- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Pamela Hall
- Location of story:
- Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Hampshire, Scotland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 October 2004
I joined the T.A. when women were first allowed to join on 26/4/39, joining the 2nd Surrey CoY ATS at the Drill Hall, FARNHAM, Surrey. This was only 5 months before the Second World War, so I received little training before being called up on 5/9/39.
I was issued with very basic uniform, a skirt and tunic, cap, one shirt and tie, one pair of shoes, tin hat and gas mask. I had to provide myself with all other clothing and it was sometime before we were issued with underclothes etc.
On 2nd October 1939 I was posted to the 12 Division School of Instruction being opened in a large empty country house — Leyswood, GROOMBRIDGE Kent with my company, almost 20 strong. We led the task of equipping this house with furniture etc and set it running to receive the men being posted there for training, in a few days. I was promoted to corporal and put in charge of the very basic kitchen to produce meals.
We were not on rations so I was given an allowance to purchase food locally, arrange menus and help equally untrained ATS to produce meals! The only transport we had was my Austin Seven 2 seater and the Adjutant’s Standard saloon car! It was sometime before we were provided with rations, which must have made my life a little easier!
The army was still using peacetime accounting; this was a nightmare for me, as I had not had any training, only school!
I wanted to become an army driver and must have put in an application to do so and had to go for a driving test on an ambulance in Tunbridge with a FANY company, needless to say I had never driven an ambulance before but must have passed the test.
The school continued till after the evacuation of Dunkirk until July 1940, when it closed down.
I was posted to the Irish Guards at Hobb’s Barracks, LINGFIELD, where I became an Officer’s Mess Steward. The Battle of Britain was going on at this time and became very inconvenient. When the 5 minute warning was blown we had to drop everything and take cover in open trenches where we could watch the dog fights overhead and yelled ‘Clear’ when an enemy plane was shot down, difficult to believe how we, ordinary English women, had become so callous, so quickly.
On 27th September 1940 I was posted to the FANY MT Training Centre, CAMBERLEY. My application to become a driver had worked its way through the system. There I underwent a very thorough training on driving and maintenance of various types of army transport, map reading and First Aid. This has my first real army training. On passing out I was posted to 3rd Northern MT Company, YORK on 29th October 1940 and became a Staff Car Driver. It became obvious why we were taught map reading, as there were no road signs and our work took us all over Yorkshire and surrounding counties. After a few weeks staff car driving, I was sent as an Ambulance Driver to a military hospital in HARROGATE for 6 months — there were 2 of us doing 24 hours on and 24 hours off during a bad winter, difficult driving conditions at times.
I returned to YORK in May 1941 before being sent back to the MT Training Centre, CAMBERLEY, as a member of the staff, not a job I enjoyed and I blotted my copybook by being seen in Camberley wearing ‘civvies’ when on my way to see my ‘boyfriend’, who was passing through. We were not allowed to wear civilian clothes at that time!
Returning to York I went to workshops to learn more about the IC engine and passed tests to become a TMT (Technical Mechanical Transport) Sergeant. This job involved inspecting vehicles and being in charge of a petrol pump. York was badly bombed and a bomb blew up my pump, which released me from the dreaded paperwork. This was a great relief, as I was not very good at paperwork and there was a great deal — keeping records of all the vehicles we were in charge of. Some vehicles were on ‘out stations’ round Yorkshire, which meant I had to go and carry out inspections of them, staying in towns like Doncaster and Leeds.
During the bombing of York a German plane was shot down. The morning after the raid I was told to report under great secrecy to the Barracks to pick up the pilot and drive him from York to Leeds to see him on a train to London. I remember this quite well.
December 1942 I was posted to ATS OCTV Windsor as a ‘cadet’ at the Imperial Service College to undergo 2 months hard graft before being commissioned as a 2nd subaltern.
On becoming an officer I joined the 356 MT Coy RASC in BORDON, Hampshire as a Platoon Officer. A spell there, including yet another course in Southend on an RASC Officers’ Course and a spell in Aldershot with my own platoon and workshop. Staff all male RASC. I enjoyed having my own ‘set up’ for about 6 months before being transferred to REME, which had just been formed. I never met another female in REME — I think I was a rather ‘rare bird’. At times the men did not always approve, as all the young men were fighting. I had to work with older men, who had never had to serve with women doing jobs, which had always been done by senior male officers.
I joined Static Workshops REME, HQ Western Command, CHESTER and took on the job of DADME vehicles. At the time we were preparing for the invasion of Europe. I also did a spell as Process Officer at Command Workshops, BURSCOUGH. Also during my stay in Chester I had to go before a ‘board’ answering ‘funny’ questions and was told I was to be sent to the ME. I was given injections and embarkation leave but ended up at REME HQ Scottish Command to fill yet another different job interviewing all the men coming into the command and posting them to staff the workshops throughout Scotland. There were many grades in REME and each workshop required the trained personnel for each different type of workshop from sub to command, depending what work they were required to do, form bicycles to tanks, watches to wireless etc.
I remained there until after the end of the war when I was posted back to command workshops, ALDERSHOT to become a Process Officer once more until I was discharged in September 1946, having served 7 years 15 days.
Quite a varied career for one who had left school without taking any serious exams. I enjoyed it, found it demanding and proved to myself what I was capable of doing and we did win the war!
I also did a short course at Somerville College, Oxford during this time — the army seemed determined to educate me.
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