Interview with Margaret Saint


Interview with Margaret Saint


Margaret Saint was employed by Airworks Limited as a civilian office worker throughout the Second World War, and met her future husband, Trevor, an air gunner, who she married in June 1945. Daughter of a Welsh miner, the family moved to the Cotswolds following the Depression in the 1920s. Attending Cheltenham Technical School, Margaret became proficient in typing and bookkeeping. Upon leaving school she obtained employment in the office of the RAF (volunteer reserve) and when war broke out, moved to Staverton airfield, working in the office of the commanding officer. In 1942, Staverton became a military unit and Margaret moved to Booker, near Marlow. Here, future glider pilots were taught the basics of flying with powered aircraft. Initially working in the airfield Watch Office, before again being transferred to the commanding officer's office. It was here she met her future husband who was a local resident. Trevor joined the RAF in 1941, and following initial training was stationed at RAF Halton assembling Hurricanes that arrived in kit form from Canada. Having been selected for pilot training, Trevor became frustrated with waiting to be allocated a course and when offered the chance to become an air gunner, accepted. Once qualified, he served a full tour with 514 Squadron on Lancasters operating out of Waterbeach. Margaret enjoyed her time at Booker. Her social life was busy and only experienced a couple of air attacks. However, she was able to witness the sky being illuminated towards London during attacks on the capital. Being a civilian, clothing and food coupons were a challenge, and her fellow workers used to swop dresses for dances. Margaret left employment at Booker after she married, and Trevor demobbed in the summer of 1946. He joined the family business and became a master tailor.




Temporal Coverage




01:17:30 audio recording


IBCC Digital Archive


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 12th of February 2018, and we’re in Marlow talking to Mrs Meg Saint about her experiences in life and what she did in the war. So Meg, what are your earliest recollections of life?
MS: I suppose being a, a child of a miner in Wales. I can’t remember much about that, but we lived in a valley with slag heaps at the end of the valley but a lovely mountain. We had foxgloves behind us and being taken to school, when I was four, by the boys across the road, four brothers and I remember very little about that school, and when I was four my maternal grandfather found us a funny little house in the Cotswolds at Birdlip and we came to live there, a little two bedroomed house with three children. A mile from the village down a track and I went to school there until I was eleven, and then I went to the, the technical college in Cheltenham until I was fifteen. That was school.
CB: And what, what did you specialise- What, what were your main interests when you at school in Birdlip and then Cheltenham?
MS: I- At, at Birdlip?
CB: In Birdlip?
MS: Oh yes, well that was very countryfied and we had a lovely headmistress who was mad about Shakespeare, so I know most of the Shakespeare’s stories. But yeah, that was the village school, and then I did a commercial course at the technical college. That was interesting, but I think my father didn’t think I did much education there because I was captain of all the sports [chuckles]. So that was, that was that.
CB: What was your favourite sport?
MS: Well, I won the tennis cup every year I was there. I was captain of tennis, cricket, hockey [chuckles].
CB: Cricket as well ey?
MS: Yeah, cricket. Yeah, well in Gloucestershire we played- Women played cricket, great county for cricket.
CB: For women.
MS: So that was my schooling.
CB: Yeah, and what, what was the composition of the technical course?
MS: Well, it was a general- The three R’s, but then you did shorthand and typing and bookkeeping which was useful later on, very useful later on.
CB: And- So you left at fifteen?
MS: Yes.
CB: What did you do then? What, what was your ambition?
MS: I went to, I went to work for a publisher in Cheltenham, they did topographical work, but quite soon- 1939, I was invited to join the office of the RAF Volunteer Reserve and worked there, and when war really started, we were drafted to- What was the name of our- To the airfield-
CB: To Staverton?
MS: Staverton, yep and-
CB: What was your role? In the RAFVR?
MS: I worked for the CO’s office and had to detail the fire people and the people who- For the lights and things and one day I forgot to put the fire [chuckles] duty people, to put- Issue their orders and- So the aerodrome was a blazing light, so I got into big trouble. But, yes I worked in the CO’s office there, and worked there until 1942.
CB: But what were the main tasks? As the commanding officer, he was running the place but-
MS: General, general office work really and I did daily routine orders and personal report- What is it called? PR’s? Personal report things, and the first Fortress for America landed at- On that airfield
CB: Did it really?
MS: In the war, yeah.
CB: B-17?
MS: Yep, mhmm. Yes, so that was that.
CB: And what was the accommodation that you had there?
MS: Well, I, I lived with an aunt in Cheltenham.
CB: Why were you a civilian and not-
MS: Sorry?
CB: Why were you engaged as a civilian?
MS: Well, because I first of all went- Worked in the ordinary office of the RAFVR and you were just civilians working there.
CB: So, when you changed, to go to Staverton and work for the-
CB: -CO, they didn’t change your status?
MS: No, no.
CB: Were you working for a private company in practical terms, or were you working-
MS: Airwork Limited.
CB: Airwork Limited right.
MS: And they, they still, they’re still running aerodromes all over the world, I think.
CB: Yes.
MS: Airworks Limited.
CB: Yes.
MS: Yes, worked for them right throughout the war until I got married in ‘45.
CB: So, they paid you-
MS: Yes, they paid us, yeah.
CB: And, did they also decide where you were to go?
MS: Yes, well, we had a choice when we had to leave Staverton, when it became military operated, we had a choice of three places where they trained glider pilots, and we were recommended to come to Booker and that was very successful, as- So that’s where- And we lived in digs, as you called it in those days, I came with my best friend I’d been to school with and worked with.
CB: Where were the digs?
MS: Here in Marlow.
CB: Right.
MS: And, of course at Booker we were training glider pilots, when it was in the EFGS, they had to do hard flying before they went onto gliders, and of course all the glider pilots were- They volunteered, they- For the special job, and they were from the army or any of the forces, really.
CB: And they, they were accommodated on the airfield, were they?
MS: On the airfield, yep, yes, on the airfield.
CB: Right, so they were all military people, but you were still-
MS: They were, either air force or- I don’t think we had any naval people, but certainly army people and RAF.
CB: Well, in those days the glider pilots initially were all army, weren’t they?
MS: No.
CB: Oh, they weren’t?
MS: No, the glider pilots were volunteers from the air force, or, or- Well, or they army, yes, yes.
CB: Right.
MS: Yep, that’s right.
