War Diary - ACW2 Joan Murray Snell

Joan Murray Snell.

We are very grateful to Pat Marshall, who has generously given permission for us to share the wartime diary of her Mother, Joan Snell, who served in Signals at Kenley during the Battle of Britain, where she met her husband-to-be, Tommy Walsh. 

In 1942, Joan was commissioned and trained in Codes and Cyphers, serving at Q Central, Leighton Buzzard and RAF Wing.

Tommy and Joan’s legacy has been a family whose interest in aviation continues to this day, three generations later.

Here are Pat’s recollections of her Mother:

“My mother’s name was Joan Murray Snell. I believe her middle name was from a friend of my grandfather’s. She was always known as Joan.  She grew up in Worthing, her parents were quite old when she was born and she looked on the war as an escape, joining the WAAF aged 19. I don’t know why she chose the WAAF, her best friend from school joined the Land Army. My grandfather taught her to drive when she was about 16 and she was one of the few mothers who could drive when I was at school. She went to Worthing high school and was very sporty. She played tennis and hockey at school. She played in goal at hockey and I know she said that they played against a guards team while at Kenley which must have been quite scary!

“Mother never talked about her time in the WAAF and was happy to become a housewife after the war. It’s seems strange these days, she was an officer and possibly had a more important job than my father. He spent the war in Iraq, in Basra and Mosul but again it wasn’t talked about.

“In later life my parents liked to travel – my father went back to BOAC when he left the RAF. He loved the sun and heat and as airline staff they used to travel abroad frequently. I first went to Rome when I was about 8 years old in a Comet and we went into the cockpit flying over the alps as father knew the pilot from his RAF days. Nobody I knew had ever been in an aeroplane in those days.

“My mother wasn’t so keen on the heat though. She was a gardener and flower arranger and very involved in joint various clubs and societies. She died in 2002 aged only 81 but I think she missed my father and didn’t like living alone. He died in 1995.”

You can read more about Tommy Walsh and see pages from Joan’s diary, here.

War Diary

ACW2 J. M. Snell 889562

Monday August 26th 1940

I have today decided to write this ‘Diary’; or rather it will be an account of my life in the WAAF rather than a day by day diary of events. There will, I know be whole days with no entries at all as I can only write this sort of thing when the mood takes me.

The decision to set out my adventures and the little incidents of everyday life together with my reactions towards them, was moved by the desire to be able to turn back in this book and laugh at myself when suffering from severe attacks of “browned offedness”. Yesterday I suffered very badly from this feeling and went around hating everything and everybody. It was, I think, occasioned by the fact that the day before, that is, Saturday, I had returned from seven days leave; this, coupled with four air raid warnings that day, upset my nerves, which I am rather ashamed to say, are not proving as good as I always boasted they were.

It is not the fear of being bombed that gets me but the petty little annoyances occasioned by dashing down dug-outs in the middle of meals or alternatively in the middle of the night, it’s either one or the other.

When I returned on Friday afternoon, I found the aerodrome in a state of utter chaos. All the hangers but one had been bombed and completely burnt out, contents and all. Everyone who owned a private car or motor bicycle had them parked in 5A and all were destroyed. The Station Sick Quarters and Station Headquarters were mere piles of debris. Very few people were hurt, however, but Doctor Cromie, the junior MO [Medical Officer], was killed and Mary Coulthard, our Senior medical orderly, had a large piece of shrapnel in her leg. The trench they were sheltering in collapsed under a direct hit. Johnson, a junior WAAF Medical Orderly, did great work in bandaging the survivors in the smashed trench. She was today mentioned in the DRO’s [Daily Routine Orders] for courage and efficiency. I cannot help wishing I had been here; to have experienced such an air raid must be awfully good training and I have yet to be initiated. I should have been on duty down at ‘Signals’, but apparently all the staff except Buck and Robbie in the teleprinter room and the W/T & R/T [Wireless Telegraphy & Radio Telephony] operators were sent down dug-outs. Everyone, however, tells me I am very lucky to have missed it.

One of Kenley’s ruined hangars after the raids of 18/8/1940.

The system of sounding the siren is pretty bad here and at Croydon. There were two bogus warnings late last night, but when Croydon was bombed, no raid warning was sounded at all. Public faith in sirens will be pretty badly shaken if this sort of thing goes on much longer – the nerves won’t stand it.

So far today we have only had two sirens and as I was in the Pictures in Caterham-in-the-Valley for the second one I just stayed put, which was a welcome relief, but the first one was at lunchtime and we spent a dull half hour down Mayfly’s dug-out.

I went to tea at Hewitts after the picture and collected Coolings’ bicycle which Offer had left there: Mrs Hewitt, being a business woman, asked me to sign a chit saying I had taken it. (She is one of the nicest business women I know though).

I shall be a business woman for once and send Coolings’ bicycle off C.O.D. [cash on delivery] if it’s possible – I sincerely hope so as the amount of trust I have in some of my fellow WAAFS is practically nil.

There are far too many new girls on this Station we are now 187 strong and fifty per cent are a snooty clannish lot.

Buxton Lodge Care Home, formerly “Greenlands” – one of the properties used as WAAF quarters during WWII. (Neil Broughton)

Since the mess is now on the ground floor here, that is Greenlands, I can stroll down whenever I please for food, in bedrooms slippers and other articles of undress, this vastly pleasing my lazy self. Undue exertion after food is annoying, but I do think it would do a lot of us good to have to hunt, kill and cook one’s meat before satisfying our hunger, which would really be a hunger after such such exertion had been exercised. No time for such flights of imagination however – people say there is a War on.

I have just bought a large bar of rather exciting looking bath soap and I’m trying to make up my mind whether or not to have a bath, although I had one this morning and I think two a day is just a wee bit too clean.

Another small matter which is worrying me is – ‘Shall I peroxide my hair, thus restoring its natural golden colour, or grow mousey gracefully?’ I am strongly inclined to the former, as it is not really making the hair natural but merely preventing the loss of colour so many tempters tell me anyway. I must say I agree with them although I have always loathed the thought of dyed or ‘touched up’ hair. Must try and do it gradually and very very skilfully as the Parents would possibly not like the notion. I have got from Tell the information that a mixture of 1 part hydrogen to 4 parts peroxide is the best and Tell certainly has achieved one of the most natural blonde heads of hair I have seen anywhere.

Today I ventured to speak to a girl I have been dying to approach for a fortnight – one Joan Kent, who used to go to Worthing High School about my time. She and I have been eyeing each other for a while, each not quite sure that we know each other, however we do now. She seems much nicer than I thought.

Tuesday August 27th

We had great fun and games yesterday evening. It all started like this:- I had been fiddling around with my bicycle after supper and was all togged up in slacks and jumper when Bunny comes off duty and runs into me here and asks me to go to The Fox with Tommy and Jock. So we go and at 21.30 the sirens go; by this time we have had about four beers each and are feeling very brave. We decide not to return to our respective digs, but to sit the air raid out on Coulsdon Common. Well we sit there very comfortably, for three hours and then begin to feel a little cold and Tommy and Jock a bit apprehensive as they are out on their ‘stand by’ so we move on and Bunny comes back to Greenland and gets into Nicki’s bed as Nicki is missing also. We find Rains in bed and she says they were fed up with the shelter and decided to return to bed. We just get dozing off to sleep when Corporal Broadbent comes and wakes us up saying she can hear ‘bangs’ and we better get down to the shelter again. So we all troop out. We sit, or rather lie down there until 0330 hours and then get fed up and decide to emerge as by the sound of ack ack one flare at least has been brought down. We have only been in bed about half hour when in marches Nicki, terribly excited and yelling something about capturing a German prisoner. However we quiet her and Bunny has to shift out of bed into Blondie Walsh’s bed next door, which is luckily unoccupied. After that we all three sleep until 10:30 today. As soon as she awoke Nicki started to tell her adventure which was this:-

She got a lift home from Croydon with an RA [Royal Artillery ] chap and arrived here – just as the sirens went, 2130. Deciding against going down a dug-out, they parked the car in the little road opposite here and sit and wait. When the guns shot down the Jerry, they saw it all and dashed in the direction they thought it was crashing and found it was Queens Park, Upper Caterham. As they went past in the car, they saw a parachute descending into the churchyard of the little church on top of the hill. Deciding this was too good an opportunity to miss, they dashed after it and caught a German, a member of the wretched bomber. So they took him to the Police Station in Caterham and while Nicki’s escort was giving evidence inside, Nicki stood outside with a large crowd that had, as if by magic, materialised around the station.

The wreckage of the Heinkel He 111H-2, in the garden of 21 Manor Rd, Caterham, mistakenly identified as a Dornier in “War Illustrated.”

Nicki was suddenly addressed by a lone Canadian soldier who proceeded to tell her that she had had her appendix out 2 1/2 years ago and many other private and intimate things about her past life. He was, as far as Nicki could see, very dark and swarthy, wearing his hair unusually long (the tannoy has just announced a Jerry A/C [aircraft] is overhead, so people are flapping a bit. Have had to switch lights off and prepare to ‘take-cover’.) Have decided to migrate out onto our flat roof and see what it is all about, I can hear the Tannoy better from here. It is a lovely night for a raid tons of low cloud about. No searchlights seem to be doing anything about this and no plane engines to be heard. Can’t see what I am writing so shall stop now.

Wednesday 28th

Had another siren last night at about 1.30 and had to get up as we were roused by Mrs Roberts flapping away. Stayed about down about half hour, luckily a short scare: had to get up early as on duty at 7.30 this morning.

At 1300 this morning we had another siren and I took my dinner upstairs and Nicki and I took to the roof again. This lasted about three-quarters-of-an-hour.

Went to the pictures this afternoon with Corporal Burn and annoyed her by saying she looked like a Cocker spaniel, which she does, she permanently wears a ‘hang dog’ soulful expression – very doggy like. She is very sweet, however, and is very attractive, but does not know it – unlike most WAAF around this station. Still, I guess this peculiarity is not confined merely to Kenley WAAFS. As I am writing this, Robbie is bobbing about me and doing his best to make me lose my temper with him – he will – I am confident not achieve this result. I am too tired for one thing. I really should have gone to sleep this afternoon instead of going out.

Very pleased with myself this morning. Corporal Buckingham gave me a Morse test and I did 8 wpm [words per minute] easily. I am on the list of would be W/T ops. and the one and only WAAF! Lots of the men can only do 6 wpm. I made a resolution on the spot to try and work up a greater speed and have been doing a bit of that this evening. The result is I feel like death warmed up and the sound of Morse is slowly driving me mad.

Two civilian warnings have gone already this evening and there are Jerries all over the sky. Feel sorry for Nicki alone at Greenlands, but perhaps she has not returned from her ‘date’ yet. Wonder if she will have the nerve to sit on the roof all on her ownsome?

The tragic discovery has just been made here at Signals that we are running out of milk for the tea! This is one of the worst things that can happen to us. I have just started on my third cup and will probably be poisoned or taken pretty ill soon, Mrs Marchant has made a regular devil’s brew of this last cup – as strong as a horse and very thick and black. Shouldn’t be surprised if it contained “eye of newt and toe of frog”! Hope not anyway.

Mrs Marchant has just gone over to the Hut to try and get some sleep, but don’t think she will get any – I never can when I go down first, the BP’s or Blasted Plotters make such a row. It’s war to the death now, ever since I told the new ones exactly what I thought of them for waking me up at 10.30. Of all the snooty; bad mannered, disagreeable lot of bitches, these plotters are the worst. Most of them anyway. There are a few exceptions, however. But very few. Why plotters always think they are God’s chosen I cannot think. They don’t work any harder than anyone else, in fact a lot less than most folk.

Friday 30th

Just got in off duty. Had three sirens already this day. Nicki and I cycled into Purley this morning and collected her uniform; did some shopping and had coffee at Wilsons. Nicki went straight to the ‘drome and I came on back by the long route. Heard distant sirens and thought some flap was on and then I heard Jerrys and went a bit ‘clammy’. Put my tin hat on and plodded on however. Our siren went off just as I got to the shortcut to Greenlands and as there was a devil of a lot of banging and popping going on I felt even more clammy but resigned to my fate. I then met a lone Airman who appeared lost and put him on his right way he is apparently an R/T operator on our watch.

In due course I arrived at Mayfly dug-out and was greeted with awe when I told them I had cycled back from Purley. As it was 1930 before ‘all-clear’ went the prospect of lunch rather in the far distant future I went straight to Signals.

1930’s map showing “Mayfly Cottage” adjacent to “Greenlands”.

3.30 another attack alarm went and Flight shot Mrs Marchant and I down dug-out, much against my will, although Mrs M was quite amenable. She did not turn up on duty until 2:30, having been caught in Rochester by the 12 o’clock raid. Did not sit in dug-out long but sat outside and chatted to soldiers in a gun post. Saw one Jerry quite plainly, but he did us no harm. This raid lasted 3/4 of an hour. By the time the all clear came I was very ready for my tea, but did not get it as the teleprinters were very busy and C/O 85 Sqd. phoned up with a [Confiscate?] Report which I took down in Pidgeon-Shorthand and found rather difficult to read back to him! However, I got it right in the end. Anyway I sincerely hope so. Just as I am thinking I can’t last without food any longer, the attack alarm goes again, and by dint of appearing terribly lazy, I keep out of the dug-out. After we have got things straightened up a bit, Robbie suggests I go and get a bit of tea and I act immediately on this idea. Buck and Arki appear very amused when they find me. Buck thought he had seen a parachute descending but we learn later, it is a drifting balloon.

By the way, two of our chaps bailed out this morning and one was shot on the way down by a Jerry, the dirty dog. The other one was injured came down near West Malling.

P/O David Nicholas Owen Jenkins who was believed to have been shot while descending on his parachute.

They smashed up Biggin Bump operations this afternoon and so Ops have got in a terrible panic and we start moving out on the spot! Whether they’re going to move the teleprinters to Caterham or not, goodness knows, but I should think they would sooner or later. It’s too hot there on the ‘drome, so they can hardly leave the poor teleprinters to their fate!

Saturday August 31st

Had a very ominous casualty list in from Biggin to transmit to 11 Group about 40 airmen injured and 20 killed. 10 WAAF injured but only one killed; truly it is said ‘only the good die young’ don’t know but think it’s rather true personally. I went to sleep in the field at the back of Greenlands this afternoon in order to get some undisturbed sleep. I did, but as soon as I returned to the house, the siren went and I had to go ‘down’.

