two steps and with the band playing normal British tunes it is hopeless trying to dance except like you would with someone who has never been to a dance before. It seems the rule here that the families accompany the daughters to these dances, partly because there are always some chaps after what they can get and they give a bad name to all the others. You never or rarely ever see a single Italian girl walking with a British soldier or any other soldier other than an Italian one and if one does they paste a notice on a street wall where all can see it to say the girl concerned is no good. 

The local population is like all 'Ities' very jealous and one of the civvies chaps told me he had once seen a girl with all her hair cut off because she had been seen walking with a soldier. Of course there are brothels all out of bounds which chaps who can't keep decent go to but I've got to much to live for at home to want any such experience.

There was a whist drive in camp on Thursday evening and Dick and myself were going.  I told him I would see him in the canteen where I thought it was being held at 7.30pm as I went to see the news bulletin but he didn't turn up by 8pm and I thought it must have been cancelled.  I went across to the information room to listen to a quiz but when Dick came into the billet at 10.30pm he said the whist drive had been held in the dining room so I'd missed it.

We have all been studying the Union Jack today as it gives a chart showing how we stand for discharge and at 30 I'm not too badly placed as there are not many in the very early groups and I've not come across anyone yet less than 20. I hope parliament will make an amendment going a bit more priority with married men with children but once the wars over we won't be long.

I heard today that Germany had its worst pounding of the war so far and the civilians must be frightened of the thought of the coming winter. What a difference to England with the lights on. I bet the vicarage was a sight worth seeing with all its lights on. Does it help you love? I bet your glad love you don't have to think in the evening to pull the blackout. It gets dark here well before 7pm and some nights it is not cool. We are still in shorts but another fortnight should see us back in battledress.

I had a letter from Gladys Wells  today . the biggest items in her letter was the asking for holiday times at Faire Brothers in future and telling me about the new stools they have with backs on. Jack Turvey has also written to me and he is OK and back with his unit after leave. It's funny he always ends up his letter 'your nephew (adopted) Jack and I finish mine the same only uncle of course. I've not heard from Jack Rubeshaw lately but he was still in England and OK the last I heard.

I expect the handkerchiefs will take three or four to get home so don't expect them just yet love. I guess it will be nearer your birthday when it does arrive. I've not been able to buy the box of nuts yet to send home as the shops are shut at night so I am asking one of the civvies to get them. I see you get them as soon as possible. If the government had said an extra shilling a day after 2 years I could have sent you a box every other week but as you say I hope I'm not in the army long enough to take the extra.

Frank Hull came in today with a bandage on his knee from plating football and he's looking very well. There are two matches on tomorrow here and as Sunday is our rest day from the depot and we are supposed to do regimental training I may say I want to watch it and get a game.

I've just heard a train whistle and it reminds me of the one I'll be on one day soon. You know love that train of trains to LMS Leicester. I can always keep my reputation up as  a day dreamer when I think of such things and when the day goes by it makes the thought more vivid and real till the day when it will be true. With all the money the army is going to give us by all accounts we shall be able to wine and dine out every night for months and still have a bit in hand.

Well love it's time to say goodnight, close your eyes love and think of me thinking of you. Sweet dreams darling and all my love to you and the kiddies.

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10th October 1944

Well love I was very pleased to get your airmail dated the 5th October and from the news you give of Billy, John Quinn and Mrs. Brown I can see others have had their fair share of troubles and no doubt the war conditions for so long and shortages of some food and fruits must be partially responsible. I hope to hear Billy is getting over his bout and bet it gave Nora and mam a shock. It must be rotten for Mrs. Brown with her throat troubles placed like you with three kiddies but the happy trio of M, B and W will cling together as usual when things are wrong with one of them and each help to pull things right again.

I'm glad to hear Keith enjoys school as much and he's got a pretty enquiring sort of mind so should do well. I'm looking forward tell him to his big sheet of various items and so are the others here including the Italian interpreter Nick who is always asking if I have had another letter from Keith. He thought the last one with all the puzzles in was very good and I'm often asked how they are as I have their photo as I told you on my desk. I wish I had yours to make the set.

I had a letter from your mam yesterday, an airmail and she told me what a party she'd had with you al there the other Saturday. She also mentioned you hadn't been very well but were now a little better and I hope it's not some other illness you have had love and not mentioned so I wouldn't worry. I hope your ankle is getting better with the ointment and see you are taking daddy's advise and taking the capsules.

The war news is good love although I guess it doesn't sound so startling as a month or two ago. Still love we can see there is only one end to it and there must be times when things slow down while they get ready for the final push. We heard today that Churchill had arrived in Moscow and I should think he has travelled as far as any man in this war. He must enjoy it and I bet Hitler would like to know what he and Joe are cooking up for him. I bet they feel the same nowadays as we used to before the war when Hitler had a conference. I bet if the RAF could do as you say and flood Germany out altogether they would do so but they seem instead to be having a go at wiping her off the map in sections. Still she deserves all she has had and is going to get. It beats me that the people over there haven't bumped Hitler off before now and all his gang. If they made a start with him I think the others would soon follow and it would be all over.

Well love it is still trying to show us how much it can rain in a little time. I'm thankful ours is a dry billet but I nearly got a soaking going to supper. I just got under a shelter before it threw it down, very much like one night when we watched Barton and Culver Road get about flooded out about mid-night. I had taken Dick's and my own mug and I had to stand with his piece of tart about 20 minutes before I could make a dash back here to the writing room where he was waiting. Whilst on about food we had what were supposed to be fish cakes for breakfast and they were described by chaps as Hitler's secret weapon, a new form of Italian asphalt and a few other complimentary remarks. The pigs did well out of it anyway. We are still getting plenty of beans and bacon, and following a complaint that the bacon wasn't fried enough, we now have it burnt to bits and as salty as brine. Still I don't think my health is suffering from all the army attempts at cooking and there's one thing love I shall think more of your cooking and it will perhaps teach me to take more notice of what I eat as you always say it just goes down and I say nothing. Here it is the same but what I don't say here wouldn't be good English anyway.

I had my game of football on Sunday morning as they were three short and I played in my army boots. I felt puffed after about five minutes but enjoyed it. After dinner I went a walk across country with Dick and we were out about three hours so I felt worn out when we landed back at camp for tea at 5pm. It turned out wet after tea and I went to the memorial church with three other chaps in the billet. There is a new Padre better in my opinion than the other and although his sermon was very short I felt more comfortable than with the other one. It was about 8pm when I landed back in the billet so I came across here and wrote a reply to a letter I had had from Gladys Wells. I was in bed by 10pm, very tired after my strenuous day and woke up on Monday morning rather stiff

There has not been a picture on in camp for over a week owing to various reasons so last night we went into town in the truck to see Betty Grable in "Sweet Rosy O'Grady" a follow on to "Coney Island" we'd seen her in about a week or two ago and it was good light entertainment. The rain managed to keep off which was as well as we were in an open truck.

I had no luck in the sweep as Arsenal won it with 6 goals but one of these weeks I will be lucky.

No love I have not benefited from the extra 1/- a day pay but as you say I hope I wont need to. I hadn't heard about the havoc at home over sending men to the Far East but once I got home I would find every illness I could think off to put before the MO if they wanted to send me. It's bad enough here but the thought of going there and being so far away scares me stiff and would you as wll love.. still I don't think they would want an old man like me climbing trees.

I've not written to jack Richardson lately but don't worry about writing him love as he'll understand when I write again. Did I tell you Sid Banyard was not as near home as he was but is still in England. He said he would be looking you up when he could but I think he has said that before so wouldn't bank on it.

Well love I've rambled on as usual without saying much but you know love there is only one thought on my mind which I don't always put on paper and that's the thought I'll be home again with you one day. The more we are apart the more that day means to me and until then love keep your chin up for me. 

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17th October 1944

I think our reply to each others letters recently love have set a new record as yesterday I got your letter dated 12th October in reply to mine of the 7th. only nine days to get a reply. 

You seem fairly cheerful about things in general love and I shouldn’t take too much notice of what Aggie says about your leg. She always was a bit that way and although you have had a rotten time with your leg I guess it’s like my bottom was and will not be hurried. Although I hope to be home fairly quickly if the war news keeps in the same way I don’t think you would need a fortnight to rest your leg when that day comes. I’ll see you do get a break though love as far as it in my power and if you do want a week or two just relaxing and watching me have a basinful I’ll see you get your wish.

Yes love the kiddies after a bath always look their loveliest especially the age Sheila and Michael are now. Keith I always think of in his pyjamas curled up in the chair with a book waiting for his cocoa to cool. Sheila I always think of in her vest with her fat tummy sticking out and I guess Michael now looks pretty much the same. Dick had a photo a few days ago of his baby and he said it made him realise what we are missing. As he said we could live through two world wars but we can live two lots of bringing up children and the longer this war lasts the more we miss.

I can see Keith is doing well at school and I hope he writes a good composition and it is sent to me. If you have any maps of Europe it would be interesting to show him where Bob was and places I have been to and he will see how far his letters have to travel to reach me by boat. I think he would be a bit disappointed in life around here as there are not many flowers and I have not seen many birds except sparrows. I’ve certainly not seen a rabbit yet although I understand there are some in other parts of Italy. The front lines would interest him I guess and there is enough fruit for everybody to have as much as they want.

I have arranged for a parcel of stuff to come to you under ‘C’ scheme through the army in Australia but haven’t been able to send any nuts yet. Still I will see you get some before Christmas love, also some fruit. The trouble is getting into town whilst the shops are open. We went to have a look on Saturday but it wasn’t half as good as the previous one and as the weather was colder we had a closed wagon and didn’t get the views we got before. 

We were back in camp for 6.30pm but the lights have been off here at night owing to a fault in the wiring. So my correspondence has fallen behind a bit the last three nights. At the moment I have about four airmails to answer besides sea letters and I went into town last night in the wagon and managed to send a reply to a letter I had from Bob. 

I am sorry I didn’t know it was your mums birthday a fortnight ago but I am sending a airgraph tonight, if the lights hold out, in reply to her airmail I had a few days ago and although a bit late wish her a happy birthday. I’ve just had a Leicester Chronicle from Gladys Wain dated 16th September with a photo on the front page of the Clock Tower lit up as in peacetime. I bet the lights help everyone a lot and all the kiddies were excited when they first saw them. 

In case I forget love the blue triangle on the letters was originally for those which did not have to be censored here if they were signed on the back but now all airmail letters are treated the same way as long as we write the same as on the back of this ( The following Certificate must be signed by the writer, ‘I certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters’). It certainly means letters get home more quickly as before an officer had to censure them which meant a delay of a day at least.

I had my first kisses from an Italian Miss the other day. Did I tell you in my last letter, a little girl about three who came with her brother and mammy to see her daddy, a civvy who works here. I gave her some chocolate and the smackers I got were about as sticky as Sheila’s. I mostly give my chocolate ration away as it is mostly the plain cocoa tasting stuff and I know the kiddies don’t get any otherwise.

I see Mrs. S has been testing love but don’t let her get to you. I suppose she’ll be saying next Mr. S wanted to be called up now they are not taking men over 35 into the army. I wish they would demob all those over that age already in it, don’t you love.

I hope you are not serious about doing the winter digging love. That’s a job for one of the men and if neither of the Harry’s has time I would see if Alf could manage it. It’s too much for you when you are fighting fit and trying to do things like that will do you more harm than good, leave it if necessary. Perhaps I’ll be home to set it with grass seed for that big lawn, fruit trees and flower beds we are going to have.

