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Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
People in story: 
Helen Andrews (Nell Quibban)
Location of story: 
Southend
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4142774
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by John C Haywood volunteer Lincoln CSV on behalf of Helen Andrews and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Andrews fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

I'm Helen Andrews, and in 1944 I joined the Royal Corps of Signals and trained to be what is called a keyboard and line operator, which meant I could use a teleprinter, text machine, field telephone switchboard, and send and receive morse messages at a minimum speed of 15 words a minute.
What I remember about England during the war years was of a tremendouse cheerfulness in all the people in spite of the horror and tragedy that surrounded us. Jokes were made about everything, and there was a great deal of singing the old well known songs. A hall full of men singing full blast is well worth hearing. Dancing went on too, every Saturday night at the Palase, and it was always crowded. I remember the awfull food we had though both at school and in the services, and because of rationing shortages there was no butter,hardly any sugar or meat, no fruit, except apples grown locally, and only one egg a week. Things were very hard, but the puzzeling thing of all was the blackout, train travel was awful because they had taken down all the station signs for security reasons, so you never knew where you were, and it took hours and hours to get anywhere.
At the time of the Doodle-Bugs I happen to be in London for quite a long time and that was the first time that I thought the people were beginning to be frightened, because the Doodle-Bugs had a nasty habit of switching off and then you could count ten seconds of silence before they landed with a tremendous crash, then you knew that some where some one had had it. I spent quite a lot of time in air raid shelters, particularly in converted underground stations where hundreds of people would doss down for the night, a good one was Clapham underground which had been taken over by the Salvation Army, and they ran it very well, there was three or four tier bunks running down the length of the corridor, so it housed several thousand people evey night, and we could get a nice English breakfast for half a crown.
When V.E.day came around I was stationed at North Mimms transit camp waiting to be posted overseas and a group of us decided to go up to Trafalgar Square to join in the celebrations, as our camp was in the middle of no-where we had to hitchhike via several army lorries. There was a lot of hitchhiking in those days because of the petrol shortage, and there were very few cars, people were very understanding of service people who had no transport of their own. We eventually got to Trafalgar Square and found a huge crowd of people all singing and dancing, some people tried to make speeches but nobody could hear them for the din, we had a lovely time and we did not get back to camp until very late, normally we would have been in trouble, but on that day no-body was punished.
Shortly after that I was posted to Germany where I spent three years in the British Sector, and I saw Germany at it's lowest ebb, the ruined cities, thin people living in cellars, no heating or plumbing or electricity, sick starving children begging for food, and no young men left, they had all died or were being held in P.O.W. camps. I fell in love with the beautiful countryside, and forty years later I returned to see an economic miracle, all the cities re-built, lots of prosperity and all the people fit and well, very different from when I had seen them last, and I could hardly believe my eye's, but it was good to see it.

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