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15 October 2014
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Greenock: WRNS and Blitz

by mcleanmuseum

Contributed by 
mcleanmuseum
People in story: 
Mrs Daphne Thomson
Location of story: 
Greenock
Article ID: 
A2461781
Contributed on: 
25 March 2004

This contribution is taken from the collections of the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock. Inverclyde Council

Mrs Daphne Thomson recalls:

Mrs Daphne Thomson

"Well to start off with my father wouldn't have an air raid shelter. He said it would take up too much room in the garden. And when there was an air raid on we all got under the table which was one of the big old-fashioned oak tables that had an extra leaf which could be put into it. So anyway when the Blitz started we were all under the dining room table complete with dog. We had a search light battery in the park opposite us and also a barrage balloon and at night time if there were any reconnaissance planes coming over we could lie in bed and watch the tracer bullets flying past the window. The night of the Blitz there was a landmine dropped round the corner from us. We didn’t have any damage apart from the fact that one of our windows was broken.

When we went out afterwards to look around and see what damage had been done the whole hill was ablaze with incendiaries. You could see it lit it up just like day. But round the corner of course it was in a dreadful state with this big land mine."

Mrs Thomson now goes on to talk about her service in the Wrens (WRNS).

"In 1943, I joined the Wrens. I joined in Greenock and had my medical in Glasgow where I wanted to be a dispatch rider but unfortunately I had something wrong with one of my eyes. It never bothered me and still doesn’t bother me but they wouldn’t allow me to be a dispatch rider so I thought I would like to be a telephone operator.
I was trained in Glasgow at telecommunications there for three days and then I came back to Greenock where I had got a compassionate posting because my father had recently died. I lived at home so I didn’t have to go into any quarters. I always remember we had to go on church parades to the Mariners where a lot of the Wrens lived. One day I didn’t go to church parade and I was given extra duty which was hoeing turnips at the Mariners."

"Did you ever have any initial 'Square-bashing' to do or anything of that nature?'

"No not really. The only square-bashing we had was at the Mariners Asylum which as I said was a big "Wrenery’. But I was just thrown in at the deep end mean we didn’t have anything like that at all.
I was stationed at Navy House in Greenock which was down by the old Albert Dock which is now no more. We dealt with all kinds of calls and of course Navy House was a big place. Then there was another lot at Bay Hotel - so we had all - and Mary Mount in Gourock. We had all these places we had lines to and if there was anything really important, when we plugged them in they would say 'scramble. Then of course it was just an unintelligible noise that you could hear."

"Did you actually do the scrambling?"

"No, it was something on their own receivers. They had to press and it scrambled it - we didn’t have anything to do with that." ,

"Did you ever have any embarrassing situations on the switchboard such as not being able to find a number for the admiral?"

"No not really. It was all very simple. He would never ask for anything we couldn't give them. Many a time you couldn't get a call of course because it was outwith our control. But apart from that nothing embarrassing. One of the switchboards we were in touch with - we used to talk to all the operators - and one of them had a beautiful voice. He sounded lovely and he said he would come down and visit us. What a surprise we got when he walked in - he had a face like a horse. For ever afterwards he was known as 'horse face'. In 1946 I was demobilised and - in Greenock - and of course had to return to civvy, life."

"What civilian clothing did they provide for you when you were demobbed?"

"They didn’t provide any. When we were demobbed we got a clothing allowance. We didn’t get any clothes - we got a clothing allowance and so many coupons to buy clothing."

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The Blitz Category
Women's Royal Naval Service Category
Glasgow and Argyll Category
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