Interview with Audrey Poynter


Interview with Audrey Poynter


Having worked in her father’s garage, Audrey was called up, aged 17½, and joined the Royal Air Force. After RAF Padgate, she did some square-bashing at Gloucester before going to RAF Halton. She was taught to change plugs, replace faulty studs and anything damaged. She worked on vehicles as well as aircraft engines. Audrey was posted to RAF Oakley, doing repairs on Wellingtons. There were 30-40 engineers on site. She recalls how cold it was and how they worked outside. After a year, she was sent to RAF Dishforth where she repaired Yorks, which were used to transport several hundred prisoners of war from Germany, many in a confused state. Audrey was one of only two females at all three stations. She was hospitalised with pneumonia and pleurisy, and was one of the first in the country to receive penicillin. Audrey was demobilised in 1947 and returned to work in the garage.




Temporal Coverage




00:56:01 audio recording


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NM: Ok, this is Nigel Moore for the IBCC, it’s Monday the 16th of April, 2018, and I’m with Mrs. Audrey Poynter [beep]. So, Audrey-
AP: That’s me, yes.
NM: Tell me about your life growing up, at home as a child and at school.
AP: At home I went to an ordinary everyday school until I was ten, I was then transferred from there to Hitchin Girls Grammar School, for which my parents paid a very small fee for some odd reason, I’m not quite sure but you had to. So I was there until I was sixteen, just normal education, although I was interested in various things which went on, we actually heard- ‘Cause we had a water tower at the school and we actually heard when France capitulated, so that was a bit of the beginning of my history of the war really, and then when I finished there I went to work in my father’s garage which was a Ford dealership and I learnt to strip an engine and replace it, as it was- Should’ve been, clean and working- In working order [unclear] and I also learnt to change tires and- Tractor tires were one of the biggest things I did. I was there until I was called up at seventeen-and-a-half, the actual day that I was entitled to be called-up, because I was an only child, my parents had to give permission for me to go into the service at all, and I didn’t have to get permission to go overseas, I wouldn’t’ve been allowed, and that was alright. Went on the day I was seventeen-and-a-half, which was a very cold day in February, and I first went up to the introduction place, the name of which I managed to have forgotten, it’s in the North, and it’s where everybody else went, where you got all your uniform and you got all your injections and so on. That was fine and then that for- Perhaps for a couple of weeks, I can’t remember the exact time, [unclear] so long ago. I then was sent down to the south coast, again for square bashing really, which is what I did there, and then transferred me from there to Halton in Buckinghamshire which is where I learned to extract a screw from measure and various other things, how to cut metal. In fact recently we went back and I saw a pattern of the thing like I’d done there, and he was so pleased to see me ‘cause he’d never seen anybody since and I went years ago, obviously, and then from then on, I was posted to RAF Oakley, which is in Buckinghamshire I believe, the county. I was then put straight away onto doing the Wellington repair- Slight repairs, things like changing brakes, I didn’t change an engine, nothing big like that, but one of the reasons I got used was because my fingers are smaller than the mans and there’s a- An instrument at the front of the, of the Wellington which needs changing and emptying out each time, and then you put it back and screw it back up, and the men didn’t manage the [unclear] ‘cause their fingers were a bit big, so that was- I was very useful for. Yeah, I did- I loved it, and I really [emphasis] did because it was right up my street because I had vigorously gone ahead with Fords, which- I mean basically, the basic principle is exactly the same, ‘Bang, sack[?] and squeak[?],’ we used to say [chuckles] bang, sack[?] and [unclear] for the type of engine. Ah, each time you did anything on an engine, on the Wellington, you had to go up with it afterwards, after you’d worked on it, wasn’t just me, any of the others that worked on it, had to go up and fly with it, make sure we hadn’t done anything we shouldn’t have, and it was a security thing really. I did not at that moment know that we were doing these because the New Zealand Air Force was there, they didn’t tell us that, I presume that was a secret, secret thing, that the New Zealand Air Force had come. Whether they were actual air force, presumably they were, but they came to learn to fly. I didn’t have anything to do with the flying, I only had to maintain the aeroplane, which I did for day after day, after day, after day, exactly the same thing, change the plugs, do the plastic things that are on the top, can’t think what you call them at the moment, where the- Yeah, plastic or paper, we had to replace those, and then we could put the cover back on top and that made a seal on the top, and this went on all the time. Now, the interesting thing was, from my point of view, I was by this time about eighteen, myself and Joan, who was the same age as me, she came from Epsom, worked on the aircraft with all the men, we were the only two girls there, the rest were men. We had a rather lively time, very nice, and they were very kind to us, only the sergeant whose name I think was Fox, Sergeant Fox, and oh dear he did swear, and I told him that I didn’t like his swearing, and he did stop, did stop [chuckles]. I was a bit