CB: And what was your role there at Booker? Who were you working for then?
MS: I still worked, I still- I worked on the airfield which was lovely, so we used to see the boys go solo and we worked, worked for the chief engineer I suppose wasn’t it? On the airfield. That was very interesting[?] until a bit later, for my sins, the CO secretary left and I had to go and work for him which wasn't so much fun [chuckles].
CB: She didn’t come back?
MS: Sorry?
CB: She didn’t come back? So, it was a permanent role for you was it?
MS: It was a permanent job then, till I left in ‘45 to get married.
CB: Right, so you moved to Booker in 1942?
MS: That’s right, summer of.
CB: Summer, ok, and you’re soon working for the station commander.
MS: Yes.
CB: What was the difference between working for him and working for the man at Staverton?
MS: The engineer on the- Well when I was in the watch office, so that was interesting, very interesting.
CB: Before you took over with the CO?
MS: The CO, yes.
CB: How did you communicate with the flying people from the watch office? Because Tiger Moths weren’t on radio, were they?
MS: They used to come in and they- I can’t remember really. They had five station- The airfield, the different scot[?] would it be Scotland's[?]?
CB: Oh, did they? For different flights, oh right.
MS: Different flights, yeah, and we had so many incredible people who kept visiting Booker, being near London and everything, flying in but, I didn’t expect you’d be interested in that.
CB: Well, we’re interested in anything that was going on. Yes, thank you. So, in the watch office, what did you do in the watch office? ‘Cause that’s the pre, pre-
MS: I suppose it was- The boys used to come in with their [unclear]-
CB: With their log books?
MS: Some of their paperwork.
CB: Yes.
MS: And things, I can’t remember really-
CB: Ok, keep going.
MS: I can’t, I can’t really remember what we did in the watch office.
CB: No, that’s ok.
MS: But we were there for long hours too, and when they weather was bad and you have to hang about.
CB: Was there a shift time? Or a number of hours you’d do?
MS: We used to- We lived in Marlow and we had, we had the army truck come and pick us up to take us to the airfield, and I imagine we went about half-past eight in the morning and got back whatever time at night, but it was dark in the winter and late in the summer.
CB: Right.
MS: Yes, so that then- I worked there until 1945.
CB: Was it the same CO all the time or did that change?
MS: No, it was the same CO all the time there, I can’t remember his name, live in Pam Lane[?], I can’t remember his name. He was Wing Commander- Oh O’Donnell.
CB: Oh, he was an RAF man, was he?
MS: Yes.
CB: Ah right.
MS: Yes, Wing Commander O’Donnell.
CB: And he was a pilot?
MS: I don’t know what he was in the war, I can’t remember.
CB: No, ok.
MS: The CO at Staverton he’d been- It’s rather sad, because he’d been a pilot on, on the ships.
CB: Oh, had he?
MS: But he had to give it up ‘cause he had sinus trouble, he was a very interesting man.
CB: But he was an RAF man, was he?
MS: Yes he was.
CB: Yeah.
MS: Pilot.
CB: Yeah.
MS: [Coughs] ‘scuse me.
CB: Do you want to have a break?
MS: Yeah.
CB: We were talking about you in the watch office and the hours you worked. So what sort of hours did you work?
MS: Well, I, I just wouldn’t remember, but in, in winter it was until dark, when flying stop, unless I- When I was in the CO’s office and that would’ve been I expect normal office hours, and in the summer it was- If they were flying and they needed to go solo they wouldn’t just stop at six o’clock, they’d just go on till it was dark or- You just didn’t stop, like office hours, you just worked while you were able to do that, and being at Booker, near Bomber Command headquarters and Danesfield where the photographic place there, we used to have- They [unclear] a proper runway at Booker, but we’ve even had Lightning’s come in with really emergency pictures to rush to Danesfield on a motorbike to be processed, so it was really interesting there.
CB: This is the twin-engined American-
MS: Yep.
CB: -reconnaissance plane called Lightening?
MS: Well, it was ours, wasn’t it? A British aircraft?
CB: Ok.
MS: Yes, it was.
CB: And then the pictures had to be rushed off?
MS: Yep, rushed up to Danesfield to be processed.
CB: Right.
MS: It was things like that and lot- Oh and one interesting thing about Booker is that Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands learnt to fly there and I used to zip his flying jacket up for him, and his family lived nearby, they, they lived at Lane End.
CB: Did they?
MS: Yes. Been evacuated there, and his nieces used to do the tea wagon round the airfield.
CB: You mentioned people used to pop in?
MS: Yes.
CB: So, what sort of people?
MS: Silly I didn’t write it down.
CB: They would be people who were going to Bomber Command headquarters would it?
MS: No, no. Famous world people.
CB: Right.
MS: Oh, dear I've [unclear] now. Don’t know where I've got that, lost track of-
CB: I’ll just stop that for a mo. So just to clarify that there were people needing to go to Bomber Command who would pop in, but you’re saying that other notable people used to arrive in various aeroplanes?
MS: Yes, yep, fly in and to go to Danesfield, where have I got that? His aircraft used to fly in some times for urgent photographs to be transferred to Danesfield by motorcycle. On one occasion a Lightening aircraft landed, oh dear, not there. Oh, that’s a shame, isn’t it?
CB: So, they were being taken from the aeroplane for delivery?
MS: That’s right.
CB: For processing?
MS: By motorbike up there, yeah.
CB: ‘Cause they had to develop the film.
MS: Yeah.
CB: It’s interesting because the American unit was flying from Mount Farm which is relatively close as well, which is where they’d operate from normally.
MS: Oh right, yeah.
CB: Yeah, next to Benson which- Both of which are close to Danesfield.
MS: Yes, yeah. The war became very real to us when boys who’d been at Arnhem came to visit us. One of the boys who’d been a super dancer lost his leg, and of course many others lost their lives.
CB: These are the glider boys?
MS: C. A. Lewis, who’s a- C. Day-Lewis is a famous auther but there’s also Cecil Lewis who’s a famous author, and he was a flight commander, he was in the Great War flying those funny aircraft. He taught Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to fly, and the tea van was manned by King Zog of Albania's nieces, not Prince Bernhard, it was that, King Zog of Albania who lived at Lane End and his family came here.
CB: Oh right.
MS: Got that bit wrong. Where else have I written down things about? Nope [unclear]. They’re in the flight office, yep.
