In 1941, I got news that my mother was missing. She always worked in London and for five days we searched for her and finally found her because every place you wanted to go to a hospital it was all rubble in the road and you couldn’t get there. And then we finally found her and because there was so many killed every night, people were put in apple boxes, wooden apple boxes they were. The caskets were made of those and we said, no, we didn’t want her buried in a slit trench it was called, which was a long trench to put the bodies in. And we would take her back to where she was born. So we took her back to Norfolk [England] again and that’s where she was buried.
From there, I felt that I should be doing something for the war effort so I volunteered. I was 17, but they wouldn’t take me until I was 18. And I went to Honiton in Devonshire to train to be in the army and from there, I went to Oswestry, Shropshire, to train to be in the Royal Artillery. And I made a lot of friends, which was wonderful. And then we moved to Scotland, first we moved to Whitby in Yorkshire because you could go up on the, travel 99 steps every time in the morning, again at noon to come down for lunch, again up in the afternoon and back at night so that we could be above the ocean. And we had a plane that was trained to pull a thing called a sleeve on a long rope. And we were to fire at this sleeve and the poor pilot of that plane, I have the most respect for him when people are training to fire at him, or at the sleeve. So there was 99 steps four times a day.
Anyway, we were supposed to be well trained by the time we left there, so then we went to Scotland, near Glasgow, Bishopton. And there, it was very, very cold and the floor seemed like it was always wet. We kept a fire going, but when we went on duty to the gun post, we had to put the fire out. So we decided that if we kept the floor wet, we could keep the fire going. So that’s what we would do, we would throw a bucket of water on the floor to keep it wet.
And from there, I think we went to the London area. The London blitz was 68 continuous nights of bombing and we were sent there. And I worked upstairs on the projector one night and the next night, I would be downstairs in the plotting room and be in charge of coordinating where the planes were coming from. My friend and I alternated with these two jobs and she was upstairs on the projector this night and I was in the plotting room. And we heard a commotion upstairs and after we got the order to stand down, we found that Nan was her name, Nan had been hit with shrapnel and her eye was sitting on her cheek. And so that was very distressing. And she wrote and told her boyfriend in Europe what had happened and he wrote back and said, “Don’t joke about things like that.” He didn’t believe that she had been injured.
Anyway, we were, another night we were on the predictor and my number five was always fooling and grabbing herself and said, “Oh, I’ve been hit, oh, I’ve been hit.” So I would just say, “Pay attention to your job Duffy.” And this night she said, “Oh, I’ve been hit and put her hand up to her shoulder.” And so I said, “Just do your job, Duffy.” So we carried on until we got the order to stand down and she took her hand away and sure enough, it was all covered with blood, she had been hit that time with shrapnel.