Very busy on night duty as Biggin traffic has to be passed through us, as their power had failed. Robbie and I coped however and I slept from 3.30 til 7am.

Sunday September 1st

As I did not feel very tired this morning, I went to Croydon with Nicki, where I am writing this. Quite an eventful day so far. We had just got down Whyteleafe Hill when the warning went and Nicki and I got into some bushes. We saw what we thought was a large formation of E/A go over leading N:W and shivered a bit. We decided to cycle on after a few minutes and arrived here very hot and tired.

At 2 o’clock precisely the warning ‘attack alarm’ went, and Nicki and I flew down Signals dug-out. There were few large bangs and pops, but nothing near thank goodness! We are now back in the deserted main building and have just seen one Spitfire come in very unsteadily with its undercarriage still retracted and riddled with bullet holes. 

Two minutes later, Nicki hears on the phone that it’s crashed. (Nicki is now having an argument with Corporal Van Rhee and losing her temper pretty rapidly. Slanging every call regardless of who is the other end!)

South African, Pilot Officer Albert Gerald Lewis, of 85 Squadron, who crash landed his Hurricane with undercarriage retracted at Croydon on 1st September,1940.

Croydon’s certainly pretty badly smashed up and everyone here has rather a bad case of ‘the jitters’. I think I should be the same if I worked here. Most of the buildings have suffered from bombing and machine gun fire and Rollason’s is burnt out. One bomb dropped just outside the main gate yesterday and has messed up the road pretty thoroughly. The Guard Room, about 100 yards from the crater is perfectly unhurt although everyone inside got jolted about a good bit.

When we went down, signals dug out. I was introduced to N.E.W. & S.T. and one or two others whom I had previously known only by initials and voice. I have just made some toast on a small electric heater turned upside down, very good it was too having scrounged some butter and tea and milk from the Corporal in the Cookhouse.

The tannoy has just gone again and told 72 Sqdn. to scramble and I guess there will be an alarm within half an hour or less. As the switchboard here in the old building is being slowly disintegrated before Nicki’s very eyes, we hope she will be out of a job for today and we can ‘git’! But not before the next air raid, I’m afraid.

By the way, I acted on my decision of the other day and got Nicki to attack my hair with 4-1 parts of ammonia and peroxide. The result is not too bad and does not, I think, look unnatural. Croydon seems to like it, but of course any female at this female-less Station is a great ‘hit’.

Monday September 2nd

Woke up this morning at 7:15 and could not believe it when I realised that we had had a perfectly peaceful night! Arose and went down and got breakfast for Nicki and self and we sat on the bed eating it. Just got down on the bed for a doze when warning went and we flew down dugout. The all clear went in about 10 minutes and as I thought it pretty safe I had a bath. Blow it! I had just stepped out of it when the siren went again and did I dress fast! Another short period of about 10 minutes only ‘down under’.

Apparently while Nicki and I were at Croydon yesterday, Jerry visited here and dropped bombs on the Guards depot, killing a few and one little bomb outside the main gate of the ‘drome and peppered Buxton Lane pretty thoroughly. The Sick Bay, which seems to have a hoodoo on it, had a bomb dropped just outside its gate! A large chunk of plaster has dropped out of one of the bathrooms here, but no windows were broken luckily.

Went Hewitt this morning for elevenses and Mrs Hewitt is rather fed up and says she would move if it was not for the shop. I jolly well hope she won’t as I don’t know what we should do without her cakes and coffee etc at cut prices. I really must exert myself some time and take Cooling’s bike down to the station and despatch it for her, probably tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday September 4th

Darned tired this morning as I was on duty myself all last night as they have shifted Operations to Caterham and taken the Ops. Tele with them and Mrs Marchant and Linton leaving only Port and myself as Robbie is on 7 days. We had a hell of a time with the traffic – Port and I but we got straightened out at about 0300 and Port got down in one of the cabinets which were of course empty. I stayed in the T/P [Teleprinter] Room and got down on 3 biscuits but got not more than 10 minutes peace at a time as 11 Group was damned fidgety and kept sending messages through at about 1 every quarter of an hour. Corporal Huggett made me a cup of tea which was very sweet of him. The block was awfully ghastly with only a skeleton staff.

Got back to billet about 0745 and had breakfast and got to bed when the siren went off – just as I had got to sleep too. Lasted half hour and I can’t get to sleep now.

I kept up to my resolution of Monday and despatched Cooling’s infernal bike from Caterham Station yesterday afternoon as I went down there with Nicki to the flicks. We saw Valerie Hobson and Conrad Veigt in Contraband. It was not bad, but the plot was quite stupid and compared with “Spy in Black” not so good. In Contraband, Conrad is the hero, but I think the role of villain as in Spy in Black suits him a lot better. Every time I see Conrad Veigt, I think how alike he and Flight Walters are. In character too and if Flight had Conrad’s accent, I should be sure they were one and the same person.

Friday September 6th

On duty early this morning so dashed to SHQ [Station Headquarters] to see if the admin Tele had been moved yet. It had not, so I went down to Ops where Port, Buck and myself held the fort. It is very strange being there all on our own without Operations buzzing around. It seems that the Telephone Exchange will be left there! Can’t understand that.

Flintfield House which was near the original Operations Room at Kenley.

We had one raid this morning and Buck made us go down Flintfield’s dug-out, which was crowded with the Select Officers! Too crowded for my liking. There were a dickens of a lot of crumpps! and thuds and ack ack and we heard one plane spiral down out of control. We heard from a lookout later on that it was a Jerry and had crashed on Coulsdon Common a Jerry and had crashed on Coulsdon Common. Afraid at the time it might be one of ours. Lasted about 3/4 hour – quite a short raid.

Thought I should not get any sleep this afternoon, so went down to Caterham and saw Typhoon and the Dead End Kids on the ‘flicks. But before I could get out of the house after lunch, the siren went and I waited 20 minutes underground. I saw the pictures, which were both very good, and went into the Scotch Tea Shop for a cup of tea then to the library, to break it gently to the librarian that I had lost one of their books. I got a very pleasant surprise when the girl told me the damage was merely two shillings – I fully expected to be fined about 7/6 or 10/-. I think I got off very lightly.

I get back and 10 minutes later here I am sitting down Mayfly ‘funk-hole’ again. Writing this in semi-gloom and minus glasses.

By the way, reverting back, Wednesday evening, Tommy and Jock, Betty Woodward and I arranged to go for a drink down to The Fox. Betty and I waited 20 minutes for the bright pair, and then got fed up and decided to go drinking on our own at The Golden Lion. We tootled down to the GL and found most of Kenley in there as usual, Flight Sergeant Walters and Ship amongst them. Flight Walters got talking and Flight Ship bought us drinks. Then Betty saw a couple of Sergeant Pilots and thought she knew one of them but did not like to ask him if she did. Eventually, Flight Walters went up to him (always the perfect ‘gent’) and asked him. He came over to us and proved to be a complete stranger to us. However, his companion came over too and we got talking. The sirens chose this moment to go off and The Golden Lion was cleared and so we walked slowly home with the two Sergeant Pilots. There were an awful lot of flares being dropped over the Guards Barracks at Caterham and over Biggin Hill but no bombs followed. We heard a terrific amount of ack ack from Biggin way and made for the nearest shelter which was Mayfly, but when we got there it was ‘full house’ and so we trotted off to Hillhurst which was completely deserted to our delight. We sat there for about 20 minutes and then as it seemed quite quiet out, we ventured forth and reconnoitred and as the searchlights were all off and the ack ack seemed to have stopped we parted and I went back to Greenlands and found Nicki, Chicken and Franki in the kitchen guzzling tea. I of course joined them and so to bed and the rest of the night in peace.

The Golden Lion pub, now closed. (Neil Clifton)

Well, reverting back to today, or rather it’s Saturday now as the time is 0211 exactly and I am just waiting for to 0230 to wake Butch and get a little sleep myself; I fear I don’t fancy the rest hut, it’s to spooky so I have made a bed up in the old Royal Corps of Signal’s little cubbyhole. Shall be near to Signals in case Butch wants to wake me. Hope I am not kept awake by sounds of flare bells or teleprinters. Remains to be seen however.

Sunday September 8th

To carry on from where I left off, I was not kept awake by the teleprinter or any other noise I was much too tired. I slept very peacefully till 6.45 and then woke and had some tea made for me which Corporal Huggett had scrounged from the Officer’s Mess.

Yesterday I rested in the morning, but was roused twice to seek shelter. After lunch, I mucked around with my face and hair. And tootled off to meet Norman in Croydon. Got to The Greyhound at 3.15 instead of 3 and saw him pacing up and down looking 6’2” of worried manhood. After apologies on my part and assurance that ‘it was quite all right’ we went to the Cafe Royale and had buttered toast and tea. He asked me where I wanted to go and I having been secretly tipped off by Nicki who heard him asking Van Rhee what was on at the Davis – suggested we went there and saw Shirley Temple in The Blue Bird. That suggestion was approved as I expected, and so we went and saw it. It was a lovely film, a fairy story by Maeterlinck, half in colour and beautifully acted by Shirley. The film finished at about 8 o’clock, and Norman suggested that another meal would be a good idea with a short walk first. He did not know where to walk, so I took him to the park at the back of the Town Hall, the park Tommy Walsh first showed to me. After a short walk we went back to the Cafe Royale and made very good dinner, the details of which I will leave out as I would only make my mouth water; I know however there were fresh beans, and roast chicken was included.

Halfway through, we heard the sirens go off and so lingered over dinner in the hope that the all clear would go before we finished. However, it not gone by 10.30 and so I said we had better be moving as Norman had slipped out off duty and should try to get back. This suggestion did not meet with much approval, but I managed to persuade him it was the best thing to do. (Shall have to stop this for a bit, my arm’s aching.) We got to the bus stop and discovered there were no buses. Then we tried the station and it was from there we saw the terrific flames of the burning Surrey Commercial Docks. It lit up most all the sky. It was the worst raid since the beginning of the war. Well there were no trains either as apparently Jerry had thoughtfully bombed a heck of a lot of railway line between here and town. We wandered dismally back to the bus stop and ran into an Army bloke; could not see of what Regiment; whom had been in the very thick of it and his version of it was pretty grim, especially his description of how he salvaged a girl who was jammed under the debris. Well, after that cheering little discussion we wandered on a bit when suddenly saw a bus, number and destination completely blacked out, coming towards us; we ran for it and caught it to discover that it was only going as far as The Red Deer via The Swan and Sugar Loaf. Norman very reluctantly left me at the latter place and I decamped myself at the former, after getting into conversation with an Airman who was in the same predicament as myself. We walked to Purley and were there fortunate to catch a stray 177 bus which took us as far as The Rose and Crown and so more Shanks Pony stunt up Whyteleafe Hill. Get in and found Nicki and Franki out and pictured them down Mayfly dug out. Got to sleep in spite of bombs and ack ack, but was woken at about 2.30 by Nicki crashing in, she apparently had not been in the dug-out but on the spree with her beloved Harold, who had come up to Kenley for the evening from Dorking – or Guildford, to see her.

Woke up this morning to see Franki come in, she had been on leave last night apparently and in the thick of it up in Town. We all got breakfast and went to sleep again. Fortunately undisturbed by sirens. I got up at 11.15 and dressed and was just halfway through the first course of dinner when the sirens went and so I dashed upstairs and looked at Franki’s clock; found it was 12.30 and so beat it on duty before I was dragged underground by officious NCO’s or Officers.

Got into a flap with myself at Signals this afternoon – the admin tele was U/S [unserviceable] and a new Intelligence Tele was being installed which looks as tho’ we shall not be moving to SHQ [Station Headquarters] after all – thank goodness. Read a very heartening signal about a new secret weapon fitted to the new plane – which was experimented with last night and found to work well.

The sirens went off at about half an hour ago but we were allowed to come up as everything seemed quiet.

There were 400 deaths in last night’s little effort and about 1500 casualties, I’m sorry for Berlin tonight! Bet our boys will give ‘em socks!

Tuesday 10th September

The weather really seems to be breaking up at last, today is dull and windy, interspersed with slight drizzly showers. However Gerry doesn’t seem to care much as we have had two warnings already – one just before lunch and one about half an hour ago, before tea. Last night he was active over London and huge fires could be seen from Ops towards the East and the West Ends. Each time he seems to manage to hit a hospital – but that is to be expected from him now – no quarter and fight to the death.

I received a signal from HQ FC [Headquarters Fighter Command] last night, or rather early this morning – 0415 to be exact, in which Stations were warned that it is expected Hitler will resort to gas before very long as he is getting very desperate. That sounds pretty awful, I must say. It shook me thoroughly. Nasty sort of message to get; at that hour of the morning, one never does feel too good!

I do hope we played Hell with Berlin last night, because I can’t bear to think of poor old London getting it without us giving Berlin “what’s for”. The trouble is, they never tell us in the papers or on the wireless what we have done to Berlin. It would hearten people an awful lot if they would tell us a bit more.

The siren has just gone and I think it’s the camp one so shall bunk down.

Have just emerged after 10 minutes ‘down under’ and the warning has just gone again, as we emerged, so grabbed this book and return underground. The atmosphere here is awful, full of concrete dust. The Tannoy had gone this time, although can’t hear any planes but plenty of bombs.

Thursday September 12 2205 hrs

I’m getting a bit worried as no letter from Mummy and Daddy for about five days also wanting to receive a registered packet containing my watch.

Lots of bombs and the usual evening siren just gone, they are onto London I’m afraid, judging from the flashes of light over towards the N.East of here.

All Airman and WAAF leave has been stopped worse luck so heaven’s knows when I shall get home to get my apples and knitted quilt.

Went to Croydon this afternoon to try and forget this blasted Signals Office. Hate the whole stupid place with its ridiculous methods of running. The Traffic Clerk’s job is a dog’s life and no one knows from one day to another what to do with the filthy signals. Keep getting different orders from different people in authority, don’t know whom to believe. Tommy Walsh is all but on a charge for omitting to send a copy of a futile signal addressed to Shoreham to the C.O. [Commanding Officer] who phoned up and created a hell of a fuss and demanded that the bloke responsible should be put on a charge. However, nothing has happened yet, so here’s hoping he will let it slide. F/H Herbert will, I think. Can’t write anymore at the moment, I’m too utterly browned off!