CB: Did you work with any famous people in the watch officer? Or, notable people?
MS: Actually, in the watch office? No, but we got an awful lady who was in charge [chuckles] Miss Latham.
CB: Was she a civilian, or air force?
MS: She was a dragon and we didn’t get on very well together, but I expect that’s why she sent me to work for the CO [chuckles].
CB: The instructors though were all air force?
MS: Well, yeah, very famous instructors.
CB: Did they tend to be older people?
MS: Yes, I suppose they were a bit. One of them lived at Lane End and had a traction engine up there outside his house, but the- Yep, he- This chap, Cecil Lewis, he was- He’d flown in the Great War and he was a, a flight commander.
CB: Right.
MS: Yeah, got little, little letters in here.
CB: You’ve got the book there? So, he was too old to be on operational flying?
MS: Yeah, he would’ve been, yeah.
CB: Yes.
MS: Because he’d been in the first war.
CB: Yes, cause we’re talking more than twenty years later.
MS: [Unclear] writing books I should think, and I've got them here, gave them to me. It weren’t military operated as such, only the CO, and the flight commanders of course.
CB: Yes, as an airfield it was mainly run by-
MS: As an airfield it was run by civilians, by Airworks Limited.
CB: Right, so the engineers in the hangers, maintenance people, they were all Airwork?
MS: They were all civilians, as us office people, there weren’t any- Apart from the CO, he was the only-
CB: But the instructors-
MS: And the instructors, they were the-
CB: So how many instructors- There’d be quite a lot of instructors.
MS: There were four, there were four flights.
CB: Yes.
MS: Yeah.
CB: And all the instructors were air force?
MS: Yeah.
CB: Right, but all the ground staff were civilians?
MS: Were civilians, yep.
CB: Yes, and did- How did that work?
MS: I think it worked very well. There was such camaraderie in the war, everybody helped everybody in every way, you know, transport [chuckles], girls going to parties, we swap clothes [chuckles] if you hadn’t got any stockings, ‘Have you got any stockings? I’ll be very careful with them’, and it was so difficult not to- It’d- You were much better off if you were in the forces, you had your uniform and- But when you’re civilian’s it was jolly difficult. I know mum had to give me coupons for my pyjamas and things like that, and we were lucky ‘cause we had our main meal at the- On the airfield, and- But people who just had their rations, it- We didn’t kind of think about it, but they were- They had a problem. My parents lived in the country with a big garden and chickens, and apart from needing bread and milk they could- They were ok. But I didn’t know really much about the war here, we only had bombs down by the river and up the hill, killed somebody up the hill, but only- I remember about twice.
CB: This is Marlow?
MS: In Marlow here, well I was living here after ‘42. Yep.
CB: So the entertainment, that was set up, what- Was there a fairly active social life actually on the airfield?
MS: Yes [emphasis] we’d have dances.
CB: Right
MS: Oh yes, very exciting. Yeah, we had- But like, I would say I had a fun war really.
CB: But there weren’t WAAF’s as such on the station?
MS: No, we- No.
CB: Right.
MS: I don’t think we had any WAAF’s, there was- We had the RAF boys, you know, doing the flight, the flight- The CO.
CB: Yeah, and training?
MS: And the training people.
CB: So, there weren’t resident WAAF’s, so when the dances came, how did you rake up enough girls?
MS: Plenty of us girls right on, and the local girls from down here
CB: Yeah.
MS: Yeah, we- I think we used to have good fun really.
CB: Now, flying training can be dangerous, so were there- What- How were the accidents handled?
MS: Oh yes, I used to have to do those horrible, what are the called? P something-or-others, the accident forms. We had several fatal accidents, and we had a satellite place at Denham field as well, and one in Wales, near Llanbedr from Booker, yes, I'd forgotten all about that, you’re jogging my memory you see.
CB: So the, the training at Booker was powered training, the gliders were elsewhere? Is that right?
MS: Yes, we did- Yes, gliders elsewhere. Seem to have had a glider there at some time, but not for training. Wonder why we had those in the field.
CB: Where would you- ‘Cause Tame[?] they had glider training, where did you- Where did they new train- Newly trained pilots, where did they go to fly gliders?
MS: Do you know, I can’t remember, I can’t remember, I think we were No.3 EFTS at Booker.
CB: And what about medical facilities and other health-
MS: Don’t think we had- I never- I don’t think we thought about medical facilities.
CB: Didn’t have a, didn’t have a sick bay as such?
MS: I can’t remember one, or I can’t remember a medical officer really, I can’t remember that. No. Yes, it’s so bad I can’t remember these people who visited [unclear] famous people.
CB: I’m just going to stop for a mo.
MS: Not really- Oh, well we used to have the dances down here in Marlow, the dance hall is now- The Sea Cadets have got that place. Really, we only had things like dances, but we had those quite often, yeah.
CB: Ok, and what was the food like?
MS: The food at the camp was good, we used to enjoy that, but otherwise- Well, I mean we had our main meal there so we were the fortunate ones, but I don’t know about other people, the rations were very difficult. I expect- Well, people started growing their own vegetables and keeping their own chickens, so that was sensible really, but if you were in London, you couldn’t do that could you?
CB: No.
MS: Not really, no, so here in Booker- In Marlow, I think we had quite a comfortable life really, and not a lot of trouble. We could see London, the bombing in London, the sky lighting up but- Especially when you’re courting up in the hills [chuckles] and seeing, seeing the bombing there, but we did- Weren’t affected here greatly.
CB: One of the reported difficulties that WAAF’s had in the RAF was forging relationships with aircrew in Bomber Command particularly, with the variable expectation of their return.
MS: Oh well that- Most of us got married when we were quite young, twenty- Twenty-one, twenty-one, twenty-two. You didn’t really think about that because people say, like Trevor the flying, the flying people being scared, and Trevor said he was never scared, they were so busy doing their job, you weren’t scared when you went off on a mission, and I never- There was a film a little while ago and it was- They took you on a mission and it seemed so real and I thought god, I couldn’t imagine it would be like that, you know, with aircraft above you and aircraft below and the- Being fired at and the sky all alight and everything, it was an incredible film which I hadn’t- Don’t really think we thought about things like that.
CB: People just got on with things?