I was asked today if I wanted a game of football and feeling young enough said yes so may get a game in the next few days. I’ve got to keep young for you somehow love. You’ll want a few evenings out with me and I shall have plenty of work besides doing all the things I have promised in the home so you can take it easy.  You know love I don’t think you will be able to sit down and relax after all your experiences. You’ll always want to be up and doing and be telling me, “I’ll do this and I’ll do that!” What hope.

By the way love we are still in shorts although at the moment I have put my battledress on for the evening. It is still warm enough for shorts in the daytime but cold at night. A good plate of fritters and chips would do me a world of good but it is generally weak tea and a piece of cold duff or a cake for supper.

I hope Mrs. Brown and Beryl don’t develop anything serious also Mrs. Woodcock and remember me to them when you next cross. I always connect our families, we all seem in the same boat somehow.

Well love it’s time to say goodnight once again.

Sweet dreams darling and all my love to you and the kiddies .

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20th October 1944

I am keeping my fingers crossed hoping that they will send this by airmail so you can get it on your birthday.

I pray that this will now be our last birthday away from each other and in Gods good time I can make up to you for the burden you have had to carry alone for us so long. I'll be close to you in thoughts on your birthday and hope the little present I sent has arrived.

All my love to you sweetheart, night and day. Look after yourself for me won't you love.

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21st October 1944

Well love it is now 8.10pm and I am sitting in the writing room in camp to have our little talk. How are you love? Still much too busy and too much work? I know how it must be love and I guess just about now you are straightening up the kitchen once more and hoping the kiddies will be good so you can have a few moments peace. 

It is a beautiful clear night, a new moon and millions of stars and it is unbelievable at times to think there is a war on, everything seems so quiet. We have not had much good weather lately and our gas capes have come in very usefull. On Monday we change into battledress so our knees have finished their summer outing. It is still warm enough for shorts in the daytime but gets cold at nights and we can do with our thicker clothes on. 

We went to a whist drive on the camp on Thursday night and about half past eight (there was a good storm on outside) an extra good flash put all the lights out so we had had it. We went to bed at 9pm and the lights came back on just afterwards and so for about half an hour we tried to learn a bit more Italian from our elementary dictionaries. As we were asking each other what the Italian was for different words other chaps who were a bit fed up or wanted to go to sleep started talking Arabic if they had been in Egypt and others French if they had been long in North Africa. We had a good laugh in the finish and just as we got down to sleep about 9.45pm four others decided to play pontoon and of course they were at it until lights out at 11pm.

I forgot to tell you I had a game of football on Thursday afternoon for HQ against another team from the depot and didn’t do too badly for a has been. I played left back and as I had a good hot shower afterwards didn’t feel too bad.

There was a picture on in camp last night so of course we went to it. They have an indoor cinema here but last nights was in the open and it was “The more the Merrier” with Jean Arthur. Not a first class film but a few good laughs. It was rather cold though and I was glad to get to bed afterwards. 

In our NAAFI this week we had Guinness instead of beer. I think they must have sent the ATS quota here in mistake and it made me think of your Sunday dinnertime bottle love and I hope you are still able to get it. I can’t see what you can see in it love as it’s too thick for me but they say it’s good for you and if you can’t get any just write to the army and tell them to send you my quota.

I hope Michael got my airgraph I sent him a day or two ago and tell Keith and Sheila I will be writing to them soon. I’m hoping to see Keith’s composition before long and know it will be worth reading. He has some original ideas and seems to be enjoying school. The interpreter Nicola is always asking if I have had another letter from him, so tell him daddy is waiting for it and will answer any sums or riddles he sends.

It’s time Sheila sent me a few drawings isn’t it Sheila and I bet you can draw some lovely trains now. Put plenty of kisses on from you and Michael won’t you.

Well love I had one or two sea letters today, one from our old friend Agnes who tells me she has had all of her teeth out so she doesn’t look so handsome at the moment. Also a Leicester Chronicle from Gladys Wain dated Sept. 2nd  in which I saw an old friend from the Jimmies football team, Bill Watts had been killed. Most of the pictures were of parties to wounded soldiers and I guess there must be a lot of them in Leicester just now. Faire Brother’s magazine No.4 arrived and I have written to thank Graham for it. I was a bit disappointed the snap of the kiddies hasn’t appeared in it yet but expect it will one of these days. I still get very nice remarks from people who see their photo on my desk and they all tell me how lucky I am. I can’t see it as I think I am unlucky  having to be away from such a lovely family. The ‘Ities’ ask me if we are going to have any more (what did you say love) as they seem to average about ten in a family and used to get a medal from Mussolini after the first five or so with a bar or something after eight or nine. No wonder Italy is where she is.

It is our recreational and training day tomorrow and we get an extra hour in bed. This morning we had a shock as it was 6.40am when we got up and after a quick dash for breakfast and a few minutes making our beds etc. we had to take our shaving tackle to work and wash and shave there. I had been dreaming of you love and guess I wanted it to continue as long as possible. You know the old song “Why don’t my dreams come true”. I am saving so much love up or you dear we will never use it all up but one day we’ll be together and we’ll start making up for time lost.

I saw a picture of the Clock Tower in a Leicester Chronicle dated Sept. 16th and one of the trams had No.3 on it. One day I’ll be in that tram so keep your chin up love won’t you and keep your chin up.

Goodnight sweetheart and God bless 

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25th October 1944

Happy birthday sweetheart and may you feel on that day that we are close together and out thoughts with one another. I love you more with each day that passes and I have only one wish, to come back as early as possible and spend the rest of my life by your side. 

A year ago we had not been parted for long although then it seemed ages but since we have had our regular talks together I feel somehow love I can tell just how you are, what you and the kiddies are doing about the time I am writing and sometimes I can sense from your letters you are finding it such a struggle alone dear, although each time there seems some new joy you’ve found in the kiddies, new things they have done and said and I know you and I would not be without either one of them for the world. There are some things in life we have to face or we go under through trying to let things take there own course and we both know until this war is over we can’t find true happiness. The big thing is to keep our love true and I know we are both doing our bit to make life together after the war that much more lovable to make up for the break.

I often think about the little happenings while we have been together love, first when you used to come in the gate at Wimbledon Street (Faire Brothers factory) but I knew at that time you were keeping company with someone another. Then our two days a week courtship for some time and I getting all steamed up about your platonic friendship, Wal and Nora’s wedding when we first met and how she used to ask when I was taking you home with me and I though it was your place to ask me in your home first. Most I remember love when you told me about your arm and asked me if I wanted to call it a day you would understand. I loved you before love but I loved you even more after that and I thank God we have chosen the same path together.

We had some good walks around Stoughton didn’t we love with fish and chips or some fritters afterwards. That depot bus was always a job to catch. Remember that time in Bradgate Park when I asked you whether you would forgive me if I went on a football outing to the seaside and messed around with another girl. We need not have spent so much time arguing and worrying about it love if we knew what we know now. I’ve been away for 16 months now love and could have let things go that way if I wanted but I have never wanted anyone but you dear and until I am able to see you again, I’ll carry on by myself. We have been blessed with three children all sweet in their way and loved and loving their mummy and daddy. I’m so proud of you all love and sometimes feel homesick when I think of the things I am missing back home.

I know your ankle must bother you and you feel low and depressed. It’s only natural love and everyone feels the same way when their husbands or sweethearts are away, not knowing how long it will be before they see them again and knowing they must carry on day after day, however they feel, with kiddies who can’t be expected to understand, sometimes tiresome and everything seems an effort. I guess Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Woodcock feel the same sometimes and I am glad they are handy as a good chat or a little cry together helps at times. I only know love that being Mr. To Mrs. Olive Mason is all that I want and daddy to our Kiddies. It must be rotten for chaps and their wives when they know (as some do) that the other is not keeping their part of the bargain. It is hard enough being parted but in such a position they must feel awful at times.

I had a letter from Mabel today and she was telling me about Keith’s model of Holland and the game Sheila was playing with Michael and you. I bet it helps doesn’t it for them to play like that.

I’ve seen a film tonight called “True to Life” and I guess our family would cause as much amusement if we were to write down all the things they say .

I can see you get impatient for the postman as Keith says “- always expecting a letter” still I am just the same love. Now the airmails take only 4 days generally I feel I know how things are with you and on Monday I shall be imagining the postman coming about 8.15am and the kiddies all wanting to open your birthday greetings. By that time I will have been at work for nearly an hour (we start at 7.30am) but I’ll be sending a message through the air “ Many Happy returns of the day to my dear wife” at that time close your eyes love if this reaches you by then and you’ll hear me say it. I am certain on my next birthday we will be able to say it together so keep smiling live.

I’m keeping young, or as young as I can by playing football. I had my second game with the HQ team yesterday, this time at centre half but we managed to lose again by 2-1 so perhaps I’m not as young. I have three nice grazes, one on each knee and one on my shoulder to show for it but a spot of aqua flava has put them right again.

They have started Italian lessons in the camp and so last night Dick and I went to our first night school lesson. We know quite a few Italian words already but the grammar part is more difficult. Still it occupies the time and may come in usefull when I start conversing with the ice cream man on the park.

I have not been into town for over a week now as it gets dark early and we now have our own indoor cinema in camp. It opened on Monday night with “Footlight Serenade” and we queued for the second house. It is called the “Palladium” and chaps were all talking in the queue of having a bit of fish afterwards as if we were back in civvy street again.

Well love it’s time to say goodnight again so goodnight sweetheart, pleasant dreams and God bless you and keep you safe.

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28th October 1944

Well love another two days and you will have another birthday and I hope it will be a lovely day for you and you will feel extra well and enjoy it. I am hoping the army will see that the registered letter is delivered on that day and my birthday card. I know they all help to make you feel a bit less lonely and I can see the kiddies getting excited counting mammy's cards for her. I'll be thinking of you especially on that day. I hear from Mabel that your ankle looks better although it's not healed yet and hope it doesn't worry you too much love. I know you have got enough with your arm and I'm glad to hear that's progressing well. I only wish I could do something to help as me just saying all the while “Chins up” and “stick it love” must seem to you to be easy to say but harder for me to do.

I've heard wonderful accounts of Keith's map of Holland and I bet he is very proud of it. Has he written his composition yet? I guess it will be well worth reading, he always seems to think of something original. I know he would like to see the buses they have just started around here. They are single decker with two trolleys and hold about 70 people. If they were in Leicester I can see him spending half his money on rides all over the town. I've not had a ride on one yet as we have not been to town lately. Of course it gets dark soon after 6pm and the weather has been like you are getting at home rain – rain and still more rain.

We are now in battledress again and as we only have one we have to carry our gas capes most of the time in case we get caught in the rain as it's not just showers as a rule but thunderstorms. I can imagine what it must be like for the lads up at the front in the hills.

We went to the pictures in camp again last night to see “the Sky's the Limit” with Fred Astaire. I hear it is an old picture but I hadn't seen it before. They also showed a short “Community Songs” and we had a good time singing “Aint Misbehavin”, “Thanks for the Buggy Ride” and a good laugh when they put new words on the screen to “Roll out the Barrel”. The title was “Here comes the Navy” and the last line was “Everybody loves the navy of the U.S.A.” talk about whistles as everyone thought they were singing about the British Navy. Still according to the news they are making a good job of the Jap fleet in the Phillipines.  Tomorrow night there is an open debate in the cinema on the government demobilisation plan and I think I will go to see what the chaps think. I guess everybody looks at it how it hits them and there's bound to be plenty to talk about.

