Veteran Stories:
Judith Milsom

  • Wedding photograph of John and Judith Milsom. They were married in England on June 14th, 1945.

    Note both John and Judith Milsom are featured in The Memory Project Archive.

    Judith Milsom
  • Portrait of Judith Milsom, who served as a Corporal with the Women's Auxiliairy Air Force during the Second World War. Photo taken in 1944.

    Judith Milsom
  • Photograph of Judith Milsom in uniform, standing against a stone wall lookout at Culzean Castle, in Scotland. Photograph taken in 1944.

    Judith Milsom
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"When war broke out in ’39. I planned to go on to university, however with the outbreak of war, I decided that this was not the moment. "

Transcript

I was born in England, in Cheshire, 1922. I was still a schoolgirl, just finishing high school, when war broke out in ’39. I planned to go on to university, however with the outbreak of war, I decided that this was not the moment. So, as soon as I was old enough – I had to wait a couple of years – I took some secretarial training in the meantime, which became very handy during the war – then I joined up as soon as I could and started in 1942, early ’42, I was called up. I had actually volunteered during ’41, but ’42 by the time they had called me up. The training took place in London, went to college there for meteorology, and that took about two months, two to three months. My first station was up in Scotland, just to the east of Edinburgh, and as I found out later, that station had been a naval air station, and the first air-ship flight from Britain across the Atlantic took off from there. But none of that information was available during the war because everything was kept very, very quiet. Nobody talked about anything.

When we were first called up to get into training, they put us through tests – they wanted to know all the details of what we had done in high school, etc. My interests were obviously math and science, so I was told that I was to be in meteorology. From there I was sent straight to the school in London to train.

Meteorology of course is 24-7, so we were all on shift-work, and we had to, every hour, we sent out reports of the weather in detail, and that was everything from the cloud coverage percentage, the types of cloud and the height of cloud. We had to learn bit by bit how to judge the height of low cloud and it’s really, it sounds impossible, but it actually could happen. Anyway, all the other items that you could think of – wind speed, wind direction, temperature, barometric pressure – all the details had to go out every hour, on the hour, and all these stations all over Britain were doing the same thing so we all could get a picture of what was going on. And this was important, it was all in five-figure code. Because when you think of it, the weather reaches the British Isles before it goes to the continent. Consequently, we didn’t want to give away any of it to the Germans if we could possibly help it. So that made it kind of fun, but it meant that we were constantly plotting on – we had maps every two hours – we would have to plot all the stations with all the little, they were little circles, and we had to get on that circle all the information that came in onto all of these so that the forecasters could then look at it. And if you look at the maps that you see on TV these days, those were the types of maps we were using. And they were about 4 ft, probably by 3.5, and we have these plotted on a sloping table and we were to do these every two hours so that they could have all the details visible.

Across the country there were headquarters, and there were for instance Belfast, where I was in headquarters there in Belfast, but then there would be headquarters – I think in groups – there were numbers of different groups, [No.] 11 group, etc., there were a whole nest of stations and they were in different groups. There were just two people – the forecaster, who read what you had plotted on the map, and he would be responsible for the actual report that went out to the pilots, but my job was to do all the detail-work, and put the reports in code and send it out by teleprinter, and also receive the reports that came in to us. And it was just a stream of paper coming in from 60 or so more stations from all over the British Isles. And we did get from Iceland also, but that was on a totally different code, and it was a one-time code. We had to have a book to identify which code was being used, and then that was never used again.

 

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