Sunday 20th May 1945 – “I’ll always be able to talk about “when I piloted a boat on the Elbe!””

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

7.30 p.m.
Sunday
20th May 1945.

Dear All,

Thought I would start writing to you tonight while I’m on duty and there’s nothing much doing. I shall finish this tomorrow after I’ve seen if tomorrow’s mail contains a letter from you. I’ll post it tomorrow night so you won’t receive it till towards the end of the week, and I shan’t write again if my leave works out according to plan.

It’s been a grand day today, very hot sun with a nice breeze to keep the heat down a bit.

There was a Church Parade this morning but I wasn’t on it as I was on duty all night last night.

This afternoon I had a very nice and memorable experience. You see there are lots of motor launches on the river here and a few days ago the Unit took steps to obtain a couple, one small one for the officers and a larger one for the men. The latter goes out nearly every evening on trips up the river and a limited number of men are allowed to go on each trip. Ron and I put our names in for this afternoon and as it happened we were the only two who turned up except for an officer (there has to be an officer on board for every trip) and we set off, the three of us in a 40 foot long launch. I won’t tell you what we saw, that will save till I get home, but it was well worth going. The sea was just right (as I’ve told you before we are just near the mouth of the river). We took turns at steering it, so I’ll always be able to talk about “when I piloted a boat on the Elbe!” And Mam, it’s as safe as walking down the garden!

There’s not much more to write about now. I’ve made all the preliminary preparations for leave but I suppose I shall still have a last minute rush. Well I’ll knock off now for the day and finish off tomorrow.

Monday (Whit Monday?) 21st

Well there wasn’t any mail at all for me tonight so I haven’t got much more to write about.

The weather has been a bit rough today although it managed to keep fine till after tea. Now though, it is pouring with rain and looks like being a wet night.

Tomorrow I’m working in the cookhouse all day and that should be my last duty before leave. I’ve finished Wireless Duty for a bit anyway.

I know that you understand that I can’t give you any definite idea when to expect me. Sunday is the most likely day but as I’ve said before it might be Saturday or even after Sunday. The next thing you can expect from me is a telegram but if you don’t get one you’ll have to expect me when you see me.

But don’t start sitting up at mights waiting. To save you doing that you can leave the back door key out from Saturday night onwards.

I don’t think there’s anything else I want to say, except have some decent weather waiting for me! Oh and I nearly forgot – I hope Dad has got, or can get, a couple of films for my camera.

Cheerio for now, it won’t be long now.
Lots of love,

John
xxxxxx

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Saturday 19th May 1945 – “I now have the substantial sum of £20 in my wallet – looks like being a good leave!”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

Saturday
19th May 1945.

Dear All,

It’s now 9.30 a.m. and I’m on duty till one o’clock so I thought I’d drop you a few lines. This letter won’t go till tomorrow morning and I don’t suppose you’ll get it till about Wednesday or Thursday so I shall only have time to write one more letter. I shall probably post one on Monday.

I was very pleased to get Mam’s letter last night. There hadn’t been much mail for anybody for a few days so when I went back to the billet at teatime and found three letters on my bed I was more than pleased.

Glad to hear you had a nice day at the Anniversary, I got a Hymn Sheet a day or two ago, which Betty Elliot sent out on behalf of the Sunday School.

Well, of course, the main thing now is leave, it’s all I think about now, and although the time seems to be dragging I’ve just realised what a lot I’ve got to do in the next four days. First of all I’ve got to sort out all my clothes and do a bit of washing if necessary. Then there are the other oddments which I shall be taking. After I’ve decided what I shall take I’ve got to put everything else into my kit-bag and get it ready to put on the stores truck. Then there’s my rifle to be oiled so it won’t go rusty – in fact I’m going to be busy! All that must be done by Wednesday night because the leave truck starts from here at 5.30 in the morning. So far all I’ve done is to see about my pay. I drew all my credits out except for a couple of pounds and I now have the substantial sum of £20 in my wallet – looks like being a good leave!