MS: Yes, just- Well, there was camaraderie that you- It was wonderful, that it can’t- I suppose it helped you because everybody helped everybody else, and you helped people out if- Of course transport was difficult ‘cause petrol was rationed so that was another difficulty. When you used to go home on leave and [unclear] and she had to get four miles from the coach from Oxford to Cheltenham, she had to get that four miles, when I went to Cheltenham I had to get- Wait for the bus to take me to the village, never- Where I lived at Birdlip and- So transport was difficult, very difficult. Had to plan those kinds of things. We all had bicycles.
CB: So, from a clothing point of view, you mentioned earlier-
MS: What?
CB: The clothing point of view-
MS: Oh yes that was very difficult, yeah.
CB: Could you go and buy clothes? But you had to have coupons?
MS: Yeah, I remember ‘cause you had to buy shoes, that was important, but we used to make clot- Make our own clothes. I know I did. Yeah, so clothing was difficult, food was difficult, and transport was very [emphasis] difficult ‘cause people, you know, they had to keep their petrol rations for things important, for themselves, so they- You couldn’t- Except that we- Where were we? Oh, it’s when I was at Staverton and when we were going to be moving from there, we had a lovely night out, the boys took us, somebody had got a car, we all piled into it and went off into the country using the last of their petrol, and another occasion I wanted- Mary wants to get back to- This is from Cheltenham, Mary wants to get to Cambridge, where she lived and because she was going there, I wanted to go and see relatives in Bedford and so some boys took us, but the car broke down half way and we left it there with the village boys who mended it and delivered it to the, the chap who was going to Cambridge as well. I mean, things like that, would you dare to leave your car with the village boys to repair it, to deliver it somewhere? These days, you wouldn’t do that, would you? I don’t think so. But, that’s the kind of thing that might happen.
CB: What about trains? Did you use trains much?
MS: Not- They weren’t any use from-
CB: Booker?
MS: Cheltenham to here, no.
CB: No.
MS: No, we used to see the boys off, got pictures of that, I wonder where they are, I had pictures of waving the boys off on the trains from, from Cheltenham VR, the beginning of- The very beginning of the war, pictures in the local paper of Madge and I waving the boys off on the train, wherever they were going, and I had a friend who was a boy, a Spitfire pilot and he got shot down over Sancerre[?] when he was twenty-one.
CB: What happened to him?
MS: Well, he, he was shot down, he died, he was killed, and I thought his name would be on the- What are big monuments here? Where- What’s the big monument here-
CB: What in High Wycombe?
MS: No.
CB: Runnymede?
MS: Runnymede.
CB: Yes.
MS: I thought it would be-
CB: Is he not at Runnymede?
MS: There were- But his name was- No, and Bob who our connection is, his wife looked it up on the thing and found that his grave is actually where he was shot down, Sancerre[?], I suppose they did that sometimes [unclear] bring them back, or perhaps there wasn’t enough of him to bring back or something, but his burial place is out there.
CB: Well generally, the fallen were buried where they fell.
MS: Is that so?
CB: British policy.
MS: Oh, I see.
CB: But the name could well have been-
MS: It wasn’t on that- On the monument
CB: At Runnymede?
MS: No.
CB: No.
MS: But Chris found it out and I’ve got a whole lot of writing about it.
CB: Yes, had you known him for a long time?
MS: A lot, yeah, well I would’ve called him a boyfriend, used to go to town hall, tea dances with him and things in the war, beginning of the war.
CB: So, how did tea dances work?
MS: Oh, they were lovely ‘cause they were in daytime and yeah, they were fun and there was one boy who had a white rat and he used to take it to the dances, you imagine what fun that would be at the Cheltenham town hall. Yes, we had good times.
CB: It was quite a fat rat?
MS: We had fun when we could but we did work very hard, life was hard, long hours.
CB: How did you feel about the loss of your boyfriend, the Spitfire pilot?
MS: Well, I was really upset about that because his mother lost her husband three months later and she soon died of a broken heart after that, her son of twenty-one, and when you went to the house there was one of his uniform jackets on the back of a chair, he’d left it there when he went the last time. It’s all very poignant really.
CB: And she died soon after?
MS: Yes, very soon after.
CB: Did you lose any other boyfriends the same way?
MS: No, but we were very close to a lot of them because if you go dancing, if you go dancing with people, you go dancing with them, you get very fond of each other and if they would be here- I wonder how long the course was at Booker, I don’t remember that, but it would be more than three months, wouldn’t it? If- An EFTS training time, you’d want at least three months to go solo, wouldn’t you?
CB: It was a seven-week course.
MS: Oh, seven weeks, oh right.
CB: Yes, so it was- They had seventy-two Tiger Moths and Manchesters at Booker.
MS: Really [emphasis]?
CB: And-
MS: Wow.
CB: And they trained one-hundred-and-twenty pilots on a seven-week course.
MS: Right.
CB: Which later became eleven weeks, this is just a printed over a brief-
MS: That’s fascinating, I'm interested in that. Yes, you got, you got very fond of, you know, each other really, and interested in your family life, and so it was very sad when they didn't come back.
CB: Of course.
MS: Like that boy who was the best dancer who came back without a leg, that was very poignant.
CB: What had happened to him?
MS: I can’t remember, he was a glider pilot.
CB: Oh, was he? Oh, he was- He’d been at Arnhem, yeah, right, a bit restricting when you want to dance with a prosthetic leg then [emphasis].
MS: I can’t- I don’t think we’d got to that stage.
CB: No, now what about going to the pictures, did-
MS: Oh, pictures was wonderful, that was your main thing, that was your main pleasure, well dancing and the pictures, and we had a lovely cinema here, very modern one, they did away with it after the-
CB: In Marlow?
MS: Yes, yeah, we had two cinemas but we had a very lovely, modern one and they used to bring films here to show them for the first time. Yes, that was really, big pleasure.
CB: What sort of films did they show?
MS: I can’t remember.
CB: But they tended to be a mixture of British and American, did they?
MS: I just don’t remember at all.
CB: No.
MS: Don’t remember at all.
CB: We’ll pause there for a mo, so you can have a drink of water.
MS: [Unclear] road, I can’t remember the details about that but I know that it was wonderful and he- We saw him again, but I don’t- Can’t remember whether he was a prisoner of war of whether he’d been posted a long way away, I don’t know.
CB: So, what was the reaction of people when he did return?
MS: We were all- He was very handsome, it was, it was lovely to have him back but I can’t remember what stage of the war that was.