I'v made a parcel of nuts up love and hope to get them away on Monday. I hope they stand the journey OK and arrive before Christmas though mam tells me in her letter the government have said there will be nuts and fruit in the shops at that time. I put my name down for a parcel scheme which wa an army effort from Australia so hope you get it in due course although I have no idea what the parcel contains and it only cost 5/-. Actually the nuts here are expensive considering there are plenty about. Walnuts cost 70 lire or 3/6d a Kilo (21/5 lbs) so they are about 1/6d a pound. Hazel nuts are 2/6d a kilo or 1/2d a pound. What oranges I have seen are not ready to be sent yet but will send some when I think they are OK.

By the way did I tell you the three year increment in pay does not affect me until next May (I hope to be out by then). We can now wear chevrons on our sleeves or years of service and the few chaps I have seen with them on have 4 or 5 chevrons up so my two would make me look like a novice.

There is an Italian wedding in the building we occupy the ground floor of tomorrow but it's our day off and I don't think I shall go down to watch it. Two of the chaps had invitations but don't think they will bother.

Well love it's 9pm time I switched the wireless on for the news while you have a few more moments doze. I hope Bernice doesn't consider herself above helping me get the supper when I get back. Of course she might have a young man to bring along as she is growing up so fast I hear.

Well goodnight love, pleasant dreams and look after yourself for me

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31st October 1944

I was pleased to get your airmail dated the 25th today and know your arm is progressing well. Your ankle is a lot longer job than you or I thought love and I hope it is not long before it is well again. I expect it is partially due to the varicose vein and you know they always say trouble all comes together so maybe the happy things will also come in with a rush, the war over, (not on the 26th October as that prophet said) me back quickly, all of us in good health, and peace again.

I am pleased to see your photo is on the way but I don't think they send any by air from England so I will have to wait patiently for another three or four weeks.  They say you have a smile on it and that's the main thing love. We are neither of us chickens but I can promise your photo the place of honour on my desk and I can have a look at your smile when I feel a bit down in the dumps.

I'm glad to see Michael is loving his daddy through the photo and that he liked his airgraph. Keith should have his written one by now and tell Miss Sheila daddy has not forgotten her and sent her an airgraph yesterday. No doubt her mammy or Keith will read it to her and granny and Auntie Mabel later on.

I've managed at last to send a box of nuts but don't expect they will arrive much before Christmas. I hope they keep OK as some of the walnuts were a little on the damp side but the hazel, (or cobs) should be OK I shall be sending more during the week but don't think it's wise to send oranges yet and I hear you have just had an allocation of them for the kiddies. Still I will let you know when I send various parcels off.

I don't seem to have added much to my credits lately, I guess it's with getting little things like the hankies etc. I've sent along and I shall have to check up to see how much I now have in hand so I can send something to you for Christmas gifts as I can't see anything here that would not cost a few weeks wages and the quality is poor at that.

I hope you got Sheila's dolls pram OK and as regards Keith's 'Devil amongst the Tailors', perhaps some private chap could make a set. It is not a hard job outside the skittles and I bet there are thousands of sets about never used which people would be only too glad to sell. Just mention it to one of the folks when you have a gossip in the Co-Op and you could have it painted. Don't knock it about too much though love as I shall want a game when I come home.

Well love I am trying to keep fit and had another game of football this afternoon. We managed to lose our third game 4-0 so we are getting worse and I can see me losing my place. When we got back to camp we went for a shower but the water was icy cold so it was a case of a quick duck under and out again. I feel a bit of an old man afterwards at night but I do think it does me good as I am sitting down all day at work. Dick says I am jammy getting a half day off each week as we leave work at 3pm to play, so we play in the bosses time.

It has rained for the last few days with thunderstorms galore and although it was nice today, it poured down soon after 6pm and I think you would need company to watch the lightning love. 

I went to town with Dick on Sunday afternoon and went a walk from there up a road that led to a sanatorium at the top of a hill. We could not get further than the gates but had a lovely view of the country round about. The gatekeeper came out, and of course asked for a cigarette and then started talking to us. As I said before I have picked up a bit of Italian and can make myself more or less understood so we chatted for about 15 minutes. He said his sister was in America, married to a Yank, two brothers were at the front in Italy, one a prisoner of war in England (luck chap) and two others were not far away. His mother has had 26 children, 15 of which had died and there were 11 living. How's that for mother love. It's a good job you didn't marry an Italian love. I think it is partially due to there being no birth control in the RC religion and the more children they have the prouder they are. They seem to expect half of them to die and it is no wonder there is such poverty about.

There was a marriage at the place we work but being Sunday we were off and did not go down to see it. The Sunday morning we rested in the NAAFI and then went to the pictures to see 'Dear Octopus' but if I had had to pay to see it I would have wanted my money back. Someone said it was good as a play, but as a picture it was terrible.

On your birthday love yesterday we worked as usual and I wonder about 8.15am if you were getting your mail from the postman and thinking of me as I was of you. I hope you got my card in time and the airmail I wrote on Wednesday. It was another night of rain, the picture show that was on in camp was cancelled as the picture did not turn up so I spent part of the time writing out a few more Christmas airgraphs. I am keeping a list of the ones I send and have made sure I have not forgotten Nora this time as she didn't get one last year.
Afterwards we had a little Italian lesson, Dick and another chap sitting on the side of one bed while I had the book and asked them questions

Tonight should have been Italian instruction from an interpreter in the cinema but she didn't turn up so we had had it.

Well love I have rambled on as usual without saying much and now it's time to say goodnight again. It is five minutes to nine, I guess you will be making some cocoa or ovaltine. Stick a few fritters in for me love, I'd love them.

Goodnight sweetheart, pleasant dreams and God bless you and the kiddies. 

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4th November 1944

Well love I think your last letter dated October 30th beat the record as I had it on Thursday (3 days) and I feel when they arrive so quickly I know how you are. I'm sorry love that your leg is acting awkward and with Dr. Mann away it made it worse as I remember how much you liked Dr. Baebenock. Have you thought of mentioning it to the Doctor at the Infirmary as you remember I had a day or twos' treatment by electric light for my abcess, although the only thing it did was burn my bottom. Still he might suggest some remedy.

I can see you are modest about the photograph but I'll let you know if I like it and that's the main reason for having it taken love isn't it. No photo can take the place of the real person but it is surprising how I seem to know the kiddies now their photo is in front of me al of the time and I read your letters telling me all about their little ways.

 I can see Sheila's face as she asked you for more eggs and I don't suppose you had much of yours. It's sometime since we had one, it doesn't average one a month I know, but in any case there's at least half bad so I don't worry.  We seem to get bacon pretty often, a fair share of spam, more than our fair share of soya links and beans and plenty of dehydrated meat which tastes like rubber. I don't know what our porridge is made of but it is very smooth and I think flour must be the main ingredient but it's just about eatable with milk and marmalade on.

Our midday meal is still on the small side, generally cheese and onions and a bit of pastry or a few grapes. Dinner at 5.30pm is the big meal though they are having at present plenty of marrow or pumpkin for second veg and I am afraid I can't get used to it.

We went to see Dianna Durbin in 'It started with Eve' on Wednesday night (did I tell you in my last letter) and on Thursday night there was a whist drive on in camp. I did fairly well in the first half, 85 in 12 hands but not so good in the second half (68) and finished up with 153. Still it was a change.

Last night we were working late on civvy pay and didn't get  back to camp until 8pm. I dashed across to the cookhouse for a cup of soup and then went to the second house pictures to see 'Hellsapoppin' which I don't think you would have liked love as they are crazier than the 'Marx Brothers.

I don't think we will get half a day off this weekend whilst we are on pay but might get a day off in the week to make up.

Well love I was writing that at dinnertime on Saturday and had to break off as it was 1.30pm so now I am carrying on Sunday evening, bonfire night in peacetime, in the camp writing room.

We were on pay all Saturday and went into town on the liberty truck in the evening. There was a good picture at the garrison theatre called 'The man in Grey' and we landed back to camp about 10.30pm. as expected we had to work today and so will get a day off in the week sometime. The electric bus service now operates to town so may go there for the day, even if it is to have a sleep in the NAAFI quiet room.

I have been thinking about Christmas gifts but don't seem to see much, which could be sent. The kiddies toys are rubbishy things at prices which made my wages look small and I think you will have to be mother Christmas again this year love and send me the bill. I'm hoping to get some more nuts off tomorrow but don't quite know what to do about the oranges as they are not such a good type as the African ones and if you do get an allocation regularly, they are hardly worth while sending. Perhaps you will let me know love what you think as they will be ready for sending any time now.

I had a letter from Arthur Hull two or three days ago his address is No 6 C.A.I.D. B.L.A. which is somewhere in France and he seems to be on an interesting job. He tells me he understands Bill Parker, Norman White and other Faire Brothers lads are there but the only one he has met is Les Elgar, serving with an Ack Ack unit. Frank Hull came in yesterday so I showed him Arthur's letter. 

I wish Jerry would get out of Italy and then they might start running a few trains across France from here so we could have a spot of home leave. It looks as if it will take a month or two yet to finish Jerry although the terrific bombing he is getting night and day now must have a big moral effect on the population and once they pack in he's finished.

I see you have the painting fixed at last and with your new curtains it will all help to brighten up the home and make you feel a bit happier. As you say love I am missing the kiddies ways but we have still our memories of Keith and Sheila and can build up in my mind everything they do. There are lots worse off than we are I guess and I include those that had to leave England like as many did soon after marriage and haven't been able to start a family, or if there is one baby have not seen it yet and can't visualise what it is like.

I am sorry to hear about Bob and hope to hear he is getting over his operation. I think the army should not have taken him in the first place and hope he is able to get his ticket and get his health back in his own home. His wife must be worried to death and when you write to him remember me to him won't you. I've not written to him lately as I have not got his address but I used to enjoy his letters from Gib and we kept up a regular correspondence.

By the way love do you keep my letters? I wondered as I don't keep a diary and they would be useful to read together by our own fireside and would help one to remember some of the things that happened at various times. I'm keeping all of yours so we will have lots to reads and laugh about.

Goodnight sweetheart, God bless. 

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8th November 1944

I was pleased to get so quickly again your letter dated November 5th and it seems that they can send them regularly in three days now. I'm sorry though love you seem a bit down in the dumps and I guess the longer nights, the bad weather and the constant monotonous jobs you have to do every day whether you feel up to it or not must make you feel that way and with your leg and cold as well, you are ready to throw a plate at the first person that talks about how long the war might still last. 

You know love when you described Keith trying to light the fire and afterwards bringing you tea made with warm water, I could realise that in his mind, although he made a mess of things and no doubt caused you twice as much work, was the thought he was helping you and knew you needed a bit longer in bed. I know you will say love I always have an excuse for him and I suppose I wouldn't feel so satisfied if I had to clear the mess up. Do you remember writing to me about Keith making the tea while you were out and no doubt if he had made a mess of it, it wouldn't have been so good but the thought's there and I think in his way love he realises Mummy hasn't Daddy to help her and get up now and again to give her an hour in bed. I don't know where he gets his awkwardness from but I guess his dad must be blamed for his forgetfulness, as I seem to remember it's always been a fault of mine. Still love I think we can blame a lot on the war conditions which has turned family life upside down. Just try to keep up as much as you can and if a good cry helps now and again just let it go. You've stuck it so well love and I know I feel sometimes that if the war doesn't end soon some of our wives will decide it is not worth the constant struggle but we have so much to look forward to love and if we have missed some of what would have been our happiest times together with the children, the years after will be all the more dear to us for the time apart.

