"I was quite young when this conflict started and, of course, knowing nothing of the horrors of war, we grew up very, very quickly"
Hello, my name is Frances Monnington-Pryce. And I was with the Woman's Auxiliary Air Force in Britain during the Second World War. I was quite young when this conflict started and, of course, knowing nothing of the horrors of war, we grew up very, very quickly. Particularly after the bombs started to fall. I joined as an air raid warden to help out while I was still working in London. I volunteered my services because my mother was an ambulance driver in the First World War.
My joining the Air Force had no noble reason at all. The only reason I joined the Air Force was that my boyfriend at that time was a pilot and also I was blonde and I thought the blue would suit me very well with my blonde hair. A completely frivolous reason. But anyway, I did join. The worst terrible thing that happened are when we had to help with digging out of people that had been buried under the rubble. It was a terrible growing up experience for all of us as we were all very young. I also remember coming home from work one evening, the air raids were on, the bombs were falling and shrapnel was all over the place. And I came to the house and we had what we called a stoop, which was a cover just outside the front door, and as I stepped in something clinked behind me. Next morning, everybody had gone off to their offices and I came down ready to go. And there was this big piece of shrapnel sitting right in the middle of the breakfast table. And my mother proceeds to tell me that Daddy had found it, just beyond the stoop. And I guess my face sort of showed 'cause my mother said to me, "You came in late last evening." And I said, "Yes." I said, " I heard a chink just as I stepped into the door." And she said, "I suppose you weren't wearing your helmet." And, of course, I wasn't. It was on my arm. And after that experience, I certainly wore my helmet in the evenings, particularly when the air raids were on.
When you went to the office, every morning you looked around and if you saw someone was missing, you didn't know what to think. They were either sick or absent for some reason or some other horrible reason. And we would go sometimes to their homes. And I know one occasion a very good friend, at the office, all there was, was a great big gaping whole. There was nothing left at all. Just as though they had never even existed. And it's these experiences that you try not to think too much about. During the war there were the good times and the bad times. And of my service in the Air Force, I met many, many people. And you treasured their friendship. It sort of helped to get you through each day when you were praying for the end of this conflict. Everybody shared as much as they could. Some of it's very, very sad but we have to remember today freedom is a very precious thing. And I don't think any of us value it as much as we should do.
Canada has been very, very good to me, but even today when I hear a siren, I tense up. It brings back the memories, very much so. Because we lived that. That was our life was the air raid siren warning of us approaching danger.