Jeannette Holm looking out for more ambulances to pick up in-coming wounded soldiers in early months of 1945. This photograph appeared in Harper's Bazaar magazine, May 1945.Henri Cartier-Bresson
"The girls of hut 46" in June, 1944. Jeannette Holm is in the first row, first from right.Jeannette Holm
Jeannette Holm in July, 1945.Jeannette Holm
Plan of RAF station Down Ampney 46 Group Transport Command, where Jeannette Holm served in the Passenger and Freight section.Jeannette Holm
Jeannette Holm in Brandon, Manitoba, on May 26, 2010.Historica Canada
"but a happy thing for the prisoners to be released. But then the deeper in you go, sadly, the poor souls that were in the concentration camps were released. That will be forever in my mind."
I joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force because I’d always had a leaning toward the Air Force and so I enlisted and it was in May of 1944. We were stationed to a place called Down Ampney in Gloucestershire [England]. It was RAF [Royal Air Force] Station Down Ampney, 46 Group, Transport Command. And it was a most interesting posting. I was very happy because I was a clerk. When I enlisted, I really wanted to be a wireless operator but I couldn’t master the Morse Code. So I just became a clerk, general duty. That could have meant being posted anywhere, maybe just in an office, you know, just doing ordinary work.
I was most fortunate to be posted Down Ampney because it was strictly a wartime station and it had Dakota aircraft, Transport Command, Dakota aircraft, unarmed. And their sole purpose was to take supplies and equipment etcetera over to the continent once the airfields had been established there. And then on their way back to England, they would either bring maybe damaged equipment that needed fixing or empty blood plasma boxes or wounded. Our station actually received the most wounded of the ones that were involved in that type of work.
And then of course, later on, as the war progressed and people got further into the continent, sadly, they were releasing the prisoners from the camps, which was a very sad thing, but a happy thing for the prisoners to be released. But then the deeper in you go, sadly, the poor souls that were in the concentration camps were released. That will be forever in my mind. Even the odours that would come off the planes when these souls were being brought back to England, indescribable what man can do to his fellow being.
And these, you must understand, were people that they considered were fit enough to fly. Some of them, they were just really like skeletons. They couldn’t walk, they were on stretchers. Many people go through our airfield. A lot of people that were of importance and of course, a lot more that were just so glad to get back to England again. We had a lot of walking wounded as well as stretchers.
I will never forget a plane coming in with passengers and they were members of the Maquis, the French [resistance movement]. And they had brought a huge flag, German [Nazi] flag - swastika - with them. They threw it on the ground, when they came off the plane, of the deck, I was there, I saw it. These were all short men - they struck me as all being short men - and they threw this flag onto the ground, English soil, and they trampled it in with the heels of their boots. Now, that is something that I haven’t thought of for a long time until now. It spoke volumes, it just spoke volumes.