I am sorry Bob is having such a rough time and hope he now gets on well after his operation. By the way love talking about the pains in your stomach, it makes me smile you saying you would be thinking things if I were at home. It's going to be a hard job love to keep sensible after so long apart but I think we can avoid any more shocks in that department.  I'll try anyway love but you know what a memory I have got.

Well love tonight is Wednesday and I am sitting in the reading room here and as we now have a radio I have been listening to the world news flashes and the home news at 8pm.  There is a picture on in the camp but I have already seen it and I am getting up to date with my correspondence. I've had few letters this week but have had a Leicester Chronicle from Gladys Wain, a booklet on Social Security and see we are due for 10/- per week from the state for our three children, I expect though it will be like the army pay, as the firms will say 'you don't need a pay rise as the state pays you so much. Still we shall know there is 10/- a week coming in which should buy me a few fags, as I see the money is legally issued to the father. Only trouble is the wife will be able to draw it (always a snag in these things for the old man).

Well love I am sorry my birthday card was a little late arriving but if I had thought I might have coloured the roses deep red.

I should have loved you to have seen the basket of roses the civvies here brought for one of our officers who has just been promoted. I don't think in England we would think of such a way of showing our appreciation or offering congratulations but here it seems the thing. Of course we told them a bottle of Vermouth would be more useful but I would have loved to have sent the whole lot home by plane with all my love. They were all excited when he came in and I told them I want the same if I ever get a stripe on my arm. Still on present form it's not likely and I'll finish with the army as I started, quite content to be a private.

On Monday night we had a film in camp ' The Bridge of Santa Crux' but is was about the worst show they have had with the light poor and the talkie indistinct. Last night we attended an Italian class at 7pm but I find it difficult to remember what would have been easy 25 years ago. At 8pm we had a debate on the demobilisation plan and the feeling was it wasn't such a bad plan on the whole although lads with three of four years overseas service thought it should count more than home service and a days pay before leaving the army for each month overseas wasn't enough for what they had missed by coming overseas. I had a few words myself and we were talking until about 9.45pm.

The radio here is at the moment a variety broadcast and Karen  O'Connor (is that right) has just been singing 'Home', have you been listening to it love or are you too busy. It's generally ironing night on a Wednesday isn't it love.

I hope you are feeling a bit better love and the kiddies are behaving themselves. Poor Sheila I feel sorry for her with all her boils, one makes me feel miserable and I know they can quickly pull you down.

I am having a game of football tomorrow at centre half and after losing three games in a row I hope to tell you we have won at last.

Goodnight love pleasant dreams. All my love to you night and day. Try to keep that chin up love won't you love and when you are downhearted try to think like I do of the blessings we have.

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12th November 1944

Well it's Sunday again and I'm not working today so I am in the information and writing room hoping to finish all my outstanding letters. How are you love? A bit better I hope although we heard on the wireless you have had some bad weather over the last week and if it is any cold comfort to you, yesterday there was snow on the hills not far away we could see and the last two days have been quite sharp and it's a cold job in bed by yourself trying to keep warm. I know your feet get cold love but I wish I was there to help to warm them.

On Thursday evening there was a whist drive here on camp, we went but didn't do any good. I managed 143 in 24 hands the lowest total I have had. Friday night was HQ dance and I borrowed a pair of shoes from Tom Mansfield (The chap with a moustache in the photo I sent) and we went but as usual it was too crowded and even the refreshments weren't up to scratch. We had an open lorry back which just about cut us in half and I think my bones must feel the cold more in my old age.

We had a game of football on Thursday afternoon but still can't win a match. I played centre half and we managed to lose 1-0. We have now played 4 won 0 drew 0 and lost 4 with 2 goals for and 11 against so we hold up the league properly. They say I am still good enough for the team and I don't feel too bad on Thursday night as we have a hot shower when we get back to barracks. I have a few grazes on my knee as the Vesuvius dust is still mixed in the ground but a spot of 'aqua flavia' dabbed on does the trick. 

I think I told you in my last letter I had to work last Sunday on pay and I hoped to get a day off in the week. Actually I couldn't get a day off until Saturday and had a half day then. Being a bit busy these days I took my boots off and had a kip on my bed. Dick told me there was a good ENSA concert on at the garrison theatre in town so we went in last night to see. It turned out to be an Italian concert party but they were all fine artistes. There was a pianist who was grand and played ' Rhapsody in Blue' and another artiste who sang 'Ava Maria' and a very fine magician. 

The high spot though was a little 5 year old girl. The announcer who I should think was her mother said the kiddie was going to sing and dance and stood the girl on a chair in front of the mike. She had a short dress on and a bow in her hair and made me think of Sheila. She was about her size. We expected a little song in Italian but she sang an English dance number without a bit of shyness and then repeated the chorus all 'hot jazz' stlyle. You should have heard the applause she got. Afterwards she did a bit of dancing and wore a big top hat and carried a stick and then sang a duet with her mother. It just suited the chaps and you could tell the kiddie enjoyed it too.

Today is my rest day but I went down to the office to fetch two boxes of nuts, I am sending one to you love and one to mam as I know as I know the kiddies there will like a few. They are mixed walnuts and hazelnuts but look dryer and better than before. You might get them before Christmas though they might be after. I'm hoping to send some lemons and possibly oranges off during the week.

I had a pleasant surprise yesterday as when we got back from town the chap who runs the sweep said my team, Shelborn, had won half the sweep. He had taken the scores from the radio but will have to wait for confirmation from the 'Union Jack' tomorrow. I think it will be about 25/- and as there seems little here in the way of presents I think I will send it along for you to put with the 10/- from the wardens post and use it for presents for Xmas from me. I don't think I have enough in credits to send any through the paymaster in time. I've got a birthday card for Sheila and I think I will send it by green envelope, so if it comes by air a good time before her birthday hold it back and let her have it on the right day. Of course if it comes by sea it will only just get home in time.

I had a letter from mam that arrived yesterday and also one from Sid Baker. He says his wife feels just like you love as although they have no kiddies they have an outfitters business and it is getting her down looking after it by herself. I'm sorry Sid missed you when he called round. Mam said in her letter that Bill doesn't reckon to have any favourites but Sheila is his favourite and I think he wishes he had another as Janet is growing up and no doubt out of home more.

I can understand Mabel's look when you told her about Sheila bringing Michael downstairs on her knee. I bet I should have looked the same love, but the kiddies seem able to take care of themselves and no doubt be better for it in later years. By the way love I have not had your photo yet but it will turn up one of these days and as everybody says it is good I'll let you know what I think. Remember the other one you had taken and I said your nose was crooked love.

Well love it is now 3.15pm and as there is no fire in the room I am in I think I shall transfer to the other room. I've got the book Mr. Lillie sent me called 'Murder in the Maginot Line' with me and I shall have to write mam an answer sometime this evening.

We might go to church after tea if Dick gets back from work in time. By the way mam tells me Keith is proud because he takes a size larger than Billy in Shoes. What size does he take?

Well love it's time to close so goodnight sweetheart, god bless and keep you safe.

17th November 1944 

I was  very pleased to get your letter today dated ( sorry love, I left your letter in the billet and I'm in the writing room so if I do no answer anything you've asked me then I'll reply during the weekend in my next letter. I see it has taken a bit longer for one or two of my letters to arrive but I guess that the Christmas rush must be partly responsible. I think that I told you that I bought a birthday card for Sheila and I'm wondering if I sent it off as I can't find it anywhere in my writing kit and yet I can't remember posting it. I hope I have done so as I know she will expect a card from her daddy. If she hasn't got it by the day before her birthday, you had better get one for me and tell her it is from her daddy. I've sent the children a Christmas card each but I haven't found a good one for you yet love.

The cards for the kiddies, I sent into the village for and they bought me a typical Italian 'Buon Natale' or Happy Christmas card. We can't get to town when the shops are open as they shut down when it gets dark and it is 7.30pm before we can get there. I've not received your photo yet although I thought yesterday that it had arrived but it was a sea letter from Keith with his photograph enclosed also a small one of Oliver. Tell Keith how pleased I am with it and I'll write to him in the next few days. 

Oliver seems to have altered and I guess that the army life has toughened him up.  I think all the lads will return looking older than their years in a way and with a different outlook on life. Still love, I think I have managed to look after myself for you and you won't find an old man coming back to your love.

You talk about yourself being an old woman, but don't let your leg worry you too much. I know it must have worried you because it has taken so long to heal and if there was any way I could get you the rest you need to get it right again you know I would like it. I hear on the news that today, men are going to be granted leave from the various theatres of war but I'm afraid my name will not be near the top of that list and post home on compassionate grounds is one chance in a million from this end. 

I wish Dr. Mann would say if he can how long it is likely to get well and if you must have rest for it.. There must be some way so you can have it. I don't know what the kiddies would say if they had to stay with different members of the family or with friends for two or three weeks while you gave you leg a proper rest say at Bill's but if Dr. Mann says it is the only way then it will have to be done

You are always first in my thoughts love, even though it doesn't always appear that way to you. For your own sake and for the happiness we will have together after the war, any way there is to make us feel better in ourselves helps to make us more cheerful and patient during this final waiting period.

I'm please they included the family photograph in the Faire Brothers magazine and I'd almost forgotten I had sent them a bit of poetry. I met another chap from Leicester tonight. He has been in our billet for about a month now and we happened to be saying that Leicester was better than Birmingham and we found that we both came from the same place. I did not ask his name but his sister in law is Mrs King who lives in Barton Road. I can't remember her although perhaps you do. He is married with one kiddies 4 years old and lives in Catherine street. I told him I would pass on the Leicester Mercurys and Chronicles I get.

Well love I played football today (I was centre half again) and we managed to lose our fifth march running by 2 to 1. We now hold up all the league and are beginning to feel we shall lose before we get on the field.

SAT 6.50PM.
Well love, I couldn't finish this last night after all as they closed down when I had finished two pages so here I am again in the same place to carry on. The light is not too good so I hope you can read this. The chap on the wireless is talking about gifts for the forces overseas and it reminds me about the braces I'm glad to see you have got for me and the possible lighter. A girl is just singing 'we'll meet again'( are you listening love ?) and a lot of the chaps in the room are humming it and no doubt thinking the same as I am, 'what a day to look forward to' When it comes we shall forget all the troubles and worries we have had in our joy of reunion.

I've had an airmail letter from your Glad and from what she says Tom is still feeling the shock of his injuries and must be dreading the thought of going over there again. I hope he doesn't have to although not to make him like it all his life. Still I think once the war is over he will recover quickly. Thank god I have not had to go through the experience so many have been through. There must be thousands regraded through shattered nerves and other reasons due to the war.

We had some new Christmas Airgraphs today which are a bit of an improvement on those I have sent before and I shall start sending off a few early next week. I'll perhaps be able to get in to town to get a decent Christmas card for you. By the way I won 30/- in the sweep and I'm getting a £2 postal order to send along with it but if it doesn't arrive in time for Christmas let me have it out of your purse and use it for for a little gift for yourself and towards gifts for the kiddies and the rest of the family.

Well love, it's time to close again so goodnight sweetheart, sweet dreams.

24th November 1944

Well love this has been a quiet week for letters and the only ones I have had since I wrote to you on the 20th are from Aunt Buck which contained my first Christmas card and Leicester Chronicles from Mabel, Gladys Wain and another with no address on (Mabels generally has 34 on it) and I wondered if you had sent any although it didn't look like your writing.

