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15 October 2014
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Dusting off war time memories

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mrs Andree West-Agardh
Location of story: 
London, Somerset, Stoke Poges Eastleigh, Bletchley Park
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 July 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Anon with her permission and she fully understand the site’s terms and conditions

I was 17 when war broke out. Brought up in Surrey, near the Epson Downs. Before I was called up I worked at The Bank Of England so I really saw the Blitz, the effect the Night Blitz had on London. The personal effect on me was that we had an incendiary bomb though our roof, and then we had to evacuate our house as there was an unexploded land mine hanging from a tree. The police came and we all had to leave until the next day when it was diffused.
Then worst of all I was on a train going to London Bridge to my job, it was about 8.15 AM and we heard a German plane overhead which bombed our train. The driver stopped the train and luckily the bombs landed in a field next to the train and the whole train swayed on its’ rail. When we came to London Bridge there were reporters and news people keen to interview everyone. The story was in the paper the next day.

Another near escape. We had a German bomber on fire sweeping over our house. We thought, “This is it”!! but it did go further on before it exploded. That night they started putting anti-aircraft guns on the Downs, to make them drop their bombs.

The big thing that impressed me was seeing Churchill. He came down to view the damage in the city and he came in an open car with his wife, Clementine sitting with him.
At the time I was in the Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, near St Paul’s, the heart of the city. Churchill was standing up making the V sign. There was a terrific wave of affection for him with everyone shouting “Good old Winni” and no police trying to keep the crowds away from him.

In 1941 I was called up and went into the Land Army in Surrey. I found it very boring and it was not what I wanted to do. I got out; by the way, they said I had to repay the £8.00 training fee. So I got out and was called up to the WRENS and did my training at Mill Hill outer London. I was then sent for an interview to Lee- on- Solent. This was a position for which there were many prospective candidates. It was for Night Vision Tester. It was a very good job and thankfully I got the job and I was training all the Fleet Air Arm in the Navy. I was training them for Night Vision.. After 6 months I was transferred to Somerset and after another 6 months I was interviewed to become an officer — in the role of Night Vision Instructor.

I did my training at an RAF Station; I trained with only men and also had to do Aircraft Recognition, which I passed. I went on to do Officer Training at an establishment at Stoke Poges and passed.

Radar was in its infancy and while I was training at the RAF station at Cranfield I went to a cocktail party and met Cats Eyes Cunningham, the night vision ace pilot, and had a most interesting time talking about night vision.

After this I went on to take the job of Safety Equipment Officer. I was in charge of parachutes, dinghies etc. I did the course at Eastleigh, Hampshire. This involved for example packing up a parachute correctly.
My last port of call was Cornwall; I was demobbed from there in 1946. After that I went to Bletchley Park for Teacher Training and then got married and went to live in Sweden.

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