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15 October 2014
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From Army Orderly to Secret Service Lady

by The Stratford upon Avon Society

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The Stratford upon Avon Society
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Dee Gallie
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Contributed on: 
02 October 2005

58 - Mrs Gallie (aged 86) was born in London, now living in Tanworth-in-Arden, and tells of her work in Army Intelligence:

"I was born in Hadley Wood in London, went to “The Brown School” (because we wore a brown uniform) and then I went to the City of London College.

After leaving school I was working for solicitors, and I enjoyed that very much, but then I volunteered for the Services before the war with another girl, the chief clerk’s daughter at the solicitors, we went along and joined. And in those days “they called them formed fours, they didn’t form threes” but it was very short lived and then we were at 9, Armstrong Crescent, because as we worked for solicitors we had gone to a solicitors unit and then we learnt how to form threes. And I did camp that year which I enjoyed very much, but I didn’t ever think they would silly enough to go to war but we did, and before that I was called up on the 1st of September, and then they didn’t know what to do with us, you could either be a cook, a clerk or an orderly. And I didn’t like cooking, and clerking was my day job, so I became an orderly, and orderlies had to go from room to room, putting things in “in” trays, taking things from “out” trays, and I was the only one who was really allowed out, because I would take them to the post in Exhibition Road, there was the big London post office. And on the way back one day, a lady opened her door and said come in quickly, it’s the Prime Minister, we are at war, and that’s how I learnt... on the radio
in Queen’s Gate. And when I got back to Queen’s Gate, our CO was in tears, and saying we are all too young to die! It was really rather extraordinary.

It upset her very much that we had gone to war. But I imagine I will go on from there. I went to a course by the hospital at the end of the road and I found it very interesting because the exercises I learnt to give the girls, were all connected with joints, but they didn’t make you muscular at all, very much for women so one didn’t get like the Princess of Wales who was very muscular once she got older, and on fine days I used to take the girls round the Albert Memorial, and if it was wet we had a gymnasium where we were quartered. And I still do these exercises, and you know I think and that’s why I can fall and not break bones.

I was called up and lived in. And one day I was going round taking things out of “out” trays, and a I saw a soldier taking down things in longhand, the colonel was giving him a letter. And when I got him on his own, I said you ought to let me do that I can do shorthand. I didn’t know the army could work so fast, because the next I knew I was working for this colonel in Queen’s Gate and I stayed with him for a long time and he was very good I gave him all … ‘cos I didn’t need my clothing coupons but I’d give those to his daughter so that I could go shopping with her so that she could buy things which I didn’t need, I needed a uniform. And then sometime after that, when I went to Edinburgh for “Opto” and it was quite exciting there because I noticed one girl who …, sergeant major …, was a different rank of course, women was equivalent to a sergeant major, was all over one girl who had come for interviews, and it was when I was at Opto that I realized why, because she was the Queen’s niece. And we had gone together, and we used to go out, I used to go out with her husband for dinner in Edinburgh, but it was very nice really. And I have gone back to Edinburgh because I married a Scot, and it had all disappeared, all the …, where we’d done our training, it was just not there it was all houses, I feel very sad about that.
It was while I was there in Edinburgh, that my colonel wrote and said would I like a job in London. Well I didn’t want one really, because I had just met the man who was to become my husband, but I thought if I say no, he’ll be moved and nobody goes to Lancaster, so I said yes and I went down to London to Baker Street, he was a naughty boy, he should have interviewed me at a special room in the War Office but he always broke the rules and he interviewed me in his office, and I thought it looked exciting because there were all uniforms going in, and so I thought this looks the thing to join which it was. And when I said to him yes please, but I hadn’t been sworn in so for three days I couldn’t do anything, so I wrote lots of letters to the family and to poor Tom still in Lancaster, and then eventually he came back, the chap who had put me through paces and told me what it was and I can remember very vividly when he told me what we were going to be up to, I said “it isn’t cricket”, you know blowing people up which is what we did.
I can remember that very clearly. But …, and of course I enjoyed it very much because I felt that I was getting wireless equipment for people all round the world, and I thought it was a good job for a young woman to do, because it was very difficult to acquire. It was in very short supply, and yet it’s easier for them to take no from a young girl than an old harridan perhaps, and so I enjoyed that job very much.

