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15 October 2014
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His Name Was John Dancey

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Ruth Godding, John Dancey
Location of story: 
Manston, Folkestone, Staines
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A7901543
Contributed on: 
19 December 2005

And if anyone had told me that we would meet again, a ship that had held me close and passed like a ghost in the night, I would have said there's not a chance in hell of my doing so.

1940
It was a day, such a day when blind fury took over at Manston, when with one almighty blinding flash and a huge spurt of red and yellow flame our fighter station once again was fighting for its life, and I was too tired to sleep and losing my nerve. "Go home" they said "have a rest, you can have three days."

So I went home to my Mum and Dad, away from all the heartache, where some-one at sometime, wept, when the girls were killed, and the good humoured swearing from a young pilot flying overhead went silent over the airwaves and he was scooped off the plotting table.

An army lorry had given me a lift as far as Folkestone "Sorry love I can't take you any further, I'm due at the harbour in five minutes, will you be alright?" "Yes of course I will" I said. "Take care" "You too love."

I bought a drink in Bouvere Aquare and enquired if a bus was due to go to Hythe. "No mate" the man said "not this side of an hour, if I was you I'd get out of Folkestone as soon as you can. The shelling warning is still in force, twelve people have been killed in the last two days, Lewis and Hylands was flattened by a Stuka three days ago, along with St Augustines on the Sea Front. Plummer Roddis is still on fire, poor b----y battered Folkestone and this is only the beginning and I'd put that tin hat on that’s hanging on your bag if I was you; never know where one is going to land."

I walked the last three miles along the coast road which was a no go area hoping that I wouldn't be seen by the military police.

My Mum was pleased to see me, she put her arms around me, told me to sit and she would make me hot milk and cut me a slice of her lardy cake.

We spoke of losing the lifeboat at Dunkirk, and some of the men. "Where's Dad?" "He's helping the army to put up a high fence of barbed wire along the sea front by the Sea View Hotel and the others are digging tunnels on the Romney Marsh." "Why?" "Don't ask, there's some funny things going on down here I might tell you." She made a second pot of tea and said "There's a dance in the Catholic School tonight why don't you go? It's in aid of the Spitfire Fund." Good idea I said but will you be alright. "Yes your dad will be home and Aunt Rose is calling in."

I knew that I looked nice, a swingy pink and mauve silk suit and court shoes that matched, my hair blond and bouncy, lovely to get out of my W AAF uniform and flat shoes.

I was whirled on to the floor as soon as I walked in the door by a very good looking soldier with three stripes and a crown on his arm.

We were together most of the evening and I learnt he was a Sergeant Major in the Devon Light Infantry and the battery that he commanded was at the end of Folkestone Harbour on the big gun that helped look after channel shipping.

"I'm John Dancey" he said" and I'm based at Shomcliffe Camp." We walked home slowly in the moonlight I told him I was at a dangerous fighter station and on home-leave for 3 days. He kissed me gently as we said goodbye promising to meet the next day, but he didn't come, and I never saw him again, and afterwards I heard all regiments were on stand by and confined to barracks. Once again I urged my parents to leave the coast.

There had been fierce raids on all airfields, Tangmere and Biggin Hill, many dead, out of action Manston evacuated, along with Hornchurch and The Mallings, and Hawkinge was on fire at the back of Folkestone. Invasion barges could be seen in the evening light, assembling from Calais to the Channel Islands.

It was round about this time my life took a different turn. I could have gone into Bomber Command but chose to go into industry instead, so I had two months’ intensive training to learn all aspects of engineering to work to fine limits, read a micrometer and a vernier, 12 hours shifts every day and we would line up once a fortnight to give a pint of blood. I took to it like a duck to water.

I was pulled out of the rubble in Putney, and lost everything I owned in a terrible raid on the British Small Arms in Birmingham, I arrived home in rags to find a ghost town, my boyfriend a Royal Marine Commando missing believed killed and me and my beloved England in a very bad way.

Two days later I was handed a train pass to work at a small secret factory in Surrey, where I met my future husband (thinking Luke wouldn't return) and had a good life. He was a brilliant engineer, but me being born at the sea I missed the water, so we bought a nice property by the side of the river Thames at Staines in Middlesex.

This was one of my happy times. We had an average of 70 or 80 lorries pulling into the bay every day, besides all the mail for 50 offices. On this day which I shall always remember, six men were unloading, a bitter day, my office was a hub of industry that morning, most of the drivers were coming in for a warm-up and hot chocolate. I heard a familiar squeal of brakes outside, paperwork was handed down from the cab, the machined parts were checked, and the invoice placed upon my desk. I looked at the name scrawled along the bottom of the page in bold letters and it said 'John Dancey' the same name of the soldier John Dancey; it must be him!!!

There could be another man with that unusual name; but I had to make sure before the lorry was driven away. And then I saw him - the outline of my handsome Sergeant Major who had danced every dance with me one lovely evening, walked home with me under a bombers moon and search lights, and kissed me tenderly as we said goodnight.

Neither of us spoke, and to the amazement of the crowd around us I was gathered into his arms, and there we stood, me in a dirty white overall, black with machine shop dust and him in an old duffle coat remembering all the wasted years, in between.

This story was entered onto the site by Melita Dennett on behalf of Ruth Godding, who understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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