CB: This is at Booker?
MS: Yep, yes, Marlow boy.
CB: So, this is a time of rationing, as we talked about just now.
MS: Yep.
CB: What did you do for breakfast and evening meal? ‘Cause you’re civilians and you’ve got to make your own arrangements.
MS: Well, we for a lot of the time we lived with a local family and, the wife was just a magician, she used to make lovely meals for us and made our breakfast, I expect, I expect we’d only have cereals or something, but she used to feed us as well as she could, she had two sons so- Younger than us.
CB: So when did you-
MS: Had to learn how to fire a 303 and I didn’t realise what a kick it had-
CB: [Chuckles]
MS: Did I have a black shoulder?
CB: So, when did you join the Home Guard? At Staverton, or did you do it at Booker?
MS: No, here in, in Marlow.
CB: In Marlow? Right.
MS: Yeah, Marlow.
CB: And what were your duties?
MS: [Chuckles] I can’t remember.
CB: On the river?
MS: Anyway, he was a very nice chap, I spent most of the, most of the duties with. But I don’t think I had to kind of stay on guard or anything particularly, but I had to learn how to fire a 303.
CB: How did you get on with the target?
MS: I can’t remember, pretty good at archery though later, and I still play-
CB: Ah, quiet assassin.
MS: [Chuckles] and I still do indoor bowling by the way.
CB: Oh, do you? Brilliant.
MS: Yeah.
CB: So how often did you fire this rifle?
MS: I can’t remember.
CB: I’ll look up by the squadron for the Spitfire man.
MS: My dad worked on the [unclear] on the prototype of the jet engine, Meteor.
CB: Oh, did he?
MS: My sister as well, until she joined the police.
CB: At Staverton? Was he based at Staverton-
MS: Yeah
CB: - or Gloucester aircraft works?
MS: Gloucester aircrafts.
CB: Yeah. What was your father’s trade?
MS: My dad? Well, he was a miner and then he- So, I- The engineering, I don’t know how that came into it, but he worked at- Because he’d been a miner, of course we had to move because it was the depression, twenty- I was four, ‘24, 1924.
CB: Late twenties, yes.
MS: In the twenties, early twenties.
CB: Well, ‘28 it really hit didn’t it? ‘29, ‘30.
MS: Yeah, here we are, disembarked in the wild somewhere, that’s when he came by coach and had the transport problems.
CB: What, what getting around anyway you mean? ‘Cause the busses were fairly limited as well.
MS: Well, they were, very limited, yes. I suppose it’s a lot to do with the fuel, wasn’t it? [Paper rustles] no, can’t find it-
CB: ‘Cause Marlow’s on the river, so did you get many boating trips?
MS: Oh, we didn’t used to go on the river much, Trevor used to row and he was at the local runners [unclear] but not really. We had our own little boat [emphasis], we used to leave- There’s a development down in Marlow now, Portland Gardens, and we lived there, right at the centre of Marlow for twenty-three years, and we were very near the river and we have- Had a little rowing boat, we used to take on pram wheels down to the river as a family.
CB: You mentioned earlier that you kept a diary, what sort of things did you put in it?
MS: Mostly, the fun things we did. September ‘44, a bright morning, Trevor called for me, Cadet parade plus their band. That was a Sunday.
CB: This is Air Training Corps cadets, is it?
MS: [Unclear] sorry?
CB: Air Training Corps cadets, were they?
MS: The cadets, yes, they- I expect so. Yeah, they would’ve been. Did enjoy the day. Then [unclear].
CB: [Chuckles] this is your husband-to-be, Trevor?
MS: Of course, there were some very interesting- Down at the bottom of, it says, we are in Holland exclamation mark, what does that mean? That was September ‘44.
CB: Well, there’s an area of Britain called Holland, which is South Lincolnshire.
MS: Don’t think it was that.
CB: Perhaps the tulip- What day- Time of the year? What time of the year was that?
MS: September ‘44.
CB: Oh yes, so it’s not the tulips, is it?
MS: Oh, I don’t- I really didn’t put things in about-
CB: It was probably a code-
MS: Not important things, no.
CB: No.
MS: Caught a train to Wales, to meet Trevor I suppose, no. Spent day by the river, bathing, cycled to somewhere. Yes, it’s only very personal things, really.
CB: Ok.
MS: Nothing, nothing-
CB: But important at the time.
MS: Nothing- No, I don’t, I don’t think I went into all that. No.
CB: Is a diary something you looked back on-
MS: Just-
CB: -in later years?
MS: -my own personal things.
CB: Yes, did you look back at it in later years?
MS: No, never look at it [chuckles]. Looking at it because you, you got me looking at things.
CB: Yes, ok. Stopping there for a bit.
MS: The accountant worked in the CO’s office, brook[?], and I suppose he would’ve been- Have some authority.
CB: Yes, I'm just interested at- If most, if most of the people were civilians, then the- Technically the station commander, wing commander in this case, wouldn’t have control over them directly.
MS: No.
CB: So, who was controlling the civilians Airwork?
MS: That’s very interesting, yes.
CB: But you said the senior person was the accountant?
MS: Yes, and Miss Latham, who was in our watch office, she- I suppose she would’ve had some jurisdiction.
CB: And she was a civilian?
MS: She was a civilian, the dragon.
CB: Yeah [chuckles].
MS: [Paper rustles] you might as well have those bits because-
CB: Now how did you come to meet Trevor, your future husband?
MS: By going on- Into the pub on a wet night which nice young ladies never did in 1942, 1943 probably, in a pub on a wet night.
CB: And who was in the pub?
MS: He was in the pub with a friend that- Shooting whatever what they- What these airmen-
CB: Shooting a line?
MS: Shooting a line.
CB: Was he?
MS: Yes.
CB: I can’t believe that for aircrew.
MS: Curly haired boy.
CB: [Chuckles] and what was your parent’s reaction to meeting Trevor?
MS: Well, they liked him, his parents were Christians, we were Christians and yes, it was very ok, yes.
CB: How did they feel about frequenting-
MS: Sorry?
CB: How did they feel about frequenting hostelries?
MS: [Chuckles] They would’ve been horrified, horrified in those days, in the early war, well the whole of the war time I expect, young ladies didn’t go in pubs, for sure.
CB: They didn’t beforehand but-
MS: Certainly not before, no.
CB: No.
MS: No, it was later on.
