Veteran Stories:
Dorene Manley

Army

  • Lumber Jills holding up logs.

    Edith Middleton
  • Lumber Jills at work moving logs they have cut down.
    Credit: Edith Middleton.

    Edith Middleton
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"They’d be dropping incendiary bombs and the Doodlebug [German V1 rocket]; if that [sound] stopped, you knew it was pretty well overhead."

Transcript

I was sixteen and a half when I joined up in the Women’s Timber Corps in England. At seventeen you were called up and you had to go where they wanted you. So I decided I would like the outside life so I volunteered for the women’s timber corps. We were posted; first of all, we had to go to a training camp. I had to go on a month’s trial because I have a deformed hand and they would not pass me as “A-1”. So I did a month’s trial, swinging a six-pound axe and they said I could swing it as good as somebody with two good hands. And so consequently, I joined up and we were stationed down at Cornwall and Devon and Hampshire and we cut trees for telegraph poles and the pit props. It was a very good life, very hard life, chopping trees down. That’s what our main thing was. And we used a six-pound axe. There was two of us, we always was in pairs. And we had to trim the tree when it was down, trim it right clean and burnt our brush. We always had to do all the cleaning. And then the men that didn’t go to the war, they would come and pull them away with a horse, pull all the timber away so we could keep on. And we were on piecework. So we had to work hard to make any money. We didn’t get very much money. I got a medal from the Prime Minister. As I say, I was sixteen and a half and it took until I was 84 before they recognized the Timber Corps or the Land Army. So they sent me a medal and a letter from the Prime Minister of England, which of course I was very, very proud of. We used to go on leave and we’d have to go through London and you were in the train and the trains were so packed. Like you stood with a kitbag in between your legs in the hall, in the corridor; you couldn’t go to the bathroom if you wanted to go because you couldn’t move. You were all pinned up against the wall. And they’d be dropping incendiary bombs and the Doodlebug [German V1 rocket]; if that [sound] stopped, you knew it was pretty well overhead. And then going across London through an air raid; an air raid is very scary. Those are the things I remember, very distinctly. And you always knew a Germany plane, that’s another thing. It was imprinted in your mind when you heard that, it had a different sound and you knew it was a Jerry, we used to call them Jerry planes. And I would never go in an air raid shelter that was above ground. I had a terrible fear of those because there’d been so many killed in them and they just sealed them up with all the dead people inside. They used to build them on the street and I wouldn’t go in one, I had a fear of those. I remember more distinctly when war broke out, that’s what I remember. And yet I don’t remember about it ending. Because we were sitting - my mother and father and I - huddled over this little tiny radio and I remember Churchill saying, War is declared [British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain actually declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939]. You know, he was such a wonderful man, Churchill [Winston Churchill served as Britain’s Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945]. But I remember that so distinctly but I can’t remember when the war ended.
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