Feel a bit better now as it’s getting on time to wake Robbie up (0135) and the thought of about 4 ½ hrs undisturbed (I hope) sleep is worth looking forward to.

Nicki; Corporal Broadbent; Mary; Betty Woodward and I went down to The Golden Lion last night to drown our sorrows in beer (or rather in whiskey, in Betty Broadbent’s case. I can’t understand females drinking whiskey, it seems to me to be essentially a man’s drink) and see what we could find. Nicki found Mary’s Corporal in the Army and Betty found a Sergeant Pilot whom she said reminded her of an old flame. Betty Broadbent and I found a couple of browned off Corporals belonging to 501 Sqdn., one very much of the Midlands, the other an intolerant Scotsman. Quite boring, both of them. The Scotch one, too noisy and bombastic. The Midlander, too quiet and good looking. However we passed our sorrows away and got back singly to Greenlands. Mary arrived first and Broadbent and I were next. Nicki last about 2 o’clock. Broadbent went to seek sanctuary but the rest of us disdained it. We lay in bed and [shuddered?]  -to be perfectly honest I was in a cold and clammy sweat until I fell asleep of sheer exhaustion.

I had set the alarm for 6.30, but the beastly thing failed to go off, and if Mary had not called to me at 7 o’clock, I should most certainly have been awfully late for duty, as it was, I was just on time.

I went, as I said before, to Croydon this afternoon; to be exact to the Davis Cinema with Tommy Walsh and saw two very good films – Arthur Askey in Charlie’s Big Hearted Aunt and  The Primrose Patch with Ginger Rogers playing a completely new role, no dancing and little glamour. Quite a pleasant change in fact.

We went back to Tommy’s house for a cup of tea and found the family out; presumed they were taking cover as there was an Air Raid on, and made tea ourselves. Betty and his Mother arrived just before we left.

Tommy played some of his Bing Crosby records to me – they always make me feel so sentimental those songs of his. Probably that was the idea. I have a very suspicious mind where Tommy is concerned.

Tommy Walsh (Pat Marshall).

There is a lot of ack ack noise now but Ops the Gerries are being turned back by it so I don’t mind how noisy it becomes. It’s really not very nice for the enemy as it’s cold, damp and dark. Glad I’m not up at about 30,000 in a kite over enemy territory anyway. I hope Mike isn’t, too. By the way, it’s time I had a letter from that young man. Unless, of course he’s cracked up, in which case no-one would let me know, so I shall only hear by making enquiries, if I fail to hear from him from some length of time.

I heard today that quite a few incendiary bombs were dropped on the Station last night, some just outside the compound here, but all were extinguished at once and no damage was caused. If poor Patty could have

(I left this in a hurry as all the teleprinters were going at once and can’t remember now what I was going to write.)

Monday September 16th

Well, it’s four days since I wrote anything in this book and that’s too long to leave it as I can’t remember all I ought to. They have been fairly uneventful days, I think – went to Croydon to tea with Tommy Walsh yesterday and met his father who has arrived home after two years absence somewhere in Africa. Thomas Walsh Senior is very much like his son and an awfully good sport, as far as I can judge, from a casual acquaintance of him.

On Saturday, Nicki, Franki and I went to get breakfast in Caterham, but a siren went and so we ended up in The Golden Lion at the revolting hour of 11.30. Nicki and Franki drank Whiskeys and I got teased by a couple of extra-tough looking Canadians for ordering Lemon Shandy. To take the edge off the remark, one of them said that I should be careful what I drank with such a complexion! Felt a bit better then. I had but two shandies and got on duty feeling thoroughly drunk and with a head like a windmill.

Not content with the morning session, Nicki and Mary dragged me out in the evening down to the G.L. and onto The Tally Ho where we dissipated ‘till 10.30 and wandered back here (Greenlands).

Thank God someone in authority had got a piece of sense at last and we aren’t dragged out of the house by day or night, on the civilian warning, only on the Attack Alarm on the Tannoy. Thus I was able to get a morning’s sleep this morning, undisturbed by officious N.C.O.’s – when I had quietened Nicki, which was no small joke.

Had a talk with Arki on the phone last night and put up a little moan about being browned off. To my surprise, he was sympathetic and suggested that perhaps I would like to go down to Caterham for a change. I jumped at this as being an excuse to escape the harshness of traffic clerk, needless to say. Just to round the job off properly, I got hold of Bunny this morning and asked her to put it gently to him that I might change watches and go on with her, on C. watch. Let’s hope it comes off as I shall then have killed two birds with one stone – got out of being Traffic Clerk, and got on to C. watch – am keeping my fingers crossed.

The civilian warnings have gone 6 times this morning already; it’s such a horrid wet day that I marvel at any enemy activity at all. Last night about 5 bombs were dropped at Whyteleafe Station and it sounded very much nearer from the Ops block but as I was in the middle of a very long Intelligence Report to 11 Group, I did no more than give a very hasty thanksgiving that they were no nearer.

RAF Kenley Operations Block.

I heard yesterday that St. Thomas’s Hospital got bombed pretty badly and wondered if Eric’s ‘blue eyed boy’ Jack, got anything? He’ll probably do some marvellous salvage work, according to his parents, and be mentioned in the Worthing Gazette or Herald as a subtle form of advertisement for Ches. E. Peckover & Sons! I’ve met that crowd before, I think!

Freda wrote on Saturday, breaking the news that on Friday she had a son – to be David Frederick which is, I think rather a good combination of names. She’s awfully bucked about it and I don’t blame her. Bet it’s a pretty good sort of baby.

Tuesday September 17th

Today started on ‘C’ watch – down at Caterham in the ci-devant butchers shop. Of course, the qualified alarm clock in our room did not go off (to my humiliation I’ve had to lapse into pencil, which I hate doing), and I did not wake up till 7am and all of us on early duty see the van off at 7.15. Collar would not work, no studs, no anything but a hell of a flap. Anyway, I made it in the end and caught the van with a good few minutes to spare.

Spice and Wallis butcher’s shop in Godstone Road that became the temporary home of RAF Kenley’s Operations Room. Signals and Wireless were housed in the cold store and slaughterhouse. (Ken Raffield)

Discovered that there is little or no work here to do and spend most of the day reading, writing or sewing. Oh, and eating.

One solitary Gerry went over here very low and dropped about 5 bombs down in this little valley, very near here, reckon he was after us! Which is not a very comforting thought. Lots overhead at the moment by the sounds and plots on the board. The sooner this establishment is moved – the better.

I am at the moment reading a book by Beverly Nichols – a series of impressions of different well known folk – and am bored stiff with the subject matter, but his style keeps me intrigued. He rambles off into little by ways and bridle paths, never sticking to the main subject of discussion; never getting too highbrow, but keeping a sort of happy medium halfway between the high and low brow.

I am beginning to feel horribly sleepy and plotters around me are talking drivel as the is the habit with the ‘species’; but this crew is not so bad as the rest of the crews – they might be a lot worse. But I am still very homesick for the old ‘Signals’ personnel. Shall be glad of when we are all moved somewhere together.

Thursday September 19th

Feel better today, less homesick for Signals. This is probably because I had a very enjoyable afternoon and evening with Tommy yesterday. He and I and his mother and father and Betty went to the Savoy in Croydon and saw Wallace Beery in ‘The North West Passage’. It was jolly good, full of Indians and fights etc. We went back to Tommy’s house for tea and heard some of his new records, not Bing this time, but all dance tunes. About 19.30 we went to The Green Dragon for a drink and had a couple of very good Laegers! Of course, the evening raid was on by the time we had finished with the Laegers, and I had great difficulty in persuading Tommy that it was quite unnecessary for him to accompany me. Tommy is quite definitely a natural gentleman, but would sneer if told so. He would think it more of my sarcasm! He has a great font of charm which he can switch on and off at pleasure; maybe because he is rather fond of me, he always has it switched on with me. He is extraordinarily competent, as Connie said, “competent enough to surprise all three watches”. And that from Connie is praise indeed. I would not tell Tommy for the world, however, in case he got spoilt, and that would be tragic, he would become conceited like Mike and too fond of himself. As he is completely unspoiled.

This day I joined Foyle’s Book Club with Betty Woodward as my sponsor. She gets a free book for every new member she gets. Last night I added a Scotch guard to my collection. I got off the 197 at Whyteleafe and walked up the hill and a young Scotch Guard got talking to me. We talked aimlessly of the weather, the war, and ourselves etc. When we got to Hillhurst, he, being a Sergeant, said good night there and went in the gate. About two seconds later he came dashing after me and said, oh, I say, what about a date? And so I said, well, what about it? He said his name was Sergeant Douglas and I told him mine. He then added he did not know when he would be free, but could he get in touch with me anyway? I told him to ring 27 and thought someone from Signals could take a message for me from there. He seemed very nice, not at all tough like most of the Guards, but I don’t expect he will phone.

Friday September 20th

Just as I wrote this, I was called away and it is now Saturday 21st – 0330.

Nothing eventful has happened since Thursday. The weather’s been very wet and horrid but preventing too extensive bombardments by Jerry although Thursday night London copped it again pretty badly but we had a quieter time.

In a roundabout way I learned from Mr. Sillence that as soon as we move from here and the Admin. Tele is put up into S.H.Q., I am going back on that machine – for which many thanks he raised traffic or no traffic! As I am now on Tommy’s watch I’m looking forward to working with him again.

Tommy informs me that Connie is probably going to be posted as Wireless Ops Air Gunner and so that will make Tommy Superintendent I/C [in command] ‘C’ Watch, and he is brassed off! Not that I blame him, Sups, get all the kicks if any of the traffic goes wrong; in fact, it’s altogether a very unenviable job. But I’m awfully bucked that I’m going back to the Admin, shows someone thinks I’m too useful to waste typing ‘Nothing to report’ on the Ops. one anyway!

Caterham-in-the-Valley is a regular garrison town at the moment. It’s chock-a-block with Canadian Troops and I’m sick of the sight of the uniform. They sure are a pretty tough lot.

I’m horribly browned off with this place and its attendant masses of plotters. As I sit here by the tele, I can hear a continuous ‘drip, drip, drip’ going on outside, a sound that is very dampening to the spirit at such an early hour.

It’s funny how a war, although an awful thing, does have its good points. And I suppose everything has. As I was sitting here, I was just thinking, what a luxury it would be to be able to spend one undisturbed night in bed, sleeping in a silk nightdress! A very small wish, but it would give me a great deal of satisfaction. Perhaps if I go home in the near future, I should be able to satisfy this whim. The war leads one to appreciate the small comforts of life which in ordinary times would just be taken for granted. I wonder, will they ever be taken for granted again; or when this is all over, shall we forget to be thankful for these small luxuries? I don’t think I shall ever, somehow.

Mother sent me the patchwork blanket she has been knitting for me yesterday and already all the girls are quite envious of it; and I don’t blame them, it’s a lovely piece of work, so warm and light. I really must bring Nicki’s typewriter back with me when I go home next and mend it so that I can use it – I hope. Although now she is being billeted at Croydon, I don’t know if I shall be able to. Might possibly arrange to hire it at a shilling a week or some such thing. Then I should be able to type out a fair copy of this as I don’t from the rough.

Tommy told me on the phone just now that Air Ministry created a precedent the other day by making two men Tele Ops Corporals, which makes him a Corporal if Connie leaves and he does not relish the idea, I for my part certainly don’t blame him. But he would make a very efficient one. If he wanted a job done, he would get it done and with no waste of time on the part of the worker.

This book will, I see, soon lapse into the recital of Tommy Walsh’s merits, and that would be slipping pretty badly and letting myself down at the same time!

De Wet last night asked me how I kept the colour of my hair so well. As she had a sister whose hair was my colour but steadily getting darker. I told her about the 4 – 1 mixture and she seemed quite bucked. Bet that she does not guess who was the authoress of those counter-sarcastic rhymes I put on the doors of the rest hut down at old Ops!

Every now and again, someone pokes their head round the partition, shielding myself and the tele, and asks if I am alright, such concern for my welfare is overpowering coming from Operations! I think this curiosity is aroused to see if anything queer is happening behind here!

When I came on watch yesterday evening I was surprised and rather disgusted to see Mrs Marchant more made-up than ever in an even greater effort to look half her age, which she does not succeed in doing, she only, in my mind anyway, succeeds in looking remarkably more haggish.

I was rather touched to hear Chas expressed such delight at seeing me for a few seconds – he grabbed my hand and held it unnecessarily long. He is really a damn decent boy that, and if I ever have a son, I hope he will be like Chas; not to look at of course, but in temperament and manner.

I am just offering up a prayer that Mr Herbert does not scrutinise this day’s roll off the Ops tele too closely as I have been having far too much back-chat with the chap the other end, who is obviously bored with himself as he says “over to phone” at every available opportunity. Shall have to tell him, should he raise any stink about it, that I was just bored. I think he would probably explode at that, or have a small fit at least.

Monday September 23rd 15.30

Everyone here is in a flap about gas. Yesterday all stations were warned that Germany was getting desperate and it might be expected that gas would be used in the very near future. Consequently, gas drill is coming into force again and there is a gas lecture and instruction in the use of gas clothing this evening at 1800.

Have decided that I would go home on Friday just for the 36 hrs. as I must see the parents again, never know when I shall see them again nowadays.

Last night I had a bad attack of biliousness and put it down to the tinned salmon we had for tea down at Camp B [the butcher’s shop in Caterham]. But plenty of girls who had not had the salmon were taken ill as well. God knows what it was. Might have been the water. Still feel a bit groggy now.

Everyone is very loud in their praise of the Auxiliary Fire Service men who used to be teased so terribly as having all the leisure in the world and getting paid for doing damn all. But since the terrible shambles caused by bombs in London, everyone is unanimous in saying that they take back all the insults they hurled at them.

2240. It’s pretty awful down here at Camp B this evening. Flap, flap, flap. Goodness it’s bad enough to flap with plenty of room, but down here in these very crowded premises, it’s downright agony. To make things worse, in the midst of it all, all the lights had to fail – teleprinter and all. However, we soon got hurricane lamps working and just a bit later on the lights went up. Apparently Kenley and 11 Group suffered exactly the same.