CB: So you met him the pub.
MS: Met him in the pub.
CB: Then what?
MS: Oh, and then it all went wrong ‘cause he wrote me a letter and sent it to the wrong address [chuckles] so I didn’t- We didn’t get together for some time.
CB: Oh, where did he send the letter?
MS: Sorry?
CB: Where did he send the letter to?
MS: To the wrong address in Marlow.
CB: Oh, I see.
MS: Yes, got the wrong road or something.
CB: Right, how did you get back together then?
MS: I can’t remember really. Anyway, we hadn’t- We had mutual friends, I suppose it would be through that really. Did you see our [unclear]?
Other: Lovely, isn’t it?
MS: It is very nice, we used dancing classes and went to about four and then I became pregnant, but we had been married seven, six years, so [chuckles].
Other: Ah, lovely.
MS: And I thought it was such a shame to miss out ‘cause dancing is such fun.
Other: It is, yes.
MS: And such lovely exercise and eventually I got him to, to come to dancing classes, that was that.
CB: And he picked it up ok?
MS: What, in about three months and then I became pregnant-
Other: And that was that.
MS: -so not long afterwards we had to give it up [chuckles].
CB: Right.
MS: I don’t think, I don’t think it was his scene really.
CB: Right, which isn’t for a lot of people.
MS: Yes well we- Well, in the village and in the war, dancing was one of the great pleasures really.
CB: Yeah, and most people could dance?
MS: They could, yeah, you’d dance when you kids, well, I was brought up in the village and village life is lovely, and dancing and that kind of thing is what we did, and play tennis with the village boys, that’s why I was good at tennis at school, because I'd be playing with the village boys.
CB: So, we were talking about you getting back together with Trevor because of mutual friends, so what happened there?
MS: Oh yeah, I can’t remember, I don’t know.
CB: Where was he stationed at the time?
MS: When I first knew him, where did he start off?
CB: Well, what was his role in the aircraft?
MS: He was mid-upper gunner, but before that he was waiting- He was- What was he? He was a lecturer at some point, oh that was after. He was waiting to go to Canada to be a pilot and he was at Ludlow under canvas in the mud, and somebody said, ‘We’ve got these air- These new aircraft, Lancasters, and we need gunners, and if you volunteer to be a gunner, you can be out of this in three days’. So that was it, he and his friend they volunteered to be gunners.
CB: It’s not an unusual story actually ‘cause there were occasionally blockages in the system, so pilots had to wait longer and some of them became gunners.
MS: Yep, yes, well that’s why he volunteered, got fed up with waiting to go to Canada.
CB: But nevertheless, you met him round here somewhere?
MS: Yes, I met him here in Marlow.
CB: ‘Cause he came from Marlow?
MS: Yes, he’s a Marlow boy, born here and he joined the RAF in September ‘41, went to Penarth, what are we talking about now?
CB: Yep, so we’ll just stop there for a mo. So, shall we, shall we talk about your husband-to-be, when he joined the RAF? So that was 1941, so where did he go? So, he started off at Penarth for that-
MS: Reported to Penarth, and- RAF Penarth, he wasn’t there very long, was he?
CB: No.
MS: And then he got posted to Bournemouth from there, didn’t he?
CB: Right, yep, yep.
MS: And after a few weeks, we were on a train again, this time going to Wendover to RAF Halton.
CB: Yep. Then he started training there for a particular reason, didn’t he?
MS: I don’t know, would that be [unclear]-
CB: So, he did an armourer training there-
MS: Yes, he was probably doing that just to begin with.
CB: Yeah. But it was to do with guns, rather than bombs.
MS: Yes, so I suppose to do with his air gunner thing, he’s already had some training, hasn’t he?
CB: No, no he hasn’t had any, he hasn’t had any bomber- Any air gunnery training yet, has he?
MS: No, just armaments.
CB: Yes, and it seems that he was then posted to Henley[?] for a bit and then onto Swinderby.
MS: This is incredible ‘cause it- In Spring ‘42 I was with a gang of armourers preparing Hurricane fighters, which had arrived in kit form in huge crates from Canada, amazing. Yeah, so that’s-
CB: So-
MS: When were they at Lords Cricket Ground?
CB: Mhmm, yeah.
MS: Y3[?] court.
CB: Yeah.
MS: By the zoo.
CB: Yeah.
MS: And then Scarborough.
CB: That was the initial training unit.
MS: Right, Heaton Park.
CB: So, he’s three or four months at Scarborough by the look of it.
MS: Right, and then to Heaton Park, where he met Dicky Bird from [unclear].
CB: Oh right.
MS: From the school-
CB: And this was in preparation to go to Canada?
MS: What’s he talking about Ludlow?
CB: Yeah, so this was in preparation for going to Canada.
MS: Oh, I see.
CB: But you said that there was a hold up-
MS: Yeah, that’s right.
CB: -in-
MS: Got fed up with waiting.
CB: - pilot training so-
MS: Yes, they were at Ludlow, in- As I recall, under canvas, in mud and very fed up with waiting.
CB: Yes, and so that got him- He unexpectedly posted there, as you said under canvas, ‘cause he volunteered for training as an air gunner I gather.
MS: That’s right, yeah, to get away from that. They could see that it was going on a bit.
CB: So, his gunnery training was at Morpeth?
MS: Yes, that’s right.
CB: What did he do from there?
MS: ‘Cause Morpeth was an OTU.
CB: He went onto an OTU?
MS: Operational Training Unit.
CB: That’s where he went onto. So, the gunnery school was Morpeth.
MS: Oh right. Why was he at Little Horwood?
CB: That was- That’s the OTU.
MS: Oh I see.
CB: So, he’s flying Wellingtons there.
MS: Right.
CB: So in his log book, it says he’s flying Anson-
MS: Oh yes, Wellington.
CB: - then Wellington.
MS: Right.
CB: And it would seem that he then went to Stradishall to the Heavy Conversion Unit, is that right?
MS: Oh yes, that’s right. Here it is. Not far from Bury St Edmund’s, the aircraft at Stradishall was short Stirlings, they were enormous four-engine bombers. Stirling wouldn’t go above fourteen-thousand-feet, and would only- Wouldn’t take the eight-thousand-pound bombs they needed to. About the crew-
CB: What did he say about the crew?
MS: The flight engineer and I made up, made the crew up to seven.
CB: Right.
