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My War Service [P.Smith : Part 2]

by Bournemouth Libraries

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
Bournemouth Libraries
People in story: 
Patricia Smith
Location of story: 
Norfolk and Homesley near the New Forest
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4139651
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

They were marvellous people there was always someone there to provide a bed and food and drink for people. They took over the whole platform. They were very good people.

D-Day, I stayed in Coastal Command all through the war and on D-Day I was back in Norfolk and saw the airborne going over and all you could see in the sky were the Dakota's. At one point a plane had to land as one of the soldiers got in a state and was threatening everyone with his gun so they had to land to take him off. It was very exciting watching this for a young person, and I was fortunate not to have been were it was very bad.

When I first went into the Airforce, you do your initial training at Barstowe, and it was in a vast camp of intakes of something like 100s a day and at night time when the raids came there was this horrible smoke which they use to put up, and you could smell it, to cover the camp so that they wouldn't be able to see it. I was only there a fortnight, and because I was a driver before I didn't have to go to driving school.

I met my husband at our first camp and he was also a driver. He was attached to the 8th Army and was posted to Alermaine and had an 8th Army medal with the attachment to the Desert Rats and he drove for refuelling and rearming so as they progressed and took the airfields he went with them and refuelled and rearmed the planes and took off to the next one. He drove an enourmous lorry, something like a Crossley, but I cannot think what it was called, but he had his picture taken sitting on top of one. He also went through Libya, Tripoli and Cyprus and then into Italy and of course he was lucky to go to Milan and was completely taken up with the Operas, being a country boy.

Coastal Command were used a lot on submarine patrols, they would go up looking for submarines, they use to go up for 12 hours at a time, a terribly long time, and thats why they were diverted as they would nearly run out of petrol.

When I was at Homesley, they asked me if I could get my father to come down and entertain the troops. I didn't want to ask him as he was very strict, but luckily enough he came down. The first Christmas of the war we were at the Royal Bath Hotel Bournemouth, because he was making a radio broadcast from the Royal Bath Hotel. He was on the bill when they opened the Pavilion and when they had their 25th Anniversary (or something like that) they asked him to attend that. I didn't follow him around, you didn't in those days. He was in musical before the war, it was very hard in those days as he topped the bill and he had to spend the week somewhere and on a Sunday he would travel and then Monday they would have a get together and he would have to guarantee the wages for the people performing and hope then that people would come to see them and then pay the wages which was hard going. So we only saw him every now and then. Musicals were the ordinary man's entertainment. I can remember going to Boscombe Pit and seeing the Windmill Folleys and all that sort of thing, you use to be able to go up in the 'gods' for 2s. They were always topical and amusing, like Boscome Hospital etc absolutely marvellous. He entertained all through the war, he was in Shaftesbury Avenue, London quite a lot in 'Up and Doing' and acted with Leslie Henson who was his great friend and then Fine and Dandy came after. He was mostly a stage person really, he did make a few films, his big break came with My Fair Lady when he was in his 50s, he was fortunate then. He was mostly in London, and lived in Buckinghamshire.

On VE day I was at Fentwell and everyone went berserk. We all went on to the Parade Ground and rejoiced there. Then after that we had VJ day celebrations.

After having spent four and a half years in uniform as soon as I got it off the only thing I could do regarding a driving job was to join the Official Car Service in London, and then I was back in uniform again driving all the Ministers around, I think it came under the Ministry of Supply then, but I'm not sure what it is now. We had a very nice uniform, you could drive the Ministers if you wanted too, but I chose to drive the messengers because you finished at 6pm in the evening. If the Ministers were sitting you had to stay until they finished. I lived in Baker Street at the time and drove for them for about a couple of years and then I got married and that was it then until my son Roy was nine and then I went and drove for Swanmill Garage.

Near the end of the war my husband was on leave, they then sent him off to Egypt and then sent him home again to be demobed. He was demobed after me we were living in West Wycombe then.

Going back I remember they put the flags out when it was the end of the war and I took the Band's Bedford Troop Carrier which I use to use for the band, one of those sort of snubbed nosed vehicles, and I loaded up the band to bring them home and some drunk got on, nobody knew he was up there and we had to stop and get him off.

That was at Feltwell. The Yanks were there at that time and in the dance halls they did all this jiving and it was so hot and eveyone was sweatiing and they were throwing these girls around, it was unbelievable, it was a wonderful atmosphere, you don't get that sort of atmosphere today. The Yanks use to give some of the girls stockings and presents, but I wasn't involved with them that much so I never got any. I'm not sure how long the Americans stayed on the camp as I wasn't that involved with them.

I remember when they first came on to the camp, I was in the Naafi, and everyone was talking and laughing and suddenly these Yanks came in and everything went quiet, everyone stopped and looked at them, these poor chaps, they all looked very smart and had their flying jackets on.

There were quite a lot of coloured Americans stationed at our camp in Fair Wood Common in Wales, there was no badness at that time at all.

If you were driving along the Americans would always be walking on the wrong side of the road, which was quite hairy. They bought their own transport over which were snubbed nosed lorries and left hand drive. They never seemed to give way, especially when we were driving a smaller lorry, you use to have to scoot out the way, quite an experience.

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