I feel most terribly tired tonight, it’s either the atmosphere in this hole or the fact that I got no sleep this afternoon. Probably the former. Do hate this place.

I am still cycling backwards and forwards from here in a vain endeavour to get a bit of fat down. I must say the little exercise they get walking up Caterham Hill is very good for me.

I never realised before I joined the WAAF how awful it is to want to sleep but not be able to. It’s just sheer agony and one has a great struggle not to give way to it – like some innocuous drug. Everyone here is complaining about the cold here but personally I’m so hot I can hardly breathe and the air is thick enough to cut great chunks out of it! Wish I could think of something else to write about – just to keep me awake.

Wednesday September 25 1245

Had a comparatively peaceful night last night, except that I was suffering from one of my attacks of melancholia in its most virulent form. This was probably the result of going to the ‘flicks’ in Caterham yesterday and seeing Charles Laughton as ’‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. A film not calculated to cheer up anyone feeling a bit ‘blue’. However, I am quite myself again this morning.

It is very cold here today and visibility very bad, which is why we have only had one warning so far, I expect. There was plenty doing in the night however, and bombs dropped pretty close. I very nearly took to the dugout once, it was only the extreme chill of the night that prevented me. Nicki slept through it all.

Thursday September 26th 0745

Very cold this morning – a lovely white frost, air like wise accordingly.

Last night the WAAF held a dance and cabaret show at Grove Lodge. All the Officers and Sergeants mess invited en block. The consequent crush was only equalled, I should think, by the black hole of Calcutta! I dragged poor Tommy along against my better judgement. We stuck it for an hour, but at 2130 we both decided that two less would be a good idea and so hopped it to the Old Fox where we arrived at about 2150. Put in a spot of drinking and so wandered back to camp.

Nicki seems to have taken the opportunity to tell Flight where to get off under the cover of being drunk. Hope for Nicki’s sake, Flight doesn’t remember it as she might make things unpleasant for Nicki in future. Most people seem to agree that it was too crowded and there are lot of thick heads this morning.

1045. There is scarcely a plot on the board this morning, and by this unusual lack of activity I should guess Hitler’s laying up a [heavish?] spot of bother for us in the not too distant future.

It’s no good trying to invent something to write about – so shall have to pack up ‘till I genuinely have something to say.

Friday September 27th 0400

A very cold night – winter is heralding his advance in no uncertain manner.

A lot of incendiary bombs were dropped only a few hundred yards from here this morning at about, 0100, and many flares also. I cursed most heartily at being woken up as I had only got to sleep about 2130. However I managed to get to sleep again ‘till Bunny woke me at 2.30.

The Daily Secret Bulletin came through about half an hour ago and the Fighter Command report was certainly quite cheering – our losses 4 planes, 2 pilots safe and enemy losses 25 dead certain plus a few probable and damaged. Apart from Bristol Aeroplane Works at Filton very little damage was done, apparently.

The fire I have here in this tiny room is the only one in the place and it has a magnetic attraction for Officers and Airmen alike, which has its disadvantage as the room is too small to hold as many people as are desirous of getting warm.

Young Oddie an R/T operator is sitting down the cellar listening out, giving a very good imitation of a pilot. He is all dressed up in a very lovely silk flying suit, complete with the much envied boots lined with sheepskin. He went for a course as Sergeant Pilot, but failed it. That must be pretty tough luck to come down to being an R/T operator, I imagine.

Tuesday 30/9/40 11.30

There is an immense amount of excitement here today. It started about 0800 when I awoke to the sound of machine gun fire. Apparently it was one lone raider who was machine gunning the station, he dropped no bombs, and as far as I know got safely away.

There is something peculiar up today. Our own planes must be away on some Special Mission as 3 Lysanders patrolling over here. These planes caused a bit of excitement with the civilian population as they are rather queer looking – needless to say, they get taken for Jerries – the 3 have just swooped over my head only about 100 feet up, as I am sitting on the roof. Now two Defiants have just gone over. Something must be up.

There is a great deal of ack ack going on very far away, I guess at a big battle somewhere. A moment or so ago I saw five parachutes descending very rapidly – Heaven knows where they came from, as no plane large enough to carry a crew of five was visible.

A large twin engine machine has just gone over towards the West. I think a Blenheim, whether long or short nosed I can’t see.

Of course, it’s simply lovely weather to start an invasion or some such devilling.

Last night was comparably quiet but Sunday night a lot of incendiary bombs were dropped on and around the Station and people spent a pretty lively night putting them out I gather – I was on duty unfortunately.

There are now two Blenheims patrolling followed by the three Lysanders – it’s all very queer.

September 3rd 0300 [possibly an error, now October?]

I am suffering at the moment from a large sized ‘sulk’. I think mainly due to my cold combined with the fact that the room is too full of busy-body plotters who are chattering away like a lot of gibbering apes and are lighting a fire which I shall be expected to clear up. Besides, it’s not cold and I did not want a fire as it will merely incubate my germs. Why must these females always be quarrelling amongst themselves I cannot imagine.

There is no activity at all tonight, not a plane on the board at the moment. They must be storing something up for us.

Arki sat on the Teleprinter machine for two hours while I got some well-deserved sleep – Bless his heart (These plotter-pigs are bickering amongst themselves again and I can hardly concentrate on this.) Sooner I get away from this Ops machine, the better it will be for all concerned, I’ll maybe lose my temper one of these days and tell them what I think of them, not that that, I suppose, will worry them for one moment. Leave is the subject being torn to pieces at the moment – but they rarely lack for subject matter.

September 6th 1530 [October]

Gosh! What a foul day. Rain and wind outside and here am I inside, nursing a very bad temper again. It all started last night with me twisting my ankle and thereby getting the pain from that to keep me awake when I should have been sleeping. I only managed about 3/4 of an hour in the end. However, I passed the rest of the night from 0200 onwards, agreeably enough – part time with ‘Adele and Co’ by Dornford Yates, which is the very finest book to read at such an hour of the morning; and partly talking to the Sector Controller who had banked our fire up ‘till it resembled a furnace and spent most of the night by it, reading.

However, I think I was over tired this morning as when I got back here to Greenlands I just flopped and slept until 0900 when I arose and went to the Orderly Room to collect my pay and to buy two tickets for the dance tomorrow night. Firstly, Sgt Herron, in her usual aggressive voice, asked me why I had not been on pay-parade. When I explained that I had been on duty, she said I should have collected it Saturday. I told her I had gone out instead. She seemed to take a large dose of umbrage at this and said I knew I must collect it the day after pay parade and so what? I explained to her in no uncertain terms that I had no idea of this rule at the time, but that I had duly noted and inwardly digested the fact now. By this time, I was rapidly losing my temper and Flight picks on me to ask why I come to the Orderly Room in a jumper? I wearily told her I had but that morning, a few hours ago, come off night duty and did not think I need change merely to visit the O.R. Flight soon disillusioned me of this thought by curtly ordering me to go and change and come back decently dressed. Having now not a shred of temper left, I turned about and stalked out with nary another word. Getting back here I consigned the OR and all its occupants to the very hottest regions of Hell and get into bed and sleep.

Unfortunately I did not wake up ‘till 1400 and so missed dinner. Having missed breakfast as well, I am ready by now for quite a good tea which is, I think, just being served.

The trouble with our plotters is that they are all of too high a social level to mix with the, to their minds “common herd”. I discovered that the fair (fair haired, not pretty) Whiteman was a B.A. and had attended the same college at Oxford that Dorothy Sayers had attended and also the college about which the latter had written “Gaudy Nights”. You see these sort of folk just don’t fit in. At least they could – but they won’t.

Thursday October 10th 2100

Very showery day today and dull too. Nothing of any impact has happened since Sunday when I made the last entry here.

Bunny, Alex and I went to a Dance held at some hall (Church of that ilk) halfway between Whyteleafe and Purley. It was by way of being a Station Dance held off the station. Which sounds quite stupid, which it was. However, it was very innocent fun and I quite enjoyed it – after the interval and folk had mellowed a bit due to a visit to the “Kenley Motel” [Kenley Hotel] where much beer and other more alcoholic liquid flowed!

I found one good dancer, or rather he found me, and I enjoyed quite a number of dances with him. The only snag was that he rather resembled one of these things that one finds in rotten wood!

Sergeant Arkinstall, on being cross-examined today, let out the glorious fact that we may have 48 hrs and an elongated one at that. I thought I would pass out with emotion. I think I shall take mine as from 0830 next Tuesday. Shall have to borrow some of the “Filthy” from the parents when I get there as I have had a knitting urge today and purchased 4 ozs of wool and embarked on a pair of socks for myself. Of course, I had to have a knitting bag to put it into. Also, it’s Nicki’s birthday in the near future.

Sunday October 13th 1230

I find the course of true devotion is not running too smoothly. My efforts at knitting a pair of navy woollen socks are definitely disheartening. Up to yesterday I had got on very well, having done about six inches and beginning to look forward to a struggle with the turning of the heel. At about 3 o’clock in the morning, I got fed up with it and tore it to pieces! I cast on again and with renewed hope and vigour, which I hope will not wear too thin, and have done about a quarter of an inch with twenty stitches less than before.

Yesterday, feeling bored and wanting to be amused, I phoned Nicki up at Croydon and arranged to meet her in Purley at 1430. I tried to get some sleep in the morning and in spite of three attack alarms, two of which I “lay low” for, got a bit. About 1345 I walked up to the Guards Barracks and caught a 409, going down to Caterham again, as the bus route along the top way is rather upset by a few time bombs, inconveniently dropped by our considerate friends. This going via the valley made me rather late, but Nicki was still there. She told me her father was meeting us and so we walked up to the Astoria and found him. We then walked down again to the Regal and he took us to see Gary Cooper in “The Plainsman” – a jolly good film.

It was too late to have tea when we came out, so by way of consolation he bought us a box of chocolates each.

I have never eaten a box of chocolates quicker – this morning I finished the bottom layer!

I have been giving quite a bit of serious consideration to the question of cycling home on my 48 hrs. However, I don’t think I can quite make it. It’s about 48 miles each way and I shall not be able to bring back much luggage with me. Also, the weather might be foul for the return journey. No, I think not. Beasley did do the journey down once on a 48, but got about 5 lifts and was too tired to do the return journey. Besides being completely exhausted all the time she was at home.


Felt full of joie de vivre today. I spent quite an amazing afternoon one way and another; cheeking everyone from W.O. Sillence down to mere AC2’s. Bunny and I did a good spot of work for ourselves too. We got round Sillence to do something about getting our ACWIs through. He forthwith got me onto the typewriter and dictated a letter for F/Lt. Herbert to sign to the O.C. WAAF Detachment Kenley to the effect that we were put in for reclassification to ACWI in June and why had nothing been done about it. So if everything goes through satisfactorily, we might, I say “might”, get back pay as from June 1st, which is two pounds odd and well worth having. We deserve to get it anyway.

Thursday October 17th 1130

Set out on Tuesday morning for my forty-eight hours leave with a light heart and heavy baggage. I left Caterham Station by the eight 54, which seems to be the train favoured by all the business folk of Caterham. The posters on the walls of the stations looked very pathetic. Advertising the merits of “Sunny South Coast Resorts” and enlarging on the good times to be had there, and the surrounding exquisite country. Whereas most of the much advertised “resorts” are Military zones, and inhabited only by few residents and scores of troops; the surrounding country would only be of interest to someone in pay of the enemy, who could note positions of ack ack guns and other defence measures.

Just as I was leaving Greenlands, the sirens went off, and, judging by the dog-fight going on overhead, only just in time. I thought it best to go before the impending attack alarm was sounded and I was dragged underground by solicitous N.C.O.’s.

At Purley Station, I met Jordan, who was apparently going down to Bognor for the twenty-four hours. It seemed funny running into him as I never can get used to the fact that we are now on the same watch and I asked him what he was doing there!

Apparently Jerry had been busy Monday night as no trains were running via London Bridge, passengers were advised to travel to Victoria. I was a bit afraid the lines to Worthing would have had attention, but found they were clear.

Several places down the line showed evidence of a visit by Jerry. Peaceful little houses were just masses of debris, and the ruins were already beginning to look as if they had been there for a year or two.

Autumn seems to have excelled herself this year with the variety of wonderful colours the leaves have turned. Maybe it is merely that after years we have taken beautiful things for granted and accepted them as our due, but this year one looks to nature to provide relief for tired eyes and torn nerves and thus she seems to rise to the occasion like the artist she is, and provide us with even more wonders than before. The whole effect is spoilt in many cases, and the scene turned from the sublime to the ridiculous when suddenly a large tank emerges from some little enchanted looking wood that one had imagined to be merely inhabited by squirrels and other wood life, if not elves and fairies.

Friday October 18th 0300

Spent all of yesterday afternoon travelling. It took three-and-a-half hours to get back to Greenlands. Air raids all the way up the line caused the train to slow up and travel between 25-30 mph. When I got to East Croydon, I had to wait 3/4 of an hour before I discovered that I should have to take a train to Purley and then change again for Whyteleafe. God knows why, but all the trains were absolutely haywire. It is because of the London Bridge mess up I expect.

I was quite glad to be back and Nicki was very pleased to see me.

We arrived on duty to the accompaniment of several large explosions – sounding only a few hundred yards away, but, as we heard, when we got inside, in reality on the ‘drome; seven of them very neatly placed as nine aircraft were damaged. However, no buildings or personnel were damaged.

Everyone seemed in exceedingly high spirits here when I arrived. I myself felt infected and even began to take a benevolent view of my fellows. Mr Sillence was especially jovial, although I think some of his gaiety was synthetic. Anyway, he got arguing with me about the merits of Operations and Signals and was very anxious to remuster me as a Plotter. When I expressed horror at the idea, he laughed highly and forthwith sent Bunny out for fish and chips for us! I put in a good word for myself while he was in such an accommodating mood and told him I wanted to return to my old job – Traffic Clerk. He said he would see what he could do for me, but whether he will remember or not, I can’t tell. I jolly hope he will though.

He said we should be moving in about a week, but knowing the RAF, I doubt it.

Sunday October 20th 0800

For the first time in air raids, I was really scared last night! These last three nights have been the worst, in this locality, we have ever had. Oil bombs, incendiaries, and H.E.’s [High Explosive bombs] were dropped and all much too near to be comfortable. About 1930, the first started falling, just as we were being relieved and I did not enjoy my walk up dark Caterham Hill as much as I usually do.

