- Contributed by
- Elizabeth Lister
- People in story:
- Ronald Poleman
- Location of story:
- Newbury, Berkshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 November 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Matthew Smaldon on behalf of Ronald Poleman and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr Poleman fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I was born in 1923, in Wales, and in 1939 we moved to Newbury. I wasn’t accepted for war service, due to a disability, which affects my hands. Instead I went to work for Elliots of Newbury, building aircraft.
I worked on Horsa gliders. We used to put together the bulkheads, putting in the seats for the pilots, and so on. This was the first part of the construction. We used to take the rudder and nose sections down to Christchurch to be put together with the rest of the glider. I went down there once. Elliots also used to make parts for Spitfires and Hurricanes, fuel tanks and things.
I was a firewatcher when I was at Elliots. We used to have a cubbyhole up on the roof, where we used to sit. One time, about 12, I phoned up headquarters to ask about the flashing we could see on the horizon. Well, we weren’t trained, and our only equipment was a stirrup pump, so when they asked which direction the flashes were I had to say ‘I don’t know’. They weren’t too happy, but we had no training. There was one old fellow, we used to tease him a bit, and once he was holding the hose when it was turned on. You can imagine the force of the water — it went everywhere.
The Germans dropped bombs on a school in Newbury, and some of the children were killed. I think they were after the train station, but hit the school. That day I was cycling to work, and a plane came down and machine-gunned me. Luckily I wasn’t hurt though.
There were a lot of Americans in Newbury, stealing all the girls with their silk stockings. I remember one drunk American staggering down the street, waving a doorknob shouting ‘I come from Texas!’. There used to be trouble in the pubs sometimes, but they were good people. There was a big US air force base near here, at Greenham Common, and I saw the planes taking off on D-Day. There were hundreds of them in the sky.
I was living in a house owned by a chap who was a conscientious objector. He was a veteran of the 1914-18 war. Detectives came to the house to question him once. He had a photograph album full of his photos from the 1914-18 war. He showed it to me once. After seeing some of those pictures, well, you could see his point of view.
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