Veteran Stories:
Eileen Green, née Short

  • Eileen and Tom Green Wedding Day, London, England, January 13th, 1940.

    Eileen Green
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"The sad thing was, we knew before anyone else when a ship went down. I went home every day and had to lie about my boring job as a typing clerk, and always changed the subject if anyone got too nosy."

Transcript

When the Germans hit the railway, they were after the railway, but the bomb went to the back of the railway. And I was in my mother and father’s house. And we weren’t able to make it to the underground shelter, so we took shelter in the back bedroom. And I had just given birth to Jeffrey, who was three months old at the time. We were all buried in this rubble for quite a few hours, I don’t know, about eight or nine hours. But Jeffrey, the baby, he didn’t make it, he died.

After that experience, my mother and father went up to Preston in Lancashire in the north of England to live with my eldest sister. And I went to live with my brother in Surrey [England]. My brother had a shoe repair business and he was a volunteer firefighter. However, his business was bombed. So he was hired full-time as a firefighter. He had two children and they were evacuated with the rest of the children in London and the surrounding area. Well, I left the army and navy stores to help collect the money for the children who were evacuated.

I got a job on the buses as a conductor, but after a couple of days, I couldn’t take the motion or the fumes. So I went to the inspector and said, “I quit.” Well, he said, “You can’t quit in wartime, so you will have to go to jail.” So I said I didn’t care and they sent me home. Well, a couple of days later, I had a knock on the door and someone from the government said to report to this address. It turned out to be a non-descript building near the marble arch. I reported there and was escorted by an armed guard five floors below ground. That’s all I can tell you about that. I was really nervous at the time because they made me sign all these papers and said if I told anyone, my closest friends or relatives, I would be tried for treason and executed under the War Measures Act. I was then escorted into a very secure area, fingerprinted and given a security badge. Then a double bombproof door was opened and I was led to my work area. What I saw that day, I have never repeated it to anybody all these years until Keith asked me about my veteran’s number this past summer. You see, I wasn’t given one. I figured it was okay to say what I did after 60 years because everyone is probably dead by now.

I was enlisted into the secret service and I was to work with five other women to supply the merchant navy ships with all the supplies such as food, clothing and blankets, etc., for the entire British fleet. The reason for all the secrecy was because I knew the exact location of every vessel in the entire British Navy. It was my job to line up the delivery schedules of which merchant navy ships would deliver to which battleships. It was just like in the movies, there was a large blackboard at one end of the room and several people receiving positions, which in turn were related to the other people in charge of moving the wooden models of ships and subs around a scale model of the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean. There was always top brass in the room and a lot of actions when they were engaged in a battle. The sad thing was, we knew before anyone else when a ship went down. I went home every day and had to lie about my boring job as a typing clerk, and always changed the subject if anyone got too nosy.

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