When I got back to Greenlands, I found Nicki looking extremely hot and bothered, her uniform covered with wet sand. Apparently she had been extinguishing incendiaries in the field at the back of Greenlands. The worst of it was that it was her best uniform! The rest of the house was in a terrible uproar, N.C.O.s flapping around in small circles and people sitting under the stairs – in the broom cupboard and others down in the cellar. We could not stick the general air of panic, so Nicki, Nobby and I repaired to The Golden Lion which was not quite so crowded as usual, tho’ the air was thick enough. We spent a very dull hour, most of it being pestered by a drunk LAC [Leading Aircraftsman] whom Nicki persuaded to go home at last. We got fed up at about 2130 and walked back to Cranwell with Nobby. On the way, we nearly walked into a couple of trees which had been felled by an oil bomb, part of which I tripped over. We picked it up and took it back; a very nasty looking bit of shrapnel, all covered with thick oil on the inside. Fun and games!

“Cranwell” was an RAF property situated behind “Greenlands.”

It was very hard to get to sleep and every car that went by sounded to our excited imagination like a bomb descending on us. We got to sleep in the end, but were woken up at about 0330 by a very loud explosion that might have been a land mine – just heard that it was H.E. and on the ‘drome I think. The next thing I knew was the alarm clock’s buzzing in my ear and as I had set it for 0545 we both aroused and got back under the blankets ‘till 0630.

Tuesday 22nd October 11.30

Another lovely day with practically unlimited visibility and lovely fluffy pieces of cloud for aircraft to play hide and seek in between. Last night was as bad as usual and we all lay shivering when we ultimately plucked up courage to get into bed.

I went to The Capital in Caterham yesterday afternoon with Corporals Burn and Broadbent. One film was a “Horror” and the other a “Comic”. Nicki and I could not stay in after supper so in company with “Nobby” and Marion (a couple of Mess and Kitchen-ites and very pleasant) we crawled down to The Golden Lion. Dull evening but a few Canadians came and talked with and brightened it up a bit we left at 2130 and so home and to bed.

Friday October 25 11.30

The last few nights have been quieter as the weather has not been so clear!

Yesterday afternoon, Nicki and I hitchhiked to Croydon. We got a lift down on a Salvage Van and created riots all the way to Croydon. Everyone was laughing at us, especially as we were singing at the top of our voices thus furthering the impression that the RAF is mad! We were dropped at The Davis Theatre to our great delight and we visualised the Commissioner coming to help us down! After the show we did an awful lot of shopping, (but of the window variety only) and then to Wilson’s to tea where we had green salad, coffee and thin, yes thin, bread and butter. All for the large sum of 1/3d each. We then went to Kennards, Alders and Grants and other less well known shops. Lots of times we nearly fell from grace and bought things we could not afford. Chief amongst the temptations were a pair of winter pyjama, however, we resolved to wait ‘till next pay day.

Kennard’s Department Store, Croydon, during WWII. (Imperial War Museum HU36215)

We took a bus back to Purley and from there got a car to ‘The Rose and Crown’ and from there a car to Whyteleafe. As a bus was waiting at the bottom of the hill, we squandered 2d and caught it.

Nicki and Bea went to the G.L., but I stayed in and tried to mend Nicki’s typewriter, which I did not succeed in doing.

Sunday October 27th 1200

Well, if all night duties were like last nights! I should be perfectly content to do one every night for quite a long time. Jerry messed up the lines to Group on Wednesday and consequently we can’t get them on the Teleprinter. Anyway, Lacey and I went on duty at 7.30 in case it had been put right, and found it hadn’t so we and a few others of the Watch migrated to The “Valley” Hotel ‘till 2200 and then “fish and chipped”, after which I went home, or rather back here to Greenlands.

The weather is getting very wintery now and as I had left my blankets down at Ops., with Lacey, I had to substitute raincoats, dressing gowns, and fleecy linings, all of which kept coming apart and leaving me exposed to draught and cold. But I slept pretty soundly. I have lighted a fire this morning against all regulations, but it’s too cold to do without one.

I took careful stock of my winter woollies; balaclava helmet, mittens, hot bottle, etc; this morning with an eye to a few running repairs, this morning.

Just made a hurried exit as something dropped a couple of bombs pretty near. The attack alarm did not go until we had all got downstairs. Only one solitary E/A apparently. All the rest of the house flew down the Mayfly dug-out. I unobtrusively slipped down the cellar until everyone else had gone and then came up again. All the flap is over and I expect the poor little lonesome Jerry is over the coast by now. No all clear has gone tho’.

Heard last night that some bombs have been dropped about 200 yds from Camp ‘C’. Seems as tho’ all our movements are pretty well-known.

I quite forgot this morning, but today is Nicki’s birthday and did not present her with the hot water bottle I bought her. Practical and sensible, that’s me!

Friday November 1st

Find I have an awful lot of catching up on myself to do, no entry since Sunday. Wednesday was the most eventful day. The ACW’s threw a party at Greenlands under the management of Landray. It developed into the usual ‘Booze up’ and several over-enthusiastic drinkers had to be scraped off the floor and dumped in more suitable snoozing places.

As the tele is still not working, I did not do any night duty on Tuesday night and so felt fit to put bags of energy into the preparations. Wednesday afternoon was quite happily spent in making sandwiches and gathering greenery for the decorations.

The actual “do” was not so good – too many people, although the tickets were supposed to be limited. The fun was in the preparations and clearing up.

Lacey and I are very cheesed, coming down to this Ops everyday and doing naught. Rumour has it that we are going to move to Camp ‘C’ on Sunday night, but don’t expect we shall for a moment. It seems as tho’ they are not getting the tele right until we move. Hope it’s soon tho’.

Saturday November 2nd

The night duty again last night. I went down on duty and mucked about. Lacey and I and a few others went to the ‘Valley’ and thus to Fish and Chip shop. After that, I came home and to bed.

I spent all yesterday afternoon searching Croydon shops for a pair of warm winter pyjamas. I ran them to earth at Alders in the end, and paid the sum of 8/3d for them. I got a grand lift down to Croydon yesterday on the back of an Airman’s motor bike. It was the first time I had been on one for years and I was a bit panicky at first. It was great fun when I got used to it.

Nicki and I went to Hewitt’s this morning for some coffee and buns and then on into the valley, collecting on the way Nobby, Monica and Marion. There was great panic amongst the civilian population when two Blenheims appeared amid a spot of machine gun fire and many folks swore they were four-engined Jerries.

Just reading The ‘Mirror’ of three WAAF getting decorated for gallantry under heavy bombing. I always longed for the chance to drag a pilot from a blazing plane or do something like that, but these adventures never come my way somehow.

Sgt. Mortimer, Flight Officer Henderson and Sgt. Helen Turner, awarded the Military Medal for gallantry at Biggin Hill on 1/9/40.

Apparently there is a thousand pounder or pretty heavy bomb lying around somewhere and the bomb disposal squad are going to dump it on Titling [Tilling] Down. Hope it doesn’t shake the chaps up there on the D.F. [Direction Finding]. Might make ‘Sillence’ the pig there loose a bit of fat if it goes off suddenly!

I saw my Duty Pilot friend this morning in Caterham, looking very tall, blonde and handsome. These ‘choose’ pilots are a damn good lot, whatever the bombers say about them. There’s little Ginger Lacey, a small, magnificent looking bloke – looking as though he could not say ‘boo’ to a goose. He has said ‘boo’ to a good many Jerries, though, and gathered up the D.F.C. in the process. He was a Sergeant Pilot who, with a few others, attacked a formation of 50 Jerries and drove them back, shooting down about 5 on the way. We should be privileged to mingle with these heroes. As Mr Churchill said in the House of Commons, “Never, Mr Speaker, in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many for so few”. And I heartily endorse that, and so do many others.

Sgt. James Harry “Ginger” Lacey was at Kenley during the Battle of Britain with 501 Squadron.

Sunday November 3rd 1030

Surprised both Nicki and myself this morning by blithely jumping out of bed at 7.45 and dressing and descending to breakfast. The object of all this energy was the fact that my hair needed a wash and if by any chance I go to the Dance at Croydon on Monday, I should have had no other time to ‘glamourise’! I pulled the ladder up on myself as though I discovered after I had washed it, that there is no fuel for a fire. It looks as if I shall be going on duty in a couple of hours time with damp hair.

Nicki is now on duty up at Camp ‘C’ and several Plotters were saying at breakfast this morning that we should be working there tonight; but not billeted there yet as the houses are not ready.

Many people are finding an excuse to moan, in fact that the Airmen and WAAF are going to mess together. I can’t see any cause to moan. Don’t see what difference it makes at all.

I got browned off with knitting socks yesterday and as Nicki and I were in Purley, I went into the Scotch Wool Shop, on the spur of the moment and asked for a pattern of knitted bedroom slippers. To my surprise and delight (funds being in the usual low state) the girl gave me a free pattern! In these days it’s so unusual to get anything free. Of course lifts are free and that is about all. Last night we could not do our usual hitch-hiking stunt, however, as by the time we had come out of the cinema it was too dark for motorists to see us at the bus stop. To our chagrin, we had to pay a bus fare to Whyteleafe and walk all the way up the hill! We were so overcome by this combined misfortune that we both went to bed after supper and were asleep by 2130.

Monday November 4th 1940

Well, at last Ops and Signals are moved to their new homes. It all happened very suddenly yesterday afternoon; at 1300 we were told we should be moving at 1600 hrs! Well, everything was done very quickly and efficiently and by 1700 we were established at ‘The Grange’, which is the new Ops. There was an awful lot of clearing up and moving around of to be done, and we were all terribly tired when at last we were relieved.

The Grange is really a lovely old house – so different from the old place; the Butchers Shop. It’s three hundred years old and full of oak beams, no sham half timbers there! and nooks and crannies. There was also a secret tunnel to the Old Coulsdon church, which is now alas blocked up, the tunnel, of course, not the church.

The Ops room is of the very latest design with all the most up-to-date apparatus. It is a very clever plan. Two rooms directly over each other have had the dividing ceiling knocked out and thus the Sector Controller sits up in the top room and looks down on the plotters and board on the ground floor. It is distempered dark green on the base of the wall, getting paler and paler the higher it gets, till eventually it is shaded into primrose at the ceiling. The colour of paint which pervades the place at the moment is rather overpowering, but doubtless it will gradually disappear.

The Ops tele has a room to itself leading off the D/F Room and behind the R/T Cabinets. All the rooms have large fireplaces and radiators and large windows, so that in winter we shall be warm and in summer equally cool. All very pleasing.

As the tele is not yet installed, Lacey and I still have no job, so I have been dashing around all the morning doing odd jobs for people and enjoying myself quite well in the process.

I got shoved into an R/T cabinet by Sergeant Reich and there was a bit of a flap for a few minutes as the set was off line and the Controller was not pushing over the right switch, Arki took over after a bit and got things straightened out, and I departed on more errands of mercy!

A few moments ago, a lone Jerry came over, swooped down and machine gunned the road outside here (Greenlands) everyone, myself included, dashed for the cellar, and it was all over in a few minutes. David was not so lucky as she got caught outside and spent rather a damp few moments in a ditch! 3 of our chaps went up after him and they have just returned, I don’t know whether they had any luck or not. Let’s hope so.

1615 Bea and I took a walk this afternoon and got caught in a hefty shower of rain. Bea had to go to sick bay and get inoculated and I went with her. She insisted on treating me to a tea Hewitt’s and I’m too much of a pig to refuse! We had a pot of tea, hot dripping crumpets and buns.

I am not going on duty again tonight as there is still no teleprinter machine working.

Whilst we were in Hewitt’s we met Sergeant Steel who told us that the machine gun fire was ours and that the plane drops some delayed action bombs – more red notices up tomorrow! But we gathered that the raider was brought down not very far away. Thought he would not get away with it!

There is a very handsome Derby Crest in the shape of a plaque, hanging on the wall of the Rest Room at Ops. It is very beautifully done in oils and someone with an artistic eye must have dug it out, not that it could have remained hidden long as it is about four feet across.

Friday November 8th

Went on night duty last night for the first time in 10 days. Arki mucked up our usual system rather, as, being short of R/T Ops, he sends to Signals for Jordan of all people to “listen out in a cabinet”. Apparently the Sector Controller takes a poor view of WAAF doing the job. Jordan is, of course, properly fed up. I got hurtled over to Signals to take over his job of Traffic Clerk, which of course pleased me. However, not content with changing folks around suddenly and telling them that they will get no sleep in the bargain Arki changes his mind at about midnight and Jordan and I are switched about again! By this time it was long past my time for bedding down, which was 2000, however Lacey lets me stay put till 0330 when she went down. Spent the whole of the time from then up to 0630 sending ‘nothing to report’ and knitting.

F/O Sillence is apparently shaking things up a bit and Arki is preparing a most complicated new Watch List. The most humorous item on it being the fact that Robbie is down on our watch ‘C’ to work the Ops Tele and all on his own too! Apparently Arki is doing this to punish him for his general scruffiness. Robbie has been dying to get to the Ops machine ever since we started moving, and now he may succeed, but I doubt if he will be so pleased at doing it on his little onesome! The most pleasing feature of the list (which will probably be scrapped by now) was that I was Traffic Clerk.

Lacey is a bit fed up because her name appeared against the Intelligence Tele and she does not want to have Ops! I think Arki will have a most awful job to please everyone.

Keep on hearing rumours that we are moving billets, first one day and then another. It would not surprise me if they suddenly decided not to move us at all.

There was a beautiful white frost this morning and the air like wise. It reminded me of the days when I used to cycle down to Peckover’s every day in this weather and how much I enjoyed it. It’s grand to be alive on these mornings. What is most unusual with this climate is that the morning kept its promise to turn into a lovely day. Later on I shall journey out and enjoy the air.

Monday 11th November

Seems funny to think that today is Remembrance Day. I think its very ironical – keeping up a day of remembrance for a war, within a war. However except for wearing Earl Haig Fund poppies, no-one has taken any notice, and of course there is no 2 minutes silence.

Tuesday 12th November

Daddy wrote very sarcastically in one of his recent letters asking “will you get your ACWI or your greatcoat first?”

