Interview with Eileen Handley and Dennis Bush


Interview with Eileen Handley and Dennis Bush


Twins, Eileen and Dennis, were born in Waddington in 1929. They give a detailed account of their experiences living adjacent to RAF Waddington throughout the Second World War. Summer evenings were spent waving to aircraft departing on operations, then going back in the morning to count how many had returned. Evacuees arrived from Leeds and three were billeted with Eileen and Dennis, but it wasn’t long before their parents came to take them home. Dennis delivered newspapers to the camp and would be rewarded by cakes which he was told to take home to his mother. Several aircraft crashes were witnessed. The sombre mood of the village is described after the church was bombed, which resulted in the death of a twenty-one-year-old resident. Their school was also destroyed, resulting in transporting each day to nearby villages. VE night was celebrated with a bonfire on the site of one of the aircraft crashes, which was followed by a dance in one of the aircraft hangars. Dennis joined the RAF in 1947 for his National Service, and upon discharge, became a signalman. Eileen initially worked as a shop assistant before undertaking a career in nursing. She met and married an ex-Lancaster rear gunner, who was posted to RAF Waddington after the war.




Temporal Coverage




00:49:30 audio recording


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CH: This interview is being recorded for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Cathie Hewitt and the interviewees are Eileen Handley and Dennis Bush. Twin brother and sister. The interview is taking place at Eileen Handley’s home [buzz] Waddington on the 12th of October 2017. Also present are Elaine Brackenbury and Denise [Lorrey] Thank you very much Eileen and Dennis for agreeing to be interviewed. Perhaps you could, one of you could start off and give a little information of your background.
EH: Am I being interviewed?
CH: You are.
EH: Well, we were born in Waddington. We were born at Quakers Chapel which is in the centre of the village and then we moved down. I do believe the cottage wasn’t big enough because we were twins so mum and dad were given a council house and we moved down and lived down Mere Road in the council houses and had a very happy childhood. And we both grew up with no problems really I don’t think. And then we both left home didn’t we love when we were in our teens. Den went and did his National Service and I went and did my nurse training in Lancashire but we’ve always kept in touch with Waddington through our lives. And then after ten years of marriage from my own personal point of view I always wanted to come back to Lincolnshire and Waddo and we managed to come back when we’d been married just ten years. So we moved back on our tenth anniversary and we’ve been happy ever since.
CH: Can I just go back a little bit to when you were both children?
EH: Yeah.
CH: Tell me a little about your parents. What they did and growing up in the village.
EH: Yeah. My mum was a housewife wasn’t she, Den?
DB: Housewife. Yeah.
EH: A housewife and a good cook and a good mum and wife and everything as they were in them days and still are.
Other: Didn’t your dad work in the fields?
EH: Yeah. Dad —
DB: Dad was a farmworker.
EH: Farmworker.
Other: And then your dad passed away didn’t he in 1939.
DB: He passed away when we were nine year old.
Other: And your mum got remarried.
EH: Yeah.
Other: And it goes from there really doesn’t it?
EH: Yeah. Came down Mere Road.
Other: The war broke out then, didn’t it?
EH: Yeah.
CH: Where were you when war broke out?
EH: We lived down Mere Road. Number 9. We were still at school weren’t we and we had a quite —
DH: Yeah.
EH: A quiet upbringing but lots and lots of local friends.
CH: How about you Dennis?
DB: Yeah. Quite an eventful childhood really.
CH: Yeah.
DB: There was quite a lot of kiddies in the, in the row of council houses. And we kept ourselves really separate from —
EH: And we played down there didn’t we altogether. Good friendship.
DB: I’m sorry. I can’t hear you.
Other: She said all those children, you all played together.
EH: Yeah.
Other: With the children out of the road.
DB: Yes.
EH: We were all good friends.
DB: Yeah. Life changed when war was declared. I can remember standing outside the house one, and I think it was mother shouted out the window, ‘They’ve declared war.’
EH: Yeah.
DB: But life changed then. People started moving into the married quarters. There was only one row of married quarters I think in those days and builders and different personnel moving on to the camp. I can remember the Irish navies starting to build the runways and they used to attract us kids at night time because they used to stand in big groups playing pitch and toss.
