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My WAAF Years

by Uruisg

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Archive List > Working Through War

Lilian Wilkinson

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People in story: 
Lilian Wilkinson
Location of story: 
Jarrow, RAF Ouston, Melksham, Charter Hall
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 September 2005

Lilian Wilkinson (Nee Graham) ACW 2079801

Prior to joining up I was living with my parents in Bewicke Main, a now vanished mining village near Birtley, County Durham and working at Broughs grocery shop in Chester-le-Street.
I joined the W.A.A.F. in June 1942 doing my basic six-week training at RAF Bridgnorth in Shropshire.
Back to the north I did a balloon course at Longbenton whilst working on the Jarrow balloon sites 19 and 20, where I spent six months winch-driving. One bomb managed to hit a field in Jarrow while I was there, and we lost a balloon one night (escaped balloons automatically deflated with a “rip-cord”) but the episode I most remember is the site being invaded by runaway horses coming through the railway arch and the ensuing “round-up” by local police and the duty officer! I enjoyed my time here and was sorry to leave.
Balloons becoming obsolete I was transferred to RAF Ouston where I worked on the Accumulator Room (“Acc. room”) charging batteries. While visiting my sister Jane and brother-in-law Billy (who was also on leave) at Blyth, a prolonged air raid began around midnight, the local goods yard being hit, but I made it back to camp safely the same night.
Billy was in the R.A.M.C and was sent to help clear out Belsen concentration camp: an experience that he was never able to forget. My two brothers Tommy and Freddy served in India, while my other Brother-in-law (another Tommy) was captured on active service with the Durham Light Infantry in Germany where he was made to work in the mines until the end of the war.
In the summer of 1943 I transferred to Eastmoor Yorkshire. While waiting for my aircraft electrical course I worked in the gas centre distributing equipment and also did clerical work in the office (A brief and not a very exciting time!).
Soon afterwards I commenced my course at the electrical training centre at Melksham in Wiltshire in what was a glorious summer, whilst working in the aircraft hangers (I still have my notebook with the address: Hut 14, 6, RAF Wing, 12 Entry, RAF Station, Melksham, Wiltshire). On days off my friend Doreen and I would visit Bath and go round the shops and have tea at either a TOC.H. or NAAFI. Again, I enjoyed my time working here and made several friends.
On returning from leave one night my train was halted by another huge air raid just south of York and the train was blacked out and put into a siding for the whole night.
Having finished my course I moved on to Charterhall near Berwick where I did office work and a fire-fighting course. Unfortunately, towards the end of our stint here, I was admitted to Bangor Hospital in Edinburgh for two operations: one for nasal polyps and my tonsils taken out into the bargain. While I was in hospital my unit moved to Winfield, where I joined them after discharge. My friend Margaret and I visited Edinburgh on our time off. I worked on the runway hangers here until demobbed on 22nd May 1946.
It was a relief to be back home as all the time I was away I worried about my parents and the family left behind.
After a brief period of leave I returned to my old job in Chester-le-Street, where I worked until 1948, leaving to take up a post at the Ministry of Pensions in Longbenton.
Soon after I met my husband-to-be Eddie, who had worked in a reserved occupation during the war making tanks at Vickers Armstrong in Elswick, Newcastle. We married on March 25th 1950.

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