By the way there’s a bit of good news which came out the day before yesterday and I don’t know whether it was in the papers or on the wireless. This is that BLA leave is now increased from a week to eleven days. That’s a stroke of luck isn’t it? This eleven days is made up of “D day”, which is the day the leave is due to start (the 27th for me) plus ten days. Of course I can’t give you much idea when I shall get home. The fact that the 27th is the date they give is nothing much to go by. It might be the 26th, 27th, 28th or even 29th. I shan’t know until I’m actually crossing and then I’ll probably be able to send a telegram to let you know. It seems a bit strange that we should have to go all the way from here by road and rail, to Holland, through Belgium and across to Calais to make the crossing to Dover or Folkestone, when we are at one of the biggest ports in Europe already. But of course Hamburg is not being used much yet and anyway I wouldn’t fancy going all the way from here to England by sea because it’s a 36 hour trip. When we came across last June we were on the water four days and if the sea hadn’t been so calm I should have joined the already large number who were sick!

I want to make one point clear. I don’t want a lot of fuss, I want a nice quiet leave. Especially with the food, I don’t want to upset myself by eating too much. I used to think that the first thing I’d do was to sit down to a large meal but I’ve changed my mind. To put it mildly the food here for the last few weeks has been rotten and in comparison the food at home will be very rich. So you can see that for the first few days I shall have to be careful. Still I’m looking forward to the Victory cake! It looks as if I shall be over at Groby for tea one day because Kath has hinted at making a trifle for the occasion. Still, all this talking about food is making me hungry so I’d better change the subject!

The weather is still good but a bit unsettled at times. On Thursday it was very hot and at teatime a terrific thunderstorm blew in from the sea. It lasted about two hours non-stop and since then it has been much fresher.

On Wednesday night Ron and I went to the pictures to see Spencer Tracy in “A Guy Named Joe” and it was very good. The programme was complete with the news and a Mickey Mouse “thriller”.

I think that’s about all for now. I’ll try to write again,

I’ll be seeing you,
Lots of love,

John
xxxxxx

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Wednesday 16th May 1945 – “I’ve always wondered what sort of a mess the RAF had made of the big cities and now I know”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

8.30 a.m.
Wednesday
16th May 1945.

Dear All,

You will probably be surprised to get so many letters from me in quick succession but this one marks a special occasion. Last night it was on orders that we can now tell people exactly where we are; and this morning I was told that starting today our letters would not be censored. So, as I think you should have the first uncensored letter, I am writing to you now and at dinner time I shall check up on orders to make sure there’s no mistake.

Actually I know for a fact that hardly any of our letters have been censored thoroughly for some months, but it’s not the same when you know that you’ve got to be so careful. Green Envelopes were never censored here, but were liable to censorship at the Base P.O., and if anything to do with the Army was found in a Green Envelope the writer of the letter was for the “high jump”.

Well now to tell you where we are. Just before VE Day we made a fairly short move, through the centre of Hamburg and set up shop on the northern outskirts of the port. Actually I suppose we are about a couple of miles or so from the centre of Hamburg, and I think this place has a difficult name, but it all joins on.

Well I’ve always wondered what sort of a mess the RAF had made of the big cities and now I know. You can take it from me that compared with this, London was hardly touched. Right through the centre there’s nothing but a road which had been cleared, and a mound of rubble on each side. This covers acres and there wasn’t a building standing. How anybody could have lived in it beats me, but they seem to have done. Where we are it’s very different. There’s no damage at all, and it’s a very high class quarter. We are in a billet (as you probably guessed) and when we went in at first it was just like a palace. It’s a three storey house with six or eight big rooms on each floor, wide staircase, modern kitchens, and ultra-modern electric fittings. The floors were all highly polished, but now that army boots have been there for over a week, they don’t look quite so good! Everything works except the hot water supply. The grounds are just as good, there’s a big garden, a lawn, beech trees, rhododendron bushes, and then acres of woods and more shrubs. So much for our humble dwelling!!

We are about five minutes walk from the river, which is near enough to the sea to be very wide and almost like the sea. There’s a stretch of sand and a prom, in fact it’s just like a small seaside resort and on the warm days there were hundreds of bathers and sun-bathers. That’s a description of it briefly, and I think you’ll agree it’s not a bad place?!