EH: Yeah.
DB: And later on the Leicestershire Regiment, they moved into the married quarters that were there and they used to get a gang of us boys and they used to train us in military training. Rifle drill. Homemade rifles with bits of wood and yeah we had a good life really.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yes. Things developed later. We had paper rounds. I used to take papers especially on a Sunday morning on to the camp. There was gun emplacements. I used to go there and the soldiers manning the guns used to give us slab cakes and say, ‘Take them home to your mother.’
EH: You were lucky.
DB: Yeah.
EH: I used to go down the Station Road delivering papers and walk back up the hill.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Pushing me bike.
Other: You were lucky you had a bike.
EH: Yeah.
Other: When did the evacuees come to live with you?
EH: Den maybe remember more than me.
DB: Oh, I can’t remember. 1941. I can’t remember. About 1942 I would think. I can’t remember. You see we were only what? Eleven and twelve year old at that time. Didn’t take much notice of dates.
Other: No. But you remember what they were called didn’t you?
DB: Oh yeah. We, we had evacuees from Leeds.
EH: Leeds. Yeah.
DB: And they came and tried to take over the school [laughs] Used to try and make us play rugby which didn’t go down very well.
EH: Was there a lot of evacuees, Den?
DB: Yes. All over the village.
EH: Yeah. I can’t remember that. I know my mum had three or four.
DB: Three or four. The Millers. They came from Primrose Hill School in Leeds. And the eldest one was Eric Miller I think his name was. I can’t remember the girl’s name.
EH: No. I can’t.
DB: But it was a problem for mother because they were [pause] not wishing to decry them but they were from a slum area I think in Leeds.
EH: Yeah. They weren’t [pause] they were —
DB: They were unclean.
EH: They were unclean in comparison to what we were used to.
Other: They had nits.
EH: Nits in their hair. And they had beautiful long ringlets the two girls. I can’t remember their names and my mum cut them all short and I can see her now in the kitchen with a saucer of paraffin and perfume. Rubbing it in their hair to get rid of these nits.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Can you?
DB: Yeah.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Spent hours just with a nit comb.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Combing their hair. Yeah.
Other: Did they actually live with you?
DB: Yeah.
EH: And I was petrified that I’d get these nits.
Other: An extra four people in the house then.
EH: Yeah. I don’t know where they all slept.
DB: For some reason they didn’t stay long. I don’t know why.
EH: I don’t know why they didn’t stay long.
DB: I think their parents must have come.
EH: I can vaguely remember the parents arriving.
DB: Can you?
EH: Yeah. So maybe it was an amicable agreement that they wanted them home. I’m not sure but—
Other: I think a lot of evacuees went home fairly soon.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Because they couldn’t.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Live without them.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yes. I had a paper round and used to go on to the camp laden with Sunday papers. Big. Heavy as I could carry.
EH: I had a paper round as well love, didn’t I?
DB: Yeah. I worked for Mr Saxby in those days.
EH: No. I didn’t work for her.
DB: And the highlight of the Sunday morning then was to set up stall in the officer’s mess kitchen and then have a nice breakfast.
EH: Yeah. I bet it was.
DB: Yeah. Aye.
CH: What do you remember about the goings on RAF Waddington when you were that age?
EH: Not a lot.
DB: Well, as a group of kids we used to assemble at the bottom of Mere Road.
EH: Yeah.
DB: And look over the, well there was no hedge. You could walk on to the airfield if you wanted to.
EH: Boys and girls we all played together. And there was a, they were building the new gymnasium, weren’t they? Was it a gymnasium. And they had the seesaw.
DB: And they built the gym where, where the new houses are now.
EH: Yeah. And we used to go down and play on the seesaw, you know.
DB: I can’t remember that.
EH: All the RAF people accommodated us.
DB: We used to go to the bottom of Mere Road looking over the airfield.
EH: Yes.
DB: And count the planes taking off on bombing raids.
EH: And wave to them.
DB: And then the next morning when they were all coming in we could hear them coming in. We’d dash down there and see who was coming in and who was missing.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Spent hours down there waving them off.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Early evenings before bedtime.
DB: Yeah.
EH: That doesn’t seem long ago Den, does it?