MS: But he talked about them before I suppose. But, he-
CB: And then-
MS: Does he talk about the crew in there?
CB: No, it just- Has he got comments about the crew, perhaps at the earlier stage, at the Operational Training Unit and Little Horwood?
MS: Um, yeah.
CB: We’ll stop just for a mo.
MS: Somewhere he writes all about them-
CB: About what?
MS: But I don’t- About the crew.
CB: Yeah. The crewing up process?
MS: But I don’t, I don’t think that that would’ve been back here somewhere. Met up with others-
CB: Could you just start again with that, what was that?
MS: The normal procedure was to put all the different airmen in a hanger to sort themselves out, I didn’t have to do this as I said that I had met up with others straight away. Ah, the crew, Sergeant Wishart, pilot, Canada Dave Grey, the navigator, Thorburn, the bomber, Turner, wireless operator, Fairburn, air gunner, and myself. There was one more member, Cartright, flight engineer, to come later, we stayed together for eleven months.
CB: Right, long time.
MS: Yep.
CB: So the flight engineer would join- ‘Cause that was initial- Operational-
MS: Why would he be crewed up later?
CB: Right because the operational training unit had Wellingtons and they didn’t- They only had six crew, whereas the Stirling and the other heavy bombers would have seven.
MS: But when they came to the Lancasters-
CB: When the flight engineer would join. But often, an extra gunner would join as well.
MS: Oh I see, yeah, and Wishart we- He became friends, but sadly they all disintegrated but Wishart- Trevor’s father’s family business was in Queensway in London, and one day he was walking in Queensway and met Wishart.
CB: Really?
MS: He’d just been for a medical because he was flying for Italian airlines or something and they just bumped into each other, and he lived in a lovely house in Wales and his wife came to Halton to have an operation, so Wishart came and stayed with us while the wife was at Halton having the operation. Yes, I'm glad I've found that. Crew to seven [unclear] was nineteen, and at great delight to all the girls in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, but he had a problem with air sickness and they had to cover for him all the time he was operating, otherwise they’d have got rid- You know, he wouldn’t’ve been allowed to fly. Stirling’s were huge aircraft with room for a billiard[?] table in the middle, the disadvantage was a short wingspan which stopped them flying high enough.
CB: Right. Ben is his grandson? Your grandson?
MS: Grandson, yeah.
CB: So how did that come about that he was telling the story?
MS: I think- Well it was Ben is younger as- There’s a picture out there, he was a teenager, might have been a school project or something, I don’t know.
CB: So, what did they do? They just sat down?
MS: Sat down and- Well there’s just a picture of them there with Ben and his mum, my daughter, and Trevor talking to them. I suppose Ben had asked him questions, I don’t know, I don’t expect- I’m not- Maybe I took the photograph, I expect I did, but I would’ve left them talking, probably getting the dinner at this time or something.
CB: Yes, it has emerged that many veterans found it easier to talk to their grandchildren-
MS: Yes, [unclear]
CB: - than to their wives and their own children. Was that an example of it, would you say?
MS: Yes, I would- You’re probably right there.
CB: How often did he tell your daughters about it?
MS: I don’t- They, they think he’s wonderful but I don’t remember him talking about the war really to them, not going back, you know, bit of history. No, I don’t remember.
CB: So many veterans wouldn’t, to their wives or anybody.
MS: No, no, for their own family, just the grandson pinned him down.
CB: [Chuckles]
MS: Yep. I-
CB: So what happened was, that he went from the heavy conversion unit at Stradishall on Stirlings, he then it appears, went to the Lancaster finishing school at Feltwell, where they converted from Stirling to Lancaster.
MS: Would they have gone straight onto Waterbeach?
CB: Then, they went to Waterbeach, yeah. So Waterbeach, then he went on his operations and those are in his log book but then separately there’s an intriguing diary type narrative of his, which covers a number of parts of his operational tour with 514 Squadron. Was that something you were aware of? Did he talk about his flying in the war? His operations?
MS: Not really, I don’t remember, I don’t remember.
CB: That’s not unusual. It’s just intriguing that one of the entries is 19th of May 1944, bombing Le Mans[?], the master bomber and his deputy collided, the master bomber was directing the main force over the air, in other words on the radio. So, by the time the flying training and then the full training and the operations started, then Trevor wasn't anywhere near you after the OTU?
MS: No.
CB: So how did you keep in touch?
MS: Well, whenever he could get away- They used to hitchhike, and he’d come home and- Ridiculous times and come home and if they- He was flying at night, so as long as he got back in time for the briefing, people probably didn’t realise he was away from the camp, so it was a bit horrendous if you were hitchhiking and had a problem getting back, but he- That’s how he usually used to get home. Quite frequently really, wherever he was is amazing, catching milk lorries and-
CB: Oh really?
MS: All that kind of- Yes ‘cause they travelled in the night, didn’t they? The milk lorries.
CB: Oh yes, yeah.
MS: Or got him to camp.
CB: And how did you keep in touch?
MS: By letters, used to write letters nearly every day to each other.
CB: And the postal system worked for you?
MS: For us, yes, yes- Not telephones, we hadn’t got telephones available like that, he certainly wouldn’t.
CB: He, he finished his operations- Operational tour with 514 in July ‘44, he then moved further away, didn’t he? Up to, to Manby.
MS: Oh yes.
CB: In Lincolnshire.
MS: Yes, yes, and we- I was living in- Near Ternhill, where he had been lecturing, no-
CB: That was later, was it?
MS: That was later.
CB: Yes.
MS: Yes, so that was further away.
CB: But when he was further away that was a bit of a challenge in itself.
MS: Yeah, well that would be letters, letters definitely.
CB: Yes, and at what stage did you decide to marry?
MS: [Chuckles] When we told his parents we were going on holiday together, and you weren’t allowed to do that in that- At that time, so, ‘Ok, if we’re not allowed to go on holiday together, we’ll get married’, and that was, that was it, and we got married three months later in a lovely little Norman church in- At Brimfield in the Cotswolds, and so-
CB: And that was on the? When was that? The date?
MS: 14th of June, 14th of June ‘45.
CB: Right.
MS: Yeah.
CB: And then did you get on honeymoon?
