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Drawing Office Blues - a disappointment

by threecountiesaction

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Archive List > Working Through War

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Patricia Enid Wilks (nee Webb)
Location of story: 
Reading aerodrome
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Pat’s daughter (Rachel Irven), a volunteer from Three Counties Action, on behalf of Pat, and has been added to the site with her permission. Pat fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was 16 when I left school in 1942. There was little choice of jobs — either cook in the ATS or train for work in factories. I ‘chose’ (if this is the right word), factory training. ‘Direction of Labour’. What YOU wanted to do and WHERE you did it was directed by Ernie Bevin, Minister of Labour. What the country needed most was paramount.
So, I trained as a Junior Draughtsman at Reading aerodrome.
We girls lived in a hostel managed by a woman who seemed a tyrant to us, in Hurst village. (Our landlady would not allow us to go out with a boy friend unless we had written permission from our parents. As we had all left school we thought this was a bit of a cheek!) The house was called ‘The Paddocks’.
The boys, if they were lucky became ‘Apprentices’ and had a 3-4 year course which trained them as Aircraft Engineers. But we girls only had 6 months intensive training before being sent out to …….well, WHERE? We had no idea where.
Towards the end of my 6 months, I was given the opportunity to join a group of dedicated, highly trained engineers — just to do ‘dogsbody detail drawings’ for them. There were about 12 men and they worked a short distance from the aerodrome in ‘The Research Department’ — there were carpenters, skilled designers, draughtsmen, metal workers, metal treatment chemists and engineers — La Crème de la Crème in fact.
It was a wonderful chance to really get down to work and study. I was thrilled to be part of this and felt if I worked and studied hard I would be able to get to know all about aircraft and design. So when, after a fortnight, the Boss asked me if I would like to become a permanent member of this elite establishment — just imagine my excitement.
Alas, it was not to be, the job had already officially been given to a local Reading girl and I was ‘on the list’ to be transferred to a Southampton Jig and Tool drawing office, as part of Ernie Bevin’s ‘direction of labour’.
You didn’t argue with Ernie — after all, ‘there was a war on’, and eventually I settled into my new job, despite disappointment.

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