DB: No. It only seems like yesterday really.
EH: Yeah.
DB: When you look back.
CH: Do you remember what type of aircraft they were?
DB: Yeah. They were Lancasters.
EH: Yeah.
DB: I can remember the old Hampdens when the war first started and they used to take off over the back of mum’s house.
EH: Yeah.
DB: That’s before the runways were built. Hampdens. Yeah. The disturbing feature about it was when planes crashed close by with [pause], there was one in particular at the corner of the Grantham, Mere Road.
EH: Yeah, there was —
DB: Grantham Road Mere Road Junction. Next to the radio shop. And that was —
EH: Where the doctor’s surgery is now.
DB: Yes. That was a bad crash.
EH: But we were all such good pals together, weren’t we?
DB: Yeah.
Other: Can you remember what it was like the day after the church had been bombed in the village?
DB: Yeah.
EH: Very sad.
DB: Yeah. We were taken.
EH: Very sombre. Very.
CH: What do you remember about that episode? About the church being bombed. Can you tell me the sequence of that?
DB: I can remember walking out to the roadway in the morning and —
EH: Seeing the —
DB: The first thing that took your sight as you looked towards the village was the church tower and it was gone.
EH: And the bell stood right on top of all the rubble. The church bell.
DB: Yeah. Later on we went down to the village to see what the effect was and there was rubbish all over the streets and buildings. Old cottages demolished and —
EH: And all, you know a lot of the neighbouring country lanes, village lanes with all the thatched roofed cottages were no longer there were they?
DB: Yeah.
EH: The rooves and that. And everybody helped one another.
CH: So when the bombing happened were you in a shelter?
DB: No. We were in bed.
EH: We were under the table. Well, we —
DB: Well, we were under, under the table. We didn’t go to the shelter.
EH: Yeah. We had a big dining table under the window and if the sirens went we got under the table and stayed there until the all clear.
DB: Yeah.
CH: So you heard the explosions did you?
DB: Well, I can’t –
EH: I can’t remember.
DB: I can’t remember the explosion.
EH: No.
DB: But we must have done.
EH: Yeah. We must have done. Must have been dozing under the table.
DB: Yeah.
EH: And there was one lady. One twenty one year old. My mum’s —
DB: Next door neighbour’s daughter.
EH: Next door neighbour’s daughter was killed.
DB: She was killed. She was sleeping at her grandmother’s house.
EH: With her grandma.
DB: In the village.
EH: She went to sleep with her grandma because grandma was poorly and she, and her grandma stayed downstairs because she was poorly and Eva went upstairs and she was the one that was killed. The only one.
DB: And that was a stone off the church.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Flew over and dropped through the roof of this cottage.
EH: Yeah. And she was the maid of the Reverend.
DB: Yeah.
EH: And lived in the Rectory and this particular evening she didn’t sleep at the Rectory. She went to her grandma’s. It’s just —
Other: One of those things.
EH: Yeah. And her parents lived next door to our mum and —
Other: It destroyed your school as well, didn’t it?
DB: Yes.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Well, it destroyed the school. We had to move to Bracebridge Heath.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Unfortunately. I never liked school. There was no score.
EH: Yeah.
Other: That’s where I get it from.
EH: I weren’t that brilliant.
CH: It was quite a journey you had to make then.
EH: To Bracebridge Heath.
DB: Yes. Yes.
EH: There was a school bus.
CH: Oh.
DB: We had. Yes. They had a school bus.
EH: And our headmaster was Mr Critchley was it?
DB: In the village.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yes.
CH: What else can you remember from the war time living in the village?
EH: Living in the village? As I say we were all good friends together and we had an old Village Hall on the hilltop. There’s two cottages there now. If you go down Tinkers Lane on to the hilltop on the right hand side there’s two nice stone cottages. That used to be the old Village Hall and we had lovely concert parties through the war.
DB: Yeah.
EH: And singalongs.
DB: War Weapons Week.
EH: Yeah. And lots and lots of, we used to go to Chapel and go to the village shop to spend our Saturday penny. If we, if we were lucky it was a sixpence. Can you remember Den?
DB: Yeah.
Other: What did you buy?
EH: Sweeties.
