Interview with Joan Smith


Interview with Joan Smith


Before the war Joan worked as a hairdresser. At 17 and a half she applied for the Land Army and was interviewed in her home town of Sheffield. Her first posting was to a farm in Fulbeck. She and about fourteen other girls stayed in a hostel with about six in a room. Their board and lodge were paid by the government and they earned about sixteen shillings a week. Some farmers did not think that girls could do the work of a man but eventually they appreciated how hard they worked. Joan remembered a group of Italian prisoners, who were hard working and courteous, working on the farm. There were also some conscientious objectors who Joan refused to work with as they were lazy and foul mouthed and there was a lot of resentment.
The girls started work at about 8.00 o’clock or half past, finishing at about 6.00. During the summer and harvest time they worked longer hours. They would mostly be weeding the fields and thinning out the crops or pulling fruit and vegetables. Joan enjoyed working with the pigs and spoke about the hard work at harvest time. After Fulbeck Joan was moved to Bourn near Selby, Yorkshire, where there was a Bomber Command station. The girls would be invited to the camp dances.
When Joan left the Land Army she went back into hairdressing until she got married. She met her husband, George, just after the war and they married two months later. George had been a navigator with 357 Squadron on B-24 flying Gurkhas from Burma to Japan. When he was demobbed, he worked as a surveyor and later volunteered at Duxford. Their daughter was in the Royal Air Force and married a flight engineer. Joan said that being in the Land Army had been hard work and miserable at times.







00:33:53 audio recording

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DK: Right. So this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Joan Smith at her home on the 11th of January. It’s 2018 now, isn’t it?
JS: Yes.
DK: 2018. Yes. Just making sure this is working. So that’s Joan Smith at her home on the 11th of January 2018. If I, if I just put that there.
JS: Yeah.
DK: Just so it picks you up. It’s more important it picks you up rather than me.
JS: Yeah.
DK: And if it’s alright if I —
JS: What are you looking for?
DK: Just wondering if I could sit a bit closer if that’s ok.
JS: Well —
DK: Is there a chair or something I could —
JS: Move this over or —
DK: Yeah.
JS: See if you can get a chair from the kitchen if you —
DK: Can I get a chair from the kitchen?
JS: That may be easier. Yes.
DK: Probably the easiest.
JS: He could have used that, couldn’t he?
DK: Put that there. If I could just close the door.
JS: Yes. Of course.
DK: So we don’t get the TV if that’s ok.
JS: Well, I could have switched that off. Never mind.
DK: I’m just going to take my jacket off. If I’m looking down I’m just doing it to make sure the recorder is working.
JS: Right.
DK: Put that there. Yeah. We’re all ok. So I just wanted to ask you what, what you were doing immediately before the war?
JS: Hairdressing.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
JS: Which was not a Reserved Occupation.
DK: Right.
JS: So at eighteen you would have had to have gone in to either factory work or into the forces. So I decided I didn’t want factory work.
DK: No.
JS: So I went in at seventeen and a half.
DK: Right.
JS: To the Land Army. About 1942/43. Something like that.
DK: So, how was recruitment to the Land Army done? Did you have to go along to a Recruitment Centre or [unclear] board?
JS: No. Well, not as they do it now. It was simply one woman was in charge. I lived in Yorkshire. Sheffield at the time.
DK: Right.
JS: And you went there to see her at her big palatial home. She sort of interviewed you, asked you various questions and it wasn’t like as formal as anything. And then, ‘We would let you know.’ Which they did. And then you had to go and collect this uniform, instructions and you were just sent to an area. And I went near Fulbeck.
DK: Right.
JS: And in some areas, I’ve got books on the Land Army and they tell you they’ve had training and all sorts of things. We never got. I think there were different, different ideas as of different people running it.
DK: Right.
JS: The agricultural people. Because we didn’t get any training. You just went to the farm and you just had to pick up as you went along.
DK: Right.
JS: Whatever was going off.
DK: [cough] Excuse me.
JS: Yeah.
DK: Right. So were you given a uniform at all? Or —
JS: Yes. It was sort of corduroy knee, like riding trousers.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Long socks. One pair of shoes. Two of those airtex beige shirts and a green pullover.
DK: Right.
JS: And a hat. And they did say a mackintosh. You weren’t given a mackintosh you were given a coat.
DK: Right.
JS: Which was quite, quite smart actually. And it wasn’t replaced as they said in the thing. It was a case of you had to buy them. I mean, I think we were treated quite shabbily really because we got no money when we came out. No coupons and everything was on coupons then.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And I quite enjoyed it.
DK: So the, so the farm itself. Was it near to where you lived or did you have to —
JS: Oh no. No. You were just sent.
DK: You had to go. Leave home.
JS: Yes. I lived in Yorkshire and this one was at Fulbeck.