I don’t propose to tell you all about the other places all the way from Bayeux to here, because

1) I can’t remember a lot of them

2) It would take too long and

3) I wouldn’t have anything to talk about on leave!

But I know you won’t imagine we’ve always had conditions like this. We went under canvas as soon as we came into Germany and that was the middle of March, and we roughed it then all right.

But, as I say I’ve got to save some of this till my leave, which still stands the same (leave here a week tomorrow).

So for now,
Cheerio and Lots of love,

John
xxxxxx

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Tuesday 15th May 1945 – “I was sorry to hear that the rabbits had been stolen”

14400541,

Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

May 15 1945.

Dear All,

Thanks for Gwladys’s letter which was posted on the 10th and received by me on the 12th. Not bad going was it?

I was pleased to hear you had a nice couple of days of celebration, although, as I expected, you celebrated quietly. From what you say there doesn’t appear to have been much doing in Leicester, not compared with London anyway. One of our boys was on leave in London on VE Day and he has given us a first hand account of the celebrations there. By the way Stan went on leave last week and was due to arrive home just when the fun started.

I was sorry to hear that the rabbits had been stolen. I suppose whoever pinched them was going to have a Victory Supper.

Well the weather has changed here. It’s still pretty fair, but much cooler than last weekend. It’s a bit too cool to make lounging about outside very pleasant, and there’s an ENSA show tonight so if I’m relieved early enough at tea-time I shall go to that.

There’s been a further alteration in the leave dates. I think I told you I was due to leave here a week on Thursday. If I did I should have said a week on Wednesday. However leave was cancelled for today, owing to bad weather I suppose, and this has put everybody back one day. So now, subject to further cancellations etc., I am due to leave here on Thursday the 24th. I’ll soon have to sort my kit out ready.

Well I think that’s all for now. You said you were waiting for my comments on our VE day celebrations – well by now you should have them and I’m waiting to see what you have to say to them!

Lots of love

John
xxxxxxxx

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Saturday 12th May 1945 – “I thought the other chap was moving his feet and he thought it was me”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

Saturday
12 May 1945.

Dear All,

There isn’t much to write about as it isn’t long since I posted my last letter, but there is one important thing which will interest you.

This concerns my leave. I had a stroke of luck yesterday when another chap asked me if I would like to swap dates because he particularly wanted to be home at the beginning of June. I was very surprised to learn that his original date was over a week earlier than mine but I jumped at it of course. The change over has been authorised and adjusted by the “powers-that-be” and if everything goes according to plan I shall arrive in Blighty a fortnight from today.

I had a letter from Jim yesterday and he’s due to get home on the 16th so I shall just miss him. I suppose he will be setting off tomorrow.

The weather is still glorious and on the whole life isn’t so bad just now. In fact if you saw our living quarters and surrounds, you would be amazed. But we are expecting the “rocket” to go up any minute and then we shall be blancoing just like in the “good old days”!

I was on guard last night but the only excitement was a loud rustling in the shrubs where we were standing. We investigated with a torch and found a hedgehog. It was rather funny because the noise had been going on for some time, I thought the other chap was moving his feet and he thought it was me. When we found that it was “something” creeping up on us we were sort of surprised – not scared mind you!

That’s all for now,
So Lots of love

John
xxxxxxxx

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Thursday 10th May 1945 – “Well done boys, you’ve done a good job……carry on sergeant major!”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

10-5-45.

Dear All,

Just a few lines in case from the tone of my last letter that I was about to commit suicide! No, we’re still bearing up, in fact I think the position has improved a bit, but I wouldn’t like to say how long for. There was another parade yesterday but I happened (very fortunately) to be on duty at the time. Apparently it was just the usual soft soap – “Well done boys, you’ve done a good job……carry on sergeant major!”

We certainly can’t grumble about the weather or the accommodation we are in. I can’t say anything about the latter but the weather is really grand. For the last three days it’s been very hot and I hope Summer has come to stay this time. It’s lovely here, flowering shrubs and big gardens, just the job.

Thanks very much for Dad’s letter which I got this afternoon, also for the parcel (as usual everything is intact and will be most useful).

This Red Cross show seems to be a big effort and I suppose it means a lot of work, especially for the various secretaries!