MS: We did- We couldn’t have a honeymoon ‘cause he was due back, but he didn’t go [chuckles] and luckily, he had a- He was absent without leave and he had a message, or a telegram saying that his leave was extended, and so it covered that, so he wasn’t in big trouble, so that was, that was that, but we didn't have- Our honeymoon was much later, we went to stay with friends in Cornwall. I still here from the family in Cornwall, although the parents are dead, our friends, their son is still runs the farm he- I had a card at Christmas. That was nice.
CB: In Cornwall?
MS: Mhmm.
CB: The war finished just before you were married-
MS: Exactly.
CB: - what was the general reaction? Your reaction?
MS: I think everybody was jubilant, except us because we knew that worse things were to come probably, so we weren’t doing any great rejoicing.
CB: So VE day was 8th of May 1945, what were you expecting to happen next? For his career?
MS: Well, he was still lecturing by then, wasn’t he? At Ternhill.
CB: No, he- Right.
MS: And so, yep.
CB: But he’d been up to West Freugh in Scotland
MS: Oh yes, so he had, yeah. Was that before or after Ternhill?
CB: So, that’s in the middle of ‘45, early part of ‘45, March to May when the end of the war occurred, that’s why I'm asking you the question really.
MS: He was actually here on the day that war- That- The actual day we celebrated, so- The end of the war in Europe.
CB: In Europe?
MS: He was here.
CB: But where were you expecting him to go next?
MS: I can’t remember.
CB: That was to the Far East, wasn't it?
MS: Yes, oh yes, we thought that was a possibility, that was on the books.
CB: Yeah. Were you originally planning- You said that you got married because of the holiday, were you originally marrying- Intending to marry when the war finished?
MS: Oh, we intended to marry, yes- Oh I don’t think we were thinking of any specific time, but we were engaged.
CB: Yes.
MS: Yeah, we were engaged to be married, so we said, ‘Ok’.
CB: Yeah.
MS: If we couldn’t go on holiday together, we’ll get married.
CB: Right. So, the war finished in August 1945, he was demobbed, Trevor was demobbed in the Summer of ‘46, a year later almost. What did he do then?
MS: He, he couldn’t follow the career he wanted to, but his father had a tailoring business in Queensway, London, making clothes for very important people like Sir John Betjeman and lots of film producers and the skaters, like Christopehr Dean, he made all his, all his clothes while he was doing Olympics and things, and so he- And had to join the firm and become a tailor, and it must be in his genes because, I suppose architects and master tailors, same kind of background, because they’d been tailors for time out of mine[?] and in the science museum in London there’s a sewing machine designed by Saint, so we think that it must be the same family. So that’s what happened to Trevor, and then he- So he became a tailor, his father died young at sixty-two, so he had to grow up, grow a moustache and look, look grown up and become a master tailor [chuckles] but he, he was very clever, he wasn’t a business man sadly, but he was an excellent tailor. Working all sorts of interesting people.
CB: What happened when he came to retire? What did he do? Did a member of the family take it on or did he sell it?
MS: Well, he- No, no. The, the premises in Queensway became so expensive and four of his staff needed to retire, so he stopped tailoring in London and he’d a coat maker in Hayes[?], another tailor- Not- Nearby and so he decided to work from home, thinking that it- He- Nobody would want his work, but he got more and more popular because people preferred to come here than go to London, so he then had a very busy time being a tailor, until he-
CB: With new premises? With premises here?
MS: At home.
CB: Yeah. Oh, at home?
MS: Yes ‘cause we had- The children had left home by then and we’d got a spare bedroom. So, we entertained all sorts of interesting people, like the skaters and- John Betjeman didn’t actually come here, but we used to go to him, and I've drive him around London in my vehicle. He was a wonderful character, John Betjeman, and various other people, yep. So quite a colourful [unclear].
CB: Well, I think we’ve covered a wide range of topics, thank you very much indeed. So, Meg Saint, thank you very much-
MS: Thank you.
CB: - for all your contribution.
MS: Thank you for coming Chris, and there’s a lot more work to done.
CB: [Chuckles]
MS: Having been a secretary, or one, I know how much work there- It entails.
CB: Thank you, brilliant. The thing I forgot to ask you, is about your family. So, what about your daughters?
MS: We’ve got- We were married for seven years and then we had Jennifer, who is now sixty-five or- Sixty-six, living in Cheshire, she’s got two children, and grandchildren, and another- Then we had another child, and- Within about two years of having Jennifer, and we went on holiday to North Wales and we had a hor- It was a horrible accident and we lost that beautiful little girl-
CB: Oh dear.
MS: I don’t think she was four, I’ll show you a picture of her.
CB: What was her name?
MS: Catherine, we lost her.
CB: Catherine.
MS: So, a little while afterwards we had another baby and- Elizabeth, and that’s a colourful life there, she runs the equestrian centre in Mustique in the Caribbean, she’s always worked with horses, she’s got four children who have all done incredibly well. So that’s my family.
CB: Super.
MS: We had a wonderful, we had a wonderful-
CB: This is why it was such a good get together.
MS: This was Christmas, three of the children are engineers and one’s in design, and Sam, Danny she does hotel management and she’s in Bangkok wait- Yesterday she flew to China to do things with a new hotel, and Sam has now got a job, he’s just got his degree, in Spain, and that’s his partner, and that’s- They’re partners, and Tom is absolutely incredible, he’s involved- He’s just finished his engineering course, but he hasn’t got his degree because he hasn’t handed in his dissertation.
CB: Oh, what a lovely picture.
Other: Isn’t it lovely?
MS: Isn’t it lovely, this is Christmas, we’re all together.
CB: Yes, isn’t that super.
Other: Lovely.
MS: Emma, Danny, Sam and Tom, and Tom, at university, he was with a chap who's invented something that’s gone- Just gone global and he’s involved. So, he won’t be handing in his dissertation at the moment.
CB: Oh right, no. Less important.
MS: I said, ‘Tom I don’t understand what your- What the thing is that you’ve done’, and he- When we were in Truro and it was the carol service at Christmas, first of all, the parents who in Mustique they arranged two cottages in Roseland, Cornwall, and all four children joined us, with their partners. You imagine.
Other: Lovely.
CB: Amazing.
MS: But- Tom’s magic thing is- When we were in [unclear] for the carols at Christmas, he said, ‘Granny, you see all those cables, we don’t need those cables’, so it’s something to do with that.
CB: Right.
MS: Something to do with- Magic to do with IT. The things that happen-



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Margaret Saint,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed January 21, 2022,

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