naughty like that, and I’ve always told people what I think, and- Also, when we went round to see who was going to do fire duty, things like that, the corporal lady this was, she says, ‘What would you do if there was a fire?’, Bennet was my name then, corporal- Not corporal, ‘Cadet Bennet, what would you, what would you do?’, I said, ‘I would warm myself’, because by this time we were freezing [emphasis] cold, we didn’t have any heat, we didn’t have heating in the wooden huts which we lived in. That really was the basically thing that I did over and over again, over and over again, and of course in those days we called it the Wimpy as well at the Wellington, Wimpy being its nickname I believe, and then having been there for about a year, I was only in three-and-a-half years, so it wasn’t that much longer, I was sent up to RAF Disforth to work on the Yorks, and the Yorks at that time were really only using for transport, there was no fighting involved with the York at all. It was a very big, heavy aircraft, and on one occasion we were very pleased to receive the German prison- Our prisoners of war back into Britain, having been released from all their prisons over there. There were several hundred of them, I can’t remember exactly how many. One I know his name was Booth, which interested me ‘cause I thought it sounded like the Booth family, I don’t think he was anything to do with it, he was shot down on the first day of the war and he’d been there all the war, he was very glad to come home. But the others didn’t seem to know they were home, they seemed very confused and as far as we concerned all we can- Gave them was a wad, which is bun as you probably know, and a cup of tea, which seemed to me ridiculous as they’d been so hard up for food anyway, and they were covered in yellow powder to stop us getting the bugs that they’d- That was it really. I then carried on servicing the York as required until I managed to get pneumonia and pleurisy, probably because I was so much in the cold, I had to be in the cold, I also turned a car over privately which probably didn’t help. So, after I’d been in hospital for some time, which I was treated very badly, very well- Very badly, but in a way well. My parents were sent for, ‘cause I was so ill, I was given some of the first penicillin in this country, and that cured me, plus the fact that it was also used on the chap who got pleurisy then, he’d been there for months and he was able to go home in a fortnight, so I did some favours, and that really was the end of it, and I didn’t go outside anymore, they wouldn’t let me, I would much rather of done, I didn’t like office work much, but I did have to do office work ‘cause that’s what I was required to do. That’s really it, and then of course I was sent home.
NM: Ok, we-
AP: And I was home just in time for my twenty-first birthday [chuckles].
NM: Good timing, good timing.
AP: Very dull really.
NM: No, not at all, it’s actually- There’s- Must be a wealth of experience in all of what you’ve just been through. So, can I take you back to, to when you were called up?
AP: Yes.
NM: You were called up on or you volunteered?
AP: I didn’t volunteer, I received a notification that I’d been called up.
NM: Ok.
AP: This is what Denise disagreed with me, I said, ‘No Denise, I did not volunteer, they called me up, and that was the first day they could call me’.
NM: And did you choose the air force or did they-
AP: I chose the air force, yes.
NM: You chose the air force. Why did you-
AP: I also chose to go into engineering, which I was lucky really.
NM: Why did you choose the air force?
AP: ‘Cause I’d always loved it, flying and the idea of flying, always been in my heart and mind I suppose. That’s really why.
NM: Where had you come across flying before you joined up?
AP: Only normal things, for holidays, and so on, nobody in my family flew. I’d met some youngsters, Ian Letch[?] was when they were here, was one who I met and he didn’t come back, he was one of the ones that didn’t come back, he was, he was a fighter pilot, he wasn’t the bombers, but can always remember he said to me, ‘You won’t remember my birthday’, and that’s the sort of thing you forget [chuckles] and I didn’t remember his birthday I’m afraid, and he didn’t come back, so that was him, bless him. Other than that, no, flying has always appealed to me, I haven’t ever flown, haven’t ever flown. I find it romantic, they say, yes, I do.
NM: So, you chose the air force?
AP: I chose the air force.
NM: And you chose engineering because of-
AP: I chose engineering because I could do it.
NM: You could do it.
AP: Yes.
NM: And they were happy to accept you, were they? As, as a woman?
AP: Oh yeah, no problem, yeah, no problem, and strangely enough yesterday I met an officer doing the same thing, which is the furthest I’ve been with it, saw she was in the area of Marythorpe[?], I don’t know who she was but she just introduced herself, said, ‘I did engineering on the, on this one’, because, you see, people don’t realise that they started off bombing with the, with the Wellington, I started off [unclear] with Wellington, not the ones I did but, but that’s what they describe and that’s what I was there for [unclear] of course which is another thing isn’t it? I’ve always liked that type of thing shall we say.
NM: So, they sent you up north for your initial square basing and uniform and injections?
AP: Yes, that’s right, yes.
NM: Was that Padgate?
AP: Padgate, that’s it, yes.
NM: Near Liverpool.
AP: And then we went down to Gloucester [emphasis], near Glo- Right near Gloucester it was, for square bashing, the only place I did square bashing actually, and then onto Halton from there. They’re the, they’re the places I went to, I didn’t go anywhere else.
