there was a drugstore there and a few little stores and a rocket had landed on it and the whole place was just a crater. It was just hit. Yes, it’s tough, war is tough. Don’t go to war.
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I would have liked to have joined the air force but there wasn’t any vacancies. Women in the services was new. Each of the services had sort of a trial run to see how many they could take. So I couldn’t get into the air force so I took the army.
Well, the training was on, in Trowbridge, which is a small town on the Salisbury Plain, which actually is southeast of London. It was signals, I’ll call them signals and they had their, these women to teach how to do Morse [Code] and how to listen to Morse. And when you say you’re listening to Morse, that is fine but you’re listening to Morse with all this interference on top of it. Because the Germans knew we were listening to their signals, so they made it as difficult as you can. And in front of these sets for eight hours at a time and you find a little peep somewhere and then you try to tune it in.
If we got anything good, they would tell us. But if we didn’t get anything good, then we didn’t hear. So the only time I heard anything in plain language was when the Italians were getting out of Libya. They were being evacuated as it was the Italian troops and they were all sending messages home to their families. And that was in plain language but of course, that was Italian. I mean, you had to be Italian-speaking to know but it was quite interesting, the messages they were sending home.
It was dull and boring at times. We had an eight hour shift, it was around the clock and you know, there was a morning shift and an evening shift and a night shift. And we marched from where we were billeted to the, actually, they were Nissen huts, which were these long metal huts and they were camouflaged to look like greenhouses.
I remember what it was like. Nobody could ever forget. Well, actually, it wasn’t that bad. You have to remember that Britain was almost on starvation rations. I mean, we were very very badly rationed. The ships that were bringing our supplies had to cross the Atlantic. They were sinking a lot of the ships, the food was short. Well, not only were we bombed, we were also starved.
At first, we didn’t get bombing. Everybody was waiting and it was about a year before they started the bombing. They [the enemy] were concentrating then on throwing the French out of France. And if you know your geography, you’ll know that the English Channel is very narrow, 22 miles across. So once they had thrown the French out or captured the French, they were right on the coast, so their planes didn’t have far to come, 22 miles across the Channel. For the heavy bombers, it was quite close. Of course, we bombed Germany too.
Everybody was trained to cope with the incendiary bombs which did a lot of damage. And you were fire watchers. You did a four or five hour shift and you had a pail and a shovel and sand and when these incendiary bombs dropped, you took your pail and you threw the sand on the bomb and put it out.
The time they bombed the docks and it was a lovely Saturday afternoon. And they came in and they bombed the docks with incendiary bombs. It was a slum because the people on the boats, they came in and they’d stay maybe a week or so and then they went right out again. A bit on the outskirts of London and where we were, you could see the flames from the docks. And then at night, the bombers came back and of course, you’re only talking about 22, 25 miles they had to come and they dropped high incendiary on it and the whole area of the docks was burning, plus the ships that were on the dock there.
And then as the war got on, you’ve probably seen in your history books, they talked about the buzz bombs and the rockets. And the buzz bombs was like something you see in the comics now and the buzz bombs, they put-put-putted, it was like a little airplane and you could see them. And they tried to shoot them down and they buzz-buzz-buzzed. And then the motor would cut and they would drop. And wherever they dropped, they exploded. And there were rockets and the rockets came [were launched] from Holland, in that area. And they were sort of beginning of, well, what you get now but it was all fresh. And of course, the Fighter Command and Bomber Command tried to bomb the places because the rockets did a lot of damage. It was a high explosive. I can remember my father was in walking distance of going to war and this morning, he started out and then he thought it was going to rain, it rains a lot in England. So he came back for his umbrella. When he got to a corner where he normally crossed over, there was a drugstore there and a few little stores and a rocket had landed on it and the whole place was just a crater. It was just hit. Yes, it’s tough, war is tough. Don’t go to war.