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Supporting the Forces

by Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk
People in story: 
Edna Joyce Phillips nee Cornish
Location of story: 
Cardington and Tempsford, Beds
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A4437317
Contributed on: 
12 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Suffolk Action Desk on behalf to Edna Phillips and has been added to the site with her permission. Edna fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

In WW2 I was a NAFFI girl. I joined up in 1939 with many other girls at Kennington, London HQ. Searchlights, planes and distant gunfire were heard overnight. Next morning we were put on coaches to go various ways. Mine being Cardington, Beds. Balloon Barrages. We were to serve the WAAFS in their canteen, near to a row of cottages, where we were billeted.

Our indoor uniform was a blue overall and cap with a NAAFI logo on. For going out we had khaki tunics and skirt, shirt and tie like the ATS, felt brimmed hat, or sometimes forage caps.

Early morning we made sandwiches and filled rolls, brewed up urns of tea. Cook would make sausage rolls, bread pudding(a favourite with the RAF men), rock buns and jam buns. We were overrun with beetles in the flour and set beer traps.

The WAAFS were a mixed lot from all backgrounds and were forever playing Deanna Durbin records.

After a few months, I was sent to Tempsford, Beds to start a new canteen near fields and woods. Deep muddy tracks led to the building and we had to start with hurricane lamps. We girls had to share one large room, with single beds and a dressing table type chest to keep clothes in. The manageress had her own room.

We got up early to prepare for opening time and a sea of airmen would face us as we pulled up the shutters. We sold chocs, sweets, razor blades, toothpaste and a ration of cigarettes (Woodbines and Players Weights). There were crafty twins in the camp who often queued twice.

Occasionally we had a dance or entertainment and then we served beer and I did not like the smell and our floor was awash with it. I remember Max Miller came telling jokes (all night if he was allowed to), also Evelyn Laye, a singer. The RAF also had their own concert party band called Silverwings.

We had a happy time, made lots of friends and amongst them I met my special airman who was in the firecrew. I used to put extra goodies in his tuck-box for night duty.

I had my 21st birthday party in the corporal’s bar with fun and games and NAAFI food. Three airmen gave me a blue silk scarf with the RAF badge on it.

In 1943 I left to marry my special airman. The girls clubbed together and gave me a lovely eiderdown.

Then the RAF posted my husband to Lincoln so we got rooms outside the camp and he used to cycle from Waddington to Lincoln every day. I had to get work so went to a manufacturing chemist, filling bottles with disinfectant all day or ammonia or various powders like derris dust into packets and boxes for farming.

After nine months my husband was posted to Egypt and we were apart until he was demobbed in 1946. I went to my old home in Berkshire.

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