Veteran Stories:
Josephine Emily Andrews

Air Force

  • Josephine Andrews on board on the ferry that she drove in 1941.

    Josephine Andrews
  • Josephine Andrews is pictured third from the left with her Ferry Boat crew.

    Josephine Andrews
  • Josephine Andrews is dressed up in her Winter gear for the Ferry, 1941.

    Josephine Andrews
  • Group photo taken in England.

    Josephine Andrews
  • Josephine Andrews pictured in the middle with some of her friends off duty. All were involved with work on the Ferry Boat.

    Josephine Andrews
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I was on duty 24 hours on, 24 hours off, and that’s the whole time, whether it’s light or darkness, you were on for that 24. And you were by yourself, running that boat."

Transcript

We went to what they called then ‘square-bashing,’ which was a lot of drills, a huge, huge area and an interesting thing happened to me in that. I was very sort of dedicated, and in training, a lot of the girls just walked along like they were going to a wedding or something. But in my family, I’d had very strict upbringing and I therefore was very conscious of being drilled and really put my heart into it. And apparently, I did so well because the officer in charge called me out and said, “I want you to take and drill these girls.” So of course, I was a little overwhelmed at first and I said, “Okay.” And so I drilled about 100 women training to join the air force.

And I enjoyed it very much. It came naturally to me. I really enjoyed doing it, I smartened them up. I always remember this expression: “By the left, quick march,” you know. And I got good at saying that. And as you can imagine, I was young and stupid and thought it was great fun.

I eventually got transferred to running the ferry that took the men, mostly senior officers, across this half mile, and that’s a very rough guess, of water, tidal water, to be at this secret station for telling when the Germans were coming over. So I got to run that boat, I got the job to run that boat. It was an open boat, carried about 20 people and they were not on an island, but to go there by road, you went about nearly, altogether it was 50 miles to go up the road and come down and be here by road. So of course, they wanted a quick thing to go across and that’s why they got this ferry, 20 feet long, open benches. And I got the job of running it.

I was on duty 24 hours on, 24 hours off, and that’s the whole time, whether it’s light or darkness, you were on for that 24. And you were by yourself, running that boat. And at night, because they couldn’t show any lights for the enemy to see, it had to be run just in the dark. So I got to learn very quickly what the background was like: there’d be a tree there and a house maybe there and there, across the water. So even though I had no lights, because they weren’t allowed to have, I could, by the, whatever you call it in the distance, what do they call that? Anyway, then I would report in what was happening. And also, with my report, they could see that there was say ten planes coming at this certain speed, duh, duh, duh, duh.

But when I got this job, it was just driving these officers across, to save them going the 50 miles up and back to get to the secret station. And so it was in Bawdsey, that was the name of the village where I landed from this peninsula over here, to get to there. I found it very threatening and frightening at times because the planes would come over and I was on my own and I had no jetty, you just ran up on the beach on one side and then you ran up on the beach the other side. There was a strong tide of water coming in and out, so you’d have to know when the tide was coming in and the tide was going out. If the tide’s going out, it would go quite powerfully out, if you just didn’t drive your boat, it would be gone in a minute. But because the tide was so strong, you had to almost go across sideways like that, against the tide to get to the other beach. And then you just landed on the beach and they dropped off. And then when I had to load them and for the next trip, I had to stand on the beach with the bow at my back and as each person got on, I’d push, and then the next person get on, push, next person get on, push. Because otherwise, when they all got on, you couldn’t get the boat up, you were stuck in the sand, you see.

So the fun part I had out of that, I’m afraid I’m a fun person and I always look for the fun part of everything. My fun part was that it was mostly officers that were going back and forth. And they would all get on and most of the men, of course at that time, very few women, they would stand there in the boat, and I would have to shout at them, “Sit down, because you’re not allowed to drive that boat with people standing in it, it’s dangerous.” So they had to sit down, which really made me chuckle because I was just what they used to call an ‘irk’. These were all officers and I shouted at them, “Sit down.”

Follow us