NM: And how long were you at Halton for?
AP: About nine months I think, there was quite a lot to learn, but they were very good and very helpful. I can’t tell you what I did that I shouldn’t, should I really? [Chuckles]
NM: You can do, it’s many years ago, gone by.
AP: Oh yeah, yes well. I had my bicycle there at Halton, which was fifty miles away from Letchworth, and I discovered that if I went over the back I could get out, went over the back and then down the Dunstable Downs, and was at that time, it was so early in the war that we as a [unclear] still got petrol, so they used to bring me back and drop me off outside [chuckles] outside the place.
NM: So, you used to cycle from Halton to Letchworth?
AP: Yes, I did, yes.
NM: Fifty miles, to come and see you, your parents?
AP: Just to come and see my parents, yeah, I didn’t have a boyfriend then, no.
NM: Gosh.
AP: [Chuckles] My boyfriend story, you don’t have to write this but, when I was sixteen, I’ve got the years wrong, did he say that was five year- When I was sixteen, I was swimming at Letchworth swimming pool and I used to dive and so on, and he saw me there and he said to somebody, ‘Who’s that girl?’, so they told him and my parents and so on, he said, ‘I’m going to marry her’. He did, but not till I was twenty-eight.
NM: Wow.
AP: Yeah. Mind of course at that age, being five years younger, just imagine how stupid I thought he was [chuckles], I tried not to be nasty to him, I wasn’t, he was in the boy's brigade as well. That probably is another idea where I got the idea of flying, was the girls training corps I was in as a youngster, younger than (obviously) when I went in. My, my children also went to the boys training school as well, so they’ve all had a finger in the pie as it were, yeah.
NM: So, tell me about the engineering training at Halton.
AP: Well basically they, they tell you how to do- How to change plugs, (which I already knew anyway) how to- If there was a faulty stud[?] how to remove it and how to put a new one in, that sort of thing which is- We didn’t go any further than that really because all we did was replace plugs, and anything which was damaged when they came in, which would be a normal service on a car really, in those days, much more these days then it was. I didn’t have anything to do with the actual running of the engine at all, we used to have to run them after we’d done them so- To make sure they still went. Other than that, no, I didn’t ever have anything to do with- It was done by a sergeant of flight sergeant probably, can’t remember now exactly what. We didn’t have a pilot to do it, it was- Must’ve been the sergeants that did it, and they didn’t sort of come and take them up, they went up, the flight sergeants went up, took them up to make sure they were sound, it wasn’t us.
NM: So, you worked on, on vehicles as well as aeroengine [unclear]?
AP: Yes, I did, yeah, I’d already done that ‘cause I’d done it at home, I didn’t do a car or anything, although I could drive a car, I drove a car at sixteen, because being in the garage it was easier to drive and so on, which I did, so, yeah.
NM: So, when you finished your training-
AP: Yeah.
NM: - did they give you a rank?
AP: Yeah, only leading aircraft, I never got any higher than leading aircraft woman, yes well that’s all you’re given, and basically didn’t really matter because some of them were more than I was, corporal and so on, worked with me, yeah, and if I was doing alright, they didn’t have no complaints, or I didn’t have any complaints anyway, I was very thorough because that’s the way I am.
NM: And were there any other girls on your course? Or were you the only one?
AP: Just the two.
NM: Right.
AP: Me and this Joan Dunkley[?], she came from Epsom and her father was Vick Smithe, chief lad- No sorry, her father was chief lad to Vick Smithe (got that wrong), the race horse owner, in Epsom. I went there actually, and even that had its wealth[?] ‘cause as we were having a meal, a vice woman[?] came over and mum said, ‘Get under the table’, [unclear], we all got under the table and she said, ‘George, for god's sake do something about that bugger’ [chuckles], he said, ‘What d’you expect me to do? Catch it’, [chuckles] tickled me to death really, if I was a visitor, I don’t think I would’ve used the word bugger but probably he did quite often. I never swore by the way when I was in the air force, although they did, mind that’s only in storytelling, I never did, never did.
NM: So, Joan came back with you to your parents?
AP: No, yeah- No I went to her, I went to her, I don’t think she ever came to me, no she didn’t, not as far as I remember, just didn’t work out that way, but where she is now of course I don’t know, I would think if she’d been married, she’d probably die by now, I mean I’m ninety-one [chuckles].
NM: So, tell me about when you were off duty at Halton, what was your social life like?
AP: Oh yes, we used to go out in the squadron bus, and we used to go into Oxford, there’s a very good dance hall in- Just inside Oxford which we used to go, we always used to go there, that is- Was the outest part, inside we used to have dances in the hall, there was a hall there where we could meet and so on, other than that there wasn’t a great deal we did, really. Just normal past times [unclear], I can’t really remember doing anything extremely unusual, we were all probably quite tired by the time we’d finished for the day, didn’t go out much really ‘cause it was very much in the country, I always remember getting into trouble ‘cause I had hay fever and he said, ‘Well you’ll have to keep out of the grass’, and I thought oh, in the middle of the country, how can I stop that? Anyway, there are some stupid people about [chuckles], yeah. So that’s- Oh I used to go out with them, odd one or two, I did go out, I never slept with anyone, of course in those days it wasn’t done, I just did not sleep with anybody, don’t put that in.