DK: Right. Ok.
JS: Here, in Lincolnshire.
DK: So presumably that was the first time you were away from home was it?
JS: Yes. Yes.
DK: So was that a bit of an experience?
JS: Yes. It was actually. Yes. Yes. And I mean if you went in the forces normally they would not let you go home for about a month or they didn’t want you phoning home.
DK: Right.
JS: A month. And of course mobiles weren’t in the picture then.
DK: No.
JS: In case that you did get homesick and you went home and you didn’t want to come back. But yes it was. But everybody else there was in the same position as you anyway.
DK: Right.
JS: So that helped somehow. But a lot depended on what farm you got.
DK: So how many were you there then on this particular farm? How many Land Army ladies?
JS: Oh, there would only be you. If you were living on a farm it would be either one land girl or two.
DK: Right.
JS: Depending on what amount of work because the men that they’d had were called up.
DK: Right. [cough] excuse me.
JS: Do you want a drink?
DK: No. I’m ok thank you. So in your particular case then on this farm was it just yourself or two of you?
JS: No. I was in a hostel.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
JS: With about, I should think there was fifteen girls. And it was a big house they’d taken over. And there was a cook there. There was somebody that did the cleaning and you had about six to a room.
DK: Right.
JS: With —
DK: How was that then? Finding yourself in a dormitory with six other girls?
JS: Well, you didn’t care that much.
DK: Yeah.
JS: It was alright.
DK: Did you all get on?
JS: Yes. On the whole.
DK: Yeah.
JS: It was always bits of squabbles about things. Somebody. But on the whole yes. And we had this what they called a matron that was in charge that you had to be in by 10 o’clock unless you’d got special permission. And, and then there would be another one in charge of the work and she would allocate which farms you went to.
DK: Right. That’s what I was going to ask. You didn’t keep going to the same farm. You just went to —
JS: No. Not unless, because most of them —
DK: Yeah.
JS: Wouldn’t have had enough work all through.
DK: Right. So you went to the farm where they needed the workers.
JS: Yes. And if it was five miles away you had to cycle there.
DK: Oh right.
JS: And then do a day’s work and then cycle back. Over five miles she took you in this little mini-van thing she had. But some, some of the farmers didn’t accept us. They found fault with everything because they didn’t think that girls could do the work.
DK: No.
JS: That their men had done. And then we had a lot of Italian prisoners that would be there in groups but they never worked in ones or twos. They always worked in a group.
DK: Right.
JS: But they were very easy to get on with. Very polite. We also had, what do they call it? Objectors.
DK: Conscientious objectors. Yeah.
JS: And I don’t know if they were all alike but the lot we had there the only thing they were objecting to was in case they wouldn’t go in the services was because they might be disabled or they might get killed.
DK: Right.
JS: Because they were vile. They really were.
DK: I was going to say you didn’t get on with the conscientious objectors.
JS: I did not get on with them.
DK: No.
JS: None of us did.
DK: No.
JS: Because this particular lot were really foul mouthed. They really were awful. And I refused in the end to work with them.
DK: Really?
JS: Well, because the leader of them he thought it was very funny if you were doing harvesting. The mice would all run out of the stooks and he would get one and he would try and drop it down the neck of one of the girls or something like that. And he did it when I was working with them and she went hysterical this girl. Well, you could imagine couldn’t you? And I just said if he ever came near me with it, I’d got this pitchfork that I was doing the things with he would get it and he would have get it too.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And I just refused to work with them after that. I just said there’s no way. Because at that time my brother was in the Navy and he’d, they’d just had a, didn’t sink the boat but it was attacked and they were stayed off in Malta for a time. But he was only quite young and I thought why should he be risking his life for scum like this?
DK: So there, you, there was a lot of resentment against them then presumably.
JS: Oh yes. Yes. There were.
DK: Yeah.
JS: If it was raining they didn’t have to turn out at all. If it was raining we did. If it was until 11 o’clock.
DK: Yeah.
JS: If it was still raining then if the farmer couldn’t find you anything to do indoors or some sort of work.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Then you could go back. But other than that you had to be there but they didn’t.
DK: Yeah.
JS: No. They didn’t.
DK: So the Italian prisoners then you got on with them better did you?
JS: Yes. Because they did work.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Whereas the —
DK: Was there a bit of a language barrier or did they manage to speak?
JS: With some of them but you could, I mean you couldn’t have a fluent conversation with them but you could make yourself understood. And they were very courteous. They really were. And as I say they did work. Conscientious objectors didn’t. They’d skive and do all sorts of things. But —
DK: Yeah.
JS: As I say whether that lot was just different from some of them that had got these ideas that there shouldn’t be war well we all know that but —
DK: Yeah. So you don’t think the conscientious objectors had sort of high ideals. They just didn’t want to get hurt.