DB: Yes. We had black —
EH: Sweeties. And it was called Mrs Black’s Shop.
DB: Yes.
EH: And it’s called now Black’s Close because they built a lot of houses on the farmland. They were farmers and she had the shop. The sweetie shop. It was lovely.
DB: I can’t really think of much more.
EH: It was just camaraderie but as, as there was twenty odd houses down Mere Road, council houses and they all had children didn’t they Den?
DB: Yeah.
EH: There weren’t many that didn’t have. We all went to the same school and we all played together. There wasn’t the amount of traffic so you were quite safe to play in the road. Whip and top, and marbles and football and skipping. All the old fashioned —
DB: I can remember the VE Night. Victory. We had a bonfire at the, in the field where previously that aircraft had crashed.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Had a village bonfire.
EH: Yeah.
DB: And later that night. I think it was later that same evening or was it the evening after? I’m not quite sure but they had a Victory Dance in one of the hangars on the camp and we went down there.
EH: Oh, I can’t remember that. I might have been —
DB: Yeah. And as far as I can remember the hangars were all draped with flags. Air Force flags. You know the —
EH: Different squadrons.
DB: Yes.
Other: Was it for the whole village?
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. Yes, there were a lot of village folk invited to it. Yes.
EH: It was a nice —
DB: It was a nice celebration.
EH: A nice community life. It was lovely. I can never ever remember not having lots of friends you know. Not, some of them weren’t close friends but you always got on together. It was lovely. It was a lovely community spirit.
CH: Dennis, can I ask you how old were you when the war ended?
EH: World war ended —
DB: Nineteen forty —
EH: Seven? Six?
DB: Seven. I left school —
EH: Yeah.
DB: At fourteen. Fourteen or fifteen. Fourteen, I think.
EH: Well, I met Tommy in nineteen forty —
CH: Let’s ask Dennis, what did you, were you working then? When you left school, Dennis.
DB: When I left school at fourteen I went to work at Lincoln Co-op. Errand boy at first and then shop assistant.
CH: And where was that?
DB: High Street in Lincoln.
CH: How long did you stay there for?
DB: Til I was eighteen and I joined the Air Force as National Serviceman.
CH: When you came back from your National Service what did you do then?
DB: I joined the Railway Company at Lincoln Station. Became a signalman and stayed there forty, well stayed on the railway in Nottingham and various, Derby and places. Forty odd years. Forty five years I think.
CH: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
EH: And he went just like that.
DB: Yeah.
CH: And what about you, Eileen?
EH: I didn’t.
CH: When the war ended you were fourteen.
EH: Yeah. We, I left school on the Friday as we all did and I started work on the Monday at British Home Stores for a short space of time and then I found a better job at Marks and Spencer’s and I stayed there and left there to go and do my nurse training.
Other: You worked at St John’s.
EH: Yeah. Yeah. I left there and went to work at St John’s to begin with. And then I met my husband and he’d got a home station. He was in Bomber Command at Waddington.
CH: How did you meet him?
EH: Well, he flew from Wickenby and then he came to Waddington after the war. Well, he flew from Wickenby and lost his crew just after the war on the 7th of August as war finished on the 5th didn’t it? They went to bring some prisoners of war home from Italy. The crew. And Tommy being a rear gunner and the mid-upper gunner didn’t go with them and they flew in to the Pyrenees on the way there thankfully and they were all killed. So they’d no prisoners. And then Tommy got moved from Wickenby. That was in the August and he came to Waddington in the February and I met him at the village dance on Valentine’s Day 1946 or seven, I can’t remember. I was, and we, and we never never parted. We stayed together from there.
CH: How old were you?
EH: I told him I was seventeen and I weren’t quite sixteen. So I had to be honest after a while when it got a bit more serious. He forgive me [laughs]
CH: So was he then based at Waddington?
EH: He was, he was only at Waddington for a short space of time and then he decided he didn’t want to fly any more with a new skipper because he’d flown all through the war with the same crew. And he got the opportunity and he volunteered to go down to London to the Science Museum on gunnery display work and he stayed there a year. It was a year’s contract and he used to come back to Waddington every two, second weekend and stay with my mum and dad and then go back to London you know after the weekend. And then he got a home station after that to RAF Padgate and did drill instructing. And I wasn’t very happy doing my Psychiatric nursing although I did my first year and he said, ‘Come to Bolton and we can be near together.’ So I went. I met a lady, a good friend at Bracebridge Heath called Edith and she came to Lancashire with me because we were both in the same frame of mind and we stayed friends all our lives. And she died four years ago. Lived at Spilsby. Had three boys.
