Dear Jenny: a letter from John Bufton

This letter is excerpted from Hasting’s book Bomber Command (103-104).

It is written by 23 year-old John Bufton. He was a pilot, flying Hampdens with 83 Squadron. He addresses it to his girlfriend, Jenny and it seems the perfect introduction to our next topic: bravery.

“Poor Jenny, I’m so sorry you were upset by my last letter. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so blunt in what I wrote, but I only wanted to put things to you as fairly as I could. You’ve got such wonderful faith, dear, in my chances and I mustn’t upset you be being pessimistic.

Anyway, I’m not pessimistic- I’ve rarely felt happier and more set on a job in my life, and my chances are as good as anyone else’s. But I’m not ass enough to assume I’m going to be okay and everyone else will be unlucky, as it’s a sheer gamble in the game, but damn good fun while it lasts… If anything happens to me, I’ll want you  to go and have a perm, do up the face, put the hat on and carry on- it’ll take a lot of guts but I know you’ll tackle it in the right way. And remember that I’d be wanting you to get happily married as soon as you could. And don’t worry for me these nights more than you can help. It may buck you up to know that I’m feeling bung full of confidence in my own ability, but if I’m to be unlucky, well, I’m prepared for anything. Over the last three months I’ve got used to the idea of sudden accidents- they’ve happened so often to friends and acquaintances that the idea doesn’t startle one now. Realizing fully what one is up against helps one along a lot.

I’m not really windy about anything now. Anyway, there’s too much to do to get windy. I’m longing to see you again, Jenny, and we must make it soon! Keep writing, and when you come up, wear your hat please, and the smile that cheers me up!”

John and Jenny were never married; he was killed just a month later.


One response to “Dear Jenny: a letter from John Bufton

  • Amy Scott

    How utterly heart-breaking! I hope that Jenny was able to get a perm, put on her face, put her hat on and carry on. I’m not certain I would be able to do so. I feel like this letter was an attempt to boost his morale (and Jenny’s), but that a great deal of fear lurks behind the optimistic message. Death is everywhere present in his writing. I’m sure it could have been no different.

    Just an afterthought: I am henceforth going to think about his advice (perm, face, hat, carry on) as I move through my own relatively low-key struggles. I love the bright practicality of the advice and the idea that the quotidian and mundane can offer comfort when nothing else can.

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