NM: So, so from Halton, you were posted-
AP: To Oakley.
NM: To Oakley.
AP: And I was, I was there when war was ended.
NM: So, what, what date did you go to Oakley?
AP: That I cannot tell you, I can’t remember the dates I’m afraid. I must’ve been there at least a year, because it- I was there, out- ‘Cause I told you how cold it was. I must’ve been there in, in about February time, or in that early year of the, of the year ‘cause it was cold. I can remember when it was frosty, of course I- And I said they used my fingers ‘cause they couldn’t get them round the nuts and bolts very easily, mine did.
NM: So, they put you to work on, on Wellingtons?
AP: Straight away, yeah, and the, and the scaffolding was quite tall for me. In fact, I think I had to have a hip done recently, and I think that was basically ‘cause I always lead with the right leg, and if you do that you tend to wear the joints out, but that was all, I mean the other legs alright so think that’s what it was.
NM: So, were you attached to a unit or were you just a pool of engineers working on the aircraft?
AP: No, no, pool of engineers, not a unit, no, no, I never heard any names or anything for the units at all, I mean they were all- Oh, interestingly, quite a lot of them came from southern Ireland ‘cause they were allowed to come and they didn’t have to go back, they could go back when they liked, they could pretty please themselves, did you know that? The southern Irish? Yeah, they could come and work there for as long as they wish and I think they probably stayed because they’re probably better off than they were in Ireland at that time, and yeah, they stayed. I’ve met many Irish people since and said how pleased I was to work with them ‘cause they’re lovely people to work with, yeah those, and the rest were Londoners and all came from all over the place really, some of the men I remember quite distinctly as being Londoners, that’s where my husband come from, obviously that would happen.
NM: So how many were, were there in this pool of engineers that you were- You and Joan were part of?
AP: I should- Oh I should think there were thirty, forty of us.
NM: And how many aircraft?
AP: Well, they were coming and going all the time, we’d all got two on go, not many, I mean it wasn’t, wasn’t like an airfield exactly. We’re always two being serviced, and that’s where I don’t know, I mean I don’t know how many more there were about, whether there were any left from the bombing, that’s presumably where they came from in the first place ‘cause then they didn’t use them anymore, did they, so. I just taught these chaps to fly [unclear] I think, that’s all. Nothing more I’m afraid, nothing that I can remember.
NM: So- And Joan came with you to, to Oakley?
AP: Yeah, she came with me yes.
NM: From, from Halton, yeah, so you were there together.
AP: That’s right, yeah.
NM: So-
AP: She’d be about the same age as me, I think. What she wanted to do, she wanted to be an operator, an air operator, but they said she couldn’t be ‘cause she- Her sight was bad, but she didn’t ever have it tested, so I don’t know how they knew [chuckles]. Typical air force, but she was a bit annoyed about it, but- However, we worked together quite well.
NM: So- Were you working in hangars or out in the open-
AP: Outside.
NM: Outside.
AP: Outside, on a sort of flat metal area or, or even tarmac, I think it was tarmac actually, yeah, and we had just an ordinary hut behind us. We had huts which we could sit in, I remember that, and we used to cook ourselves eggs and beans and things in there for a meal if we wanted to eat something.
NM: And you had accommodation on the airfield somewhere else?
AP: Yes, we had accommodation, yes.
NM: So how did you get between where you were living and then the dispersals?
AP: Presumably they transported us, but I think it wasn’t that far, we could’ve walked. My feeling is that we walked, I don’t remember any transport. It was well set up, it was- The airfield was here, the way in was here, and the other places were here, all wooden- Normal brick, normal brick bottom but wooden tops, yeah. Anywhere else I’ve seen them, that’s the only place I’ve ever seen them.
NM: You mentioned the cold, but you worked in all conditions I assume?
AP: We worked in all conditions yes.
NM: Rain, sleet, snow, sunshine?
AP: Absolutely, whatever, whatever’s required at the time, we did it. We thought of course we were helping, I expect we were, but that’s-
NM: And it was only the Wellingtons there at Oakley?
AP: Only Wellingtons, I did deal with one Hurricane, which I don’t quite know how it got there, but I always remember that there was a sick bay there, and I remember this chap coming in terribly burnt, it had set fire, and he was on it at the time, nothing to do with us really but, something that happened, yeah.
NM: So, you ended up working on the Hurricane, did you? To repair-
AP: No, I didn’t ever actually work on it, no, I think he probably was too badly done for us, it’s probably greater technical need for that to be mended, put right.
NM: So, what were the off-duty hours like at Oakley?
