BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

World War 2

by florenceb

Contributed by 
florenceb
People in story: 
Mrs. Priscilla McCall
Location of story: 
Portsmouth
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A4078668
Contributed on: 
17 May 2005

Mrs. McCall was Fourteen when the war started in September 5th 1939 at 11am. At seventeen and a half she volunteered for the Navy and became a WREN.
During the war there were many scary moments for Priscilla. For example whilst cycling back to school with her friend a German plane flew towards them. The plane was removing its ammunition before it crashed. Machine gun bullets were fired at Priscilla and her friend. They dived into a ditch and tried to protect themselves from the bullets. Luckily neither of the girls was hurt during this.
When the war started the air raid siren was sounded at exactly 11:05am and Priscilla immediately thought she was going to be killed without a doubt. Air raid could go on all night and down in the air raid shelter it was “damp and horrible”. You had to try and get some sleep no matter how noisy it was because in the morning you would have to get up for school.
Priscilla’s father was a special constable, her mother worked in a munitions factory and her brother was in the Merchant Navy. All of them survived. Her mother lost the top of her index finger whilst working on a piece of machinery that would eventually go into a British plane.
One night a parachute bomb was dropped and didn’t explode so Priscilla’s father had to guard the bomb to make sure that no-one went near it. The parachute was made of the finest silk and had luxurious tassels on it. Her father thought it was only fair that he should get the parachute as he had put his life in danger guarding the bomb. He got to keep the parachute which was eventually made into Priscilla’s wedding dress and the tassels were used as a belt.
Rationing was very bad during the war but by being a wren you were a lot better fed. Around the war time you would never see an overweight person unlike now. For a bit extra food Priscilla used to breed rabbits that were then killed and cooked in a stew for example. Also the family next door kept chickens which Priscilla’s got a few eggs occasionally. When you were married you could have another clothing ration book so you could get a few more clothes.
When the Americans came over things got a lot better. If you were lucky enough to have an American boyfriend then they would give you presents of nylon stockings, coffee and cigarettes.

“I left school and volunteered to join the forces in 1943 at seventeen and a half. I would have been called up anyway at eighteen but by volunteering I could apply for any of the three services; The Army, the Air force or the Navy. I choose the latter because I had a boyfriend at the time who was in the Navy also it had the best uniform! I was sent up to a training camp to learn all about signaling in my case wireless telegraphy. After six months I was a W.R.E.N/ telegraphist- very fast speed both to send the Morse code and to receive it. My first station was near Winchester, a F.A.A aerodrome where we trained Tel. air gunners in the Morse code. My class of thirty young men was to join HMS Illustrious the air craft carrier.”
“Then came D-day operations in June 1944 and I was sent immediately to Portsmouth to work in the Naval commander in chief headquarters. A very exiting time then started. We were in wireless communication with the forces in France the ships transporting the Army to the beaches in Normandy for the Invasion. Later I was moved to the radio telephones in cubicles all round the plot. Where the positions of all the ships up and down the channel were plotted. I could hear the voices of many famous men, naval high command, once Churchill, Eisenhower and once the King. Now all this happened deep down underground in the tunnels in the hill above Portsmouth. If you travel on the M27 you can see the old red brick fort Southwick overlooking Portsmouth.”
“Finally the Great Day came VE day. Victory in Europe. I came off watch at 4am and we heard the great news that Germany had capitulated at 2:41am. It was May 7th 1945 one of the officers led some of us through the tunnels to an opening over looking the harbour an incredible sight and sound. All the ships were lit up, the search lights were playing all around the sky, rockets and fireworks were blazing up and the noise of the ships hooters and the various sirens was deafening. And somewhere in the town of Portsmouth the bells of a church were ringing. This for me was the most memorable happening of the whole war.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Rationing Category
Women's Royal Naval Service Category
Hampshire Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy