A more personal post from me… For a long time I have been researching my own family tree as well as helping others with theirs. There are usually months if not years between “amazing” discoveries. A large number appeared after my DNA test results came back from Ancestry. Others simply by scanning through ancestry’s records. This one discovery in particular knocked me off my feet.
I’ll start with a bit of backstory. My Grandad, John Victor Foster (Jack) was born in 1920 so was only 19 when WW2 began. He enlisted in the RAF at West Drayton and was trained at RAF Cardington and RAF Yatesbury. He was sent to France supporting the B.E.F but in June 1940 he was captured by the Germans at St Valery-en-Caux and spent the next 5 years as Prisoner of War No.89.
Jack was known for his sense of humour. Should you utter anything remotely funny people would say “You must get that from your grandad”. I remember him saying “If you were hungry you’d eat grass.” I was probably a little too quick to brush this off as his sense of humour.
My searches of Ancestry don’t tend to include the generations of family I have met, no hints are offered outside of the usual Birth, Marriage and Death results so they are left and what images and important documents exist in your own collection are added. A good while before he passed away he wrote down his memories of the war and produced a small book that was distributed amongst friends and family. I was re-reading this one day and decided to type his POW number into Ancestry. Several records appeared.
A chap called Rob from Boston, Massachusetts had uploaded the text from some postcards he’d found in his Grandmother’s belongings. I messaged him immediately and thankfully he replied. His grandmother was a red cross volunteer and plane spotter in the war, she was sending parcels to her assigned POW… and he was writing back! Here is what those postcards said…
“Dear Mrs. Frye,
Thank you so much for your welcome letter received today. I must first apologise for the postcard but we are rationed every month, and the letters I send to my people in England. My greatest need here is food. I have plenty of clothes. Such articles as coffee + tea, tinned meat + biscuits are very valuable. Also cigarettes. I will write again next month and tell you more about myself and my life here. In the meantime, cheerio.
Sincerely yours, J.V. Foster”
“Dear Mrs. Frye,
I hope you received the card I sent last month. Since then you will be pleased to hear I have received Three parcels from you in less than a month. The first was dated 16-10-42. The second, 16-11(42) and the third 1-12-42. They all arrived in good condition. I was surprised to see the amount of food you were able to pack into such a small box, and especially so much of the (…missing fragment)… articles. That ultimately we never see … I haven’t told you much about myself up to the present. I expect you know I am English. My home is in the West country, in the county of Somerset. I have three brothers, one is in the navy, the others are still at school. I joined the Air Force before the war, and unfortunately was taken prisoner in June 1940. I am thoroughly fed up with prison life but manage to keep up a cheerful outlook. I would like to be home for next Christmas, but I have learnt not to be too optimistic. We have a lot of American boys here. They have been busy playing baseball during the past few days. Well I must thank you before closing for the very welcome food parcels, and I hope to hear from you shortly.
Yours Truly, J.V. Foster”
“Dear Mrs. Frye,
I received your letter today dated 21st May, also the food parcels you sent. So pleased you received my letter, they sometimes go astray. I find your letters very interesting, especially about the garden. I can picture you all together. We live in the country also, in Somerset (where the cider apples grow.) How I wish I could be there now. Our slogan is “The day will dawn.” We have moved to another camp, please note address.
Sincerely Yours, Victor Foster”
“Dear Mrs. Frye,
Have received three big parcels from you, and also a book parcel in the last two months, but have been unable to send a card until now. I am still waiting for this war to end. Since I last wrote you we have had a lot of Americans here in another compound. Thanks again for all you have done.
I must say a big thank you to Rob who took his time to dig them out again and photograph them for me. It’s so lovely to have found them and at the same time it fills me with sadness that my grandad had to suffer. It was a shame that he wasn’t reunited with his letters, I wonder what he would make of them? I have no idea if he ever tried to make contact with Mrs Frye on his return, but I’d like to think he did.
Jack’s memories of the war are available in a short book called Sauerkraut and Boiled Potatoes which covers his time from enlistment through training, capture, his time spent in prisoner of war camps, his brush with death on the long march through to his return home.
A kindle edition is available.