Other: When you moved to Lancashire you went to do your Psychiatric training there didn’t you?
EH: No. No.
Other: And they put you on General instead.
EH: Yeah. Well, we thought we’d applied for Psychiatric but it was General so we stayed there and we were so happy. And all my nursing career has been happy.
CH: How old were you when you got married?
EH: Twenty two. Nearly twenty three. 1951.
CH: Where were you living at the time?
EH: In the nurses home at Bolton. You weren’t allowed to live out. Did you know this? You weren’t allowed to live out as a student nurse in my day. It was only after you qualified that you could live at home or get a flat. And we, we qualified. Did our finals in the October of 1951 and we arranged our wedding day for the 3rd of November 1951. I always promised my mum I’d sit my finals but I didn’t say I’d wait for the results [laughs] So we got married while we were waiting for the results and thankfully I was successful. And we lived in Lancashire as I say for ten years and then moved back to Waddo. Here. Nineteen fifty —
Other: 1960.
EH: ’61.
Other: ’61.
EH: The 3rd of November. You were five.
Other: Not quite.
EH: Not quite. And Ian was nine.
DB: A lot of water gone under the bridge, hasn’t it?
EH: Yeah. I tell you why the final reason we came to Lincolnshire. Tommy had come out of the Forces and he was working in an insurance business. And in nineteen the late ‘40s the cotton mills, the coal mines they were all coming out on short time and he came home one night and he said, ‘It’s now or never sweetheart.’ ‘What do you mean?’ he said, ‘I know you’ve always, would have liked to have gone back to Lincoln’. I did. After Elaine was born I wanted to be back here. Funny isn’t it? And he said, ‘It’s now or never. We’ll go and move. We’ll put the house on the market and we’ll move because there will be no job for me in insurance if there’s no work for people. They’ll not pay their insurance.’ And we never regretted it.
CH: What job did he do?
EH: What? What here?
CH: Once you moved back here.
EH: Oh, he just went down the camp and got a job on the electrical department on the runways and he stayed there until he retired. And we were never more contented. And you worked at British Rail a long time and Tommy worked for the Department of Environment.
DB: Yeah. I went —
EH: Eh?
DB: I went from porter at Lincoln Central.
EH: Yeah.
DB: I wasn’t there a few weeks when I applied for a signalman’s post. I came to Waddington.
EH: Yeah. I can remember you being at Harmston.
DB: Aye. Then I went to Harmston. Bracebridge. Then I moved. Met my wife, moved to Nottingham and did all sorts on signalman. Was made redundant there. Went in the marshalling yard.
EH: Did you?
DB: Yeah. And then I eventually went back to a signal box and then got promotion to supervising station manager.
CH: Where did you meet your wife, Dennis?
EH: Skeg.
DB: Skegness.
EH: Skegness.
DB: After we came out —
EH: At the Ship Hotel.
DB: Pardon?
EH: Was it at the Ship Hotel?
DB: No. No. No. It was the posh car.
EH: Eh?
DB: My friend who lived in the village and I bought old cars. I had an old Austin 7. This was after I got demobbed. He bought an old Austin 7 and we used to, on a Sunday evening we used to go over to Skegness.
EH: I can remember.
DB: Well, a Sunday afternoon and stayed for the evening. And walking across the car park one evening I saw my wife and her friend with her brother and his brother’s wife, her brother’s wife and had a little bit of chit chat and met them later on in the evening and that was it.
EH: Yeah.
DB: I came home that night. She was on holiday. I plucked up courage and wrote to her and asked her if I could go over to Nottingham to meet her and that’s —
EH: Plucked up courage [laughs]
DB: How things developed.
EH: And you had a good life together love.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
CH: How old were you when you got married?
DB: Twenty two I think.
EH: You were married the year after me and Tommy.
DB: Yeah. A few months after you and Tommy.