 I've sent a box of fruit to you this week including oranges, lemons and tangerines and hope it gets home OK. Did I tell you about a month ago we paid 5/1 for a parcel of Australian dried fruit etc. and I shall be glad to know if you receive it OK in due course.

Of course we didn't see the boxes so have no idea what sort of parcel it is but whatever it is it should come in handy. I sent a registered envelope with 2 £1 postal orders in, towards a little gift for you love for Christmas and the others. Put the 10/- from the wardens post with it and don't go buying a motor car with it and start gadding about.

I am sorry your ankle is still such a trouble to you love and hope it doesn't stop you going to the dance you mentioned.

You know love all this week I have had the feeling that Peggy's baby has arrived and today one of the civvies had some Christmas cards to sell at 2 lire (1 1/5d) and suitable for young children and I thought I would send one to my latest great neice or nephew when it comes. I expect everyone at home is looking forward to it coming and Mabel having everything just so and all ready for the big day.

I went to the whist drive in camp on Tuesday night at  half time I had a chance with 87 from 12 hands. Of course the second half dashed my hopes with 63. still another winning had passed by. Wednesday afternoon we played football and managed to win our first match. I had a shock when I went to put my football boots on. The left one was too small and I had to play with one football boot and one army boot. Still we pulled it off 1-0 and hope we are going to start winning a few more. I am still playing centre half and don't feel too puffed at the end.

I had seen the picture in camp “Underground” so went across to the writing room but the lights were poor and we couldn't see to write. On Thursday we had the day off for working last Sunday and after a walk across the hills in the morning I went by bus (the electric one I drew in Keith's or Sheila's airgraph or letter I sent) to town. It cost 8 lire for about 6 miles so wasn't bad. We had a look at the sea and a walk around and then went in the NAAFI for tea and cakes. Afterwards we went to see “Madame Curie” at the garrison theatre. I had seen it before but it was worth another visit when there is nowhere to go. We got back to camp about 10.30pm

The weather has been pretty good this week with very little rain and not too cold although some mornings we can see snow on the hills. If the weather at home is anything like that in France according to the news, it must be pretty bad and I can see Keith's 17/6d shoes  being ruined before Christmas. 

I can see you will have to be father Christmas on your own for a second time love and don't forget to let me know all that happens. I bet you have lots of little stories to tell me about the kiddies and what they think of their toys etc. and Michael this year will be old enough to sense more excitement and cause more noise. I can't see you having must rest love and perhaps Bernice will come up and help to keep them in order. Here I think it will be a quiet time as there is little to do outside the camp and I am not  keen on drinking much of the wine. In that way I would sooner feel safe than sorry. By the way love the grease mark (on the edge of the letter) is from a sausage roll I have just had with a mug of coffee for my supper (7.30pm). as a rule there is just coffee , tea or soup but the cook must have been in  good mood. We are not doing badly for food and get a good ration of bacon but there are no eggs on view, not even in the shops and when I can sit down to a nice Sunday breakfast of bacon and eggs again love then I will know that this is all over at last.

I had a good hot shower tonight but it doesn't compare with a nice bath and as there are about 50 chaps having one at the same time with others waiting we have to get a move on and dash back to our billet with just a towel wrapped around us. Still there is a fire in our billets so we can dry off there.

I've met another Leicester chap and I can see there will soon be a colony of us. I've not seen Frank Hull lately but he said Arthur was going on OK in France.

Well love I have not mentioned the kiddies much in this letter and I will have to send them another little letter each. Tell keith I am still looking forward to the letter he is sending me and hope he and Sheila are looking after you and being good while daddy is away.

Goodnight sweetheart and God bless you and the kiddies.

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29th November 1944

Well love after a week with no mail I had a double dose on Monday, receiving your airmail dated the 18th and also the one dated 23rd in addition the sea letter at last with your photograph in. you know love by your photo you are doing more than keeping appearances up, you are putting on weight into the bargain and I can see the war diet must agree with you. I can see it will be you keeping me warm at nights in future and I'm looking forward to that time with all my heart. You have a nice smile love and I don't know why you told me you didn't think much of it. I can see you now as I have always remembered you and all your remarks about being an old woman are fairy tales. If you were to see the women of thirty years old here you would think you were their daughter in comparison.

I know love you are having a hard time and sometimes as you say others who haven't felt the strain of parting and having their lives and family routine upset can't realise or don't bother to try to help those who are not as fortunate. Still we will be able to carry on our lives together when the time comes in the knowledge that we have done our bit and our kiddies will always love their parents, especially mummy, when they are old enough to understand it all. Look after yourself as much as you can for me love and however long this parting is, keep that chin of yours up as you have done for so long and love me always as I love you.

I apologise to Michael for referring to him as a baby and will have to call him sonny boy in future. I can see the scowl on his face as he came into you when Keith had slipped when lifting him up. I think he will be the tough guy of the family though a loveable and I expect, being the youngest a little spoilt one but it must be grand to see them when they are playing together. It's a thrill I have not seen yet love except through your description but one day love we will watch and play with them together and although they no doubt miss their daddy it's all credit to you love that they are getting on so well together. I bet you are really proud of them when you take them out and people say how well Mrs. Mason's children are looking. I have heard from so many different sources how proud I must be of you all when I come home and I am just waiting for the time when I can come out with you and get puffed up with pride myself.

I can see myself spending Christmas in this spot and if my stocking will not take much filling I will be thinking of you all and can see by the things you and others have bought for them already they are going to have lots of surprises and fun. I hope Keith gets on OK with his bike and guess he will feel like a big lad whizzing around the corners on two wheels.

By the way I had already written Keith and Sheila an airgraph each the night before I received his letter or should I call it a placard. He must have spent a lot of time on it and tell him how much I liked it. Of course I (to get puffed up myself) had to show it to all the civvies at work and he would need a bigger cap if he heard all that they said. The interpreter read it all through with me and each time I have a letter like that I have to show it to him, he enjoys them so much.

I also had an airmail from mam just after I sent her one and it made me smile when she told me about Sheila inviting everyone to her party next Tuesday except for Harry who she didn't like without his teeth in. I bet he laughed about that.

If this is lucky it should reach you about on Sheila's birthday and give her an extra big kiss from Daddy and tell her I want to know how many cards she had. I'm glad to hear my card has arrived as I began to wonder if I had posted it after all and hope she doesn't see you putting it through the letterbox on Tuesday morning. 

I'm sorry to hear Mrs. Brown is still in hospital. It's been a tough break for her and I think you must feel companions in misfortune sometimes. You've both had your share of trouble but guess you both feel better after a good chinwag together.

So Dick has had his embarkation leave and guess he's for France. It comes to us all some time or other and sometimes I think if I had come abroad sooner I'd be nearer home to you now but then I think I shouldn't have seen Michael and perhaps we wouldn't have had a little bump of mischief and think then I am glad I spent as long as I did with you before coming out.

I shan't be in the first few batches coming home on leave, but I think I would be scarred stiff at the thought of coming home and knowing all the time I had got to come back here again. I believe though love that next spring will see the end of Jerry and then once home I would not be due for any more service overseas even if I had to stay in the army a few months more.

I'm glad to hear Bob is doing well and hope to hear he is home again soon. Do you think he will be home for Christmas?

I've been to a cinema show in camp tonight after playing in a practise game of football this afternoon and it was a pretty recent film I think called 'The Sullivans' which it said was a true story and it was very good after a slow beginning. I've not seen 'The White Cliffs of Dover' but perhaps it is not suitable for the troops. They seem to be sending a lot of Betty Grable type films out just now perhaps to let the lads see a lot of beautiful girls and perhaps to remind some of them they are waiting back home for them.

Well love once more it's time to say goodnight but I shall be listening in on the radio on Tuesday night on Sheila's birthday to the 6pm news so if you are listening tell Sheila to shout ' Hello daddy' and I'll hear her.

God bless you all.

December 2nd 1944

Dear Olive

I was very pleased love to get your airmail you started on Monday night, finished on Tuesday night and posted on Wednesday and see you've been in the wars again with your arm. You certainly are getting the bad breaks all at once love and I can understand you being fed up with things at times. It makes it all the harder to carry on when things like that happen but it also shows love how much grit you've got in that you do carry on

So Peggy and Les have a daughter and I've written to them tonight to congratulate them and giving Peggy a bit of good advice regarding scrubbing floors when she gets up. I've also told them their life of leisure and pleasure has now ended for good although I can see Mabel only too anxious to look after the baby (Margery) when they want a night out. Keith was glad our baby was a boy. I think he'd have found it below his dignity to play with two little girls and Michael being so tough is just Keith's barrow for working his feelings and high spirits off on.

I can just imagine Michael playing shops and the state of your kitchen floor after he was finished. I don't suppose you feel much like cleaning up after your usual busy day, but believe me love I will never be too tired in the evenings to help you straighten up. I only wish I had the chance now.

We got our details in today showing when we embarked on this ' present tour' as the army put it. My overseas service looks very little against the biggest part of the blokes here, a lot of whom have nearly 4 years to their credit. Frank Hull may be lucky soon and if he does come home he's promised to call in and see you. That other chap Stan Oldham whose wife is Mrs Caves daughter  (the Frog Island post office folks) has also about 3 years 8 months overseas to his credit. If and when he's lucky he will also call in. I think before many come home Germany will be finished and the age groups will be started. We cannot say when that will be but I'm carrying on only thinking of that time and what a day it will be worth waiting for.

We heard on the wireless about Burton on Trent and I see it must have been a terrific explosion. You said you thought it was a flying bomb dropped near and I often wonder if any have dropped in the Midlands as they were dropped at scattered places and you've not mentioned them before. Tell Keith ' Baion Natale is Italian for ' Good Birth' which is the Italian way way of saying 'Happy Christmas'.

I've sent off most of the Christmas  airgraphs and hope I've not forgotten anybody this time. I think I told you I had had one so far from Aunt Beck and will receive some more no doubt over the next few weeks. By the way love I think you will start to get two letters near to each other when you don't get one for a week as I write every four days when possible and as I found out like last week when there must have been a delay as I had two of yours together, one posted 6 days after the other.  We get three each fortnight as a rule but at the moment are getting four and  I also have a few that got damp which blokes don't want.

I see the first lot of nuts haven't arrived yet but they tell me they might take 6-8 weeks so it might be near Christmas when they do arrive and also if the small parcel turns up from Australia I mentioned before. They told us when we paid our 5/- they would be delivered by Christmas.

Well love I now have two big black toenails caused by too tight football boots in a practise game on Wednesday as in due course I shall I hope get some new ones. Otherwise I am keeping well except for a bit of a sniffy cold and I'm just going to listen to Music Hall (8pm) I should think you are to tired to turn the radio on but if you are listening ' Goodnight Sweetheart' , happy dreams and try to carry on a bit longer till the time comes a nap on the settee with a few chocolates beside you and a bottle of 'Tizer'

Your ever loving husband Eric.

Tizer, for those not familiar with the stuff, was and still in fact is, a bright orange coloured fizzy drink which before the appearance of Coca Cola was one of the most popular soft drinks in the UK along with Vimto . It was sold in distinctive bottles with a bulge in the centre.

Music Hall was a weekly radio programme listened to by millions every week.

6th December 1944

Well love how are you today after the excitement of Sheila's birthday? I was thinking about you all day yesterday and kept looking at Sheila's picture and thinking what a big girl she is growing and it seems only like yesterday that I took you off to Westcotes to bring her into the world with as little trouble. You know I've missed the evenings with her reading a goodnight story like I did to Keith and I hope she don't think she's too big for daddy's knee when I am back with you. I always think they look their best love in their pyjamas just before they go to bed especially Sheila with her curls. 

