- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Gladys Saunt
- Location of story:
- Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 November 2004
When I was 18 (in 1944) I was called up. I wanted to enlist in the ATS as a shorthand typist or the Fire Service but there were no vacancies, so it was the NAAFI instead. I was posted to a place called Garrett's Hay near Woodhouse Eaves and I arrived at Quorn Station with a massive suitcase which had been presented to me as a parting gift by the staff of Radio Rentals in Nottingham where I worked in the office. I had to walk the rest of the way and when I got there, it was far from luxurious.
We slept in a Nissen hut with a large stove in the middle. The water coming out of the tap was brown and scalding hot! There were several of us there : Barbara Wilson - the chargehand who later became Barbara Manley and a lifelong friend (now sadly deceased). At first I disliked her due to her peremptory habit of ordering people around but later we were the best of friends. There was also the cook- a little Geordie named Violet- who made wonderful cakes and pastries. I can see her now, beating puff pastry with a rolling pin and fighting of the wasps in summer. Joan, from Woodseats in Sheffield, was also a good friend.
It was my job to rake out the stove and make the fire. It wouldn't light and kept going out. I had never been used to such work - having been spoiled at home. My mother when she came to visit was distraught to see that my hands and arms were chapped up to the elbows.
We collected the post from the Manor House which meant going through the woods every morning. At the Manor House, also, there were dances with soldiers and we were allowed to wear civvy clothes for these. We had one day off each week. I lived near enough to go home (Nottingham). Sometimes we would go to the cinema in Leicester or Loughborough in the afternoon but we never saw the end of the film because we had to be back at the camp to open up for 6pm.
I didn't like the uniform. The jacket had dull buttons so I asked my brother, Louis,who was in the Army, to get me a battle-top with brass buttons. I had it altered by a tailoress so that it would fit me properly.
We used to go to a little teashop in Woodhouse Eaves for scones, jam and cream. At the camp we served sandwiches and drinks. One of the soldiers told me I would never make the grade as a barmaid because the bottled beer was all froth when I poured it out! We had nice meals and lots of dried egg. Sometimes, stocks of make-up came in. We could buy Cyclax makeup and Anne French products - one item each. These were luxuries.
I didn't like the shoes either - horrible brown, flat heeled things and we had to buy them ourselves. We weren't paid very much.
Up each morning and across the fields to be on duty for 6 am. One night, on returning to our hut, we fell over a hedgehog curled up in the porch. But we had fun. Sometimes people came from other NAAFIs such as Anstey. My parents came to visit and my father helped us to make a little garden with bedding plants.
It made me appreciate home comforts. The bed wasn't bad, though. It had a nice bedspread of blue and white with a NAAFI crest on it. It was always warm because of the stove in the middle.
We occasionally went to the NAAFI Club on Bridlesmith Gate, Nottingham which was very nice. Sometimes we would meet some soldiers there and invite them to visit us at the camp. All very innocent though!
On VE night I recall going to Nottingham with Joan. We went dancing. As the War ended in 1945 I wasn't in the NAAFI for long. I have since discovered that some girls in the ATS had a lot less to eat than we did. So perhaps, it was fortunate that I landed in the NAAFI after all. My brother, Louis, told me I should apply for an overseas posting as the girls there only served in the bar and didn't do any of the rough work- they had servants for that sort of thing. But I didn't want to go so far from home! I was glad when it was over but I had made some good friends. It really made me appreciate home comforts though!
A couple of years ago, my daughter took me to Woodhouse Eaves because she wanted to see where I had been stationed. However, we could find no trace of the site or Garrett's Hay. A shame really, because I would like to have seen it all again.
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