I’m afraid there’s not much chance of getting hold of a German flag. I have seen one or two but they are always in the possession of blokes who found them first. They aren’t very common.

It looks as if you will be doing a lot of flying around now you are going to get a basic petrol ration again?! Anyway it will mean you’ve got no fear of being caught from now on!

Well, it’s only a short letter this time but I must close now.

You remember how I always used to be scribbling on any old piece of paper? Well I still do it, more so than ever before – one of these days I’ll make money at it!? The enclosed is a sill sketch I’ve just “completed”, it speaks for itself.

No more now,
Lots of love

John
xxxxxxxx

Note on this letter – 

Annoyingly the previous letter from 8th May 1945 is missing.

There is a note with the letters which was written when the local newspaper asked for memories of VE Day on a significant anniversary, I suspect it would be the 60th in 2004.

John’s modern day memories on reading his letter from 8th May 1945 were –

“I can remember that in my unit we were all pretty fed up on VE Day but we couldn’t complain officially so, as our letters were, of course, censored we made our feelings known in letters knowing that they would be read by one of our officers. I can’t remember that these tactics ever did us any good but they may have relieved the tension!

As far as VE Day is concerned I remember this clearly, not as a day of celebration but as a day of completely unnecessary parades and this is recorded clearly in my VE Day letter home.

David 2/11/2014

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Saturday 5th May 1945 – “I didn’t expect it to be over quite so soon”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

Saturday
5 May 1945.

Dear All,

I started writing to you when I was on duty last night but I didn’t get very far with it before I was snowed under with work. However I am trying to get a letter written now but I am afraid it will be rather short.

Well, how do you like the news now? It’s great isn’t it, and I suppose the people at home are more thrilled than we are. Perhaps I’ve always been pessimistic but I must admit that I didn’t expect it to be over quite so soon. It hasn’t made any difference to us yet but I suppose we’ll know before long what is going to happen.

Thanks very much for Dad’s letter received last Wednesday and Gwladys’s on Thursday. I am glad to know that Mam’s foot is gradually getting better.

I can see you are getting the same weather as we are. At the moment it’s raining hard but it has been sunny once or twice today.

Glad to hear there’s a chance of the bike being in working order for my leave. As you say it’s a bit of a nuisance having to travel on buses.

I don’t know if the latest developments will affect leave at all, but I don’t think they will.

I think that will have to be all for now.

I am enclosing that authority for Bray and Bray to pay that money into my account. I could have sent this straight on but I suppose you will deal with it.

Until next time
Lots of love

John
xxxxxx

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Wednesday 2nd May 1945 – “I’m wondering if the people here will go into mourning tomorrow. They’ve got white flags out everywhere”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

1 a.m.
Wednesday
2 May 1945.

Dear All,

I thought I’d just scribble a few lines because I’ve got to keep awake and there’s nothing to do just at the moment.

There’s really nothing to write about. The weather is still rather unsettled but it’s improving slowly and we aren’t getting a lot of heavy rain.

We spend most of our time (when not on duty or sleeping) kicking a rugger ball around. That’s the only recreation we get these days but we get quite a bit of fun.

Since I wrote last they have done a bit of juggling with the leave list but it hasn’t made much difference. Sailings were cancelled for a day which of course put everybody back, then they gave us another vacancy for the month which moved everybody up a bit. I daresay we shall move a bit more one way or the other but as it stands now I should leave the unit on the 29th (three weeks next Tuesday) and actually start my leave three days after that. It’s not so long but of course it is a bit early yet and as I say there might be one or two changes yet. Anyway if nothing really big develops either way, those dates will be correct to within a day or two. It’s grand to know that it is so near after waiting all this time and I know you are looking forward to it just as much as I am.

We had quite a good supper tonight (we being Ron, Curly and yours truly). Egg and spuds was on the menu and you don’t need me to tell you how we got the ingredients or where from! These Germans have got to pay for their crimes…!

What do you think to tonight’s news about Hitler’s death? I suppose it’s going to be difficult to prove whether he was killed, or if he committed suicide. Or of course he may have disappeared. Anyway if he is dead that’s Musso and Adolf accounted for. I’m wondering if the people here will go into mourning tomorrow. They’ve got white flags out everywhere so perhaps they’ll put them at half mast!

