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The Valentine Letters

The Valentine Letters, a new play, is based upon the Second World War correspondence between Royal Air Force airman and Prisoner of War John Valentine and his wife Ursula.

NEW SHOWS FOR 2024

Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th June – The Mission Theatre, Bath. Ticket details HERE

Tuesday 11th June to Saturday 22nd June – Brockley Jack Theatre, London. Tickets HERE

Wednesday 26th June to Friday 28th June – The Place, Bedford. Ticket details HERE

In 2018 I published the book ‘Gepruft – The Remarkable Second World War Letters of Prisoner of War John Valentine and his wife Ursula’. This has now been adapted as a play ‘The Valentine Letters’, which premiered at the Malting Theatre, St Albans from 9th to 11th November 2023.

(A full selection of images from the play can be found here.)

John and Ursula Valentine’s letters provide a unique and unprecedented insight in to how two people struggled to find solace and keep their hopes and love alive despite the anxieties of John’s dangerous operational life, his three years behind barbed wire, and Ursula’s endeavours to raise a newborn child under the constant threat of aerial attack. John would eventually return to Ursula, but, in poor health, a different man to the one Ursula first knew and fell in love with.

The play covers the themes of separation, isolation, coping, and change, with humorous and heartwarming moments interspersed throughout. A remarkable account of the effect of the Second World War on the lives of a young married couple and their generation.

In June 2016 I was approached by Frances Zagni, John and Ursula’s daughter, with a proposal to publish the letters exchanged by her parents during the Second World War, and in 2018 we launched the book ‘Geprüft – The Remarkable Second World War Letters of Prisoner of War John Valentine and his wife Ursula’, at a Duxford airshow. The word count for the book was 90,000 words. Too long for a play, so with the help of Frances, Jo Emery, and the cast, we have condensed it down to a more manageable number yet kept the essence, drama, and sentiment of John and Ursula’s story.

We are performing the play during the Remembrance period, when we rightly remember all those who lost their lives serving in war. In my years of writing and research I have met many veterans, their wives, and families. Those who returned also suffered, as did those close to them, having to find ways to deal with their loved one’s experience. This play is a reminder of the aftermath of war at a personal level.