BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in April 2013We've left it here for reference.More information

30 August 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site Print this page 

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


About the contributor

Roma Halsey
User ID: U1573611

I joined the ATS on 6th June 1941. My older brother and sisters were already in the forces and I was determined to play my part. I was only fifteen and a half when before I knew it I found myself under training in Droitwich. (Seventeen and a half being the official joining age but birth certificates were not a requirement at the time!) I was sent to work in the Officers Mess which was quite an eye opener as food was plentiful and the Officers were well looked after - you wouldn't think there was a war going on!
A young officer Angela Stebbings was keen to start a drum and bugle band. I quickly learnt to play the bugle and soon I was part of a very good band leading parades and playing for thousands of women undergoing training for the ATS.
We were moved to Gower Street, London where we were taught how to march by a Sergeant in the Grenadier Guards at Wellington Barracks. It was quite an experience! We toured many towns giving displays as we had a marching platoon with us. Our mission was to recruit girls to join the ATS.
Our next aim was to become a Military band. We stayed in the Glen Parva Barracks in Leicester for three months at the end of which I could play the cornet reasonably well.
The Queen came to listen to us and we also paraded in the grounds of Windsor Castle and performed for the the Royal Family. We gave concerts for the American war wounded and sometimes the pilots who had suffered terrible burns managed to attend the dances. We even took part in a film titled 'The Gentle Sex' directed by Leslie Howard. The premiere was at the Odeon in Leicester Square.
On VE Day I joined in the celebrations at Trafalgar Square. I also have memories of sitting with friends on the Queen Victoria Memorial opposite Buckingham Palace. Later we sang and danced the night away around a huge bonfire - such excitement!
In June 1945 after victory had been declared we went to Paris via Dunkirk. Many of the people in Dunkirk were starving. We gave them our sandwiches - it was the least we could do.
On 20th June we played in the 'Festival d'amitie Franco Brittanique' on the Champs Elysees and we watched General de Gaulle presiding over the victory parade.
In December we went by ship to Taranto, Italy and then by troop carrier to virtually every town where our troops were stationed. We gave concerts and played for dances as far as Trieste.
We went by ship to Port Said and entertained our troops in Alexandria and Cairo. We had the chance to do some sightseeing and visited the Pyramids but sadly our young driver was killed tragically while attempting to climb them.
We continued travelling and entertaining the troops until finally we came home in 1946 and gave our last concert before docking in Glasgow.
I was demobbed on 3rd April 1946 - a very sad occasion as we had all experienced so much during the four years we had been together in the ATS band .
We got together one last time in June 1946 to play for the Victory Parade. I can remember marching past the King, Winston Churchill and General Smuts - I will never forget it.
Later I joined the Gloria Gayes Band and played at the Shepherds Bush Empire but it just wasn't the same!
After I married and had children I had to sell my beloved trumpet to help pay for a holiday to Ireland so that they could visit their Grandparents. As the years passed by I often wondered if I would still be able play the trumpet. After my husband Patrick sadly passed away in January 2004 my son gave me a surprise present. A trumpet! I was delighted and yes I can still play it - and I will continue to do so for as long as I am able - I'll be Eighty this year!

Stories contributed by Roma Halsey

Roma blows her trumpeticon for Story with photo

Archive List
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy