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Betty Fearn's Wartime

by Lancshomeguard

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
Lancshomeguard
People in story: 
Betty Fearn,
Location of story: 
Bolton
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A4139877
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

This story has been submitted to the People's War website by Liz Andrew of the Lancshome guard on behalf of Betty Fearn and has been added to the site with her permission.

I was married on 3rd September 1938 and September 3rd 1939 was my first Wedding Anniversary - it was the day that War broke out. It is a very significant date for me because years later, after my husband died, I remarried and my second husband's birthday was 3rd September!

When the War broke out I was 24 years old and I volunteered for the Fire Service in Bolton. I trained as a telephonist and did eight weeks training at the Central Fire Station. I had to do everything that the firemen did - except for going up the turntable ladder!! I did everything else - squad drill, fire prevention, first aid. I remember crawling around a smoke filled room on my hands and knees - and it was New Year's Day. I remember a man used to come and teach us all about Gas and I was bored to death. At the end of eight weeks, we had an exam and I thought, "If there's anything about gas, I'll fail." But I passed.

I was posted to a substation in Bolton. It was at the Bowling hut off the Park. I was the switchboard operator. We used to have mock fires but if it was a mock, the first thing they were supposed to say was " No Action, Fire." - Otherwise they'd simply say "Fire." On one occasion I was telephoned and simply told, "Fire," and told where the fire was. I pressed the button straight away that switched on the bell to call the firemen. But when they got there, there was no Fire. They'd been sent on a wild goose chase - but it hadn't been my fault.

I remember being asleep in my camp bed on one occasion when the sirens went. I rolled out of bed fully dressed but the room was so dark with the blackout curtains etc that I couldn't find the door. I was still groping about on my hands and knees when the sirens gave the All Clear.

I was two years with the Fire Service and then in 1942 I got a job with the RAF Civil Unit. I was there till the end of the War. I remember being given a lift home by one of the Despatch riders. This was against the rules. They weren't supposed to take passengers. We spotted a policeman and I had to leap off and jump onto the nearest tram in case we'd been spotted. When I got off at my stop I waited for my Despatch rider to turn up to see if he had got into any trouble. But the policeman hadn't stopped him.

We can laugh about it all now - but it wasn't so funny then. My brother Ted was on a hospital ship which was bombed on the way back from Dunkerque. My mother received a telegram to say he was missing. To her great relief, three days later there was another telegram. This time it simply said, " I am safe, Ted."

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