Interview with Frances Elizabeth Secker


Interview with Frances Elizabeth Secker


Frances Elizabeth Secker is a lifelong resident of Feltwell. She was still at school when RAF Feltwell opened in 1937, and she remembers the Harrow being the first aircraft to arrive, followed by Wellingtons.
Elizabeth has clear memories of attending dances and the cinema at both RAF Feltwell and RAF Methwold, along with her friend Pam. She was employed as a waitress in the local fish and chip shop, which brought her into direct contact with the New Zealand airmen stationed at nearby RAF Methwold. The airmen’s love of egg and chips is a particularly fond memory. She had several boyfriends, but nothing too serious. Open trucks and coaches full of aircrew being transported to and from RAF Methwold is another memory that has stayed with her.
She didn’t meet her husband to be until 1947 after he was posted to RAF Methwold to retrain in air traffic control. They met when she cycled with her friend to Brandon fair. Charlie had been a rear gunner. His crew was made up of a New Zealand pilot, Flight Lieutenant Keen, two Canadians, Flight Lieutenants Brown and King, along with Flight Sergeants Spillsby, Elms and Smith. The crew were a close-knit unit and they carried out 31 operation, and remained in contact long after the war. He spoke fondly about his favourite aircraft, Q for Queenie, but he did not talk about his operations. Elizabeth only discovered his log book after Charlie’s death. His only comment about his experiences came when an item on Germany made the news, and he would indicate that he knew where the location was. She does remember Charlie told her he had his first cigarette after the aircraft crashed at RAF Mepal. Charlie demobbed in 1950 and was then employed by Peal Assurance.
Elizabeth also worked on the land. Planting potatoes by machine, but picking by hand. She also helped at harvest time. Cycling to the fields where all the heavy work was carried out by horses.
Her friend Pam married Ted King. She was quite young, and although Pam and Ted moved around, they remained in contact throughout their lives until Pam passed away. Elizabeth worked at the chip shop throughout her life until her retirement.