AP: Like a day, really. We didn’t have any particular off-duty hours, we just- If we’d finished the job, we went off, that was it. It’s a bit like the end of war ‘cause I don’t remember where I went. I don’t get [unclear], I don’t drink but, I don’t know where I went at the end of war. I know I’d got my bicycle, I remember my bicycle being there, don’t know what I did, I don’t know.
NM: So, you don’t remember any particular celebrations at-
AP: No, I think, I think I got to London ‘cause I’ve got a vague recollection of the centre of London with all the people in it and that’s all, but I had to get back you see ‘cause I wasn’t on leave or anything, but everybody was so excited, I don’t think it would’ve mattered a great deal but, but it was worth going to London just for that. I’m afraid I don’t remember the details.
NM: So you went back to Oakley after the celebrations and just carried on?
AP: Just carried on as normal ‘cause as far as we’re concerned, it was still the same, we still got to teach these New Zealanders to fly our aircraft, maybe they flew there, I don’t know [unclear].
NM: So tell me about the circumstances of being transferred up to Yorkshire and Dishforth.
AP: Well, it’s only, only just you receive a notification to say, ‘You’re not required here, we’re sending you to Dishforth’, they don’t tell you why, or anything, they just tell you you’ve got to go there, and then we went by train, all went by train, and that was it really.
NM: And this was ’45, was it still?
AP: Yes, yes, yes, yeah would be ’45 now, yes, and it would’ve been later in the year, ‘cause I’ve told you that I was up at, up at Dishforth and I had to stop working outside, so it wasn’t late- Until later, when it was a bit warmer, when they laid me off and sent me home ‘cause I had pneumonia and pleurisy.
NM: Tell me about, tell me about your first impressions of Dishforth in Yorkshire.
AP: Oh, what a marvellous place, it’s ‘cause it was so sort of big and the hangars themselves were very big because the Yorks were big too, they were in hangars there, there were, as I remember, about three hangars, and the York in two of them and one empty, because they’d obviously been flying out to Germany to pick the prisoners up, that’s what they’d been doing there.
NM: So, it was different, you had to work on a different aeroplane?
AP: Oh, quite different.
NM: You were working in hangars?
AP: No, still outside.
NM: Still outside, ok.
AP: Yeah, and we were on long wooden planks alongside the engines which was a bit different from where we were before, we were sort of astride metal bars, whereas this was all laid out with proper board to stand on around the, around the York, obviously done that before, yeah, it was all new. There was like a- I had to get up there, but once you got up there, you were, you were safe, it was much easier to work on and the other things which were your feet were very safe, in the first instance.
NM: So, were your duties the same?
AP: Yes, exactly the same, exactly the same.
NM: But these were inline liquid cool engines, were they?
AP: That’s right.
NM: What was the difference?
AP: [Laughs] Bigger.
NM: From your perspective, as an engineer?
AP: Yeah, well I liked inline, I liked inline better than I liked radium anyway.
NM: Why?
AP: I don’t know really, just that they- I liked the feel of them, I liked the way they were, they were gonna run when they started. I think radials tended to be more noisy anyway, from what I remember of them, and radial, yeah.
NM: So, to you it was just the carry on of what you’d been doing previously?
AP: It was exactly the same really. Well, you see- I mean don’t forget that we’re not being paid for this, this is what we’re expected to do whatever happened really.
NM: And the accommodation was that wooden huts again or was it-
AP: Yes, yes.
NM: It was exactly the same.
AP: They were better I think, if I remember rightly, yes, they were. Better- Well
‘cause it was a more permanent station, Oakley was a very much a wartime one, whereas this- They Dishforth one was probably had been used as civilian I think, possibly. I think it probably was, yeah, yes.
NM: And again, did Joan go with you this time or?
AP: Yes, she went with me.
NM: Ok, the two of you.
AP: Yes, we both went together. I don’t know really what happened to her, because once they’d taken you away from your area, you don’t see everybody and they disappear, but she went home about the same times as I did, and then I just didn’t see her go, which I was sad about ‘cause I would’ve liked to have done really. Although we fought sometimes, we did see the eye to eye mostly. I think we fought literally, but mentally.
NM: So, was- What were the off-duty hours in Dishforth like? Were you nearby settlements?
AP: Yeah, no there was more going on on the unit. Yeah, there was NAAFI’s and things like that there, which we didn’t have in the other place, and I can remember going to the NAAFI, can also remember also going to a little dance there as well, and there were places where you could go and sit in, like a cafe, which was better than we were at Oakley. Yeah, it was well set up.
NM: So, at some point you got pleurisy and pneumonia?
AP: Yeah.
NM: And at some point, you had a car accident, which, which came first?
AP: The car accident. I- My parents came up for my leave, and we were going to Largs in Scotland, from there, it was not that far, and on the way I hit a tank trap and I turned the car over, right over so that it swivelled right round on its roof, my dad said he saved us going down into dangerous dip. They of course were alright, but I didn’t know at the time that they were. That came first, and then I assume that this was about December time, when I became ill. They of course had gone home then, we was only there for the year- For the holiday, and they sent for them to come back ‘cause I was so ill.
