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'The Valentine Letters'

In late 2023 I had the opportunity to photograph a brand new stage performance for friend and writer Steve Darlow. His new show is called ‘The Valentine Letters’ based on the letters exchanged between Warrant Officer John Valentine who became a P.O.W. and his wife Ursula.


Ursula and John Valentine The Valentine Letters

The Valentine Letters

In 2018 Francis, their daughter, wrote a book entitled ‘Gepruft’ the German word for ‘Checked’ which was based on the collection of over 600 letters kept by John and Ursula after the war. This was then adapted by Steve and formed the backbone of the new stage piece ‘The Valentine Letters’ which premiered at The Malting Theatre in St Albans on 9th November 2023.


The Valentine Letters

Formulated with a cast of just three actors, the story is very personal, emotional and very real. Letters impart feelings that are very ‘in the moment’ and can provide us with some of the truest pictures we can fathom with our contemporary eyes.


“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 new-born child under the constant threat of aerial attack”

Steve Darlow


In 2016 Steve was approached by John and Ursula’s daughter Frances with the proposal to publish the letters. Those 600 letters were later adapted into a play with the help of director Jo Emery.


The Valentine Letters

For over a decade I have been photographing and listening to veterans so I know all too well the cost that was paid during the Second World War. What isn’t always remembered is the physical and psychological suffering the men who came back had to deal with and by extension their loved ones.


“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.”

Steve Darlow


The Valentine Letters

The Valentine Letters

The Valentine Letters

The Valentine Letters

The Cast;

'The Valentine Letters' does a fantastic job of conveying the war through the eyes of a family making it relatable even if it is only on a small level as most of us, luckily, cannot possible comprehend the strain Valentine's family went through. For me their story was beautifully and respectfully expressed by the cast and one, I hope, Frances and indeed her parents would be proud of.

I love shooting in a theatre, there is nothing quite like it. It’s challenging from a technical point of view but what I enjoy the most is the atmosphere that is created by the stage setting, the lighting and of course the actors. For me, productions like ‘The Valentine Letters’ and ‘Their Finest Hour’ (also by Steve Darlow) are more a passion project as I’ve been lucky enough to know so many veterans over the years and I do strongly believe their stories should be told. In fact I owe the start in my career to an Air Force veteran.


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