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15 October 2014
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A time in the ATS

by Stickland

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Patricia Hodgshon
Location of story: 
England and Belgium
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 January 2004


I remember the day that I received my calling up papers to join the A.T S. I was twenty one years of age and it was nineteen forty one I was sent a railway warrant to take me to the Queens Camp at Guildford in Surrey for basic training, lasting 6 weeks. After being interviewed by a panel of Officers it was decided that I should be sent to the Royal Corps of Signals training unit in Bradford

Once more it was a 6-week course and I managed to complete the course and become a fully qualified Switchboard Operator. A week’s leave to go home and then a posting to South Eastern Command Headquarters in Reigate in Surrey. Here all the offices were underground beneath 60 feet of chalk and the billet was a large private house on the road leading up to the cliff.

We worked as a team on a twelve-position switchboard. The shifts being 8 — l2 one week and l — 8 the next week and for the 3rd week 8 p.m till 8 a.m.

Two years and a few months later and a promotion to Corporal I was selected as a member of a team to be the first A.T. S girls to be sent to Brussels in Belgium to take over from the male Signal Operators whilst they moved on to Germany. So we were now at the Headquarters of The British expeditionary Force and our billet was in the
Town house of the Duchess of Luxembourg. The Luftwaffe had left the house in an appalling condition and it took the services of the R.A.S.C a full day to clean it out for us.

Again we were operating a twelve position Switchboard and very busy too, calls being made all over Europe where Units were based after the release by our troops.

Having been in Brussels since the February of l945, V E day was soon upon us and during my turn of duty I took a call from War Office and I recognised the voice of Winston Churchill asking to be connected to General Montgomery in Germany, of course the “Scrambler” had to be applied so that no one could listen in.

The next day two Public Relations people arrived in the Signals Office asking to speak to the Operator who had taken the War Office call all such calls being categorised as Priority One. They asked me where I lived, how long I had been in the Army etc., etc. Two weeks later I received a letter from my Mother containing a cutting from a newspaper, it read that I had been called the Victory Operator as Mr Churchill had discussed the Victory Celebrations with Montgomery during that War Office call.

Finally, I was recommended for a Commission, so that I could train peacetime A.T.S girls (now known as W.R.A.C.) to be Switchboard Operators. I left the Army in l946 to eventually be married to a boy who had served on an Aircraft Carrier for 4 years, but of course that is another story.

A Wartime “Peoples Story” by Patricia Hodgshon nee Stickland.

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