Temporal Coverage




00:20:07 audio recording


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DB: I’m talking today to Frances Elizabeth Secker, who lives in Feltwell, on the 15th of August 2017 and it is currently 14:45 hours. Elizabeth, I know you’ve lived in Feltwell all your life and you were here during the World War Two. Can you tell me a little bit how you interacted with the Bomber Command boys on Feltwell station?
FES: Well, I got on well with all the boys on Feltwell station, had quite a few friends, yes, yeah, a lot of them through a friend of mine and I got introduced to them, yes. We’d go to the dances at the gym, we’d go to the cinema in the camp, yes, uhm. Then I met a lot of the airmen, the New Zealand airmen coming to the fish shop where I worked, quite young, yes, and what I can really remember about them was they had egg and chips quite a lot but not when I get the time, quite often three [laughs], yes, so sometimes they had to be cooked in the chip pan because they wanted so many. There’s two eating rooms there and I was the person that waited the tables quite a lot, yeah, all very friendly, yeah, nice people to work for, yes. I had a few boyfriends, in the Air Force here [laughs]. [file missing] The actual uhm New Zealanders flew from Methwold, didn’t’ they? Yeah, the first one, yeah, flying from here I suppose but I think the actual first one that flew in Feltwell was a Harrow, yeah, is that right? Yeah. I was at school, yes, and we had the Wellingtons after that, uhm was it the Venturas? Yeah. I don’t, the Lancasters flew from Methwold, I think, didn’t they? They didn’t fly from Feltwell, yeah. Yes, I can remember that, remember when one or two of them crashed round, yeah. Another thing I can remember is seeing the, the [unclear] be New Zealanders a lot, a lot, I think, going off to Methwold, sometimes in an open truck, sometimes in a coach, and I was working at the fish shop, they would quite often stop at the post office next door for some reason [laughs], yes [laughs], yeah, yeah [unclear] she met them she met them, I know she did Charlie, they went into the shop and she get a date, she would say, [laughs], so yeah and then we went out with a couple of officers, [unclear] different ones but really they were more casual dates, yeah, just, you know, at the gym we met quite a lot of them, yeah, and dances on camp yeah and I can remember cycling to Methwold uhm where they had dances in the Nissen huts, yeah, we went there, cycled there, [laughs] yeah. Another thing I can certainly remember is watching the funerals, yes, [unclear] yeah, which is very sad, yeah. And I went to, uhm when they unveiled the memorial for them, went to that, yeah, and when they, this is recently in, the one by St Mary’s, I went to that when they put that there, yeah, went to their little service, yes, yes, very friendly, yeah, we did have a very nice time although it was wartime, yeah, we did, yeah, ok. Well, he took us to Brandon fair we cycled, my friend Pam and me, Pam, he asked me for the next date, so we went on [unclear] but he was stationed, he came here in ’47, to, was it, a flying training school, he was, uhm, I didn’t know really, I didn’t know him then, and actually I never saw his logbook so anything until after he died, uhm, never talked about that much really, apart from talking about his, the crew he was with but yeah, I never saw his logbook so I knew [clears throat] that he said once they crashed at Mepal was when he had his first cigarette [laughs], yes, yeah, yes uhm. So, he was here from ’47 till ’50, then he came out, air traffic control and that was at Methwold, yeah, yeah. About things up here, in the mess his friends, yes, one there, he wasn’t in the forces, I don’t quite know what his position was but he kept a few hens and turned a bit laugh and say, he came into the mess at breakfast time and said, my hens are not laying very much and Joe Bowman would come in and say, would you cook, this egg for me? I think it was [unclear] [laughs] so that’s why his hens weren’t laying much for him, yeah, lots of fun times really, yes, he had some. Charlie’s a big sportsman, yes, he played for station, yeah, and the one time he played for Yarmouth but when he was in the Air Force he played different stations, yeah, a big sportsman, football, this I’m talking about, yeah, yeah, well, any other sport he was interested into, yeah, yeah. Yes, new Zealander the pilot, two Canadians, yeah, they were British, Charlie and his crew, Charlie was the rear gunner, Flight Lieutenant Keen was the pilot a new Zealander, Flight Lieutenant Brown Canadian, Flight Lieutenant King Canadian, Flight Sergeant Spilsbury, Sergeant Elms and Sergeant Smith were British. I think, his skipper, as he called him, thought quite a lot of Charlie, made quite a fuss of him, although they couldn’t eat in the same mess, they were quite friendly, yes. They’d done thirty-one tours, yes and then that was it for them, were very lucky, yeah, to survive, yeah, [unclear]. Charlie kept in touch with the Canadians, Flight Lieutenant Brown and Flight Lieutenant King for a while, yeah, heard all about their lives and what they’d done after they’ve come out of the service, yeah, yes. Charlie came to Feltwell in ’47 with the, uhm, training [unclear], flight training, for that he was air control at Feltwell and Methwold, yes, stayed in the Air Force until 1950 from when he took a job with Pearl Insurance, ok, that was Charlie’s bit [laughs] [unclear] uhm, yeah, not the land army as such but land work in the Fens, near the village, where we cycled to work, everywhere we had to cycle if we needed to go anywhere at that time [laughs] yes. And work, uhm, we picked potatoes [laughs], planted potatoes but by machine, we picked potatoes by hand what else did we do? We do celery, bit in the harvest fields, yes, at that time, yeah and no cow, yeah, no, no cow, horses there, at that time till we got to practice machine, yeah. Yes, I’d done that for until mum [unclear] died I stayed home, yeah, I then went back to fish and chips [laughs], yeah, till I retired almost, yeah, different ones, yeah, [unclear]. Yes, Charlie would talk about Queenie, Q for Queenie, apparently his favourite aircraft. One thing he talked about was when they crashed at Mepal, he had his first cigarette [laughs], yes, he never talked much about the operations, unless he saw something about Germany on the television and he would say, I think I know where that is [laughs], and that was all he’d say about. His logbook I never saw until after he died. So that was Q for Queenie, his favourite aircraft. Going back to the fish shop, they were packed, it was packed in those days, two eating rooms full and the actual shop, there was no queue, everybody trying to get in front [laughs], calling out what they would like, very happy times although it was wartime, yeah, yeah. Yes, I think that they had fish too, yeah, but I remember that, I used to go with Mrs [unclear] the shop to, have you heard of Wearham? Little village? Yeah, used to go there and get these trays of eggs, yes, because I suppose having the shop, they could get them, couldn’t they? And yeah, I don’t know whether they got them on the campus match, anyway they left their eggs and chips, [laughs] and fish and chips [laughs], yeah, and that was it, egg and chips and fish and chips, and bread and butter [laughs], yeah. I don’t think we’d done fish, we’d done cups of tea, no, I think it was just fish and chips, and egg and chips and frittles [laughs], no, I think we were too busy really, we working and then, yeah, then on the corner, uhm, just by the camp gates on the right hand side, I think it was The Sally Ann if I remember rightly, the one, yeah, yeah, then there was The Blade, I think that was open at the time, I think they’d done, they’d done food there, yeah, looks, yeah, shop, yeah, cause it’s not a shop anymore, my lifelong friend from schooldays, her mum and dad had a shop, she went into the ATS, her mum died suddenly so she came home, and helped her dad in the shop, a grocery shop, this was where she met a lot of the airmen [laughs], this is where we made, made up our friends, most of them, at the time [laughs], mostly casual but Pam married Ted King, he was a, stationed at Feltwell, Pam met him and married him and she was quite young, and they were quite young, yeah, and from then on she travelled with him, yes, so they went a lot of different places in the country, yeah, we always stayed friends, great friends until she died last year, at the beginning of this year, actually, yeah, yeah, Pam and Ted, I’m friendly with her daughter, yeah.


Denise Boneham, “Interview with Frances Elizabeth Secker,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2023,

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