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Life in the WAAF by P Bruzard

by CSV Solent

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CSV Solent
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Royal Air Force
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18 June 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Philippa on behalf of Mrs Bruzaud and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Bruzaud fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I was sitting in the Drawing Room at home in Westbyfleet, Surrey listening to the radio when I heard the announcement that we were at war with Germany.

Some months before this I had been going to Camberley drill Hall with a group of local people to learn about cars, map reading, driving in convoy and doing drills lead by a terrifying Sergeant Major from the Guards Regiment.

I was a member of the British Legion and then became part of the W.A.F. — Women’s Auxiliary Air force and was posted to Farnborough in 1939. There was tremendous camaraderie and excitement. At Farnborough I did drill training and the first time I had to drill a squad of women I could not stop them because I didn’t know the right command — eventually someone told them to halt!

At the W.A.F. unit at Pinner Hill Golf course in North London there was a large explosion at 6.30 a.m. I rushed out of bed only to find a bomb had been dropped just 100 ft away on the 18th green.

In 1940 I was posted to the Officer’s Training School in Harrogate, where cadets were turned into Officers and gentlewomen. I started at Gerard’s Cross, then moved to Loughborough College and finished at Lake Windermere. From Windermere I was posted to Palestine in 1943. I travelled on the Orion liner to Lagos then flew via Khartoum and Cairo to Palestine.

In Palestine I helped run a WAF depot for local recruits most of which were Jewish girls who had fled the enemy from many different countries. They would settle any arguments they had by throwing bricks at each other. They underwent basic training and were then posted to various stations throughout the middle East to become clerks, motor transport drivers, telephonists, sick-bay orderlies — they filled a variety of jobs that men did in order to release the men to fight. Whilst in Palestine I gave a talk on the radio for the Jewish Agency on what the W.A.F were doing in the Middle East.

I was given an OBE after a year in Palestine and was then posted to Cairo at the head quarters of a campsite that was being built for a number of British soldiers.

When posted to a head quarter one had to report to a Senior Head Officer. When I first went to Coastal Command in 1941 there was no Senior Head Officer but only a Commander in Chief. He was fantastic and I found I could go to him with any problem or query even though he was running the battle of the Atlantic.

Cairo was my favourite posting and I stayed there until the end of the war.

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