Joan wrote many letters to her husband during his time as a P.O.W. Unfortunately, much to his distress he had to abandon the letters as too bulky and heavy to carry during the evacuation of Stalag Luft III. The letters that are reproduced were written by Joan Layne to Walter and were returned to Joan after falling into the hands of Allied Forces.
97 Harlaxton Road. Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. April 28th 44.
My darling. Hello again and all my love. I hope you are well, contented, and receiving mail regularly. I had three postcards from you this week – it is so good to hear from you. You had not heard from me at the time of writing. I do hope dear that plenty of letters are reaching you now, and shall be pleased when the air mail service is once again resumed. David and I are perfectly okay, he is really lovely, and now weighs 10 lbs. 6 ozs. Dorothy and I are trying to cultivate a wave in his hair, but he refuses to cooperate. I heard from Frank again this week, he sent three photographs of you as a child, and it is easy to see the strong likeness to David at that age. I am having David photographed next week, so will send along as soon as I can. I went up to Thorneydene a few days ago, and walked both ways, a good effort I thought. I had an enjoyable time. I took David along to see the Lee’s and Mrs. Kenny, they made a terrific fuss. I also saw Tommy Grey who asked all manner of questions about the baby and also wished to be remembered to you. He calls me Mrs. I can’t say that I altogether approve. Auntie Isabel gave David 10/- which I will put into savings for him, he has been very lucky. Alice has bought him a very nice white woollen pram set. Mrs. F. has gone to stay at Leamington Spa for a few days, Miss Ellis has gone with her and they are staying with a cousin of hers. We haven’t had any news of Dick yet. Sid Wright is expecting to commence training as a flight engineer. I saw Jackson a few days ago, her baby is very hefty. Alice came down the day before yesterday to go for a walk. I didn’t enjoy it much, she insisted on pushing David’s pram, and her navigation isn’t very good. I was in pain most of the time, I thought any moment now David, pram and all, would pile into the nearest ditch. I owe Frank a letter-one of your workmen has been killed in a crash. He was under going training as flight engineer. His name was Sidney Chappell maybe you knew him. I haven’t been to the pictures this week there was nothing very exciting being shown. I shall definitely go next week there is a real good “weepy” “Jane Eyre.” I hope your red cross parcels reach you safely. I send the next one in June. Tell me of anything you particularly require dear. I want to do everything I can for you, and unfortunately I have little opportunity. Write as much as you possibly can, and tell me all about yourself. We are always talking and thinking of you darling. I know your thoughts must be with us too. Anyway my love, do be as contented as possible, it wont be so very long before you come home again. I went for a walk with Betty Scothern a few days ago, we discussed our babies at great length, and had a real good gossip, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am meeting her again next week. I had tea at Mrs. Christopher’s during the week, she is a good person. I like her a lot. She celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary (silver wedding) yesterday. I had a letter from Mrs. McKinna a few days ago, and she sent two bibs for David which I thought was sweet of her. She has received confirmation of her husband’s death, but no particulars, I feel so sorry for her. I think she must be a grand person judging from her letters.
Thursday November 16/44
Hello darling – I’m actually answering a letter, as I received a long awaited one today after a period of practically three months without. I am looking forward to hearing again, as you mentioned you were moving once more. When I know where you are I have some photographs to send of David. He has two bottom teeth and has one more coming through and consequently is rather fretful. I have bought him so white woolen helmets, and he certainly does look good in them – he has such a cute little face. I had a letter from Brigg yesterday, Mrs. Layne has been talking to a girl whose boy friend has seen and conversed with you. I bought David a high chair yesterday. Ben Twilley called again to see me, he goes back tomorrow. I haven’t been out today, I’ve had such a lot to do. I feel really tired as I was awake practically all night with David. I rang the shop this morning to let them know I had heard from you. Frank has gone back to Brigg after a lengthy stay at Mabelthorpe. I hope you get your parcels okay. I have sent three in all, but of course am unable to continue, lets hope you wont be there long enough to need them. I was awfully glad to know you had not lost weight. I do so wonder about you dear – you are never out of my thoughts. There is quite a possibility we shall be seeing Mick Moore – he is near Auntie Emmie’s home. Its just about a year since he was here. We had a sprinkling of snow yesterday, which fortunately soon disappeared. Shirley has gone to London to see a friend of hers married off to an American. Are you with Robbie now? I heard from Molly yesterday, there was a message too from Helen – she and Sandy wish you a happy Christmas. I must get busy on some gifts, I shan’t give many this year-one cannot enter into the spirit of things under the circumstances – my heart is with you, and the promise of our future together. I love you and our little son, and once we are united the world will seem alright again. God bless darling. Look after yourself. Love from David. Devotedly yours, Joan.
Sunday November 19/44.
