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D Day minus One

by threecountiesaction

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Patricia Enid Wilks (nee Webb) Vi Chandler
Location of story: 
Hamble, near Southampton
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Pat’s daughter (Rachel Irven), a volunteer from Three Counties Action, on behalf of Pat, and has been added to the site with her permission. Pat fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

After leaving school at 16 and training in Reading, I was sent to work at Hamble - Folland Aircraft Factory — it was a jig and tool factory making ‘jigs’ to construct the tail planes of SEAFIRES, amongst other things. I was a Junior Draughtsman and was billeted with Vi, a young widow, and her three year old son Andrew. Vi’s husband had been in the Royal Navy since ‘boy-service’, and had not long been killed on a ‘Woolworth’s Carrier ‘ (the name that was used for converted merchant ships. They were like miniature Ark Royals and carried several planes.).
So, you can imagine, it was not a happy-go-lucky household, though Vi was determined to keep her spirits up.
Each week I joined Vi and two other ex Sea Rangers (daughters of a local shopkeeper, who seemed impossibly glamorous to me), and we knitted ‘Comforts for the Troops’. I remember one particularly difficult pattern — a balaclava on 4 needles and made up in horrid, harsh, thick wool. I found the pattern almost too much for my elementary knitting skills.
Vi and her two good friends were allowed the privilege of using the Hamble Yacht Club HQ for this wartime effort. No-one was sailing for pleasure in wartime, I suppose. I wonder if they were allowed to be there because they were ex-guiders.
In the summer we used to sit and knit on the flat roof. The commanding views of the river, and the many small landing craft, practising up and down the river from Bursledon to join the larger landing craft in mid-Solent, presented us with a splendid opportunity for us to wave to the soldiers in the small craft (quite a harmless occupation, I do assure you!). The soldiers used to wave back — and we would return to our Knit one Purl one.
One day, we noticed that the soldiers seemed to be ‘battened down’ in their boats — and no-one responded to our cheery waves.
I wondered aloud, “Is the French invasion imminent?”
We knew next morning, when it was announced on the wireless that landing craft had landed troops in Normandy. We had actually witnessed part of history.
I kept in touch with Vi over many years and we met again when I was invited to her 90th birthday party! And YES — the twins were there too, and as glamorous as ever!.

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