It looks as tho the ACWI will win. Lacey and I were so cheesed with waiting for this to come through that yesterday we went to see Miss Mortimer about it. She looked the matter up and discovered that the letter had been lost by Registry! She apologised very handsomely and promised it should go through without further delay and that it should be backdated. This should mean back money from 1st of June.

Last night was one of the wettest and windiest nights we have had for ages but Nobby, Monica and myself journeyed down to The Golden Lion. We arrived soaked through to find the entire bar a hen party! So disgusted that we only stopped to dry ourselves before the large fire and then made the return journey. Nobby was a little keen to stay but Monica and I said we were going in any case. Nobby said she would come if she could read this Diary. I, of course, retorted that she had better stay there!

Yesterday afternoon, in spite of ‘stand by’ Watch, I went home with Tommy Walsh to dinner and tea. He was meeting a pal of his, in the RAF, a cherubic little Flight Mechanic called Rees. We got back to Coulsdon a bit early and so went into The Tudor Rose to while away 30 minutes before 1730. When we emerged, I chanced to ask Tommy why there were 2 white lines down the middle of the road instead of the usual one! He swore I was drunk, although I should think it was impossible on one Shandygaff. However, the two lines were still there in the morning.

Wednesday Nov 13th

Had a very nasty, noisy night yesterday. The ‘drome cropped it again. One H.E. fell on the runway by the corner of the remaining hangar. It killed two soldiers and injured 3 Airmen – pretty badly. A Beaufighter and a Spitfire was slightly damaged also.

The Bomb Disposal Squad are digging up an unexploded bomb out of the garden at “Durban”, the Signals Office. It seems to be an awfully long way down, and they estimate it at 16 ft down! I only hope it won’t go off and blow them all to pieces as it will also blow our office away, being only about 3 ft from the window.

One of them started an argument with me this morning about WAAF and said what he’d do to his sister if she joined up. He quoted the old saying “a woman’s place is in the home” and I told him it was all bunk, etc. I don’t agree one bit with that. It was alright in olden times when women had no chance to be anywhere else, nowadays, with the war on, it’s ridiculous.

Still, these men are definitely heroes and I have great admiration for them, as it must be awful to think any moment one is likely to get blown to pieces and yet continue to dig down and down.

As I was doing a spot of housework in the Hall of Signals this morning, F/O Sillence came downstairs and greeted with me with a “Good morning ACWI”! He’s not at all a bad old stick although he snarls at folk a lot. He takes it out on the Airmen quite a lot, especially if they are inefficient, and earns a bad name for himself.

Friday Nov 16th  2045

Nicki and I went to the Orderly Room this morning, Nicki to crawl before Flight to say she had overslept and could not get to the CO’s parade, and I to get seven days leave forms for self and Nicki. Flight greeted me with the cheering news that my ACWI had come through and back-dated from June 1st! Wow!

The blackout boards in Signals are now to be kept up until the bomb is removed by order of F/O Sillence. Looks as tho’ someone thinks the situation’s not so good.

Anyway, when we got on duty the boiler was still well  on and did I thank my lucky stars, as I know I should have had to light it. I did have to light the fire though, as it expired on us during the afternoon. I bought a pair of cotton gloves this morning in Caterham anticipating a long session with the boiler!

I was thinking that I should not get much of a Christmas dinner as we are on duty all Christmas morning and night. However, Tommy Walsh wants me to go home with him and have a real Christmas Dinner. We are all off all Boxing Day anyway.

We have a visitor in the Recreation Room tonight; a WAAF transport driver, who drove an Officer down here and had to stay the night and so she is putting up in a spare bed here. She seems to have a very interesting job, getting around from Station to Station with different Officers. She lives in Civie billets in London, which is not, I imagine, quite so good!

Apparently WAAFs are wanted to train as Wireless Ops and several girls are considering it. I should awfully like to be one but don’t think I can face 3 months training at Morse on some out of the way Station like Yatesbury and Cranwell, especially as the winter is coming on.

Flight also told us this morning that we shall get our great coats within a week or so and that with the issue our raincoats will be withdrawn. All of which is darn silly as those Airman’s coats hold the wet terribly and take hours to dry, besides being awfully heavy to carry and wear. Not so good to cycle in.

Sunday November 17th 1330

Spent a very good night duty last night. In fact, one of the best ever! Tommy and Jordan decided to sit up and do the traffic while I was to “get down to it” at 2230. Well, I made myself very comfortable in the CO’s bedroom, next to F/O Sillence’s room, on the CO’s bed and very comfortable mattress. I got to sleep fairly soon and except for the noise of ack ack and guns in the not too far distance, slept very well.

I woke up quickly when Brown called me and trotted downstairs and enquired the time. Jordan said it was nearly 0300 and Tommy piped up with a crack about over-sleeping. Well, they kidded me on that it was really that unearthly hour of the morning, until Brown gave the whole game away by showing me his wristwatch. When I saw the time was being 0700, I was not sure who to believe, the watch or the conspirators. However, as my watch when I looked at it told the same tale as Brown’s I was very annoyed and told them so. I could not be too angry with them as it was very sweet of them, actually. As a recompense, however, I re-lit the boiler which they had let out during the early hours and generally left things in order for the other watch.

There are certainly many very good points in being the only WAAF on a watch full of men.

Consequent upon last night’s sleep, I feel quite full of beans today and proposed going to the ‘flicks’ in Caterham with Nicki, Nobby and originally Monica. However, some unfortunate wretch of a girl in Eastchurch where Monica sleeps has been suspected of having diphtheria, and thus the occupants of the same house have all been C.B’d [confined to barracks] and are eating in a separate dining room – Cpl Henn and room mates had to be turned out to provide the spare mess. Poor Monica is retiring to bed in disgust.

Nicki is on night duty tonight and I shall probably sleep down at the old Ops with her to keep her company as it’s not nice down there all on her own.

Tuesday Nov 19th

I am now beginning to think, or at any rate hope, that the  [UXO or UXB? – unexploded bomb] guest of ours will not now not go off as it has been lying in a good few feet of wet, slimy and very yellow clay for a good time. Maybe it’s just auto-suggestion or “wishes being fathers to thoughts” sort of thing.

My ACWI was announced to the general public on D.DO’s  yesterday and I hope to draw the appropriate back pay next Friday, in which case I shall have quite a large sum of money on my 7 days.

I received a “madder-than-usual” letter from Hazel today. She tells me no news except “that we have a new head cowman, who is half Italian or something”. I cautioned her to keep an eagle eye on him, as “one never knows”. He’s probably engaged in poisoning the milk [to do?] in Horsham and surrounding areas.

Daddy is certainly picking up the American language fast; there was a perfect gem of a phrase in his last letter to me. He referred to the slippers Tommy Walsh’s father gave me, as “Sugar Daddy’s Whizzo Slippers”.

Thursday Nov 20th

I went to town today with Tommy to see Bing Crosby’s new film,  “Over the River”, very good it was too. We were very surprised by the apparent lack of demolished buildings, although a fifty shilling tailor’s shop copped a purler in Piccadilly and was burnt out.

The assorted collection of uniforms one comes across in the streets is terrific, and to avoid saluting everyone, an awful lot of low cunning has to be exercised. We only saluted twice, RAF Officers.

I’m spending the night here with Nicki on the switch-board at the old Ops Block, and we’re having a lot of fun and games at the moment, flirting with diverse Airmen who keep phoning up and trying to fix dates with us. We are telling the most astounding lies to fend them off I fear. Lonely Airmen on all night duty asking to be phoned up – any amount of them. They are very kind-hearted and think we are dull and want to talk, but while we appreciate a few chats, we get a bit weary of it all the time.

Saturday November 23rd 0330

I spent a very enjoyable, unexpectedly so, day yesterday. It happened like this. We were on duty 7.30 yesterday morning and about 0800 I chanced to wander over to Ops with a couple of messages for the Sector Controller and Arki asked me if I would like to go to Marden! I said “rather” and he said report to F/O Silence at 0900. I did so and was told that he was taking four plotters on a tour of the D/F [Direction Finding] station at Marden and the VHF Station at West Malling – would I care to go too? I did care too and so we shot off. We get to the R/T Tender at Marden at about 1145, and there I saw Nobby Seymoure and had a chat about old times with him. From there we went on to Marden D/F Station and there we got the transport bogged in a doggone field of over and done oats or corn. When we had pushed the truck out of the Slough of Despond we went into the small and insignificant hut which houses the very simple looking apparatus. LAC Elliot showed us around and he and I had another chat about old times at Kenley.

We left there about 1230 and went to The Bell Inn, Staplehurst, where F/O Sillence acted mine host and treated us to beer and bread and cheese. And surprisingly good beer it was too – don’t know what brewery, tho’. From there we proceeded on what was to be a long, long hunt for the VHF  station, West Malling.

We hit the ‘drome at West Malling (or the ruins of the ‘drome as Jerry had bombed it almost out of existence with a frightfully concentrated viciousness) at about 1330 and trundled up a long narrow, slimy and horribly twisty lane to what we thought was our object. We were not long in being disillusioned however, as Sillence said that it was the wrong way, and after an extremely pregnant silence on the part of the driver, we turned about and retraced our tracks. Well this sort of thing went on for perhaps an hour until the driver made the bright suggestion that we should dig one of the R/T operators out of his billet and use him as a guide. After ringing the bells of half the houses in W. Malling, we ran one to earth, and he guided us to a large light-house sort of building in the middle of the field. It’s just as well he was there – we should never have found the spot without his help.

We looked the place over and Sillence did what he went there for and so we too returned. It was a jolly good day.

Thursday Nov 28

I see I have not made an entry here for five days. This is, I think, not because I’ve had nothing to write about, but because I have had so much to do.

Johnny Landray has been organising hockey and we have had a couple of practises so far. The first was on the Sports Ground at the Mental Hospital Caterham, where we had a crowd watching us. It was great fun, Arki and F/O Sillence both played – the latter was a grand goalie! We had another practise today on a field at the bottom of Whyteleafe Hill and there we had Welsh Guards watching us as they are billeted close by.

I strained a ligament in my left foot the first time I played hockey – on Tuesday I think it was. I thought I should not be able to run today but Geordie volunteered to bind my ankle up for me and guaranteed I should be able to. He did, and I could! I’m not so good now, though.

Tommy went on 7 days leave yesterday and the office was horribly quiet today. I’m jolly glad I have 7 days leave next Friday, December 6th, I think a week’s rest at home will do me good with lots of eggs and fruit to eat. Fred wrote yesterday saying that he had got 7 days on the 6th also, so I should be able to have some fun with him I dare say.

The Airmen of Ops and Signals have now been moved to their billets at Camp ‘C’ and they’re very pleased with the actual houses, but they have to trot back to the camp each meal time as our mess has not yet moved there.

Tuesday Nov 29th 2015

I was very disappointed at Pay Parade today as my ACWI back money did not come through and both Lacey and I were rather cheesed as we had already spent it in our minds. We get paid as ACWI’s though which is the sum of two guineas per week.

In spite of lack of pay, Nicki and I went to Croydon this morning after Pay Parade as Nicki wanted  to see Pride and Prejudice which is on at the Davis; incidentally I had already seen it earlier on in the week with Tommy but it was well worth seeing again. It was grand to hear a good English speaker in a film instead of American.

I bought a pair of navy shorts at Kennards to play hockey in and Nicki bought a pair of pyjamas which were too small for her when she tried them on after we had got back. She swapped them for another pair I bought some weeks ago which are a bit larger.

We hitch hiked down to Croydon and got there in 3 sections. First lift was from a Dare, I think Nicki … We then caught a RAF truck as far as Purley… and caught a … to Kennards.

Nobby, Monica and I were keeping Nicki company… A bomb has just fallen fairly near, a few miles N.E.If … just at from the C/O is …. With…Control…

Coming back from Croydon …tonight…. A placard announcing the opening of the Purley Ice Rink

On Tuesday December 2nd. I am awfully glad and I know lots of people will be, Signals Section especially.

Wednesday December 4th

Seven days leave is now getting very near – tonight’s night duty is the last I shall see of Signals for a week at any rate. The nearer it draws, the more Nicki and I are looking forward to it.

Well, Signals and Ops were nearly wiped out on Sunday – a lone Jerry came over and dropped three beauties, one on the house right opposite Signals and one to the left of Ops and one at the back of Ops! It was the nearest I have ever been to a bomb and I don’t want to be any nearer. It was so unexpected, the warning had only gone about two minutes when the first one was dropped. I was over at Ops at the time and it was very scary. I bolted into an R/T Cabinet and set on the floor while the other two fell, no one knew if any more would follow. Windows everywhere in Durban and the Grange were blown out, and about four doors at Durban, which suffered worst as it was nearer to the first bomb. About 3 Airmen and three WAAF were cut a bit by flying glass – the only bad casualty was a civilian working at the Grange. He copped a bit of shrapnel in the foot.

The telephone operator – an Airmen – at the Grange went a bit mad and plugged all the wrong keys in, and the camp got the impression that Ops and Signals were a perfect shambles. Nicki, who was on duty on the switch board at Kenley, was firmly convinced that I was a casualty. The WAAF Orderly Room phoned up in a flurry to know if we were all right and Flight and Sgt. Herron came down to see that we were still alive with their own eyes.

It was a marvel that more people were not hurt by the flying glass. Luckily, the house that had a direct hit was empty at the time.

There were a lot of anxious minds among Signals personnel this morning as two AC teleprinters had to be posted to Farnborough. Eventually Robbie and Jock White were posted, they go today. Robbie cheered up a bit when Arki told him it was probably a prelude to being posted East.

Monday July 14th 1941

It is now over seven months since I made my last entry in this Diary and such a lot has happened that I can’t hope to bridge the whole of the gap.

The most important changes however, I must record. Firstly, on Monday March 17th, Tommy Walsh and I got engaged down at Worthing. We both decided on a green ring and hunted all over Croydon to find a ring we liked. We ran it to earth in the end at the most expensive jewellers in Croydon! – Jade and white gold.

This news, although sudden and cause of quite a number of people being shaken – is not the most astounding. On July 5th we got tired of waiting and got married! People were even more shaken.

Tommy and Joan’s wedding in July, 1941, with Tommy’s sisters, Betty and Joyce as bridesmaids and Cpl. Constance as best man.

I shall not attempt to make a précis of the events of the past seven months, but shall endeavour to keep this diary up as often as I can.

