Veteran Stories:
Julie Hallett (née Breeze)

Navy

  • Julie and Dennis Hallett, September 21, 1944, the day after they were married. Dennis was on embarkation leave before departing to Sierra Leone to continue conducting short wave radio research.

    Julie Hallett (nee Breeze)
  • Photographs of Julie Hallett, taken shortly after graduation from basic training in Mill Hill, April 4, 1944.

    Julie Hallett (nee Breeze)
  • Julie Hallett and comrades performing "radio plays" broadcast from one room to audiences in another, 1945.

    Julie Hallett (nee Breeze)
  • War Medal (1939-45) and Certificate of Julie Hallett.

    Julie Hallett (nee Breeze)
  • Julie Hallett's Certificate of Service, March 22, 1944-October 12, 1945.

    Julie Hallett (nee Breeze)
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"Can you imagine this, this young girl, inexperienced, but obviously well-versed in the material, having to stand up in front of a group of boys and give them their lessons."

Transcript

When I joined the WRENS [Women's Royal Naval Service], I did my basic training at Mill Hill in London, England. And that was just two weeks of introduction to the navy and the naval terms that we’d be using like "galley" for kitchen and, and "cabin" for bedroom and other sort of things like knowing the ranks of the various officers that we would be saluting and all of the drill that we would have to learn to move us from place to place.

I was then sent to a secret destination to start my work in the navy. It turned out that I was destined for Marconi Research Laboratories in Great Baddow, which is close to Chelmsford in Essex. And the work we were doing was, it was partly research and partly useful, but it was research into short-wave radio propagation. And we were analyzing readings taken on the density of the ionosphere, which is the area around the world, way up above the atmosphere where the radio waves are reflected back and forth to make their journey around, well, sometimes around the world. It depends on what frequency is being used and that was one of the things that we had to find out about.

This was very specialized and difficult to explain without being very technical. After I’d had my training, I went on what we called watch, which is shift work and was analyzing these readings that were taken on an hourly basis. Something as if you were doing a weather report, but it’s got nothing to do with the weather atmosphere, it’s really to do with the sun spots cycle.

I was not doing that very long before a group of sailors came, I think that was the next course, and it was six or eight sailors. The petty officer that instructed us began her instruction, and then she was taken ill, and I was asked to take over. Now, bearing in mind I was 18 when I enlisted, I was about 18 and four months when this happened. They called upon me to instruct a group of young sailors; there were a couple of more mature ones there, but can you imagine this, this young girl, inexperienced, but obviously well-versed in the material, having to stand up in front of a group of boys and give them their lessons.

Anyway, it can’t have worked out too badly because one of them apparently took a liking to me and he told one of the older men that he wanted to marry me. So the old man said, well, he said, "faint heart never won fair lady," so he bore this in mind and one day, I had taken a friend to the railway station in Chelmsford, just for company, and was walking back on my own and had to pass a pub and this sailor, I didn’t know his name, was sitting by the window and called me across and asked me to come in. And I was very shy and was reluctant. But, anyway, I took his invitation, I went in and we spent the evening together. And it wasn’t long after that when he asked me to go to the cinema. By the way, that was his 24th birthday in July. I went to the cinema and in England, they had, quite often, if it was a decent size cinema, they had a restaurant upstairs, so he took me to the restaurant and asked me what I’d like to eat. And I said, I’d have cakes and tea. But it wasn’t until sometime afterwards he told me he hadn’t had his lunch that day and again, I think this is shyness because he could have ordered a cooked meal if he’d wanted. But he didn’t. He was polite and he did partake of the cakes and tea. Anyway, that was the third time I’d seen that film that week.

After that, he spent a lot of time with me and shortly after that, I was on what they called middle watch. That was at night; it was from midnight until 8:00 in the morning and there were a group of us in the room doing calculations and it became time for a break for tea. He was in an office nearby supposedly studying. And one of the sailors was on watch with us and he said, take that tea across to Dennis, he said, and don’t come back. So I took Dennis his tea and that’s when I found out his name and we spent the rest of the evening, I don’t know, just talking, getting to know each other I suppose. And the same week, we also spent the days together. We went to a very nice area at a side of a hill and lay down in the grass and dozed a bit because we hadn’t had any sleep. And I can remember, it was summertime and it was so nice and warm, and the grass smelled so good.

Then we went to see his grandparents, but by coincidence, they lived not too far away, just a bus ride. And he must have been showing me off because on the way back by bus, that’s when he proposed. I accepted and we knew it was rather a short time, and we justified this by saying, when one was courting before the war, one would meet on Saturdays probably only. And we had been in each other’s company for quite a long time. And we thought probably it was equivalent to six months courting or something like that. It was very easy to justify something when you really need it.

So he was shortly to go on embarkation leave, that means he was to have a week’s leave prior to going overseas. And he, without my knowledge, he went to my home in Windsor and spoke to my parents and they went ahead and they got all the wedding arrangements made for September. Now, this was, 24 July was when I first spoke to him at the pub and the wedding day was 20 September. So you can see it was really quite rapid.

And I, I called it a marriage because it was not a formal sort of wedding. There was my, my parents were there, my aunt was there and a friend of the family and Dennis’s sister. And that was the complete wedding party. We were at the Garrison Church in Windsor, church that I’d attended whenever we’d been stationed in Windsor, right from a child.

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