NM: So you weren’t, you weren’t injured in the car crash?
AP: No.
NM: Oh fortunate, wasn’t it?
AP: Yeah, it was, neither were they actually. I always remember because my mother got what we call- Oh dear, her knickers were, all of safety [unclear] we used to call them, and her legs were up here, and my dad hit the choke with knee, and it cut his knee open, that was it. So, they were lucky really.
NM: Yeah, yeah, it sounds [unclear]
AP: Serious [unclear] and when we got to the place, they wouldn’t even give us a cup of tea, and I always blame a bit for that ‘cause I think a nice hot cup of tea might’ve stopped me being ill, you don’t know of course but- Anyway, and December time I started to be ill and I was-
NM: So that was soon after?
AP: Pardon?
NM: That was very soon after then?
AP: Yes, it was, and I was still in after Christmas. So, it was bad too.
NM: So how long were you in hospital for with your ill-
AP: Two months at least. I don’t think- I think I’d have to be in a lot longer if hadn’t had penicillin. I had eighty injections in my bottom, one every eight hours, was very sore [chuckles].
NM: I bet.
AP: It cured me, I’ve always been grateful for that, I’ve always been able to take penicillin too since, you know, when you have the odd illness, yeah.
NM: So, that was the point then, you were what invalided out of the RAF?
AP: No, I wasn’t invalid, I just came out at the end of my time. I wasn’t actually that ill, no.
NM: And that was ‘47?
AP: Yes, yeah, yes, 1945, now I did three-and-a-half years, oh no we’ve got confused.
NM: So, you-
AP: I did a year-and-a-half in the war, so that was ‘44, ‘45, and two more after that, yes you’re right ‘47. ‘46, ‘47, yes that’s right.
NM: So, you were- Had recovered by the time you left the RAF?
AP: Yes, I had, I was fine. I would’ve liked to have gone back but they didn’t want me by that time which was all sorted out, that part of the, the RAF anyway.
NM: So, they actually asked you to leave did they, in effect?
AP: Yes, they did, yes.
NM: Yeah, ok.
AP: And I went to-
NM: So, what happened-
AP: - Padstow, I remember going to, to come out, that was in London isn’t it, Padstow?
NM: That was a demob centre, was it?
AP: Yes, I think so, yeah. I think it was London, in fact, I’m sure it was London. Yeah, that was it, that was all, I didn’t have to do anything else.
NM: So, tell me about life after the RAF.
AP: I went back to the garage. Still doing the same sort of thing, ‘cause I liked engineering, so that- The garage was still there in those days, so yes, I went back to it.
NM: So, this time-
AP: Normal hours, you know.
NM: You were twenty-one?
AP: Yes, I was twenty-one, yes.
NM: So-
AP: I had a boyfriend, but that didn’t come to anything, he was in the air force actually, but-
NM: So, tell me about your life since you worked in the garage then?
AP: Since [emphasis]?
NM: Yep.
AP: [Chuckles]
NM: Take me from twenty-one to now, ninety-one.
AP: Oh dear, oh dear. I’ve been various different places, but the years and things I’m not quite sure about. I’ve been to Norway five times, I’ve been up the Amazon once with my parents, that was early on. It was a three-month thing, a month to get there, a month up the Amazon, and a month to come back [chuckles], that sort of thing. What else have I done? I’m not very good at this answer.
NM: How long did you spend working in the garage?
AP: Oh years, years. Yeah. 1954 when I got married, must’ve been till about then.
NM: Tell me about your husband, you said your husband was in the RAF.
AP: Yes, he was.
NM: So you became a service wife, did you?
AP: [Laughs] yes, he, he joined the air force having finished the instrument training which he was doing, which was quite useful because he did his oil engineering and so on, and he- We got married and we went to Bournemouth for a honeymoon which got broken up ‘cause we were only there five days, and he then went back to Wales, which- He was in Wales, then, he was then training on all the normal aircraft that you train on, and he was then flying jets and when we got married, after a while, we lived in Barnstaple for a while, and then he was posted to Geilenkirchen, so we went out to Germany, and we lived in Holland, a place called Eygelshoven[?], just over the border, not far from Maastricht and while he was there, he actually flew attack at [unclear], I heard it mentioned on this ting over Syria, he went out to show the flag, just the typical British show off thing and then he came back, I had to stay in Europe because he couldn’t take me with him, and then when we’d been- We’d been there for two years ‘cause we took a car out there and we didn’t have to pay tax on it because we were out there, and when we got there I was very pregnant with my son, and when we got to the airport they wouldn’t let us in because they said we’d got to pay the tax, we were there for hours and hours and I was so- I was seven months pregnant, I wasn’t very happy, and it was late at night, and then in the end we called my father to come. He had a, a judge thing- He was a judge, so they took his word for it that we hadn’t done anything wrong and they let us home, otherwise we’d still be there, and then after that we lived in Letchworth all our lives. Keith was brought up in Letchworth by an aunt because there was no one else left to bring him up and he and his cousin were- Lived in Letchworth, got married in Letchworth. His cousin is still alive by the way, and his wife, they’re both in the air force strangely enough and-
NM: So you’re husband had left the air force at this point, had he? When he came back?