I'm glad we have the two boys love one older and one younger as she has someone to look after her. Did all those she invited come to her birthday party and was she pleased with her cards and presents. I guess they felt tired and you also before the day was out.

I seem to have little mail again this week and expect to get one from you tomorrow or Friday. I had your last on Saturday and as I've not heard any more since I wrote to you on Sunday. We were on pay for those days until Tuesday night and by then I was sick of looking at figures on payrolls. I've got a day off to come for working Sunday and may have Saturday off for last Sunday and Sunday off for this week. It reminds me when I was at Weedon and did the same but then I got out the old bike and had a long weekend at home. Those days are over but the next time I ride a bike home will be from Faire Brothers and if Russia continues as she is doing and the western Europe advances and bombings continue something is going to happen in Germany soon.

Well love its more like October here with dark clouds and showers of rain, plenty of mud on the roads and lights in the billets going off and on for the last four nights. There is a faulty wire in the camp and some nights they are hardly bright enough to see by. Last night they were off altogether and Sheila would have thought, if she had been here, the candles (about 12” long) stuck to the foot of ours beds were especially for her birthday. It was funny and ever one felt like singing Christmas carols. We still often have a sing song before going to the pictures or coming across to the writing room.

On Monday night we had one of your favourite films, Abbot and Costello in 'Hit the Ice' but besides the talkie being hopeless there were about ten breakdowns so it wasn't much good. Last night was the weekly whist drive and I managed to get 175 in 24 hands which every week before had won 1st or 2nd prize but it wasn't my lucky night as two blokes took both prizes with 176. I was playing as a gent and the first lady prize was 173. I had to 'cut' with three other blokes for the highest score in the second half and couldn't even win that. Still it was a good drive with 23 tables, partly I think because everyone paid 10 lire (6d) and it made it more popular.

Tonight was again picture night and there was an English film on for a change “ They met in the dark” not too good but I've seen plenty worse. I've been for a drink of soup for supper and came across here half an hour ago to talk to you and I've also been listening to the wireless a bit, including a variety and the audience singing “ Johnny's got a zero” and I bet Sheila knows it.

By the way love I see Keith has gone down the class a bit through his writing but I think he had a bad legacy from his dad as I've had to write out homework before now at school for bad writing and you must do well to translate this now. I think he is not so much careless as his thoughts must run faster than his hand can write decently and I think he will do well at school. He's never stuck for a way of building what he wants when he is doing anything and no doubt he will be ok once the wars over and we all lead normal lives again. By the way did Janet pass her exams as mum was telling me Bill and Midge were hoping she would and go to the secondary school. 

They have just published the first six names to come home on leave and if that is all that goes each month it's going to be a long time before my names on. I think we'll back the end of the war first love. It made the chaps talk when they heard on the wireless about chaps in France getting home every 6 months and although we know its not far across the channel it doesn't seem quite fair for those in other theatres of war for so long. I've spoken to a number of chaps who wouldn't mind coming out again after a month at home but once I get back love I wouldn't want to leave you again.

It's  just striking 9pm and I am just breaking of to hear if the war has finished since this morning. Sorry love it's still on and we seem to have a civil war on our hands in Greece. The Russians are doing well and other news is good. I wonder what the German people think of the heavy raids night and day.

The fact that Eric refers to 'The German people' is interesting as throughout the letters any hatred seems directed at Hitler and the Nazi party not at the Germans as a people. The same  seems to go for the Japanese.
After the war with the revelations about the atrocities committed by both the Germans and the Japanese, his attitude hardened. The rapid recovery of both countries compared with Britain also affected this attitude with a feeling that although 'we' won the war, we lost the peace.

I forgot to tell you I am having a game of football again tomorrow and am also captain. Not bad at 37 years eh love. There is a lieutenant playing for us and I hope I don't have to swear too much at him. If the weathers like it is now it will be a muddy match.

Well love I guess I will have to close again for tonight. You'll be so nice to come home to and I only ask for that day to come as soon as possible. Give the kiddies big kisses and tell Sheila I have sent four big ones for her birthday and to let mummy give them to her for me

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December 10th 1944

I was very pleased to get your letter dated 2nd December and posted on the 5th and I hope the birthday cake was worth waiting for. You know love when you started off your letter about how long folks can go without a nervous breakdown and talking about whether your mind is OK came as a shock to me. I was talking things over with a bloke in the next bed. He said his wife wrote sometimes, how tired she was of it all and how thoughts came into her head about whether he loved her as much, how much longer she could stick this burden with the kiddies, and he said when he got a letter like that he felt like smacking his wife's bottom if he could and wrote to tell her so.

You know love we have got to try and forget how we are suffering ourselves through the war and not let our minds dwell on those who are much better fixed. I know it is hard to do so for you, where everybody round about with the exception of a few like Mrs. Brown haven't felt the trials and tribulations but out here we are so many who haven't seen our loved ones or much longer, some who came away just before marriage or just after and their minds must often wonder how there loved one are behaving. Then there are those whose loved ones are in the front line somewhere and they never know a minute's peace of mind.

I think dear it is due in part to the quick way things moved. In the summer we all thought Jerry would be finished before this and knowing now it will be a few more months yet has brought the reaction. I don't want to smack your bottom love although I aught to when you talk about me falling for one of the girls charms while I'm away . I know I miss my love awfully sometimes but I only want love with you and until that is possible you can count on me love. When you feel low again love just sit for a minute and think of the blessings we've ahead. A chance to get a home together which a lot of couples haven't or have had their homes blitzed, a family no parents could be prouder of and when the wars over a steady job and a life together with the children, all the more in love with each other if that is possible through the troubles and partings. Don't think too much dear about some peoples marriages going wrong, it isn't always the war to blame.

I'd certainly like one or two of those jam tarts you had on Monday night and don't suppose there were many left 24 hours later. I hope Sheila had a wonderful time and didn't make herself sick. Ethel will no doubt be a help and company as long as you two don't start feeling too sorry for yourselves. She's had a rough time and no doubt feel better yourselves by helping the other to forget her troubles. 

We went to the pictures in camp on Friday night to see “ You'll never get rich” with Fred Satire and since then I've had a long weekend away from work as I had Saturday off for working last Sunday and today as usual. Yesterday we went by lorry out for the day to town, not the usual one but the next further up the map but it was wet all the time and after a look round we spent the afternoon in the NAAFI where you can get a lunch for 1/6d and there is a lounge with plenty of easy chairs and a good orchestra which we listened to for some time. We arrived back at camp about 8.30pm and I am across to hear the news before turning in.

This morning was also a day of rest but I went to holy communion at 8.30am and stayed for the morning service. I think some of the lads must have felt like you love as the padre in his address talked about the same subject. He said chaps had been to him and some were telling him of the unfairness of having to be out here so long and he said he himself had felt the same way but was thankful his wife didn't have as much to worry about now he was out of the front line.  Also the fact she had less to worry about made him feel more able to carry on.

I had a soldiers half day on the bed this afternoon, trying to doze off and dream for a little while that I was back home to share that nice Saturday night fire with you love but one chap had got a book of riddles and there was too much noise so I gave it up and read until teatime. It is now 6.30pm and I am in the writing room, the radio next door is on but crackling a bit as there are storms about.

There is snow on the hills again today and it has turned rather nippy. It was cold changing my clothes and it is a good job we have a fire in the billet as we can air them as the army wash them and send them back quite damp this weather. Still I seem pretty free from colds t the moment and no doubt the army life has made me a little less liable to colds.

I hope you get some nuts before Christmas and it's a pity they don't send them by air like they did the registered envelope. That was quick work and I hope you get something nice with it. I could no doubt get some earrings out here but I'm afraid you would think them too flashy like most of their jewelry. They seem to have cameos of every description and while we were in town we looked to see if there was anything suitable without success. I did nearly buy Sheila a doll dressed in very bright clothes but otherwise couldn't find anything.

I'm expecting a quiet Christmas but expect there will be plenty of broadcasts from home as I will be listening in. I heard the King spoke at the H.G. final parade and also the Queen to the ATS or WVS or something.

I had an airmail from Keith and your mum which thank them for and I'll be writing to them soon. Look after yourself love for me and always know my love is only for you and don't lose that Johnson spirit. 


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15th December 1944

Well love although ordinary mail has been rather small this week I've had quite a batch of Xmas aerographs, eight to be precise from Nora, Gladys Wells, Mum, Win and Arthur, Bernice Edith Evans and Gladys Wain, (sorry only 7) and although I shan't reply to separately will you tell them all love I've got them and thank everybody for me. I've also had an airmail from Jack Keffenden in which he says he hopes to send you a few bars of chocolate for the kiddies. Let me know if you do get any love so I can write and thank him. 

I also had an airmail from Arthur Reece's wife, cousin Ivy and she says they are all well except on December 10th it was snowing hard and it made me wonder if you had any yet. She says she wishes she had a little family as she didn't have to go out to work and do the housework at night, but I think you could tell her a thing or two about how much time you have to share with a family  , even at night time eh love.

I'm glad to hear love your leg looks a bit better and hope it continues to get well quickly. I know it would take one little worry off your mind at least and the less worries on your mind the better you'll feel all round.

I expect at the moment you are busy preparing for Christmas and find plenty to do. How's Ethel keeping?  I'm sorry I didn't say hello to her in my last letter but I hope she will forgive me as when I start writing to you love I just ramble on and I didn't realize till after my letter was posted that I'd not mentioned her in it. Are you both cold footed? I'm sure you will welcome the day (or rather night) when you can warm your feet on me again.

By the way how's Beryl going on nowdays, I hope she and her family are getting on well and I guess I'll be feeling old before long with three grand nieces or nephews. I hear Jack's boy is a big lad and Peggy's one won't suffer from lack of fuss with Mabel about. I hear good reports of them all, though I expect there are some not so good ones I don't hear about.

Does Keith ride his bike by himself yet. Tell him I want him to draw it for me if he can and write me a nice letter about what he thinks of it, and if he has thanked mammy by being a good boy.

Well love we had a decent picture in the cinema on Wednesday night called 'Standing Room Only' and as I was about up to date with my correspondence I came over to the information and writing room to listen to the wireless. I'm there again tonight and on the 8pm news flashes we heard the American 7th army had crossed the German frontier. There's someway to go yet love but it seems to show how things are going when we hear of a big British fleet in the pacific ready to strike against the Japs and I think air and sea power is going to finish them before very long.

It will be my second Christmas away from you dear but also the last I'm sure and there's one thing we know we can shop in peaceful surroundings for years to come, when that day comes.

I'm afraid I've got a few army habits which I shall have to try to break when I get back such as making a sandwich of any sort of meat etc. that will go between bread, slapping on the marg and jam without thinking how much I am using, getting up about 6am( I'll break that easily), folding the bedclothes up when I get up in the morning and putting on a collar and tie again. Although I've seen quite a few chaps out here wearing ties, its not been on orders officially and so we've had none issued. We all have the Yankie type of shirt though with the collar and I'm wondering if the ordinary civvy shirt will seem a bit thin after so long with these warm ones. I'm sure my feet will be cold for some time wearing thin socks after army types and boots so don't ruin the hotwater bottles will you love.

Did I tell you I bought a pipe from the NAAFI the other week for 4/6d. It holds about ½oz of tobacco I should think but I only smoke it when I get short of cigarettes which sometimes happens just before our weekly ration is issued. Still that's not a habit love so it won't need breaking.