I think I’ll pack up now. I’ve only got another hour or so before I’m relieved and then I’ll be “driving ‘em home”.

So cheerio
Lots of love

John
xxxxxx

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Sunday 29th April 1945 – “I’ve got some Eau de Cologne which I shall bring home with the other oddments”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

1 a.m.
29 April 1945.

Dear All,

Just a fairly short letter this time. As you can see by the time, I’m on duty and I’m expecting some work any minute.

I was very pleased to get Mam’s letter the day before yesterday (Friday), and was particularly glad to hear that the food is getting better slowly but surely.

It’s pouring with rain just now and sounds a bit windy as well but until I come off duty at three o’clock I don’t intend going out of this warm truck. At the moment I’ve got the water nearly boiling – “brewing-up”, and in a few minutes I shall be mashing myself a cup of tea. You’d be surprised how well I can make tea – I’ll show you one of these days!

Yes, I suppose you often get the snaps out. Really considering the difficulties I suppose we haven’t done so bad in that respect and I think there’ll be some more to add to the collection soon. I suppose in years to come we’ll look at them and I’ll remember only the happy times we’ve had, because we certainly have had some fun.

I don’t know whether you’ll notice much change when I get my leave. I might have grown but apart from that I don’t think I’m much different. I’ll soon know if I’ve got fatter or thinner when I try my civvies on, but all I want is to get them on – it won’t matter if they are too big or too small I’ll wear ‘em! So just sort those ties and shirts and socks out Dad – I can still remember which are mine!

I’ve got some Eau de Cologne which I shall bring home with the other oddments. It’s supposed to be the genuine stuff (4711 it’s labelled).

By the way you beat me with the cuckoo. I didn’t hear one till the night before last. I suppose if they’ve got any sense they’ve all gone to England where they can sing and get away with it!

That’s all for now, Ron sends his kind regards.

Lots of love

John
xxxxxx

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Wednesday 25th April 1945 – “for the past few weeks it’s been hard for us to find time to write at all”

14400541,
Sigmn. Moore J.,
Main HQ W/Less Section,
2 Company,
12 Corps Signals,
B.L.A.

6 a.m.
Wednesday
25-4-45.

Dear All,

Don’t imagine that I’ve got up at this unearthly hour just to write a letter! I haven’t been putting the times on my letters lately but most of them are written during the night because night duties still come round only too often.

Thanks for Gwladys’s letter of the 19th which arrived on Monday. Lately I haven’t been getting nearly as much mail as I used to. The reason of course being that quite a lot of people don’t think of writing until they get a letter, and for the past few weeks it’s been hard for us to find time to write at all. Still I am gradually getting organised so perhaps there will soon be an increase in the mail again.

The weather is gradually improving again. It did stop raining eventually, in fact it was fine all day yesterday. I wonder if you are still enjoying a heatwave? I suppose the gardens need rain just now so perhaps you wouldn’t grumble if you had a couple of really wet days.

I shall be writing to Walton in a day or two. I think they must wonder what’s happened to me, but I suppose you keep them up to date with the news.

Cont’d 7 p.m.

As you can see I didn’t finish the letter this morning. I wondered if there would be a letter from one of you this afternoon but there wasn’t.

It’s been a glorious day and I did a spot of sunbathing this afternoon. Now I’m on duty again. It’s a pity to have to sit in a truck and work when it’s nice outside but there it is.

I now have more definite news about leave. I think I told you that at the end of this month there would be nine more to go before me. Well the May allocation came through today and it is nine exactly. This means that I shall be the very first in June, and that’s as definite as anything can be in the army. Probably in just under five weeks I shall be starting out on the journey, but of course it’s a bit early yet. Anyway it won’t seem so long now. It’s a pity we didn’t get a bigger allocation for the month but there are still quite a few chaps behind me so I can’t grumble and it’s nice to have a better idea when it will be. So roll on May and don’t last too long!

I think that’s all now, once more.

So I’ll say,

Cheerio and
Lots of love

John
xxxxxx

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