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Memories from the WAAF

by Elizabeth Lister

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Archive List > Working Through War

Contributed by 
Elizabeth Lister
People in story: 
Joan Bulpitt
Location of story: 
Bristol, Southampton, Melksham, Norfolk.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Berkshire on behalf of Joan Bulpitt and has been added to the site with his/her permission. Joan Bulpitt fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was living in Bristol when war was declared. I remember listening to the radio as I sat slicing runner beans on the back door step in the sunshine. I was quite excited when the announcement was made, I was just 17.

We later moved to Southampton in time for the bombing, which was terrifying. I worked in a large department store and this was bombed one Saturday night. As secretary to the accountant I had to keep on working from a temporary office premises (in a hotel) and a couple of weeks later the safe containing all the Saturday takings was unearthed from the ruins. All takings were in cash or cheque then and I had the unenviable task of pegging the notes to a temporary clothesline to dry. I shall never forget how awful they smelt.

Life at home in those days was so boring and dangerous that I joined the WAAF. I started as a clerical officer but this was also boring, so I re-mustered and became an aircraft electrician — Unfortunately on the same training camp that I was in already. After 6 months I was sent to an airfield in Norfolk on coastal command, where every night we heard hundreds of aircraft flying out over the North Sea to bomb shipping or Germany and then the few that came back the next morning.

I found I enjoyed my job maintaining and checking the electrical systems on the aircraft. After a while I was sent back to the same training camp for up grading. After that I was posted to the RAF Keevil, only five miles from the training camp at Melksham.

The sergeant in charge of the electrical section hated WAAFS, electrical WAAFS especially and wouldn’t give me any proper work to do — he said “keep the stove stoked up, and fetch tea and cakes from the Naafi!!” I became very good at crosswords.

But one day the station was being inspected by the Group Captain and everything had to be just right. I was sitting by the stove as usual when I was told to fetch the station officers battery out of his aircraft at the other side of the airfield, I cycled out — a long way — and struggled back with it on my handlebars and put in on charge.

Sometime later I heard panic everywhere. Apparently the Group Captain had been well pleased with his visit and was being seen off through a guard of honour. He got in his little aircraft, pressed the starter button but nothing happened. I had removed the battery from the wrong aircraft!! My name was mud and I was posted soon after!

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