My dearest one. I had a letter from you last week, and am hoping for more as a lot of mail has reached the country. I was practically twelve weeks without, and I did not enjoy it. I hope you are getting mine dear. I have just finished a suit for David, and I can honestly say it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. It looks really wizard, the little pants are red/white check, and the blouse is white with red buttons on it. He wont be wearing it for several months yet as it is too big but boy does it look good! David is very well, I’ve had a bit of trouble with him over his teeth but he’s okay again. He wasn’t ill but I expect his gums were painful and it made him rather irritable. He eats awfully well, he has little bits of vegetables etc. now. He looks like a baby bird at meal times-his face upturned, and his little mouth open. I haven’t been out today-the weather has been horrible-its pouring with rain now, 9-15 P.M. David loves his high chair, it converts into a low one with the base forming a tray, the whole on wheels. D.J. pushes him around which affords them both a lot of fun. I saw Mrs. F. at the shop yesterday she is looking very fit. I am listening to ballet music on the wireless, some is very good and other awful. Mum and Dorothy are at Macs. My cousin married to Colin Bonnett is expecting an infant next year, they have been married nine years! Mr. Bloodworth told us, we generally have a visit from him every fortnight and sometimes oftener. We are hoping to see Mick, he is near Newark. Mr. Swinderby has seen him. I listened to a very good play last night based on Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, it was very different from the usual radio plays and was portrayed excellently. I have to get busy on another suit for David, I have it cut out-there’s quite a lot of work in them, and I can only do it when Chicko’s in bed. Look after yourself darling, and never forget that I love you. God bless. Love and kisses from David, and your devoted Joan.
Wednesday November 22/44
My darling. Yesterday I received a P.C. signed R. Colbeck I was glad to get it, and found the writing of great interest. I was pleased to know you are receiving mail at the new address, and hope that deliveries continue regularly for us both. I had a letter from Constance yesterday asking me over to Lincoln next week. I hope to go if Mum will have David for the day. We are having very mild weather but it is damp and not at all pleasant. David is very well and growing so big. I cannot hold him for long now. He said “Teddy” very distinctly several times yesterday-I was thrilled of course. I have made him a red check suit with a cream blouse and am now working on a green one. I did some shopping for the family this morning and took Derek with me, leaving David asleep. D.J. was hugging an old stick which he insisted on calling George-it was a dog!! Terrific imagination he has. He certainly is a lad-on the whole he and David get on very well, but occasionally Derek gives him a punch which completely upsets things. Dorothy wrote Andy about ten days ago, but has not had a reply, she has had to return her allowance books and is temporarily (we hope) without any allotment. I had a letter from Chalky yesterday, he is still in Scotland. I am going to Thorneydene on Friday if it is fine, I saw Mrs. F. this morning. I am always drifting into the shop for something or other, not always purchases. I am not going to the cinema this week, I am going easy, the idea of Christmas gifts will soon have to be attended to. David has £27-3-0 in the bank and over £5 worth of certificates. I am on the lookout for a low pram for next Spring, I shall try for a good second hand one, the workmanship is so much better. I hope to be hearing from you again soon darling, look after yourself. David sends love and kisses and hopes to see you soon. God bless dearest, Ever yours with all my love. Joan.
Wednesday 13 December 1944
Hello darling, I seem to have quite a few items of news today-firstly Willis is home again after four years. I have not seen him yet, altho’ he has been to the shop-no doubt I shall be running into him. I was surprised to see Ethel Saxelby yesterday, she is here for a few days as her father is dying. She has two children, Tony four and Jane two. She was alone however when I saw her. I had a letter and Christmas cards from Effie yesterday, she has sent off a parcel including some sleeping suits for David. Today I dispatched to her two books for herself and a kiddies book for Diane from David. I do appreciate her extreme kindness and shall endeavor to repay it in some way when things are normal. I had a greetings card from Clark today-he is a Sergeant! Christmas shopping is something more than a headache– my list seems to grow each year, but people have been so good to David I feel I have to give a little in return. Dorothy and I are taking the boys to visit Hilda Waring tomorrow, altho’ I shall definitely not go if the weather does not improve-it has been bitterly cold and foggy today, and I don’t intend letting David face such weather, as I can’t take a pram. He by the way is really lovely, he tries awfully hard to talk and says “Dadda” quite plainly. Must tell you, I saw Bing Crosby in “Sing You Sinners” on Monday-the scene where they sang “Small Fry” was absolutely terrific. I did think of you dear, I wish you had been there. I am wondering if Eva and Willis will get married– she and Joan thought of having a double wedding. By the way dear-you have given your small son 10/. The vicars wife sent 10/- for you from Brigg, so I thought you wouldn’t mind David having it. I think the money was the result of a local effort for members of H.M.F. Dorothy is busy decorating the lounge for Christmas-I shall be glad when its over. Look after yourself darling.
David sends lots of love and kisses. All my love always. Joan.