The wearing of a small circle of platinum on the third finger, left hand really makes little difference to one, as I can not settle down as a housewife – I can’t get my discharge from the WAAF. It’s very nice to be able to spend every third night at 54 Fairholm with my husband. We are allowed to stay on the same Station, so we see more of each other that way than we normally should.

We had the most gorgeous week at Midhurst. We stayed at the Wheatsheaf and spent most of the time exploring the country, round about and the local pubs and hotels. All of which were “par excellence”.

We have been having such a peaceful time of it lately – no raids at all and the joy of it is we have been giving them a spot of their own medicine – sending large formations of bombers and fighters over everyday, smashing their forward aerodromes in France and all their factories that are near enough to have a go at. At night too, we have Report they’re on the run and they now know what we went through last autumn.

Most of the original Signals men have been posted, Webber and Jordan, etc. Jock White and Tommy are the only two left at the Traffic Office. All the R/T work is done by WAAF personnel now and this is getting a very huge Station of WAAF. There are now nearly 400 of us, I believe. When I came last February, there were no more than 40. Gone are the good old days.

Wednesday July 16th

Nothing much doing on duty this afternoon. Spending the time reading, there are no Circuses on, that’s why.

They are now making us do P.T. once a week at 1030 on Standby morning. They, with their usual short sightedness, completely overlooked the fact that one class per week is not much to anyone, especially when of merely 20 minutes duration.

Saturday July 19th

We have got a ‘Mock Invasion’ on here starting tonight at 2200 and lasting until 1000 tomorrow. Guv crew, all the men that is, have to stay up all night to man the trenches armed with Tommy gun and a few rifles. The Home Guard are going to attack Camp ‘C’. Paratroops are going to be all over the place and everything is bristling with armaments and troops.

Eight new WAAF have just arrived at Camp ‘C’ – Clerks SD I think, there are also a lot of new Airmen around. This place is like a new Camp there are so many different faces around.

Friday Sept 11th

I think the best thing to do is to try and find a new job in the WAAF and get posted away from here. Although I have so many friends here, I think it would do me good to get away. So I have decided to try and get a commission. Cyphers or anything else more interesting. I have made the first move, that is getting an interview with our C.O. and am just waiting to see her. I think I can convince her I should be recommended – unless of course there are no more vacancies for commissions from the ranks. However, we shall see.

Tomorrow I am going home for 24 hours and shall stuff with fruit.

Monday September 15th

Felt much more cheerful. There is a faint ray of light ahead – one of the Cypher Officers told me that Cypher Officers are wanted for the Middle East! Shall go all out for that goal and who knows but what Tommy and I will meet before this war is over yet?

Miss Manning (the Cypher Officer) says that Officers who can operate the Type X machine at 120 wpm are in demand for overseas, so shall go and do a spot of practise in that direction when Miss Manning is on duty.

Mummy was very sweet and encouraged me to go ahead in this idea, but of course I know she will hate it. But I put Tommy first.

I have just got a “chewing up” from W/O Arkinstall for forgetting to send up the traffic this morning and well deserved it, I know.

Tomorrow my in-laws are taking me up to Town for the day – and I am skating with Joyce in the evening. Wednesday morning I hope to have an interview with the C.O. and do my best to sell my case.

We have just read in the Daily Mirror that WAAF and ATS Special Police are coming into force. Goodness knows, the men ‘Gestapo’ are bad enough – the WAAF will be about ten times worse I should say. I can’t imagine a girl volunteering for a job like that, although it will be a pretty ‘cushy’ one I guess.

Wednesday September 24th

Well I had my interview with the C.O. whom I immediately disliked and have been held up for the moment. Apparently the lack of personnel in Signals and Operations has caused Ms Noland to stop any more would-be Officers being recommended for about a month, by which time replacements are hoped to be arriving, but if I know Signals, there will be precious few teleprinter Ops amongst the crowd.

However, I seem to be settling down in a groove here quite happily. I go down to Croydon every third day and stay the night there. Usually taking Mum to the pictures in the afternoons and skating with Joyce, Betty and Joan in the evening. Sometimes I lapse as far as to go to the pictures twice in one day.

The only thing I really look forward to now is my day off when I sleep down at Croydon, a good night sleep in Tommy’s bed, and my monthly journey down to Worthing to see the old folks. Still, time seems to pass quickly enough and I am not really unhappy.

Friday September 26th

Yesterday was a good one. I slept all the morning until 1130 when Muriel woke me with a cup of coffee and we proceeded to lunch at the Mess, which was not too bad.

I went down to Croydon and had a cup of tea with Mum in Minsy’s and then Mum and I went down the Grove to see the family there. In the evening Betty, Joyce, Joan Monday and myself went to the Rink. We had a grand time. Len, the Canadian friend of Tommy’s, was there to escort Joyce and several other Airmen. Betty was a bit fed up at having to merely watch, but it is hardly safe for her to skate so soon after appendicitis.

The 409 buses were all full when we came out, so I had to walk up to the Billet, accompanied by a Corporal Canadian who also wanted a bus and had to get back to the Guard’s Barracks and asked me to set him on his way. He apparently is a friend of Jean Lawson’s. We are all going skating again on Wednesday. I left my skates to be ground in, so I shall probably fall over the place on Wednesday.

This morning, we arose at 0600 in order to get onto C.O.’s parade at 7.30. I did not feel at all bad considering the late night and one or two minor abrasions on my legs and arms.

Saturday September 27th

I shall never cease to wonder at the immense amount of pleasure to be had from small things. Not small material things, but small pleasures, unexpected kindnesses and little luxuries. This appreciation of the minor things of life is only one of the things I have learnt since I joined the WAAF, and it is a great boon to be able to appreciate the lesser things. To get so much joy out of a well made cup of tea, a well cooked meal, a comfortable bed and the wearing of civilian clothes, is a pleasure that so many people have never, and, probably, will never, realise.

It is wonderful how “roughing” it in the WAAF is good for one. It broadens the mind and completely changes ones sense of values. To mix with people common and well bred, all in one dose can not fail to make one somewhat of a bohemian and well able to hold ones own with all manner of folk.

Yesterday, I saw Mrs Yates and craved permission to sleep at Mrs Constable’s on my standby night. This she willingly gave, being unbelievably sweet, and asking me questions about the different operations crews.

It is now Sunday 28th the time being 0230.

At 2330 Arki and Miss Wells and I had a most glorious “jaw” about old times and last years blitzes at Kenley. We were each vieing with one another in telling the best story of that time. I think the best one was by Miss Wells who related how Pat Lister (S/LDR Lister to us rankers) emerged from the shelter after Kenley’s big attack, when the hangers were blazing; the front of the Officers Mess was no more, and time bombs were as numerous as pebbles on the beach, to see his car (a dilapidated old Rover I think it was) proudly bearing two huge sods of earth on its bonnet, and he loudly exclaimed “mind my car!”

We also recalled Squadron Leader Gaunce who had a passion for baling out, and on one occasion when he got mixed up in a dog fight and though (according to custom) it was time to jump for it, he landed at the gateway of Purley Hospital. This was the time tho’ I think that Bunny, Lacey and I had hysterics in the R/T Cabinets when a voice piped up “Peeling off over Purley!”

I shall never regret joining the WAAF, especially I am glad that I joined up fairly near the beginning and did not miss any of those blitz days, and the days when our boys went over to France with such hope in their hearts and came back in rags and the mark of disillusionment on their faces.

If I lose everything else I shall still have those memories to look back on.

Tuesday Sept 30th

I am beginning to look forward to every third day off now, even more than I ever did when Tommy was here. You see I had Tommy all the time, but now I have not got him at all. I have to company of his family every third day.

Same day 2215

Mrs Yates, our officer I/C Camp ‘C’ held the gathering of our watch today to have a “friendly chat” with the girls. She urged us to voice our moans to her and not to brood over them. A few of us gave tongue, but most of the clan were silent. She asked us if we would like to get up a Camp C Hockey team – at which a few tepid “ayes” were heard – and/or some form of light entertainment, at which the “ayes” were even less and practically cold. She was a trifle too gushing, which made the majority of us suspicious, although I do believe she is really trying to help us. Everything is “awfully jolly” and we have to get together and be hearty – which is the last thing a normal WAAF wants to be. She is very well meaning tho’.

Cpt. Johnson dug up some AMO [Air Ministry Order] or another saying tin hats need not be carried when marching unless the Commanding Officer of a Station issues an order to that effect. As the order compelling us to take ours on duty with us was merely issued by a Sergeant, Mrs Yates was rather at a loss, but promised to look into the matter without delay.

Our room was not so cheerful as usual this afternoon as a new girl has been moved into the fourth bed. A little shy mouse from Lancashire. I am afraid we rather scare her, although we all three tried to be very kind. She is not the type to be a good mixer and is suffering rather badly from homesickness at the moment. We were all rather embarrassed yesterday when she burst into tears, and tried our best to comfort her. I am afraid I never was good at that job and left it to the others. Moira has had a letter from her boyfriend putting finish to their affair, and of course, it’s on the verge of tears the whole time. Muriel has not had a letter from her boyfriend for a week and is consequently jumpy and a bit irritable. I do my best, but find myself overdoing it now and again. Shall have to be careful or I shall develop into a “frightfully hearty chap” or something equally repulsive.

Friday October 3rd

Today had my first news of Tommy. Mum phoned me up at Signals and said she had had a letter saying he was still on the high seas, but well and in tropical kit and expecting to reach their first port of call any day. He said he had written to me at Worthing in case I was no longer at Kenley. I can only wait now until Mummy and Daddy post it on, which I hope is soon as I rather think he may be able to let me know his ultimate destination at any rate, what continent it is to be, even that will help.

Arki had a letter from Webber, or rather an Airgraph, and he and Streatfield are somewhere in the Middle East. Egypt Arki thinks… Webber seems to be alright and did not voice any particular moan.

Sunday October 5th
Received my letter from Tommy yesterday. It was not very happy or expansive and I fear he is taking it badly. He has got no chance of taking his mind off us on board ship, but perhaps when he lands he will feel better.

Thursday October 9th

It’s a bit difficult nowadays to keep up the standard of last year – there is so little to write about.

Hitler is on the doorstep of Moscow and all his forces are concentrated in that direction. People here are seriously beginning to wonder why we don’t take the opportunity of invading France now; but I think the Government is scared of losing too many men. And the Dunkirk scar is hardly healed as yet. I begin to wonder if our lucky star has not done us a service in posting Tommy overseas, as if we do invade, many millions of men are going to be lost and Tommy is probably safer over there, especially if he gets to South Africa. The general opinion around here seems to be that if Hitler takes Moscow and the rest of Russia; which will follow in due course, our turn will be next. There will be no one left for him to invade, and he is obviously leaving the hardest nut to crack last. As Lacey remarked this morning, if only all the women and children and old folk could be evacuated to Canada and only services left in England, we could have a real good old “do” and fight tooth and nail – no half measures given or accepted. Then, when we had finally defeated the beast, they could come back to a better Britain.

Today is one of the wettest we have had for a good few weeks – a steady persevering rain that will last all day I guess. I am looking forward to a nice cosy afternoon in the billet, in bed.

If Hitler takes Moscow, and Russia falls, all leave and passes will be stopped very quickly and I only hope I can get my next 7 days in, which is due in November, before that. More for Mummy and Daddy’s sake than mine, as they do like to see their only daughter sometimes.

Wednesday 15th October

I am very slightly nearer my Commission – Mr Herbert has signed an application for a Commission – “Strongly recommended”. My next move is to persuade the C.O. to recommend me for a Board.

Thursday October 23rd

This Commission racket is getting worse. The other day I had to attend Orderly Room at 0830 and was kept waiting the usual two hours. Being wise to their games by now, I did not arrive there till 0900 and so saved myself ½ hrs wait. When I was finally attended to, I had to sign off 6 pages of questions, in triplicate. The questions were worse than exam papers and I had an awful job to remember small faulting things such as – where mother and father were born (suppressing a longing to put “in bed”.) and the date I first went to school, but, I think I just about managed to put fairly sane answers down. I have heard nothing more about it yet.

Last night at the Skating Rink I saw young Gordon Williams, or Willie as he was always known as at Kenley. He has got three stripes and an AG [Air Gunner] badge now and glorifies in the title of Sergeant WEM, AG [Wireless and Electrical Mechanic, Air Gunner]! All double dutch to the uninitiated. We spent the whole evening yarning about old times. He was just as shaken when I told him I was married to Tommy Walsh as I was shaken at seeing him with three stripes! Joyce, Joan, Willie and I and a few other would be skaters went on the ice at the tail end of the dancing session and did the Palais Glide! And quite well too, considering it was our first attempt. Last night, was the first night’s skating that I remained on my feet for the whole of the evening. Guess I was too busy talking to Willie to sit down!

Thursday Nov 27th

Another long lapse in the diary. However I have had neither the inclination nor the wherewithal to fill up the gap, so have just let the matter slide until now.

I have at last got to the stage when I am merely waiting for Air Ministry to decide whether or not I should have a Commission; that is to say yesterday I attended an Officer Selection Board at Adastral House, Kingsway. I don’t know whether to say I think I shall pass or not. Everything seemed to go off well, but the Air Ministry has a brand of humour all its own and does what is least expected of it. Of course, everything did not go off smoothly – arrived ¼ hr late and just as I got inside the waiting room, my name was called. Feeling curiously unsettled about the pit of the stomach I followed a guide to a small room at the end of a long corridor and was announced as a ACW Walsh (to my great disgust as I have had my props up a fortnight now).

At a long table to my left sat five persons. In the centre a grey haired benign looking Group Captain. To his left a snooty looking grey haired Squadron Officer, and to her left and even snootier looking but somewhat younger Flight Officer. To the right of the Group Captain sat a tired looking Squadron Leader, and to his right a civilian woman whom I took to be the much spoken of psychologist.

The G.C. started the ball rolling by asking me questions about school and then passed me on to the Squadron Officer who proceeded to lecture me on the responsibilities of an Officer. After one or two questions about Signals section, and after I had corrected her impression that I was a telephone operator and not a teleprinter operator, she in turn passed me over to the Flight Officer who was anxious to know if I had been a prefect at school and if I had ever organised anything; as my powers of organisation have never been taxed beyond starting one or two minor practical tricks at school and, in later years, raids on the mess for rations while we lived over the mass mess last year, I was forced to say ‘no’. She seemed to have finished with me and I was passed over to the Squadron Leader, who had no questions, as did the civilian woman. The Group Captain then wound up the proceedings by thanking me and telling me that was all. I stood up and did a cracking salute and then left them to rend me amongst themselves. I now await their pleasure with mixed feelings of hope and despair.

