Veteran Stories:
Marjorie Barton

Air Force

  • A photo of Marjorie Barton taken in Ludlow Shropshire in 1943. She was stationed at Clee Shrops Hill and had just received her promotion to Leading Aircraft Woman Radar.

    Marjorie Barton
  • A page in Marjorie Barton's Service Book.

    Marjorie Barton
  • A pamphlet from the Canadian Government to War Brides travelling from Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia, to their destination.

    Marjorie Barton
  • A photo of Mrs. Barton in front of a modern operation radar system in England.

    Marjorie Barton
  • Brass Cap Badge worn in the centre of Marjorie Barton's hat issued on entry into the service.

    Marjorie Barton
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"One of our concert parties, we would go over there which was quite a journey and put on the show there, you know, made our own costumes and we had a lot of fun doing that."

Transcript

The city of [Kingston upon] Hull [England] was bombed repeatedly. And finally, my mother and dad, we’d had the windows blown out two or three times and we were in the shelter every night and it got quite uncomfortable. So my mom and dad decided to go back to Nottingham. That was where they’d both been born and brought up. And I didn’t want to go to Nottingham, so my best girlfriend had also been evacuated and her dad was a fish merchant. And he was transferred to the other side of the country with the fish business, near Blackpool, Fleetwood. So I went over there and I would have been in the first group to be called up in the 19s to 20s were the first women to be called up to be in the services.

My best friend, who I was living with at the time, [her] brother was in the [Royal] Air Force and he was in air crew. And he happened to be home on leave as I was going to join up [with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force]. And he said, now tell them that you want to be a plotter. He said, then you won’t be in the regular administrative side or the cooking side or the driving side. You know, it’s a better job. So tell them that. So when I joined up, I said, you know, I would like to be a plotter. So she said, well let me, you know, give you some tests. So she said to me, it was the funniest thing because my arithmetic was terrible, it always has been, still is and she said, can you show me how to drop a perpendicular. And that was the only bit of geometry that I remembered, so I showed her how to do that. And she said, now spell “parallel”. And I knew how to spell that because my English teacher had always said you remember “all” in the middle. And so I spelled parallel and she said, oh, she said, you’re just what we’re looking for. We’re starting this new trade which was in radar - it was brand new at the time - would you like to be a radar operator. So I said, yes.

At one point, I contracted diphtheria there and I was in a civilian hospital for about three months with this because I got rid of the diphtheria, but I was a carrier. So I had to, you know, keep getting tests and I had to have three negative tests in a row before they would let you out. So it was quite a time before I got out. That was kind of hard because I was at [RAF Station] Grimsby, which was over the Humber River from Hull, where my family were there, they’d gone back to Hull. And you could see Hull being bombed nearly every night because the German aircraft, if they’d been bombing somewhere else well they used the Humber River as a sort of marker. And if they had any bombs left, they’d drop them on Hull. So it was, you know, hard to see that happening when I was on the other side of the river. And normally, there would be a ferry across but they’d stop the ferries because all the ferry boats were being used for putting mines out. So it was quite a distance to go around by train to get to Hull. So that was the only part I didn’t like about being on that station.

We were connected by headsets all the time. We were what was called a master station and we were sort of a central station and then we had what were called slave stations which were I think four stations we had over the top of Scotland. And one of them was on the extreme northwestern point of Scotland and it was considered too isolated for the girls to be there, so it was just men. So of course, we were on the phone all night to these men, you know, half an hour on and half an hour off and you got really friendly and you, you know. So one of our concert parties, we would go over there which was quite a journey and put on the show there, you know, made our own costumes and we had a lot of fun doing that, yeah.

I remember one of the themes was a Hawaiian dance and we made the grass skirts out of reeds that grew on the moors. And we made these grass skirts and they gradually got drier and drier, so by the time we’d done a couple of shows, they were sticking into everybody. And we had a girl, she was a cook who was a really good singer. And I know she sang things like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. But she was really good. And we had a Welsh sergeant who had a beautiful voice and would sing Jerusalem at the drop of hat. But he was good. And things like that, little sketches we made up. Oh, and I tap danced because I had tap danced all my life. And I didn’t have a costume, you see, so I stole one of the curtains out of the N.A.A.F.I. Now, the N.A.A.F.I. was, I can’t remember what those initials stood for, Navy and… [Navy Army and Air Force Institutes, a canteen that catered to soldiers in Britain].

Anyway, you could get cups of tea and sandwiches there, like they had N.A.A.F.I.s all over the country for all the troops but they didn’t come under the actual Army command and you paid for your tea and sandwich and everything. And then the profits we made from the N.A.A.F.I went to buy mostly beer for the parties. But I stole the curtains out of the N.A.A.F.I. and cut out costumes that we wore. And nobody seemed to miss the curtains.

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