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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Queuing and caring

by Sunderland Libraries

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Sunderland Libraries
People in story: 
Joyce Burdis (nee Matthews), Lyn Stewart (nee Weston)
Location of story: 
Sunderland, Reading, Leamington Spa and Liverpool
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 August 2005

One of the things I did a lot of during the war, was queuing. At the time, I was working in a department store and kept my wages, so that I could search the town each lunch hour and join any queue I happened to see. Sometimes you didn’t know what you were queuing for, but you knew it was something you couldn’t normally get. It was great to see my mother’s face each time I brought something home. I was 16 at the time.
When I was 17 I was sent to work in a factory making Air Force uniforms. I didn’t like it and tried to join the Land Army, but as I was too young I gave my wrong birth date. Unfortunately I took a year off, instead of adding one - no good at maths!
Towards the end of the War I joined the ATS, having wangled my way out of the factory. I wanted to be a driver and to qualify you had to take to pieces a
‘Meccano’ structure and put it together again. I was sent on a 10 week course to Reading, which was just fantastic. At the end of the course you had to have passed tests in first aid, map reading, mechanics and of course the driving test taken on a 15 cwt Bedford.
I was then sent to Leamington Spa where I met the girl I was to spend most of the next three years with. We became very good friends and when we started driving ambulances, we partnered each other. Her name was Lyn Weston —later Stewart I think and I’d love to meet her again.
Although I loved ambulance driving there were many sad times. In Liverpool I was housed with the Salvation Army, who were very kind to us. We would have to go to the docks and wait for ships coming in, to take any young servicemen suffering trauma or injury to suitable places for treatment. One such place was an asylum in Knutsford, Cheshire. The drivers weren’t allowed past reception and if we had to stay overnight, the ambulance had to be backed up against a wall to block the doors. All rather frightening really, but heartrending to see these young boys, some who had to be sedated and strapped to the stretcher- for our protection as well as theirs I suppose.
There were amusing times too of course, like the time I was helping out in a hospital where soldiers were being given a ‘jab’. My job was to dab the area with cotton wool and antiseptic before they got to the needle part, but it was amazing how many fainted at the sight of the cotton wool. I had to laugh—as the weaker sex.
All in all quite an experience!
Joyce Burdis, Sunderland

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