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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Snippets from a Subalton

by cambsaction

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Contributed by 
cambsaction
People in story: 
Barabara Wallis
Location of story: 
Oxford and Cambridge
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4623419
Contributed on: 
30 July 2005

At the beginning of the war I was 16 and still at school taking my GCE’S, my parents volunteered to take in evacuee’s as at the start of the war every one panicked and sent children to safer places, much to my delight they sent us four boys age 16! We had no problem with them at all but the pay was abysmal about 10s per week (50p). They didn’t stay long as nothing much happened in the first few months of the war so back to Birmingham they went. It was not long after that the raids started and I was evacuated to Torquay. I had to travel to Cambridge to sit my entrance exam for Girton College .I had to travel a cross London during the blitz, and once on the train to Cambridge there was an air raid and the train had to stop for about 2hrs, there were no toilets on the train so after a while people were climbing down for the train to go to the loo.when we got to Girton college we had to sleep on the floor on straw paliases
(A type of straw mattress). And the next day we took our exam. I wanted to go into the wrens, but I promised my parents I would do a year at Girton first. I joined the army and worked at Bletchly Park at the time of the enigma machine. As a lance corporal I trained on flamethrowers, but then because I had done modern languages the seconded me in to counter intelligence all during the war. Just as the war was ended I was sent to Germany still in counter intelligence until I was demobbed in 1946. While working at Bletchly I did a lot of night shift and we had to sleep 5 to a room, I still remember the orderlies singing “ sing me a song of the islands”, it made sleeping very difficult. At the time of Dunkirk the troops were bought to Cambridge by train and forcibly billeted on families, sometimes in the middle of the night, people were just told they must take them in. all of the men were exhausted and some near to death and we cared for them as best we could.

This story was submitted to the People's war site by Paula Dolan of the BBC Cambridgeshire story Gatherer team on behalf of Barbara Wallis and has been added to the site with her permission. the author fully understands the site's terms and conditions

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