- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Winifred Temperley
- Location of story:
- Northern Ireland
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 April 2004
It was a bitterly cold morning in January ’43 when I left home to join the WAAF at RAF Compton-Basset in Wiltshire. I had never been away from home before and like others who joined with me found the next six weeks very tough, drilling in all weathers, attending lectures and having tests. After our initial training two of us were posted to Northern Ireland, we weren’t told where we were going until we started our journey this was because security was very tight in N. Ireland as the German Embassy in Dublin was only an hours’ journey away. We couldn’t even tell our parents where we were going, fortunately my grandparents come from N.Ireland so I wrote and told them I was very near our ancestral home!
Our designation was Clerk/Special Duties which was working as plotters in Fighter Command operations and our first station was at Ballyhalbert on the Ards Peninsular, our operations room was a few miles away and underground, it was very interesting plotting enemy and friendly aircraft, we occasionally plotted German Submarines around the N. Ireland waters and if we were due leave we were very watchful to see where they were.
After almost a year at Ballyhalbert preparations were well on the way for D. Day and our squadrons were sent back to England so we were sent to Belfast where we worked at Fighter Command Group Operations in Stormont Buildings. Now when I see Stormont on T.V. I look at that very long walk up to it. It was a very exciting time as Belfast Lough was one of the receiving bases for some of the Allied Navys so there were various types of warships and we were occasionally invited on board. On D-Day we were all given a letter from General Eisenhower encouraging us and wishing us well.
After D-Day, operations in N. Ireland almost ceased and we were all dispersed to various places, I was sent to Millfield, Northumberland where I worked in Flying Control until the war ended in Europe.
When the war ended our jobs disappeared and I was sent to Records Office in Gloucester which everyone dreaded being sent to and I soon volunteered to go on a Mess Stewards Course to get away from it. After the course I was sent to Transport Command Headquarters in Huntingdon assisting the WAFF Sergeant in charge of the Officers Mess. I hadn’t been there very long when she went off on leave and the day after she left the Officers Mess Adjutant told me that all R.A.F. kitchen staff were leaving and were being replaced by German Prisoners of war. This was the time when we were getting pictures of the Concentration Camps which were dreadful so I was very apprehensive about having to work with them. However, when they arrived an R.A.F. Sergeant and myself (Corporal) were taken by the Adjutant and introduced to them, as far as I remember there were about 16 of them and they all stood to attention and bowed to us. Two of them were chefs one of which was one of Hitler’s banqueting chef (apparently he had one or maybe more in each service) the rest were the usual kitchen staff. In no time at all the mess was a different place, the walls were all washed down with soda and all utensils were gleaming silver, menus were written out for all meals and as this was the time when people were being demobbed, buffet parties were being arranged frequently and the two chefs produced some wonderful dishes. I got to know them quite well they showed me photos of their wives and children and like our P.O.W they were all looking forward to going home.
Both the RAF Sergeant and I received our demob dates for the same day and usually this was celebrated in the local pub but the chef who was Hitler’s banqueting chef said he would do our farewell dinner instead of going to the local. He produced a beautiful meal for us both and I remember we asked the adjutant if we could buy them a beer (they weren’t allowed any drink) as it was a special occasion and he agreed so we had a tray of drinks sent to them.
So ended a most important and interesting time of my life which stands out in my memory. I made many friends and what I found most was how tolerant people were, it didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, everyone was friendly.
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