I've had my weekly shower tonight and it was funny as they have placed a chain on each shower now so that the water only comes when you pull the chain and believe it or not it's the first chain I've pulled since leaving the boat and I said to the chap in the next shower, "Its like civvy street again pulling the chain". Have you had our lav frozen yet love? I should think the lamps about rusted up isn't it?

Although Olive and Eric's house was only built in about 1935, the toilet was outside in a small brick shed. During the winter the pipes taking water to the cistern would freeze and it was impossible to flush the pan after use.
To overcome this, a small parafin heater was used in the toilet and all the pipes were wrapped in a felt material. The heater filled the toilet with fumes but did make it nice and cozy.
If the pipes did freeze because the heater went out or there was no parafin to be had, they often burst when they thawed out.
One of the first improvements to the properties all the householders in the area carried out when better times eventually arived in the fifties, was having an indoor toilet installed.!
Another aspect of toilet history was the use of torn up newspapers as a substitute for proper toilet tissues. It was hard on the bottom and when the new flat packs of sanitized tissues arrived, they seemed like heaven although today their lack of absorbency would still make them seem primitive.

Changing the subject a dance band on the wireless is playing "Oranges and Lemons" about five minutes to nine and its about time we switched the kettle on for supper. We drew our teams out for the sweep so if this does get home early next week look to see if Middlesborough has won it and have a drink on me. We only have the home team sin the English North and South leagues and the Western league. We didn't play this week as our ground was unfit. I had a typhus inoculation two days ago, a booster which we get every 6 months. It doesn't seem so long ago as that since I had my last inoculations and had 48 hours off for them.

Well love I've not said so much in this letter about us and our family but you know love love how I feel about this parting. I keep my thoughts fixed on the day when writing our thoughts is no longer necessary and until that day dawns we both know of our love for each other.

Goodnight sweetheart and god bless the kiddies and keep them safe for me. Don't forget to give Keith, Sheila and baby Michael my hugs and kisses especially at Christmas when I shall be thinking of you all the time

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17th December 1944

I was very pleased to get today love your letter dated December 10th and posted on the 11th and see from the tone of your letter that you are feeling a bit brighter although I guess poorly finger and boil are sent so you'll only get better by degrees and to try your patience a little further. I had to laugh about your references about going wrong altogether ( you'd better not love, I've 18 months love already stored up for you) and the nurse saying she'll bring another baby home when daddy comes back. I think they will be busy for some time delivering babies to soldiers homes (sorry ex-soldiers homes) but I think our little bunch of love and mischief is quite enough to keep us occupied love and we'll do our best to stop at the three we have.

I've just received the Faires magazine and nearly fainted when I saw my handsome (?) mug complete with moustache. I never realized that was the photo I heard was in it and you know folks will never believe I am the father of the handsome group in the bottom corner. There a grand bunch love and chaps who have seen the magazine say to me “ Is that your family?” in such an amazed tone I know they are thinking how I've managed with a dial like mine to have such a family. It's a good job they have a good looking mother love to make up for it.

I was interested in all the letters from the chaps in the mag and some of them in India especially George Simpson have seen sights they would never have been allowed to see in civvy street.

I see from the paper Leicester has voted for staggered holidays so we will know when we get back when we can get to the seaside for that long awaited second honeymoon with a family to start with this time.

Traditionally, all the factories in each town closed on different weeks during the summer to allow the workers to have a short holiday. This resulted in each resort being swamped with people from a single town during a particular week. Staggered holidays were a way of hopefully spreading the load to allow factories to keep working even at a reduced level, make it easier for the Railways who carried most holiday makers to cope and, oh yes, give the workers a little more flexibility.

I've had more Christmas greetings airgraphs and cards and today I had mams gift, the diary and I shall be writing to thank her for it in a day or so. I've written a combined airmail to Nora Alf and the boys in reply to their letters and see the lads are all footballing. Does Keith show any interest in football yet? I know he's hardly old enough yet but when he gets out with the lads I am can see you'll have some even muddier shoes to clean than you do now.

By the way love Tommy Handley's on the wireless at the moment so it's a job to concentrate, are you listening to him love? Mrs. Moffitt has just been on and it seems a good show. I see Sheila had a lovely lot of cards and presents and I see she has a second cousin now on her birthday and I hope Cath and her baby get on well. I think you will win your bet with Bill love, but I shouldn't  take any more bets or you'll lose your money 

Its only the bad weather which is holding victory over Germany and next spring when the weather is better we will see the final push and victory. I can just imagine Michael playing with the shoes, It's just how Sheila was and I'm longing for you to get your pleasure seeing their faces when daddy comes home again. What a day we look forward to eh love.

We've had a quiet week and last night there was a band concert given by the Royal Norfolk Regiment which was very good and there was  a good crowd to hear it in the “Palladium”. I have not had a day off this weekend and as we are on pay and for three days are making up the pay envelopes for the civvies who work here. I hope to have Wednesday and Thursday off and as I hear there are some good boxes of  lemons in town I hope to get one or two to send home. I don't suppose you have had any boxes of Nuts and fruit yet but some should be due any time.

The weather has been mixed the last few days but we have not had any snow where we are yet. I expect the kids are hoping it settles on the lawn so they can play with it. I sent them an airgraph yesterday but am afraid I can't find a suitable birthday card for Michael on his second birthday. You'll have to put from mummy and daddy on yours love and if I can find some sort of gift to send I will although the toys in the shops here are rubbish even compared with the wartime toys in the shops now. I nearly bought Sheila a doll last week and am still undecided. What do you think love?

I told John in my letter to him I should have to write to you to send my football boots along so I can keep my place in the team. The last I saw of them I think they were hanging up under the lean to and were going a bit mouldy then so guess they have fallen to bits by now. Here we play in all size boots, whatever you are lucky enough to grab. Well love there's very little in the way of news except Dick had a parcel from his wife today, including a little bottle of chutney and it tasted grand with cheese for tea.

Well goodnight sweetheart, keep smiling dear and chins up.

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21st December 1944

After a lot of airgraph greetings early in the week things seem to have quietened down the last day or two and I'm hoping to get more or less up to date with my mail again. I've received Keiths Xmas airgraph and thank you very much Keith. It is lovely and daddy has pinned it up on the wall behind his desk. Don't forget to write and tell me what you have has for Christmas and also what Sheila and Michael have had. Is Michael having a party on his second birthday?

Well love how are you, still keeping cheerful in spite of the German push in Belgium. It may look serious but I think I agree with Eisenhower that this last desperate effort of Germany's to break out of the circle may decide the war in our favour much quicker than plodding on as they have been doing at about half a mile a day. Our wireless has gone wrong just as we want it on but we see the Union Jack and it seems an all out offensive and I can't see what he hopes to gain by it except to build up his people's courage. It is no doubt a shock to a lot of folks at home who were beginning to sit back and think the war was over for all intents and purposes. Some people may compare it with the breakthrough in 1940 but at that time the allies didn't have the aircraft and armour they have now and there isn't going to be a repetition of that.

I hope you can forget the war and everything connected with it (except for me love) and have a really good time at Christmas with the kiddies. Here the civvies don't hang their stockings up at Christmas I understand but do on Jan 6th at Epiphany. I don't know what sort of gifts they reckon to buy but the toys in the shops here are rubbishy and wouldn't last 5 minutes. They say in England the toys are not up to much but I bet they are better than those here.

Well love it's been a quiet week. Monday was cinema night but it was the small projector and the talkie was bad. Tuesday was the whist drive night but I didn't do any good only getting 150 in 24 hands. I was thinking of having Wednesday off for working Sunday but there was plenty of work to do so I left it for then and at night we had a good cinema show in the 'Palladium' called 'Show Business' with Eddie Carter and I think it must have been one of his latest films. There was a packed house and everyone enjoyed it.

Today we have played another game of football and once again drew 0-0. I am still captain ( Eric played for Cheltenham Town from 1932-34 and was possibly one of their first legally payed players) and as the team we played are at the top of the league we did well to make a draw. The ground was rather heavy and tonight I feel rather tired and shall no doubt be in bed before 10pm  (lucky chap eh love). 

We have not heard anymore about what is happening at Christmas except for a concert on Boxing night and one or two games of football but in any case we have the pleasure on Sunday and Monday of lying in bed for an extra hour or so. 5.45am seems so early this time of year but as today is the shortest day we shall soon be looking forward to the spring and all that it means to us.

The weather has been decent this week, a bit on the cold side so it's a job to get up in the morning but it's much better than the wet. We heard on the news   there had been a terrific storm in the straits of Dover and I wondered if you had had bad weather also.

Did I tell you I had a letter from Agnes, enclosing a P.O. for 2/6d. Unfortunately she signed it at the bottom as well as having received it but when I want to cash it I think it will be OK. She tells me Mr. Lillie has told her the Corset Department will return to its old home above the Haby when things are normal again and they will both be happy. She says she is not following Annie Richardson's example and getting married at her time of life there are so many things to consider. I don't know what things she means love unless she thinks she may have to start raising a family and that would be awkward.

Faire Brothers factory in Rutland Street, Leicester where Eric spent all of his working life, employed large numbers of middle aged, unmarried women.
Most had lost sweethearts, fiances and boyfriends in the slaughter of the first world war. Even those who had not lost someone found that a whole generation of young men had disappeared and their chances of finding a husband were very small. It is one of the sad and almost forgotten legacies of that war.

Have you had my parcels yet love. I hope when they do arrive they are still OK but we have to chance that. We are having plenty of oranges at the moment as they are about all ripe on the trees and I hope you have been able to buy some in the shops. In future I will only send lemons which I don't suppose you are able to get, and once the Christmas rush is over they should arrive much quicker than at the moment.

Well love I don't know what to really talk about in the way of news but as far as I know here is what I will be doing until Tuesday. Tomorrow is Friday and payday and at night there should be another cinema show. Saturday I hope to have off for last Sunday and may go down to town with Tom Mansfield to see if there is anything worth buying in the shops. The civvies are not working Sunday and Monday so they are cooking some food to eat as a special occasion on Saturday afternoon and we have all contributed 50 lire towards the cost. I don't suppose we will eat much though. Sunday will be a day of relaxation, perhaps watching a football match in the morning and having a nap in the afternoon. I shall attend the carol service on Christmas Eve and no doubt shall be in bed by 10pm with my army socks hanging up at the bottom of my bed in case Santa Claus pays us a visit.

Christmas morning I hope to attend the Christmas communion first thing and spend the morning getting ready for the army Christmas dinner. If I can walk after it the other chaps who are in the same office and sleep there want us to go down for a drink and a game of cards so I may well spend Christmas night playing solo. Tuesday, Boxing Day is a normal working day so that finishes the Christmas programme except for the concert in camp on Boxing night.

Well love it's time to say goodnight again so goodnight, sweet dreams and give the kiddies lots of Xmas kisses and hugs and tell them to give you plenty to send to me. Keep smiling and remember we shall have so much  to look forward too.

December 24th 1944

Well love Christmas eve and I am thinking of you about now 7pm perhaps having got the kiddies to bed and ready for the night of all nights that the kiddies have. How I wish I were with you to share it and I've now missed two Christmas's with you seeing the kiddies faces as they search their pillowslips to see what Father Christmas has bought them. I'm sure their wishes will be granted this year by the list of gifts which they  will find in their stockings and I pray god this will be the last Christmas I have to stay away from you all.

I was pleased to get your letter dated the 16th and posted on the 17th yesterday and I'm sorry you think I was telling you off about being depressed. Do you remember love when you were in bed after having Keith and suffered from an abscess and I had to speak  sharp to you as you were letting things get the better of you. 