Still no news from Tommy, and I am longing to hear from him, so even letters make him seem nearer somehow.

Jan 2 1942 Friday

It is a fortnight ago now that the C.O. graciously informed me that “A.M. was pleased to grant me a Commission in the Code and Cypher Branch. I should not be going for about 6 weeks and would I not get any kit up together as yet”.

After phoning the news to my parents, who were more excited at the result than I, I sat back and wondered how the heck I was going to afford the luxury of being an Officer. Still, I shall just have to, that’s all. Luckily I have 28/0 Separation Allowance each week that I can fall back on if necessary.

Christmas is now over, thank goodness. I am just beginning to feel normal again. Better not in the best of health even yet! Considering I was drunk twice and danced all night before going on duty at 0300 one night and danced till 0100 the night before – drunk far too much beer to be good for anyone and ate as much as I do in a normal fortnight, it’s not really surprising.

Christmas dinner was grand. We had turkey, goose, pork, usual 2 veg, Christmas pudding and mince pies and beer. (or minerals for those who did not appreciate beer). The Officers, RAF and WAAF waited on us and the Group Captain recognised me as having been before him at some time or another and asked me where he had seen me before – for a charge or for a Commission. I replied that he had seen me for both matters – at which he seemed vastly amused and blessed me. After which he proceeded to sign all the menus for the men and girls – with my fountain pen! When he had finished, he told me to take it round to Stores where they would exchange it for me!

I am now awaiting to go on my Officers training course at Loughborough and expect it anytime now.

I have heard from Tommy again; he landed at Durban for three days and they were allowed to spend all day on shore, where they simply wallowed in what to us nowadays are luxuries – bananas, oranges, onions and best of all – lighted streets and no blackout curtains. Marvellous it must have been. However, he is now on the high seas again, bound – Heaven knows where. Egypt or Iran I hope; not Singapore way I trust! We may get a letter from him any day now saying he has landed at his final port of call.

Signal section at Kenley is rapidly going to the dogs under Mr Allsop, the new Signals Officer. This Christmas things have been very hectic and hardly a day has passed with a sober person in the place. F/Lt Herbert ‘s heart would have been broken at the decay setting in.

Sunday Jan 5

Life is just a matter of waiting – waiting for the A.M. to send me up to be trained as an Officer; waiting for the war to end; waiting for Tommy to come home; waiting to hear from him; waiting for the next spot of leave and so on. This is a war of waiting. And how I hate it. I have always been an impatient person and that makes things worse.

At the moment, there is a bad epidemic of colds and coughs around the camp and none is entirely free from one or the other complaint: most people, myself included, are suffering from both. As I have inherited a weak chest from Daddy, I have a worse cough than some – I really must stop smoking until I am better.

I have a managed to wangle seven days leave on the 17th of this month. So that I stand a chance of a spot of leave before I go to become a lady. Ten to one my posting comes through while I am on leave!

Today’s entry does not look to be the most cheerful one in the book, but I suppose that is occasioned by the general feeling of lassitude, a bad chest and a cough that recurs every third breath taken; funny how one longs for home when feeling ill. When I am very fit, I don’t care much where I am, but I do like to be home when feeling really “off colour”. It’s because one likes to feel secure when ill, I think – secure and loved, and nowhere comes up to one’s own home in those respects.

Monday August 3

Here I am at Grange-Over-Sands on my WAAF Officers Admin Course, having completed my Code and Cypher Course at Oxford.

We have been here nearly a week now – and are finding it vastly different from Oxford. There are nine of us C & C folk and the rest are about 70% Admin, 15%  P.I. [Photographic Interpreter?] and 15% Filterers.

This course is very boring and a very great change from Oxford. There things were so informal and all the lecturers so pleasant. Here the lecturers have no sense of humour and regard the whole thing as very serious, which I in company with eight C & C people do not. Still, 4 weeks can’t last forever. I am counting the days off one by one. The great day will be when we hear to which Station we are posted.

Tommy has changed his address from RAF Mosel to 237 Wing HQ Middle East Forces. So whether that means that he has actually moved Stations or that they have had instructions not to mention Station names, I do not know. He gives no indication in his letters. The 237 Wing commenced on June 1st, that’s all I know.

This place, Grange-Over-Sands is a somewhat “swede bashing dump”, as Tommy would describe it. “Over Sands” is entirely a misstatement – “Over Mud” would be better. The large bay, on one side of which is Morecambe and the other as is mainly mud flats and rocks. A river comes out into the sea, causing violent currents at high tide, thus making it far too dangerous to contemplate swimming. However, there is a very good swimming pool here, open air and very large for such a small town.

One cinema (small) and about two dozen shops make up the rest of the amusements. Oh, and a small golf course. The country all around is very lovely, typically Lakeland, and it is quite a short bus journey to the nearest Lake – Windermere.

Saturday August 8th
Joyce, Ann and I took the train to Morecambe. It was raining cats and dogs and we went in our A/S/O’s [Assistant Section Officer] uniforms. Tramped around trying to find somewhere to sleep next weekend. No success however, so bus back to Lancaster, where we were lucky. Then flicks. Coming here on train got talking to couple of Pilots, fighter type, who came from Cark. They, as browned off as we, invited us to drink beer with them at the Kings Arms, Cartmel ½ way between Grange and Cark. We said we would, on Sunday.

Sunday Aug 9
Church parade Good type padre, sermon on Caterpillar and Foxglove – above my head. Rather nice little church, but too new.

K.A. in evening in Cartmel. Wizard evening there drinking beer with loads of pilots from Cark. Wizard Pianist used to be in Geraldo’s Band. We sang and drank pints, not ½’s, all very good types and the evening a great success. Have been asked to go to there again on Tuesday and then onto their Mess. Caught the bus home here and were very drunk. Bus full of drunk RAF who insisted on singing all the way home – Conductor was threatening to throw us out if we didn’t shut up. However, we didn’t. Quite disgraced ourselves as Officers and ladies by heartily joining in with the mob and singing too. Luckily everyone was too “under” to recognise us – we hope – as 99% of RAF come from the Grange. Crawled into bed, quite horribly unconscious and shocking Di no end.

Saturday August 22
Time here is nearly up now thank Heavens. We go Tuesday. Had the last exam this morning – much easier than I dreamt it would be. Sitting about waiting for our postings to come through. The Adj.  [Adjutant] has hinted that we should get them tomorrow, but Air Ministry always play up things like this.

Tomorrow, another Church Parade. I must be getting old for the thought of marching the mile and a half thro’ the village to get there fatigues me horribly.

Think I must be out of shape for I am constantly tired lately and the shortest walk tires me out. Too much smoking I guess, I must cut it down.

My skate wound has been giving me hell lately and worrying me a bit. Shall go to a decent Dr. sometime if it doesn’t improve.

We had a Compulsory Sports here this afternoon – I attended dressed in shorts and running shoes but had no intention of taking part in any event. More evidence of my rapidly growing senile, I suppose.


Just written to Tommy via Airgraph to tell him it’s L/B [Leighton Buzzard]  I’m posted to. That will shake him. Mum tells me a friend of his called Bill is there, have heard Tommy speak of him – should imagine it would be rather difficult to get in touch with him tho’.

Phoned Mummy and Daddy up just now and they were very surprised. Thought I was on my way to L/B! They’re having an awful time down there – 7 warnings a day mostly. Wish they would move from there.

The County Council has taken away ‘Châtelet’s’, lovely iron gates so he is making new ones from an old mahogany bedstead. That’s a good war effort, I think.

Was surprised at the unusual lack of people travelling today. Could they possibly have taken the “holidays at home” talks to heart? Never.

Newspapers announced that 48’s for RAF and WAAF personnel have been restricted to 4 a year as for 7 days. What a life!

The RAF did the decent by us today – reserved 1st class carriages for us, down South.

Friday 28 August

Today is our first real summer – unbearably hot. I hate the heat! Should never do in a really hot climate.

Arrived ‘here’ Wednesday completely browned off, but today feel much better.

Joyce and I are both on D Watch and had our first taste of duty yesterday, 1600 to 2300! Sounds awfully long, but we were so unbelievably busy that time flew. I deciphered about 12 Type X’s the 3rd of which was an emergency. Never thought I should do that on my first watch.

The heat was appalling – a small room with six people in it. When the blackouts went up at 2000 it was worse. However, I just kept on deciphering and tried to forget the heat. Had 20 mins break at the NAAFI about 1900.

Today we got on at 1600 again – next 2 days 2300 – 0800 and then off 2 days. Following 2 days 0800-1600 and so on. Long hours but quite a bit of time off. Shall dash down to Worthing next week. Monday. Joyce wants to stay in Town and do some shopping so we hope to stay at the Junior Officers Club.

We are living in the Mess at Wing – 4 miles out of L/B at the moment in beds belonging to people on leave but think the Sqdn/O is arranging a double billet for us. Food is good and plentiful and its very peaceful in this small Bedfordshire village. Off duty, no war is on at all for us and the Wimpys [Wellington bombers]  that abound overhead are the only reminders of what we are here for.

Washed my hair this morning and lay in the garden drying it. Joyce also.

Sunday 30

No, it’s not too bad here. Did our first night watch last night – not too bad. We were too busy to feel awfully tired. Had to sleep on floor of S/tn Officer Kirk’s office. Slept from after breakfast this morning to 1800.

Just had dinner and an awkward moment or two. S/O [Section Officer] Kirk was detained by C.O. [Commanding Officer] at the Station, so he brought her back in his car. We had all finished dinner and wandered into the ante-room for coffee to find C.O.’s wife draped over the arm of an easy chair – everyone looks awkward – makes polite conversation. Molly comes dashing in late, ignores C.O.’s. wife’s greeting completely and makes conversation with Mac! Horrible moment when she realises we have a visitor! However, she passes the faux pas over by apologising and saying she has only just got up etc. How Molly came to miss her, I don’t know – the scarlet frock and large fox fur should have stood out a mile. I really felt for Molly as she is the sweetest person and we couldn’t wish for a nicer Flight Officer I/C D Watch.

Next moment is when Miss. Rink brings C.O. in and Joyce and I are introduced to him as new officers. He seemed quite decent sort Wing Co flying type

Are waiting to go on second night watch now and tomorrow morning Joyce and I hit the trail for the smoke of the 08.26 train. Have booked a room at VAD [Voluntary Aid Detachment] Club in Cavendish Square and intend to do a film and some quiet shopping.

Saturday September 5th

We had our two days in Town and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Did lots of shopping, mostly of the window variety.

Joyce ran into an old friend of hers in Leicester Square an Australian Sgt. Pilot, and he took us for a beer at the Brasserie Universelle and the escorted us to Euston Station. We met up with Molly there, and so to bed.

On Wednesday we moved out of the Mess into a billet. And very much nicer to it is too. Mrs Collett our landlady is sweet and we are very happy. L/B doesn’t seem too bad at the moment.

I have a 48 next week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Joyce is coming home with me for two days. It will be grand to see the parents again. I am having seven days in November first week and Joyce is having the last week of October.

I can see that we shall just have to dig ourselves in for the winter here with plenty of sewing etc, for there’s no amusement in this place at all. Can’t afford to go away every six days, so must get down to domestic jobs.

Monday September 11th

Had a wizard 48 last week. Joyce came home with me and I think enjoyed herself. We went into Worthing and bought a few things at Dorothy Norman’s. Joyce slacks and two jumpers myself, two pairs cami knickers. Ate tonnes of fruit.

Daddy painting the house and hopping about on ladders like a 2 year old.

Came back reluctantly.

Wednesday September 30th

Liking LB no more on further acquaintance. Work is humdrum and intensely tiring – both on the nerves and on eyes and mind.

Today Joyce and I felt like a day out, so went to Town by 10.8 this morning and shopped both window and actual.

I bought a new coat – utility and surprisingly cheap white, white camel hair (I doubt the last!) 4 gns, I supplied the money allright, but had to write to Mummy for the coupons, 18 of ‘em.

Connected up with Evening in Paris Vanishing Cream and Lipstick in Marshall and Snelgrove’s, but have not quite made-up my mind if they’re for myself or Betty or Joyce for Christmas presents, yet.

Last stand off but I went to Croydon and in the evening we all went to the TR for a drink or two. As C Watch was on duty, I had to go over to The Holt and see them so, at 9 o’clock after seeing the family on the bus back to Croydon, accompanied by Arki, whom I had phoned in the morning asking to meet me in the TR, went over to Signals and Ops. I had a glorious time – everyone was sweet and dashed around making tea and toast and piling me with questions and making comments about how neat my hair was!

Betty and Mary were sorry for me being here, but I guess it’s not half so bad for an Officer as it must be for a mere ranker. Funny that they who were here should go to Kenley and take over my old job. I should come back here and kind of swap over, I think. Poetic justice or just fate? Anyway, I had the best time at Kenley, in fact, the best time of my life (up to when Tommy comes home, of course!)

December 23rd

Christmas is here again, the second one away from Tommy and my first at Leighton Buzzard. And the worst since I’ve been in the WAAF. There are parties here, but not like the Kenley ones. I don’t seem able to get the party spirit here. Must be the atmosphere, I think.

I’m getting to hate this place more each day but guess I am stuck now for ages. However, as Sin said when I wrote telling her in a weak moment how browned off I was “the war can’t last forever,” I don’t tell folk how much I hate L.B., but old Sin can always be relied on to hand out a little comfort.

I’ve had an awfully stiff neck and shoulder – result of a cold and so could not go to the Officer’s party last night. By all accounts it was a wizard party and am afraid I missed a good thing. Joyce enjoyed it and came on duty at 0800 this morning feeling awful. The KR’s have invited her to their Mess Party, so she is there tonight and I guess by tomorrow will be a complete wreck.

Next Tuesday I go to Croydon and up to Kenley in the evening for a “do” in the TR with all the Signals Types. Christmas in the WAAF would not be complete unless I spent some small part of it there.

Joan Walsh in her officer’s uniform, probably taken during her time at Leighton Buzzard.

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