AP: Yes, he left the air force and then went into civil flying, started at Dan-Air in, in Europe, in- The east coast isn’t it Dan-Air? Think so, and then he went to Elstree and taught for a while because there weren’t any place- Weren’t any places left, and so he went on, he went up to Birmingham for a while. I can’t remember the aircraft I’m afraid, and I doubt it very much, and then he started flying the Boeings. [Unclear] where he flew to Boeings, which are what the President was flying in at that time, not anymore, he was, and they stayed out for Hong Kong for a bit longer, he’d been- He did the Seychelles and [unclear] Athens, Athens, Greece- In Greece, he moved to Greece for a while. Took me out to the Seychelles on one occasion, we had a fortnight out there which was alright, except I got bitten as usual. I think that’s it really, then when he came home, bless him, he developed Alzheimers, he wouldn’t have it was Alzheimers. He managed to have a burst aorta [unclear] while he was having his ears- Eyes tested, he was there with his son and his son said, ‘I’ll have to tell you what he’s had’, and told them what he’d had, and he’s got Alzheimers, he said, ‘I haven’t got bloody Alzheimers, I've got just [unclear]’ [chuckles] call it Alzheimers, yes, I’ve got the word Alzheimers. Yeah mentally he became very bad.
NM: Oh dear.
AP: Yeah, and it was six years actually that he was- Had-
NM: So, when your husband was flying fighters and jets in the RAF and you had been in the RAF before him, what, what did you think then? ‘Cause you were out of the RAF and he was in it? What did-
AP: I loved [emphasis] it.
NM: You loved being a service wife?
AP: I didn’t mind, I never had fear of losing him, I never did have and we got a couple of friends who we asked to stand in, in case anything happened to him while he was away, and they did, in fact they’ve both gone now, and yeah- No, I never got worried about it ‘cause I thought he’s a good pilot, he’s too careful to do anything stupid, although he did have things happen to him obviously when he was flying, but no, [unclear].
NM: Can you remember what he was flying? Types of aeroplanes?
AP: [Chuckles] Yes, I knew you were going to ask me that, Sabre, he did the Macfin Two[?] Mac Two[?], I’ll have to go up and look what it is, upstairs on the landing, not one in here is there?
NM: What- Don’t worry, we’ll, we’ll-
AP: Pardon?
NM: Don’t worry about it for now.
AP: No?
NM: It’s fine. So, when you look back in your time, in your time in the RAF-
AP: Yeah.
NM: What, what, what are your feelings about it?
AP: I loved it, every minute of it, every minute of it, I even liked being told off because I thought that was part of security and that was part of learning, if you didn’t know that you shouldn’t say these things, then that- How you learn, how it’s necessary for people to tell you to do the things right, yeah, no, I loved it. I really did. I can always remember (this is soon after I said to the corporal that if it was cold, I’d warm myself) I was out in- Course it was all dark with no lights and I walked into a brick wall and I hit my face and my head, and they said, ‘You shouldn’t’ve drunk so much’, I said, ‘I don’t even drink’. I didn’t have a drink till I was nineteen, and that was only ‘cause it was a party, I never over drank, I did have a drink occasionally but to me, it was a lovely life for a woman, man too for that matter, man too yeah.
NM: Well, I say, as a woman in the RAF at that point, must’ve been quite rare, were you- Did you have any special favours from the men, or was it just as hard for you as?
AP: No, just as hard, they treated you even harder in fact, they could be very saucy but then I didn’t mind that, I didn’t mind- You see to me, this business of where they criticise ‘cause men shout at women as they pass by, that’s ridiculous [emphasis], they used to that to all the time, just rode over, didn’t take notice of it, it’s fine [chuckles] to me, but then I’m a bit, I’m a bit easy pleased I must admit, I don’t mind a joke, if it’s a bit naughty, but then if you’ve been in the air force you were gonna get them weren’t you? [Chuckles]. No, I loved the life, I really did, I’d go back if I was younger, I really would, yeah.
NM: ‘Cause you saw RAF life from both sides then, both being in it and then also as- When your husband was in it?
AP: Absolutely, I must tell you [unclear] story, where I went to Geilenkirchen one night to be in the mess, for the mess meal and Keith had been playing football and he suddenly said, ‘Oh god’, he said, ‘I’ve got cramp in my leg’, so I knelt down on the floor and rubbed his leg, which of course it was here, the back of the thigh, just as everybody came in didn’t I? To us that was a joke but not everybody’s joke is it really? [Chuckles] No, that’s how I treated life, if it was a joke, it was a joke, if not then I treated it seriously, I hope I did anyway, I mean the fact that I did my work, I did it thoroughly, I meant it to be thorough and I meant it to be good, and at the time of course I didn’t realise that we weren’t really in it any more, it was, it was- Well nobody did, did they because it was only another year or so since the war ended.
