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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Life At Westinghouse Machine Shop

by brssouthglosproject

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs M Macquade nee Chambers
Location of story: 
Chippenham, Wiltshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 August 2005

When war was declared I was almost seventeen and I can’t say that I was surprised, as my dad had been recalled to the Royal Air Force where he had served several years before and was a reservist. I knew that I would have to do war work, so decided to try to get a job at Westinghouse in Chippenham, which manufactured aeroplane engines, and I was accepted. I lived in a village three miles away and had to cycle to work. I was given a job in the machine shop and at first on looking at the machine I thought that I’d never be able to work it but I did soon get used to it. I made nuts and bolts etc. to do with aeroplanes. There were two men called setters to each bay and they put the jobs on the machines. I was greeted by one and asked my full name. Now it was Chambers so he said, “We’ll call you Jerry” I soon said no to that as it was the name for the enemy! In the end we settled for me being called “whip under”. Explanation for younger people; a chamber or Jerry was put under the bed at night for people to relieve themselves instead of going all down the garden to the toilet.

I liked it in that factory, but it was standing all day. We worked from 7.30 to 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock to 4.30 and 5 o’clock till 7 o’clock; Saturdays to 12o’clock and Sundays till 4 o’clock. It was a long day but we did manage to have fun. I did two weeks days and two weeks nights and on night’s one break in the first week we were entertained by ENSA (short for Entertainments National Service Association). The following week we did the entertaining. I did a few tunes, singing songs like, “You’ll never know”, “I’ll get by” and “Don’t fence me in”. We had a short while to practice and a free meal after. The first time I did it all went well until afterwards when someone said that we ate our meal with the big boss. I was quite scared and it was suggested that I have a cigarette. What a mistake as I didn’t smoke and I just couldn’t stop coughing! Even the boss said that he was amazed that I could sing with such a cough. Little did he know the cause!

We used to get picked up and taken to Castle Coombe officers’ mess to dances. For some of us the food was one of the attractions but of course there were others! I met someone there who meant everything to me, but like many others he was killed. I lost many friends but my dad and two cousins returned safe. We lived near Hullavington aerodrome and the Leigh Delamere searchlight, but we only had one night of bombing, and they were dropped just outside the village. No one was hurt but it left huge craters and loads of people came to look at them. We that actually lived there didn’t want to look. When war ended there were big parties everywhere and our village was no exception. But the happy and sad times I’ll never forget.

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