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15 October 2014
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A Chief of Staff's Secretary in Falmouth in the lead up to D-Day.

by 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

Contributed by 
2nd Air Division Memorial Library
People in story: 
Kay Nelson
Location of story: 
Falmouth
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A2872811
Contributed on: 
28 July 2004

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Jenny Christian of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library on behalf of Kay Nelson and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

The Memories of 2nd Officer Kay Martin(now Nelson)W.R.N.S

In the Spring of 1945 I was promoted to Second Officer W.R.N.S. and posted to the staff of Flag Officer in Charge, Falmouth, as Chief of Staff’s Secretary. In the course of the year, Falmouth began to plan for the invasion and it was to become a base for a large force of U.S. Navy.
By the Spring of 1944 U.S. Landing Ships were arriving and it became clear that the invasion would happen in the near future.

The operational orders for "Overlord" were, of course, "Top Secret", there were I think 3 copies of it in the British Base. One held by my boss, and almost daily amendments arrived which I had to deal with. I did most of the work late in the evening locked into my office. If I had had the time, I should have known all the plans for the invasion, except the date, which was withheld until the last minute.

At the end of May I had gone just gone back to the W.R.N.S. Officers' Quarters (which, like our offices and the W.R.N.S. Quarters were all in requisitioned hotels on the seafront, overlooking Falmouth Bay), when at about 11pm the air raid sirens sounded. In less than no time we were being bombed. A small hotel almost next to the Quarters, where a number of naval officers were billeted, took a direct hit and a number of them were killed.

Most of us were under the stairs, and at that moment some of our walls and ceilings collapsed, all windows were broken, the air was full of plaster dust, making it difficult to breathe. A friend and I had our tin hats blown off and as it was pitch dark we had difficulty finding them.

I don't remember how soon the all clear sounded, but it was obvious we had to find somewhere to spend the night. A few of us went to the house of a Naval Officer and spent the night on the floor.

In the morning we went to look at our damaged Quarters. My room, overlooking the sea had a balcony; on the railings were draped various items of clothing, including underwear, which had been blown out of my room. The wall had collapsed onto my bed, so it was lucky I hadn't been in it. I eventually managed to retrieve most of my uniform and other possessions and then went to the office to do part of a day's work.

Local people rallied round splendidly and offered accommodation for those of us (about 20) who had had to leave our Quarters as it was estimated that it would take 6-8 weeks to make the place habitable.

Within a few days it was June 5th – the day that should have been D-Day, but, because of the dreadful weather, the operation had to be postponed. Looking out to sea, ships and landing craft appeared to be going in all directions and we couldn't imagine what was happening. However, by nightfall it was decided to go ahead.

So June 6th became D-Day. The rest is history.

Our months of preparation were over and Falmouth became comparatively quiet. After a time I decided I needed another challenge and volunteered to go to France. Two weeks later I was appointed as one of the first Wren Officers to go to Australia! But that's another story.
From a personal point I had one or two close friends involved in D-Day who fortunately survived, but my special boyfriend – a Regular Subaltern in the Royal Artillery – he had been captured before Dunkirk and spent 5 years as a P.O.W. in Germany.

He was released in May 1945 and in July I was given special permission to return to England to get married. As we hadn't met for nearly 6 years and were not even engaged, it was quite a risk!

I became Mrs. Nelson. We had 43 years of wonderful marriage; raising two children and living all over the world. My Husband sadly died of cancer in 1988 aged 69.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Women's Royal Naval Service Category
D-Day+ 1944 Category
Cornwall Category
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