Veteran Stories:
Rita Nora March (née Turney)

Army

  • Rita March, St. John's, Newfoundland, August 10, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"A lot of soil rained down on us. It was kind of a scary moment when you’re in the dark and you just hear the soil coming down, and the big bang."

Transcript

Britain wasn’t doing very good back in 1941. And they were talking about getting the women, you know, joining up. So I volunteered. And we replaced the men on the anti-aircraft jobs. Not on the guns, but on the other jobs somewhere in the command post. I was trained for what is now known as radar. It was called gun-laying [aiming anti-aircraft artillery]. We picked the target up, a plane or whatever it was and it bounced back to us. So we had two places: we had a transmitter and a receiver; two little huts like henhouses with aerials on the outside, and it reflected back the signals. When the doodle bombs [V1 flying bombs] started coming over, they were a bomb which was on wings and with a jet engine attached. And the jets, that was new. So they came a lot quicker than the planes and they were easily recognized because of the speed that they came towards us. So when we first heard of them, they didn’t know what they were; and finally, they decided that they were going to put us under canvas in Kent in a circular motion to block them from coming into London. And we did that, and we put a barrage there. There was quite a number of anti-aircraft positions there. And we stopped them from coming into London; and then they put us down on the south coast. Actually, we were in Hastings; and we stopped them coming over the coast. So there was, you saw the map afterwards which showed all the ones that were shot down before they did any damage. And they could just come over. They could shut off the engine and they could fall just like any bomb, or they could go for 25 miles before they dropped. So once it cut off, people were just waiting for the bomb to go off. It was very nerve wracking. We saw a lot. As we were under canvas just out of Tunbridge Wells, we had a doodle bomb that, it came into the field just below where the guns were and narrowly missed all the ammunition which was in a semi-circle around the guns. And in other ones, they went into the field behind us where the tents were and knocked down some of the tents. A lot of soil rained down on us. It was kind of a scary moment when you’re in the dark and you just hear the soil coming down, and the big bang. I never saw anybody hurt, or anything like that. There was never anything dangerous as you might say. Nobody got a bomb on the area where I was; and nobody was hurt. I used to admire the [Supermarine] Spitfires [single-seat fighter aircraft]. When we were down in Hastings, we were having more sophisticated machinery then; and the guns were actually hooked up to the gun-laying. And so where we said a plane was, the guns were pointing there. And we had more shoot downs actually, a shoot down. And we’d go out, sometimes they’d call us off and they’d say the Spitfires are taking over; and we’d go out and watch them. And the Spitfires would come over; and they’d go under the wing of the bomb and tip it over on its back, and shoot the bullets into the bomb and blow it up, and go through it. I was a big admirer of Spitfire pilots. They were wonderful.
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