"I think about when you see the planes go up, let’s say 10 planes go up, let’s say about seven or eight come back."
But I used to be an air raid warden at the time and helped people get into shelters. That’s what I was doing during the war. The beginning of the war, I did that. Then I joined the air force [Women’s Auxiliary Air Force].
My first posting was in Chelmsford, with the [Avro] Lancaster bombers. I did the repairing of Mae Wests [inflatable life jackets] and equipment, painting, trucks, odd jobs. You want to hear funny things? While I was up on an airplane on the plank, checking their equipment, and a siren went off in Chelmsford. When the siren goes off, the pilots have to run to their plane. So I’m getting off this plane. So I’m running down the plank and the airmen are coming up. Don’t, don’t get off the plane, come on the plane with us. I said, no way [laughs]; and I left.
Now I’ll do another story but it’s short. I was camouflaging a truck with paint. I had overalls on, big thing over my head, paint on my face, everywhere. I didn’t look like a girl. Some other soldiers came along to help me. Any rate, when the bell went off, they didn’t know I was a girl. When the bell went off, I took off my hat, my red hair came down. They looked at me and they said, oh, it’s a girl; and chased me. I ran for my life. They were Americans. [laughs]
It’s a good job, but then when they went on a raid, some would come back, some wouldn’t. And when they left their planes, we could just tell by their faces that they lost a buddy or somebody. They would go straight to the NAAFI [Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes: recreational establishments for military personnel]. NAAFI was where they used to have a glass of beer and you don’t talk to them because they just sit there and think. You can always tell when they’ve lost a pilot or something. There’s good things and bad things, you know, that happen.
I think about when you see the planes go up, let’s say 10 planes go up, let’s say about seven or eight come back; and you’re there and you’re watching, and it’s an awful sight really when you think of it ̶ how many have gone and how many come back. There’s a lot of moving emotion. You just try and not talk about it, or make it funny or something like that. A lot of people boast and I don’t like boasting. I did this or I did that. We don’t do that when we talk to people. We try and do the best we can to make it pleasant, as well as other things. There’s a lot of things you see during the air raid, especially you see bodies taken apart or things like that, but you don’t talk much about that. It’s too heartbreaking. Yeah.
I was [from] a family of six. I had a brother and he was a motorcycle rider; and he went in the army, he got a direct hit. Direct hit. When I went to the hospital to see him, you could just see his eyes. I had another brother. He was in [the] New Zealand Army. We were all scattered. And you’ve got to think, although... I’m the only one left of my family, must be the Canadian air. You see, British people have a sense of humour. [laughs]