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WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
2nd Air Division Memorial Library
People in story: 
Leonard Rose
Location of story: 
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2945874
Contributed on: 
25 August 2004

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Jenny Christian of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in conjunction with BBC Radio Norfolk on behalf of Leonard Rose and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Mr Leonard Rose who is now aged 95 writes the following recollections of the Second World War.

"As one who through disablement did not necessitate Military service, I felt that offering service in the Telephone Exchange, Bury St Edmunds would contribute a useful service, after training.

Thus it was Doreen Hogg became my personal instructor and after some 6 weeks I was able to take up my position as an exchange operator under the supervision of Miss Dixon, the supervisor of some 20 other operators with their plugged in headsets and telephones.

During the War all operators in active conditions wore metal headgear and amid the clatter of cords and plugs accompanied by the necessary cry of "number please" I was one of them! Doreen had done her work well! "Do you think you can now operate on your own now?" she asked me. I assured her I was more than now fully able to do that and thanked her for her patient tuition. Miss Dixon alone was responsible for ensuring that contact between Buckingham Palace and Bury St Edmunds was maintained at all times. We kept an "open" link to ensure unbroken contact.

The sentries on guard at the Main Gate at the Telephone Exchange had fixed bayonets. American planes were limping back on that inevitable wing and a prayer to Lakenheath. Working at the exchange was I realised a very vulnerable risk, as a centre for national communications it was always a possible target for sabotage and destruction. In fact one felt it was like being in the Army! Danger was always there, but still the reassuring noise of "number please" chorus went on with Miss Dixon at the helm.

"Sleeping duty" sounded very odd. What sleep one could get was necessary as it meant an early morning call for operating duty; the make do bedding was very primitive! But late night fish and chips strengthened us. The Air Raid warnings kept us on edge, as did the flashing red and white lights on that switchboard and I have a distinct recollection of the clinging odour of polish and apples."

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