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15 October 2014
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A Right Royal Connection - Training with Princess Elizabeth at Guildford

by cambsaction

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
(Lucy) Joan Hambley, nee Law, Doreen Prentice (nee Law), Frederick Charles 'Chad' Hambley
Location of story: 
Rochester, Guildford, Germany
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 September 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Margaret Waddy of the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Story Gatherer Team on behalf of (Lucy) Joan Hambley, and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

In 1939 I was 14 and I left school. We were taken from Rochester to an aunt in Luton and I went to work in a hat factory, making ties and bands for gents’ hats, such as trilbies.

Dad stayed at home but Mum came with my sister Doreen and me. We were away about a year, then came home. Mum was fed up with being away from Dad. He worked as foreman stevedore for a private company — he unloaded wood pulp.

After we got home, Dad took our little boat to Dunkirk in 1940. He went over twice to bring troops back.

Dad was in the Home Guard and I joined with him. I was the little girl who ran around with a bucket when the incendiaries dropped.

When I was 17½ I went into the army [ATS], on 17 May 1944. My number was W/302729. I had to have Mum and Dad’s special permission because I was under-age. I went to Guildford to train. While I was there, so was Princess Elizabeth — training to be a mechanic. She did everything, even came into the NAAFI.

We then moved to Beaconsfield. There was a huge house there, with Nissen huts in the grounds. It was a unit with German and Italian POW officers. I was batman to our own officers. The POW’s had a compound with sentries, with guns; they had recreation periods and fresh air and exercise, but otherwise stayed indoors.

Three Italian officers were painters — they tried to copy the roof of the Sistine Chapel on the lounge ceiling — it was marvellous!

Then we were sent on embarkation leave to Bristol. Before we left, Mum took me to the London Palladium to see Tommy Trinder and Max Wall. As the show ended, the curtains were pulled back, both comedians came on stage and announced that the war had ended — it was VE Day. We were among all the crowds going down Oxford Street, on our way back to Charing Cross to get back to Rochester. All the American servicemen were out with their flags, running and dancing.

From Bristol we went to Frankfurt, then Bad Oeynhausen, near Minden. That’s where I met Chad, my husband. It was a bit rough to start with. We were in a little village, Bad Nendorf. The owners of the house where we were to stay had only just been evicted. We set everything up: stores, officers’ mess, general dogsbody stuff. The officers we’d looked after in England were brought over for the Nuremberg trials.

I came home in 1947 and Chad and I got married.

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