I guess I thought you were letting the worries and monotonous jobs get you down a bit  too much again and I wanted to take your mind off problems a bit. You know I realise what a job you have had on your own, and when you were in Westcoates ( Maternity Hospital) with Sheila and I had Keith off colour at home it didn't take long for me to break down. Don't feel love I am trying to tell you off at all, just try to look on blessings we have and keep your thoughts on that day.

I see they have managed to undo a lot of the good your leg had had by the wrong ointment and I hope it quickly picks up again. If the doctor says an elastoplast will help then I should try one.

Thank the kiddies for the kisses they sent on Sheila's birthday and tell them Daddy got them all. I'll be expecting more tomorrow morning about 11am before you go to Mabel's. I will be with you all in thoughts love you know that and hope you will send me a description of what they have all done at Christmas. Michael must be a cheeky little rogue by now and it will be worth a fortune to watch their faces when they see their daddy again.

Well love as I wrote you on Thursday, the programme I stated for xmas hasn't turned out just as planned. On Friday the civvies at the office had a bit of a feud and knowing what they are I gave one of them for fun a piece of paper in case they wanted to take some of the cake home. Immediately  they all wanted some and half an hour later there wasn't a cake or sandwich on the tables and they all had packages of food wrapped up. In England you wouldn't  think of doing such a thing but they must have thick skins. After the civvies had gone, the 6 soldiers who work here had a drink ( I of course am one of the 6 ) but we kept sober and got back to camp about 9pm.

Saturday was my day off for last Sundays work so I went to town in the morning. I found it rather cold and after cakes and tea in the NAAFI I Had a walk round, I bought a box of nuts and another of lemons and went to the cinema to see  'English without tears' in the afternoon. I landed back at camp about 6pm and messed about in the barrack room some while before coming across to the reading room to listen to 'Saturday night at eight' on the wireless.

I didn't feel like writing in reply to all the airgraphs I have had in the last few days. I've had one from Janet, Bill and Madge, besides a letter from Gladys Wells. 

I'm sorry I forgot to thank you for the braces which also came. I see the parcel of dried fruits which we understood would be delivered from Australia to you hasn't arrived but hope it lands soon. I see you had a mixed box of lemons and nuts although I can't remember putting any almonds in. My first box was all walnuts and I hope it hasn't gone astray. I've sent off tonight a box of lemons and another of cobs and once Christmas is over I hope to send some more lemons. Has mum had her nuts yet?

Are you listening to the wireless love just now at 7.50pm. They've just played ' In the shade of the old apple tree' and are now singing ' I like pickled Onions' He's not the only one is he love?

We heard at the last minute that we only have one days holiday. Christmas day so had to go to work today. We packed the civvies off early and had one or two before we came back to camp at 5pm. There was a carol service on in the camp which I went to but it was very short and nothing like the one we had last year at Phillipville. I had a cup of soup and then came over here.

Well love thank you for your wishes of a happy Christmas and most of my happiness will be thinking of you and the kiddies. Tomorrow I will go to the communion at 8am and take the day quietly around the camp after a big  Christmas dinner.

Goodnight love, god bless you and keep you safe for me and I pray next year I can wish you Happy Christmas sweetheart in person. 

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December 27 1944

Well love your hope that your letter dated 21st  reached me in time for Christmas nearly came true as I had it on Boxing Day morning and I'm pleased to hear the box of mixed nuts arrived safely. You'll have a few to crack in front of the fire and I hope the bottle of wine you had from your mum went well with them. I guess Keith won't try anything he thinks will taste different and wonder if he and the other children will like the bananas when they come on the market again.

With their greetings and your  good description love I can imagine you writing the letter and tell them daddy had a very happy Christmas thinking of you all and we'll all have the best Christmas ever next year please god.

Talking about training Michael for the choir love, the wireless is currently playing the 'Messiah', a special broadcast from Huddersfield and there is a big circle of blokes seated around the fire listening to it.

Michael joined St. Augustine's choir but moved to St Leonard's in Woodgate at the age of 11 when the vicar Rev Daybell 'sacked the choir'. There was a disagreement about the music and style of service.The Rev Daybel became a cannon and died recently in Bottesford (Leicestershire)

Last night was one of the coldest so far this winter and although the wind has dropped now , it's a little bit thin tonight and I'd love a bit of fuss with you love at home instead of sitting here on a high stool wondering how many letters to write as my feet are feeling a bit cold already.

I've had a box of 200 cigarettes from 'all in the office' and as we don't get any from the customs now I find the weekly issue hardly keeps me going and they will be a useful standby. I guess I smoke more than I should about 150 a week but that figure includes a few given to the civvies at various times as they can't get decent fags from their shops, only a ration of Italian fags which are worse than the 'V' cigarettes there was so much trouble about. I did buy a pipe and I have about one fill a week and 2oz of tobacco will last me months I think.

I'm sorry Percy and Tom were unable to get home for Christmas but guess we can never tell where we will be at any given time. Two or three days ago Dick was saying the days are getting longer and we should be in KD shorts before long.

Well love I think I told you my Christmas up to Sunday evening. On Monday morning we were awakened about 7am by sergeants asking where our mugs were as they had brought tea round to us in bed. Afterwards I got up and went to breakfast before going to communion at the church at 8.30am. and went with Dick to see a football match between the privates and junior NCOs' and the Sergeants and officers which the lower ranks won 5-3. 

We came back to camp and it was time for Christmas dinner and they certainly gave us a fine meal. The tables were all set out with bowls of fruit, nuts and sweets and opposite each man's place was a half pint bottle of beer. We all sat down and were waited on by officers of all ranks and sergeants upwards in NCO's. We started off with with thick soup and then the expected big plate of tinned turkey on small Yorkshire puddings about as big as a cream bun, three slices of pork, savoury stuffing, baked potatoes  done just right and sauce and there were no plates I could see with any uneaten food on after ten minutes. We had a nice piece of very good Christmas pudding and after the beer also a good do at the fruit, nuts and sweets. We then waddled back to our billets.

After we had let all that settle down we went down to the office as promised to the three lads who live there to give them a game of cards but it developed into a quiet drink for the start, spam sandwiches and a piece of chicken eaten like Charles Haughton eats it in Henry V111th and later on a chat and a singsong around the fire till about 10.45pm when we decided it was about time to wander home. I had had quite a few during the evening but we managed to walk back to camp OK. I didn't feel too good on Tuesday morning when we had to go to work as usual but I don't think I got too merry.

Before I go any further love I forgot to include that at 2.15pm on Christmas day we listened to the  around Europe broadcast and the Kings speech at the end. I expect you would be listening to it as well.

Another thing I forgot was at tea in the office we all had a piece of real home-made Christmas cake that one of the chaps had  had from home and it did taste good.

On Boxing Day there was a concert on in the camp and we went to the second house. It was quite good and included a 3 two minute round boxing match. It was nearly 11pm when it finished so I'm going to make up tonight by being in bed for 10pm. I've just heard the news which is more favourable on the Western front and very good on the Russian front. It also said the Panda at the zoo had died on Christmas day.

By the way love you might tell Keith I still use the comb case he made for me and I see he has made you a letter holder. He seems to like making things and I think he will be an architect or an engineer.

I see you had a little outing to the Transport Club and hope you enjoyed it. You don't mention your leg in this letter love and I hope if you have had to have an elastoplast on it has done it good.

Keep your chin up love and here's hoping you and the children, all of whom I love more than anything in the world a happy new year and a victorious reunion as early as possible.

Goodnight sweetheart, all my love to you night and day wherever I am and roll on the day when we are together again in peace. 

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December 31st 1944
Well love here we are on New Years Eve and I'm spending it a lot quieter than I've spent most of my other New Years Eve's. It is 6.40pm and it is very chilly outside and I am in the reading room spending my last evening of 1944 having these few words with you love. In the other part of the room, portioned off, chaps are sitting around the big open fire listening to the radio. I came across last night but didn't do any writing, just read and listened to the radio.

I have made two resolutions for 1945 love so far and they are 1. To number all my letters to you and 2. To fill in little bits of news in my diary each day now I have a good one. I may find later on I've forgotten a letter or so but that is the resolution and you will be able to check whether they have all arrived. By the way love do you keep the letters I send? If you do you must have a tidy sized bunch by now as I've kept yours and wondered about sending a batch home for you to keep for me as they are starting to overflow the container I keep them in. What do you think? Would you like to know what you thought of me at Christmas last year?

Well love I hope you are getting over your no doubt extra busy time at Christmas and you, Ethel and the kiddies had a good time. I can imagine you'll be glad its all over in a way and please god it will be the last one we have to spend away from each other.

Did you go to the school to see Keith in the play or was it only for the children? If Sheila went I can see her shouting out ' There's Keith' when she saw him and Michael following suit.

Have you got your elastoplast on and how's  your leg getting on? I hope it isn't bothering you so much and you have a bit more time to rest it.

I am waiting to hear all the Christmas news as the last letter I had from you was on the  21st or 22nd. I've been busy the last few nights replying to Christmas greetings and I'm now getting more or less up to date with my mail. I've written an airgraph to uncle Os and Aunt Namee at Northampton, whose lad Leslie was so severely burned in France and also to the pals of 'J' office besides airmails to Bill and Jack Richardson. Did you get any chocolate from him love?

We heard on the news yesterday about the earthquake in Northern England  and I thought at once about you as if you felt it at that time in the morning I guess you would think that a V2 had fell close by. Can you remember early in the war when we were in bed and the wall suddenly cracked and we wondered what it was.

Well love we had a concert on Thursday evening but it was a bit of a dull show and although they tried hard.

We played one of the top teams in the league in the afternoon and after scoring only three goals in the previous 7 matches we won 5-3. Quite a surprise to us as well as the other team. The major who is very interested in the team and comes to see most of the matches rang me up on the next morning to congratulate the team through me as captain and I can see myself getting a stripe if I'm not careful and I'd hate to be a local acting unpaid lance corporal (L/A/UP/LC). I think before that I had better apply for a class II clerk at an extra 9d a day. I guess 6d of it would be stopped to pay you love and they would knock it off your present scale so I haven't bothered before. I suppose you still get a hardship allowance love because if not I could easily get my class II and the extra would come in handy for you.

Well to continue with my weekly programme. I went to the cinema (first house) on Friday night to see once again Diana Darlin in 'Hers to Hold'  and it was worth another visit. Saturday was as I said an evening of quiet reading and listening to the wireless. Today being a day off I stayed in bed until 7.30am. and after breakfast went to church at 9.30am. Afterwards I arranged with Tom Mansfield who works at the same office to go to watch a football match this afternoon and so passed the day.

It has tried to rain a little tonight and with the heavy clouds about it looks as though there will be more snow in the mountains and hills by morning.

Have you managed to get a bit of coal in hand love as by all reports its proving a real cold winter at home and I can see you sitting nearly in the fireplace if there's not a lot of fire. I don't suppose Keith minds it though as it gives him an excuse to wear his shoes out more quickly through sliding. Has he been able to make his snowmen yet? Tell him I am sending him an airgraph to thank him for his Christmas one.

I'm hoping in the future to send some more lemons and nuts along as they seem to get home OK and the Christmas rush is over, they should come quicker. I have still not heard of anyone getting their Australia parcels we paid 5/- for and if you don't get it during the next week or two I shall make enquires at this end.

Well love it's getting towards the time to close again and on this last night of 1944 I am longing for you dear more than ever. We have had our troubles like most married couples but our love for each other is stronger if possible through the parting and fears.

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Copyright 2001 Keith Mason