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15 October 2014
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My Wartime Memories, Cornwall

by Elizabeth Forster

Contributed by 
Elizabeth Forster
People in story: 
Elizabeth Forster
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
08 October 2004

In 1940 after the disaster of Dunkirk, I volunteered to join the WAAF aged 19. I was sent to St Eval in Cornwall as a plotter in the fighter operations room. The station was bombed quite often, but not as badly as those on the South Coast.

To our surprise, in Spring 1941, three of us girls were moved to a hotel in Coverack. We were then taken to a caravan in the middle of a field and shown how to operate a radar screen (it was called RDF in those days). The caravan was dark and stuffy but it was very exciting to learn about this new, very secret technology. We had a week to learn just enough and then more girls arrived to be taught by us. We soon moved from the caravan into a wooden building in the field but sanitation was still only a bucket surrounded by sacking which made a very good shadow show on a sunny day!

We all lived in The Headland Hotel which was eventually taken over for the duration. It was a lovely spot for cliff walks when not on duty and in the winter for beachcombing and retrieving wood for the open fire.

At one stage it was thought we might be attacked by the Germans (after our raid on Dieppe, I expect) and we were all issued with guns and had to practice on the rocks below the headland. I wonder if any other WAAFs were armed in the UK? We found the old 303s too big and heavy so were issued with smaller sten guns. We were supposed to carry the cartridge clip in our breast pocket which was a bit difficult for those of us with fuller figures!

I was at Treleaver, as the GCI (Ground Controlled Interceptions) station was called, for three years and then Records caught up with us and some of us were moved. I remained good friends with the other two girls who started up the station and in spite of spending 25 years in Africa after the War, we stayed in touch. Sadly, I am now the only one left so feel the need to record my memories on behalf of the three of us.

I was then sent to Sopley near Christchurch in Hampshire where each of the three watches was in a separate local mansion so unfortunately didn’t get much chance to meet the others. I was there over D Day when we watched the vast numbers of aircraft crossing the channel covering the landings. At that time all the roads and fields near us were full of tanks and transport so we all knew the invasion was imminent. For secrecy reasons we were confined to camp for a few days before D Day and given American rations - these were much more interesting than our own! We all received a thank you letter from General Eisenhower.

Being a radar operator on a GCI station was the next best thing to being in the plane with the pilot (though considerably safer)! You saw the blips getting closer, the pilot then called “Tally Ho” and the enemy blip broke up. It was very exciting but did not make up for the sadness for the ones who did not come home.

I was in the WAAF for 5 ½ years. After the War I found that life as a civilian was rather dull so took myself out to central Africa — which is another story………..

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Message 1 - My wartime memories

Posted on: 08 October 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Elizabethforster

Just a line to say that I very much enjoyed reading your informative story.

All the very best,


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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Auxiliary Territorial Service Category
D-Day+ 1944 Category
Cornwall Category
Hampshire Category
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