Sunday 17th December 44
My darling Wally, I hope you are okay, and not finding the weather too cold. We are having a very sharp spell, and both David and myself have had colds. I am normal again, but he still has a touch of cold, he cut another tooth during the week, and they usually have something to upset them at teething time poor little mites. I think I am going to the cinema tomorrow to see “Snow White” which has been released again. Remember us seeing it at Scarborough? I had tea today with Aileen Cornish, and on Friday I went to Thorneydene where I spent a pleasant afternoon. I have bought Mrs. F. a set of pretty Hor D’Oeuvres dishes for Xmas. I am sending Frank and your Pa a calendar. We are having Margaret and Derrick for Christmas. God! I wish it was over. I have had David’s picture coloured for you, it really looks wizard, I hope you receive it soon. I am having enlargements done but they are not ready yet so goodness knows when you will get yours. He is a lovely babe darling. I haven’t seen Willis yet, I think he has a months leave. Phil and Fred came on Friday I think her condition is getting steadily worse-I feel awfully sorry for Fred. I haven’t seen Lois for ages. Oliver Lee has done very well with one of his models. He attends Newark Technical College, I hope he gets along ok-he’s a nice kid. I saw Bing Crosby in “Sing you Sinners” last Monday-it was wizard-particularly the rendering of “Small Fry.” Shirley is running around with an American. I am going to write to Derrick when I have finished your letter. He has sent us Noel Coward’s Middle East Diary to read. Actually reading matter is just queueing up-I have four books on the go. I am wondering how you look with your hair cropped dear. Is this part of the rules? I saw Mrs. Twilley on Friday, she always dives on poor little David and takes us both by surprise. I am wearing your pyjamas dear, I hope you don’t mind. They are much warmer than my nightdresses-it really needs courage to wear one this weather. David sends lots of love and kisses to you. God bless and all my love forever Joan.
Thursday January 11/45.
My beloved husband. I’ve just brought David home from his very first party. His little girlfriend Jennifer was a year old today, I have known her mother some time, and we chummed up at the baby clinic. There were three babies at the party, Jennifer, David, and another little girl named Anne so you can imagine our boy came in for a lot of attention. Can’t say he appreciated it much though, and I honestly think he was fed up with women by the time the party ended. Jennifer let him play with her golliwog and then decided she wanted it back, and of course Master David took a very dim view of such typical female behavior, I had quite a job calming him down! We have had a lot of snow but the weather is not nearly so cold. We are hoping to have Derrick for the weekend, I particularly am looking forward to seeing him. David has six teeth, he does eat well and looks a picture of health. I finished off a pullover for him last night, it looks wizard. It is too big yet so I am hoping you will see him in it. Mum and Dorothy have gone to the cinema to see “Adam Had Four Sons.” I am writing this before listening in to Tommy Handley in “Itma.” I had a letter from Aunt Ida yesterday tell me she is having a toy made for David, isn’t it kind of her? I am reading another book by Ellery Queen-he is good. I hope you have received the photographs I posted. Can you see a likeness to either of us in David? Dot had a P.C. from Dal last week. Mick paid us a short visit last week, he is expecting to take up his old job. Hope you are well and getting plenty of mail darling. I am always thinking of you. When I say “Where’s David?” chicks finds himself in the mirror, he really is sweet. Take great care of yourself-we are waiting for you. God bless dearest. All my love and lots from David. Joan.
Monday January 15/45
My dearest Walter, I should have written yesterday, but have had a rotten cold and went to bed soon after tea last night. I hope you are keeping well darling-it will be a good thing when the winter is through. Derrick came for the weekend-he is looking very fit, and if you didn’t know of his complaint it would be impossible to tell. Little David is just fine-he is a lovely boy. He has an enormous appetite and kicks up a dickens of a row if I’m eating and he isn’t. I saw “Adam Had Four Sons” on Friday and liked it very much. I may go this week to see a British film which has made big news, “Love Story” with Margaret Lockwood and Stewart Granger. I have finished a pullover for David, and have done the back of another. I am reading another book by Ellery Queen called “Dragons Tooth.” I have considered giving up the book club, as the standard of the books is slipping. I saw Mrs. Twilley on Saturday, they haven’t heard anything yet. I do feel sorry for her. I hope you have got David’s photographs, who do you think he is like? The person on the stocking stall outside the shop is going to have a baby-it seems very fashionable doesn’t it? David is grand now, and very interested in things. He can say a good number of words, isn’t very clever at drinking from a cup, sleeps well, eats well and looks the picture of health. I shall have him immunised against diphtheria before long. I think they have to be a year old. Derrick makes a terrific fuss over David and Derek, he tosses them around and they just love it. David shows signs of being of more sturdy build than D.J. He is not fat, but is beautifully made, and is tall with it too. Take it from me-he’s tops. I hope to be hearing from you at any time darling. Look after yourself and never forget that I love you. God bless. Love and kisses from David. I am always your devoted wife.