EH: Yeah. I was early pregnant.
DB: I met her. I met her in Nottingham in November and we were married the next March.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Really?
DB: I met her just before your wedding.
EH: We got, we got married in November love and you got married in the Easter.
DB: March.
EH: In the March.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Yeah. And we came home from Lancashire for your wedding and I just, just early pregnant.
CH: Yeah.
DB: Yes.
CH: It seems like both of you have been drawn back to Waddington all the time.
DB: It’s funny.
EH: It’s been a nice village.
DB: I think mum lived here all the time so —
EH: What love?
DB: Even though I lived in Nottingham from ’53 I think it was when I moved to Nottingham and we still came home as regular as we could. Yeah.
EH: Yeah. We’ve always come home.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Always used to spend a fortnight in the summer. September we always came home when we were married. And George, our step dad he used to come and meet me off the bus and helped me to carry the children down. Yeah. Good old days.
DB: Yeah.
CH: Eileen, what do you remember about Tommy’s service in the war?
EH: Service in the war? Well, I didn’t really know him, love. I didn’t meet him while he was still flying at Wickenby. I met him when he came to Waddington and he’d just lost the crew and he was a very very traumatised young twenty eight year old. Very very sad.
CH: Did you say he was a bomb aimer?
EH: No. He was a rear gunner.
CH: A rear gunner. Did he talk much about the war?
EH: He did to my son, our son. Yeah. No, he didn’t used to talk a lot about the war. He never forgot the crew. They were a family. The crew’s photograph is on the wall over the sideboard. Never took it down. And we still keep in touch with the, there was only one of the crew married and they had only been married a very short few months when her husband was killed. And we got in touch with her in later years and we still keep in touch, Cath and I don’t we?
Other: Yeah. You do.
CH: So he’d flown with the same crew then all through the war.
EH: All through the war and he never settled when he came to Waddington. That’s why he went to, to do gunnery display work. He enjoyed it in London. He said it was a fantastic career.
Other: When he was at the Science Museum.
EH: Yeah.
Other: He had to go into a locked room didn’t he?
EH: Yeah.
Other: And somebody came to see it. He had to open the door for them.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Who was it?
EH: Was it Anthony Eden? Eh?
Other: Yeah.
EH: Yeah.
Other: And I don’t know what was in this room. It was some German equipment that had been captured.
EH: And Anthony Eden said to him, ‘How did we win the war?’ He said, ‘Because their gunnery is far superior to what we’ve ever had.’ He reminisced occasionally but —
Other: He didn’t tell very much.
EH: Eh?
Other: He didn’t tell you very much.
EH: No. He didn’t.
Other: But I do remember that.
EH: I think he did to Ian occasionally. Ian will come out with snippets every so often. ‘My dad told me this.’ To be quite honest ducky, I’ll be honest with you now we were always busy at work, you know. We didn’t, we worked forty eight hour week didn’t we Den?
DB: Yeah.
EH: With overtime. I mean our hourly weekly work was forty eight hours. And then we’d work overtime to earn a bit extra. Especially Tommy and the men. So you didn’t have time for a lot of reminiscing.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Did you?
DB: No. It’s strange. There was a lot happened that you just can’t remember.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
Other: Your auntie and uncle lived in one of the cottages.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Down Church Lane, didn’t they?
EH: Yeah.
Other: That was bombed.
EH: Yeah. She went, they went to, they came to live with mum and dad actually for a short space of time after they were bombed out. And then they got a council house at Washingborough, didn’t they?
DB: No. They went in a cottage at Washingborough.
EH: You what, love?
DB: They went in a little cottage in Washingborough.
EH: Yeah. And then they got [pause] yeah they did. They’ve been passed away a long time haven’t they?
DB: Yes.
EH: Yeah.
Other: And you used to play with their boys didn’t you?
EH: Yeah. Harry and John. They’re all dead now. Makes us feel very fortunate, Den.
DB: Yeah.
EH: Eh?
DB: Yeah. Yeah. I told Denise I’m not getting old.
EH: Eh?
DB: I told Denise I’m not getting old.
EH: I know. You try not to. Have we been of any help?
CH: Very much. Could I just take you back again to the wartime and any other recollections you have of what happened on the station at Waddington?
