- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Glenyss May Thorn (nee Buhagiar)
- Location of story:
- South Wales
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 January 2006
Workers at Royal Ordnance Factory No.11, Newport in 1944. Glenyss is sitting third from left (looking at picture).
I enter the following with the permission of my mother Glenyss May Thorn (nee Buhagiar) as a brief record of her wartime experiences.
Glenyss (or Glen) Buhagiar was 15 when war was declared. She had been working as a parlourmaid in Torquay prior to the war but had returned to her home in Risca, South Wales before war was declared. She then worked as a domestic in a nurses home’ in Bristol before again returning to South Wales to work as a live-in domestic in the Ridgeway area of Newport. It was while looking after this families four-year-old son that she encountered the reality of war close up. During an air raid two bombs landed very close to the shelter the family were taking refuge in. My mother can remember the terrifyingly loud whistling sounds and the explosions and vibrations; she threw herself on top of her four-year-old charge to protect him. This was the fearlessness of youth and something I am very proud my mother did. One woman in another house close by was killed.
When my mother was 17 in 1941 she was directed to war work. Her father, a Maltese merchant seaman, who had settled in South Wales, was very protective of his daughters and was not very keen for her to join any of the services that might take her away from home. Thus she ended up working in an aircraft factory in Rogerstone. She was not there long before moving onto the Royal Ordnance Factory No.11, Newport. She worked in Bay 8 making barrels for bofors guns and mortars. She learnt to use micrometers and lathes and became very skilled at her job. The tolerances on the gun barrels were very tight. Because she was skilled at the lathe she was asked one day by the foreman to do a trial test piece on a new gun barrel the factory was looking at manufacturing. She remembers the long shifts and ENSA concerts when they danced while they worked. At one concert she had a verse read out in honour of her 21st birthday. Her best friend in the factory was Polly and this lasted long after the war. When the news of Germany’s surrender became know my mother was at work, her friend Polly came running in with the news and said she should come outside and celebrate, my mum said she would once she had finished the barrel she was working on!
My mother met my father, who was in a searchlight battery near Newport, and when they married in 1944 they honeymooned in Torquay staying at the guesthouse my mother had worked. By that time there were lots of American soldiers who always made sure the newly married couple never went short of a drink.
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