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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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A Busy War

by Rosslibrary

Contributed by 
Rosslibrary
People in story: 
Renee Dorras (now Renee Little)
Location of story: 
Ross and Wolverhampton
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A3347246
Contributed on: 
30 November 2004

I joined up as a Land Girl right at the beginning of war. It seemed strange to me that I had to go to Whitehall for an interview. They warned me that I might have to get up at dawn and sleep in a barn. I don't know why they said that; it never happened like that with me, but perhaps that's what they believed.
I was sent to Sellack, near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. We had to plough the fields with a horse-drawn plough, and pull roots - that was horrible, freezing and muddy. But generally I enjoyed the work; I had been brought up to love the country, and we were fed well.

Then I became emotionally involved, and wanted to get away. The man was married, and separated from his wife, and I heard that she was looking for reasons to get a divorce. But it was so much harder to just leave somewhere then. You couldn't go where you wanted. I had to go to the board and tell them I wanted to move, and go wherever I was sent.

They sent me to a munitions factory in Wolverhampton, where I was an examiner, checking parts. Sometimes I would reject parts and they would go back into the factory to be put right, but then I found that the factory was paid twice for these parts - each time they passed a certain point they were counted, whether they were rejects or not.

I told an inspector about this, and do you know what? I lost my job! But that turned out to be the best thing - I joined the army and became an ambulance driver in London. I enjoyed driving, and I felt that I was doing something useful, and what's more I was stationed in a beautiful house in Kensington, which belonged to Barbara Hutton. There were peach trees at the bottom of the garden, and we were told we mustn't touch them. Of course, this was too much of a temptation, and we would sneak out at night and pick peaches.

Other women from the unit were based in the house opposite, which was bombed. My friend was in bed, and the damage was all round her, but she was ok. The funny thing was that she wouldn't let the men from the unit rescue her because she was in her nightdress.

My longest drive was from London to South Wales, carrying Italian prisoners of war; we came through Ross en route. It was Christmas Eve and we could only use sidelights. You could only tell something was coming past when you felt the vibrations - we just had to rely on the fact that there weren't many vehices around. We weren't scared; it was just part of life, and it's amazing what you can stand when you're young.

Once I carried a German submarine officer in the ambulance. I tried to make him comfortable, but he looked at me with such hatred that I did a very bad thing - I drove up and down the kerb, even though he was injured. I know this was wrong, but I've never regretted it.

I don't think about it all much now. At that time, everybody was involved in it, but now it's a bit of the past. And that's it.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Land Army Category
Working Through War Category
Auxiliary Territorial Service Category
Black Country Category
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