DB: Well, often there was air raids and you knew things were happening on the camp but you never got —
EH: It was —
DB: Immediate information that there were occasions when there were WAAFs and airmen killed in an air raid shelter but we never got information about that sort of thing.
EH: No. It was very very quiet. It was very very what’s the word I’m after?
DB: Although we lived in in the boundaries of the camp.
EH: We didn’t know what was —
DB: The council houses were in the boundaries. We had to go through a guarded barrier to get home in the evening and that sort of thing.
EH: We weren’t allowed on ad lib, you know.
DB: So —
EH: Like two communities really, weren’t it?
DB: Yeah. News from, bearing in mind we were only kids, teenagers we didn’t get a lot of news off the camp. The only things I remember was when I was on my paper round and and when the early in the war when the Royal Engineers or Leicestershire Regiment I think it was used to drill us with their home made guns. So first hand information of what was happening in the war and that we didn’t really get to know that at all.
CH: It must have been very noisy.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. Made a lot of noise but —
EH: It was part of —
DB: You lived with it. It was like part of living —
EH: It was part of daily living. We didn’t notice it.
DB: Yeah. You lived with it.
Other: A bit like now.
EH: Eh?
Other: A bit like now.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. You’re so close to it you don’t take notice of it do you?
[recording paused]
CH: Ok.
DB: Yeah. There was one occasion and for some reason or other I think it was a Saturday morning because we weren’t at school and there was a low flying German plane flew over by George’s Café firing its guns. Now, who it was firing at I’ve no idea but that was a scary moment. I mean as far as I can remember I was in mother’s garden and George’s Café was what —?
EH: George’s Café.
DB: Five minutes’ walk down the road, wasn’t it?
EH: Yeah, it’s just on the right hand side down Mere Road before you get to the barrier where you have to —
Other: Go through on to camp.
EH: Go through on to camp. Used to be George’s Café.
DB: I can also remember a Wellington bomber crashing on the sewerage farm on the High Dyke. Can you remember that?
EH: I can. Vaguely.
DB: Yeah. But like I was saying before we got no information of that sort of thing. Nothing appeared in the newspapers or anything like that about crashes. You just took notice of them at the time and as as kids after the crashes were cleared up we used to go and search for pieces of the glass. What did they call the glass?
Other: Perspex.
DB: Perspex.
EH: Yeah.
DB: And make rings out of them. Yeah.
CH: When the planes crashed did the people from the station come quite quickly to clear away?
EH: I can’t remember.
DB: I can’t remember. When the crash was tucked away it was quite horrendous. Machine gun bullets going off and all sorts in the fire. Yeah. And strange as it may seem the one that crashed near the Wheatsheaf at Waddington that was the site where they had the Victory Bonfire. Yeah.
EH: Yeah. It’s a long time ago love.
DB: Yeah, it is. You see. We didn’t take a lot of notice as teenagers. We were searching for —
EH: You were searching for love life and good fun. We did have a good teenage life though.
DB: And we spent a lot of time in the village after the Blitz. After the bomb. And it was a landmine that dropped on the church actually.
EH: Yeah.
DB: One on the church. One in the vicarage grounds.
EH: Yeah.
DB: You spend a lot of time in the bombed cottages and that as kids would you know.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
EH: We used to, well simple pleasures of life your life in them days you know. We’d go tad poling in the village pond. Can you remember? [laughs] And things like that you know. Innocent. Just innocent camaraderie with your mates. Somebody would go to Black’s shop and buy some goodies and hopefully you’d get one when they come back. Yeah.
Other: Did you have pigs down the garden during the war as well?
EH: You what love?
Other: Did you have your pigs down in the garden?
DB: No.
Other: During the war.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Chickens.
EH: Chickens.
DB: We didn’t have pigs until I came out the Air Force.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Nineteen forty —
EH: We always had chickens, didn’t we?
DB: 1949.
EH: Yeah. I hope we’ve been of some use.
CH: You were talking about chickens. Do you remember the sort of food that you were eating?
EH: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. We never really went short of a lot of food.
EH: Potato peeling.
DB: Mum was always.
Other: That was the chickens.
EH: Yeah.
