- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Eva Capon (nee Hobbs), Frederick Hobbs, Else Hobbs (nee Razga), John Hobbs, George Capon
- Location of story:
- Denmark and various parts of the UK
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 August 2005
This story has been written onto the BBC People’s War site by CSV Story gatherer Jessica on behalf of Eva Capon. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.
In July 1939, my mother, young brother John and I travelled to Denmark for our usual summer holiday with my Grandparents. We took with us, in addition to our holiday clothes, a trunk of winter clothing, as my parents had decided that if war broke out, we should stay in Denmark - as of course happened in September. My mother found some unfurnished rooms in a boarding house for us and borrowed furniture from various members of the family, and my brother and I were entered at two different schools. I was almost 17 and he was almost 11 years old. I was very fluent in Danish, having spoken it all my life, but John was not quite as good, though he managed well in spite of it. I think my Danish essays caused the staff great amusement, as I was only used to everyday slangy language, not what was required in what was the equivalent of the 6th Form!
We had a cold snowy winter and enjoyed a good Danish Christmas. In early April Mother had a telegram telling us to return to England as soon as possible. We found out later that my father had been told by a friend in the Air Ministry that the Germans were laying mines round Denmark and he had better get us out. The telegram arrived on a Tuesday and we were able to get away by air on the Saturday - and on Monday night the Germans invaded Denmark so we had a narrow escape. We spent the summer in London, but the blitz drove us out and I think in early September we travelled to Devon where my brother’s school (St. Peter’s Seaford) was being moved into a beautiful house belonging to Lord Fortescue. Mother and I were put up there for a few days until we could get into the local hotel. We were in South Molton over the winter. Mother helped the housekeeper in the hotel and I helped in the canteen for evacuated mothers and also helped at the part - time branch of the library. In March 1941, I joined the WAAF. On the instructions of my father’s Air Ministry friend, I applied to be a radio operator - I had no idea what that was, thought it was probably to do with signals etc. I did my initial training at Innesworth Lane, near Gloucester and it was a bit of a culture shock for me to be in a large communal hut with all types of girls having lead a fairly sheltered life! After the 4 weeks, I was sent to RAF Yatesbury for technical training, where I discovered what very secret (at that time) work I was to be doing. It was of course what we know now as RADAR, and was very important and the main reason for our being able to defeat the Germans in the end. After the 4 week training, I was sent to RAF Great Bromley, a Radar Station in Essex. At first I was not allowed in the ops. room as due to my Danish connections, they had not yet cleared me security wise. In the meantime, as I could type a little, I worked in the Orderly Room, and learnt a lot about RAF administration during the few weeks I was there. I stayed at that station for a year and in the spring of 1942 I came down to Cornwall, to RAF Trelanvean, on the way to St Keverne. I think it was during that summer I got my Corporal’s stripes, but I am not quite sure, it is such a long time ago. It was a lovely summer and we spent many of our off-duty hours on the beach - especially Coverack - and I organised a cricket team. One weekend three of us had passes and we hitchhiked to Falmouth and stayed the night at the Greenbank Hotel and went dancing - I think, in the Princess Pavilion. The trouble was that on Sunday we could not get lifts easily and were late back for our shift! Our punishment was ‘jankers’ (being confined to camp), which was spent sunbathing outside the huts!
About the end of August or beginning of September, I was posted again, this time back to Sussex, to Canewdon, near Rochford, but I was only there for a short time and moved again to Norfolk, before Christmas, to Stoke Holy Cross, near Norwich. It was while I was there that I took up my music again, bringing my violin down from London and I played in the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, and also sang in their choir, performing The Messiah in Norwich Cathedral, and sang in the local church choir, as one of our airmen was organist there.
At the end of June or early July 1943, I was posted to RAF Yatesbury, as I had volunteered to do instructing. I was keen to be on a large station, as there was more social life than on the small Radar stations, and they were asking for instructors. The first thing I did on arrival was to ask for leave! My parents had arranged a family holiday for us at Lynton in Devon and I was anxious not to miss it as my father had not been well and we very much wanted to spend time together. Fortunately this was granted and we had a lovely time, and on my return I was ready to get down to work. Of course I still had my violin with me, and on finding out there was a station orchestra at Yatesbury, I went along. A few days before that I had heard from a WAAF I had known at Great Bromley, that there was to be a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ’The Yeomen of the Guard’ and the first read through was on - so along I went to that. When I went to the orchestra I was told to sit on the first desk of the violins, next to a NCO. We got on very well when we got chatting in the break and he asked me to go with him to the YMCA afterwards for Horlicks. His name was George Capon. I never sat next to him in the orchestra again as I was sent to play in the 2nds after that - but the die was cast , as one might say, and George and I were engaged by December - unofficially, anyway! Our courting was done round the huts in the camp. When we saw the Service Police torches coming, we would run round to another hut - happy days! We had good friends there among the Instructors etc. - known as Permanent Staff (as opposed to the students on short term courses). In fact we have been having annual reunions right up till our 60th this year (2005), though of course our numbers are dwindling through death, incapacity etc.
The Gilbert and Sullivan show was a great success - one matinee being attended by Queen Mary, as happened every year, though I was only there for that one. George played in the orchestra and I sang in the chorus. We had very nice costumes. The leading man, John Wright (I think he was a Flight Lieutenant, on the Entertainment Staff) was a former lead Tenor from the Carl Rosa Opera Company, and his daughter Mickie played the female lead. She was excellent. I auditioned for one or two parts, but no luck!
At Christmas, George was posted, and soon after I went to RAF Cranwell, also as an instructor. This was another large camp. While I was there some of us joined with some Poles to do Polish dancing. That was great fun. We had lovely costumes and had our picture in ’Illustrated’ (1944). I still have the copy of the magazine which my mother kept.
While at Cranwell, George and I became officially engaged, though my parents specified that we should not marry until after the war. We wrote to each other daily and tried to meet whenever possible.
Sometime in 1944 - I think in early summer, I was posted again, back to Cornwall. This time to RAF Drytree, which is where Goonhilly Earth Station is now. Here we were issued with bicycles and we cycled all over the place - notably over to Kynance Cove - I have snaps of groups of us on the beach with wire netting in the background! I was thrilled to be back in Cornwall as I loved it. I would come here to live in my old age. I remember officers from Predannack coming to our dances and going into Helston and Portleven on the bus.
On 8th May 1945 - I always remembered the date because it was Flora Day! - the war in Europe ended and we all rejoiced.
By the time we had leave in June 1945, George and I were keen to get married and this was arranged for 8th September. When I got back to Drytree I found I was posted to RAF Hartland Point in Devon. The staff of that station lived on the quarters of a station in Bideford - so we had a long lorry-ride to our shifts. As it was a long way, we had to spend one shift up at Hartland on standby, which meant we had very little leisure time.
Of course I very soon booked my leave for the wedding in September. I remember George coming to visit me and being put up in the men’s quarters. We had a very nice C.O. there!
Come September George was in the RAF Hospital at Halton being treated for glaucoma - which had been discovered when he went for a Commission. We were fortunate that they let him out in time for the wedding - so his leave for the honeymoon was sick leave. As the war had actually ended in August - we had kept our promise to my parents after all!
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