NM: So it had to be good because of course they asked you to take a flight each time you-
AP: They always took a flight, yes [unclear] take a flight.
NM: So, you’ve- How many flights in total? Did you ever keep a log?
AP: No, I didn’t, no I didn’t, we didn’t in those days, we had- Well every time I finished one, I was quite- Must’ve done sort of, between seven or eight I suppose, different times, not at the same time obviously, yeah. Same- Probably the same aircraft came back again, I don’t remember, I don’t remember the aircraft numbers or anything. You see we had to be so careful, you didn’t put anything down in writing, it was still all secret.
NM: Now, one of the episodes you mentioned was the return of the POW’s when you were at Oakley.
AP: Yes, that’s right.
NM: Tell me about them coming back.
AP: Well, there were- There must’ve been between fifty and sixty, I can’t remember exactly, they were all dressed in the same sort of outfits, and because they’d all been covered in this yellow paint, there was sort of dust, but lumpy dust which was to kill the bugs that they’d picked up there before they came home and they were all dressed the same and they looked so dull, so- I mean [unclear] some of them had probably been there four years, don’t know do we? Four, five years even, five years, ‘39, ’41. They didn’t look particularly physically ill, only mentally ill I think, and as I said to you, they didn’t seem to know where they were. Did they think to say [unclear] going home? I don’t know. We just said, ‘Well, you’re home now’. We knew they’d got to go somewhere else, so if they asked, we had to say, ‘Well you have to be medically checked’, we had to tell them all this you see.
NM: So you were part of the reception-
AP: Yeah, yeah.
NM: - meeting?
AP: Yes, well there must’ve been sort of ten or twenty of us there, just going round and talking to them, making them- Try to make them feel at home, which is very difficult if they don’t know where they are. I mean RAF Dishforth is nowhere to them. I’d say, ‘Well you’re in the north of England’, which is about the best they’d get really. Yeah, remember them going, I think they were still sitting there when we left.
NM: ‘Cause that was- Yeah, that was at Oakley, wasn’t it?
AP: I don’t know- Pardon?
NM: That was at Oakley, wasn’t it? They came back to Oakley?
AP: No, they came back to Dishforth.
NM: Did they?
AP: Yes, it was in the York remember. They couldn't've come in a- In one of those, there was too many of them. No, it was Dishforth.
NM: Ok, so they came back to Dishforth?
AP: Yes, definitely Dishforth.
NM: Ok
AP: Yeah, big aircraft you see, the York. I don’t know, as I’ve never seen the runway, if the runway at Oakley would’ve been big enough for the York, probably wouldn’t, it’s all so different, isn’t it? Definitely York, where- That’s a proper airport, a real airport, now that’s the difference between Oakley and Dishforth, Dishforth was a real airport type place, big area of white- Floor area to land, grass area to land, yeah, whereas we didn’t see the landing don’t forget, we only saw the aircraft arrive probably toed by a, a tractor, that’s [unclear] I remember it and just part there for us to deal with. Nothing very important about that. Sorry, I hope that’s-
NM: That’s fine.
AP: Hasn’t bored you to tears?
NM: Not at all, not at all. That’s absolutely fantastic, thank you. Do you want to just talk me through some of these photographs we’ve got here?
AP: Yes I don’t know [unclear]
NM: There’s one of you sitting on a propeller.
AP: That’s it, that’s, that’s one of these.
NM: That’s a Wellington
AP: Yeah, that’s a Wellington, yeah. Oh, that’s just me [chuckles] [unclear], there I am again, it’s the same one but slightly different, I used to have to crawl along that you see.
NM: Ok. I think we’ll leave it there, shall we?
AP: Yeah, surely, yeah.
NM: Thank you very much indeed and we’ll take it from there.
AP: That’s just Keith and-
NM: Thank you Audrey.
AP: You’re welcome. Keith and his best man.
NM: Oh, that’s your husband?
AP: Yeah.
NM: Which one’s your husband?
AP: [Chuckles] I shall remember, that’s Keith.
NM: That’s him there. A good day, both in their flying uniforms with their wings.
AP: Yes, yes.
NM: Best man as a pilot as well.
AP: Yes.
NM: Fantastic. Your diamond wedding greetings from the queen?
AP: Yes, that’s right
NM: Fantastic
AP: Denise wrote and told her, so she did it- You have to write and tell, she doesn’t do it automatically, I didn’t know that. Now what were you doing, ‘cause you’re a doctor now are you? Doctor of medicine or-



Nigel Moore, “Interview with Audrey Poynter,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 27, 2024,

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