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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Mentioned in Dispatches

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Rosina Chandler (nee Weston) (Ex Cpl WAAF),
Location of story: 
Innsworth, Morecambe, St. Eval, Porth, London
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
02 June 2005

Some memories of my service in the W.A.A.F. 1942-46

In January 1942, as I expected to be called up, I volunteered to join the W.A.A.F. I went to Innsworth in Gloucestershire to be kitted up. Here we had snow and ice to contend with. I then spent three weeks initial training at Morecambe (more snow and ice!). Another girl and I were posted to St. Eval, a Coastal Command station (not far from Newquay). We had to catch our train at 4.00 a.m.!

We were billeted in requisitioned hotels at Porth, (not far from Newquay), as most of the living accommodation at St. Eval had been destroyed by bombing.

After a short spell in the Admin. Office, I was moved to the Intelligence Office and worked for, among others, Fl/Lt. Edward Shackleton (who later became a Life Peer). This work was very much more interesting as we used to type the reports of the raids on U-Boats which the aircrew made. We had a Meteorological Squadron at St. Eval. Sometimes the planes would leave in the morning in clear weather, but return to find thick mist and several crashed into the nearby hills and were killed. Their funerals were very moving; we would come out of our offices to watch the cortege. The Pipe Band would play “The Flowers of the Forest”. After all these years I can still visualise it all.

In November 1942 I was posted to Air Ministry in London, and worked at Bush House in the Strand, in the State Room which may sound very grand but was where records were kept of all the aircraft in the various squadrons, and we had to update these every day and night. This meant typing mostly numbers and was very boring — especially for a shorthand typist!

By this time the bombing of London was mostly over, but there was no glass in the windows, only black canvas, both in the offices and our billets. We lived in a block of flats, Fountain Court, near Victoria Station. I was on the 5th floor — no lifts! We had a domestic evening once a week when we had to stay in and clean our rooms and do some of our washing, etc.

In November 1943 I went to Coastal Command Headquarters at Northwood, Middlesex, and worked in the Intelligence Office. Here I used to type the assessments of the aircrews’ reports from St. Eval and other stations which I found very interesting having been on an operational station. The officers in this section had all been flying crew and finished their “stint” of sorties for the time being. I was much happier there! One other WAAF was in my office and in the preparations for D-Day we, in common with all the typists in the other departments, were kept very very busy typing instructions for the aircrew etc.
It was quite exciting even if it was rather hard work! When the big day came I recall many aircraft and gliders passing overhead.

In May 1945 several of us were Mentioned in Dispatches. Although quite pleased, I felt rather guilty when I considered the many thousands of service men and women who were engaged in very dangerous missions — who would not be so recognised!

We used to hear the V1s or flying bombs coming and when their engines stopped we would dive under our desks. Fortunately we escaped damage. However, on my way to and from home (in Brighton) I was appalled and saddened to see all the destruction and devastation caused by them and the V2s.

On VE Day we were given time off and I visited an aunt in S.E. London and we celebrated in the streets. On VJ Day several of us went to London and joined the great crowds outside Buckingham Palace (I’ve never liked crowds since!). We all cheered the King and Queen when they came out on to the balcony. We got the last train back to Northwood — what a wonderful day that was!

After this I worked for the Senior Air Staff Officer until my Demob. Day arrived in January 1946. To be demobbed we had to go to Birmingham — a very long and tiring day — unheated trains and no time to get a meal. However, I was a civilian once again.

I mostly enjoyed my time in the WAAF and made many friends, a few of whom still survive and keep in contact, though one died suddenly in January this year.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sue Craig from MyBrightonandHove on behalf of Rosina Chandler and has been added to the site with her permission. Rosina fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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