DB: We had a big garden. She always had plenty of chickens up the garden and you know if we had no Sunday dinner she’d send dad up the garden to kill a chicken and that sort of thing.
Other: You always used to tell me that you ate quite well because you were living in a village. In a rural area with plenty.
EH: We never went hungry.
DB: No. We never went hungry. Like I say when I delivered papers —
EH: I was just going to say that too.
DB: To the gun emplacement on the camp that the soldiers used to provide me with slabs of cake. ‘Take those home to your mother.’ You know. And they’d last us a week or more.
EH: And we used to deliver papers. I often think about this. In the early morning my mother always had a lovely breakfast ready for us before we went to school. And it must have cost her more money to cook that breakfast than what we got for delivering papers.
DB: Yeah. I can’t remember much about that.
EH: Yeah.
DB: But —
CH: What did she cook you?
EH: All kinds of things. A fried breakfast. A bit of sausage. A bit of bacon buttie, you know. A boiled egg, scrambled eggs. You see we always had our chickens so we had —
DB: Yeah.
EH: Our own eggs.
DB: We were brought up on eggs I think.
EH: Yeah. You know.
DB: None. Now none of my kids eat them.
EH: Do they not?
DB: No. No.
EH: I need some eggs before you go away.
Other: Go on holiday. Right.
CH: So you said your father died when you were nine.
DB: Yeah.
CH: And so how long was your mother on her own for?
EH: Only a year.
DB: A year. She —
Other: Needs must.
DB: She married the lodger.
EH: My dad was, my stepdad was a lodger. He was a Newcastle gentleman.
DB: Yeah. He worked on the camp.
EH: He worked —
DB: Building the hangars and then he joined the, he was a warden on the camp. I don’t know what the organisation was called. He was at the wireless station up beyond the camp on Waddington Heath.
EH: Yeah.
DB: Wasn’t he?
EH: Yeah. We have a stepbrother. He lives in Doncaster. We’re very close. We’ve never had any —
DB: No.
EH: Any family hiccups. Stepbrothers, or twin brothers they were both as adorable, you know. No differences in opinions of any of them.
Other: You had to get by didn’t you because there was no money in the house.
DB: No.
Other: Was there mum?
EH: No.
DB: I can’t think of anything else really.
EH: I can remember once going to Mrs Black’s shop with a sixpence on a Saturday and I lost it in the snow and I can never remember finding that tanner and I didn’t get any sweeties. My dad hadn’t got any more pennies. Yes. Things like that you know that you think oh you’d give them another tanner today [laughs] It wouldn’t be a tanner would it? [laughs]
Other: No.
EH: Is that a mark on the carpet?
Other: No. No. It’s not.
[recording paused]
EH: Can you —
CH: Ok.
Other: I can remember because —
EH: Yeah.
Other: When we came back off holiday we bought dad a video of the Eagle’s Nest.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Because we’d been up.
EH: Yeah.
Other: And he told me that he’d been over there.
EH: Yeah.
Other: On a bombing raid to bomb it but unfortunately it was too cloudy.
EH: Yeah. I can remember that.
Other: So he had to, well he was going to bomb Eagle’s Nest.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Which was Hitler’s secret.
EH: Yeah. Yeah. I can remember that.
Other: Yeah.
EH: Yeah. I can remember now you’ve talked —
Other: So, it didn’t get bombed. Not that night anyway.
EH: Yeah.
Other: Yeah. But that’s the only thing he ever really did tell me.
EH: A lot of them didn’t talk about it did they?
DB: No.
DB: That’s I would say. We didn’t really get a lot of news from the camp.
EH: No.
DB: What was going off in the war. You, you’d just listen to the radio and think well that —
EH: Yeah.
DB: That’s where they were going last night when they took off.
EH: Yeah.
DB: And that sort of thing.
EH: It was top secret really.
DB: But —
EH: Can I not get anyone a drink?
DB: No. I’m alright duck, thanks.
CH: Ok. What we’ll do is we’ll end the interview there, Eileen.
EH: Yeah.
CH: And Dennis. Thank you so much for talking. It’s been fascinating listening to your stories and thank you very much.
EH: You’re welcome.



Cathie Hewitt, “Interview with Eileen Handley and Dennis Bush,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 2, 2023,

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