- Contributed by
- British Schools Museum
- People in story:
- Mary Bradbeer, nee Upchurch
- Location of story:
- Chivenor, Devon and Hitchin, Herts.
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 June 2005
Submitted by the British Schools Museum on behalf of one of our volunteer stewards, Mary Bradbeer, nee Upchurch.
In 1940 my father, who worked for Willmotts, was sent to take charge of building work on Chivenor aerodrome in North Devon; he rented a furnished bungalow and we all moved down there.
The food situation was quite remarkable. Whereas in Hitchin, Herts, we had to queue just for plain buns, in Braunton and Barnstaple the bakeries were full of cream cakes, iced sponges, macaroons, meringues, etc, and no queues.
There was great excitement in the village. A Junkers 88 had landed by mistake on Chivenor runway the previous night. The crew was captured and marched through the streets to Braunton station.
One evening, returning from the cinema, my friend and I heard load explosions, followed by the air raid siren. As we hurried home and a plane came low over us, we heard machine gun fire and the windows of the house we were passing were shattered.
I first worked at Atlantic Coast Airlines, a private aerodrome doing government maintenance work on Gypsy moths, Tiger Moths and Lysanders. One job I had was typing a schedule of all parts and part numbers for Tiger Moths — very boring! It was a six day week, alternate Saturdays and Sundays, and there was no bus service on Sundays. I had a three mile walk each way unless I was lucky to get a lift.
I later went to work in Willmotts office at Chivenor. Looking out of the window one day I saw a Beaufort take off then crash in Barnstaple Bay. It was a relief to see all the crew get out and paddle ashore.
At night we could see the red sky when Wales was bombed.
In Braunton some villagers climbed up a hill called The Beacon when the siren sounded. They felt safer there.
When the work at Chivenor finished we returned home to Hitchin. Then my father and I travelled each day to the American air base where Willmotts had another contract. There was great excitement one day. We were all invited to the aerodrome to see a Bob Hope show with Jerry Colonna, Frances Langford, etc. It was in the open, and airmen were balanced on roofs, cranes, etc.
My final employment with Willmotts was at the W.A.A.F. station at Leighton Buzzard, but as most builders were being sent to London on repair work after the V1 and V2 bombings, I left and went to work at British Tabulating Company.
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