And the only people who really kept very close to what was happening were the Norwegians, the Scandinavians, and of course they were doing it all to blow up the German heavy water things, and I watched those accounts on the telly, and they’re very, very accurate.
Well then the Colonel died which was rather sad because they thought he was drunk, ‘cos he used to leave our offices in Baker Street and go to a club at the bottom of the road, Mary’s, but he actually had a heart attack and died.
And then the new man had his cronies and he was very much an empire builder, so I found I hadn’t much work to do because he was getting all his lady friends in and other pals, and so that’s how …
And then the F section, the French Section, Colonel Buckmaster said oh would I like to go and work there, which I did and we became very friendly because he said you will have to keep an eye on one of the men who was French, and he was their first agent but he never kept notes, so you keep notes for him, so I enjoyed that.
And then, by then I was married, and I had Rosemary.

I think (Colonel Buckmaster) was very good. I know one time he said oh, you want your bottom smacked! But he was that sort of man, he was an old Etonian, but he never, ever pulled that and he used to come to …, ‘cos we used to go to British Restaurants and he always came too and he would probably sit with me. Oh that’s why it’s so funny, the girl who hit the headlines never came, she was far too grand by then.

(My main job was getting and looking after Agents'equipment. I think we got little tiny wireless sets from The States, but mostly I think it was made …, ‘cos I went with the Colonel to where the stuff was made and it used to be a place before the war, used to be a dancing …, not a night club but afternoon tea dancing, The Barn I think it was called, something like that.

We were completely separate (from the Americans), but I remember going out to dinner once and there was an American there, and I was put next to him, and this was, you know, nowhere near …, it was out in the wilds, and he said what do you do? And I said oh I work for I.S.R.B. which was one of the things we could say, and he said Good Lord (I remember it so clearly), you look like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth and here you are! And I realized he was O.S.S. you see, but that’s all we said, we didn’t say any more.

Well I had to give up after the baby because you couldn’t …, I had to stay until I couldn’t do my uniform up any longer, because in the ATS you know, you were …

I stayed in London. The bombing got very bad again, they were following the River Thames and our flat was on the banks of the River Thames, it was Embankment Gardens actually, and I had never worried about bombing, but I was worried then, not for myself, but I thought the baby would be born and the layette would have gone up in smoke, and of course we had incendiaries on the roof, a lot of things like that, and my sister in law phoned and said that their cottage was empty, would I like to go up there, so I did.

My husband was moved to …, he went out all on his own to Burma as a Brigade Major out there. But you know he went in a flying boat, they commissioned a flying boat to take him, but it was quite exciting really. I should think he was the last one to go on a flying boat to India.

And coming back, he was three days in Cairo, because the pilot had something wrong with him! I could have killed the pilot! But then he came back, I went down to meet him in London and of course he was very, very yellow, they used to take mevacrin I think it was, that turned them yellow, out in the jungle, actually, he looked very well. But it was snowy then and everybody else was dressed up, and there he was, hardly anything on at all really.

(Other characters I met) What was his name, he was in the Scandinavian …, in the Norwegian Section and his father wrote a very interesting book, I can’t remember, and the father writing his book never mentions he’s got a son, a very, very well known book, I’ve got it in my bookshelves, but I just can’t think. And I was so thrilled to meet this ‘cos I loved the book, and thrilled to meet his son, but sad that the father never acknowledged his son.

Actually we had the Free French Section, and I was very friendly with them, and then there was the French Section which wasn’t Free French, wasn’t De Gaule.

We had one Agent in Germany and one time I was commissioned to get a very luscious sort of case to put a wireless set in, and I felt that was going to the German. But I never knew, I never knew where the stuff went."

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - From Army Orderly to Secret Service Lady

Posted on: 02 October 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Mrs Gallie

I very much enjoyed reading your story and found it very interesting.

There is another related story here A5097729, and one here A2662599 that also mentions Colonel Buckmaster's PA, Vera Atkins, who you must have known. I believe that F Section was deliberately moved from Baker Street as DR/F Section, then RF Section, so that Free French visitors need not be admitted to Baker Street. Were you at 72 Berkeley Square or at 1 Dorset Square?

There is an excellent website on Baker Street here links which I am sure you will find of interest.

Kind regards,

Peter Ghiringhelli

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