JS: No. Not that lot. That lot certainly didn’t.
DK: No. No.
JS: Certainly didn’t.
DK: It must have been difficult for you if you’ve got relations serving.
JS: Well, I refused to work with them any longer and I had to go to oh [pause] what’s the garden city up there? Not, the big one. Spa town. I tell you my memory’s going like nothing. Anyway, I had to go there because the committee for the whole area there was there. I had to explain why. He didn’t. And he was never called to whatsits over it at all.
DK: Really.
JS: Or any of them there. But in the end most of it got that most of the girls didn’t have to go and work with them because none of them wanted to work with them.
DK: Right.
JS: So —
DK: There was real resentment then. Yeah. Yeah.
JS: There was real resentment about them. But we just did general farm work. Some, if they went in for rat catching —
DK: Yeah. I was going to say what was your day like? What did, presumably you got up and had something to eat and then you were told where you were going.
JS: Well, you got up. And then before you had breakfast you would go in to the kitchen and there would be a big sink bath there with a cloth in it and there’d be bread in it. Slices of bread. And on the table there might be tomatoes or some cheese or anything that you could put in.
DK: Yeah.
JS: On occasion there might be some cake. And you just had to scramble down there and get what you could because there was always going to be somebody no matter if you all got up at the same time and you’d perhaps be left with one slice of bread and nothing to put in it. So it was a case of get down there first or you didn’t get anything.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And the farmer’s wives on the whole were not that generous about offering you —
DK: No?
JS: Hot drinks. No.
DK: Oh dear.
JS: And yes, it, and then as I say you’d either have to bike or go there to the farm. If you were on just general, mostly it would be probably weeding fields of —
DK: Right.
JS: Vegetables or plucking them out, you know. Thinning them out. But the fields there were about a mile long because it was all flat.
DK: Right.
JS: And all, went on forever.
DK: So you were weeding.
JS: Weeding. Yeah.
DK: Right.
JS: And or you could picking stuff. Picking vegetables. Picking. Picking fruit. It would depend what the farm was doing. Sometimes you’d get farmyard duties.
DK: Right.
JS: With the animals. I never did any milking.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Because I didn’t like that. I liked working with the pigs. I quite liked pigs.
DK: Right.
JS: It was just sort of as I say general.
DK: Yeah.
JS: You’d have to clean the cowsheds out which was a job I hated. And harvesting time of course was absolutely mad. Oh, it was mad. It was.
DK: So how was the harvest done then? What sort of machinery were you using?
JS: The old thing where you got clouds of dust from it. You got all the chaff. You got all down your neck.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And you’d be itching and it was horrible. Like the threshing bit of it but, and you’d have to sort of bind it up. I mean now it’s all done all in one go isn’t it?
DK: Yeah.
JS: There’s no problem at all.
DK: The old combine harvester.
JS: Yeah. Oh yeah, that goes straight through.
DK: Straight through and pick it up. Yeah.
JS: We had to do everything. Then we had to put the stooks together as well. And then when they’d dried out of course the thing would come around. We’d have to chuck them on the cart ready to put them on the haystack. It was hard work.
DK: So you say initially the farmers were a bit shall we say cynical about ladies doing the work.
JS: Oh, yes. They were. Yes.
DK: Did they change their mind after a while?
JS: Yes. They did.
DK: Right.
JS: They did. Yes.
DK: Did they come to appreciate what you were doing?
JS: Well, yes. They, they just refused to accept the fact that girls could do what the blokes had done before and I think in a lot of cases we did a blooming sight more than what the men had done.
DK: And did they, the farmers change their attitudes towards you in the end or —
JS: Oh yes. Yes.
DK: Right.
JS: They were grudgingly but they did. And well they couldn’t have managed without us because the men were all being called up that were of a young age and if they were old.
DK: Yeah.
JS: They weren’t going to get that much work out of them were they?
DK: So how long were your days then? How long were you working on the, on the fields and on the farms?
JS: Well, crikey. Well, we’d have to be there for sometimes 8 o’clock. Half past eight. And in the summer it would be sort of long hours because of the amount of, you know the field work and everything else that had to be done.
DK: So what time did you finish then?
JS: About six. Or sometimes eight. And you used to get Saturdays off but sometimes you couldn’t rely on that. If the farmer wanted you there Saturday and you were at that farm you would have to go in.
DK: Right.
JS: But you didn’t get double time or anything like that like they do now.
DK: So what was the pay like then?
JS: If you were in a hostel you got sixteen shillings and you got your board and lodging. That was paid by the agricultural thing.
DK: Right.
JS: To the Land Army. By the government to the Land Army and if you were actually in a farm house I think it was about thirty two shillings but you would have to pay the farmer for your board and lodging.
DK: Yeah.
JS: So it wasn’t very highly paid but I suppose it was [pause] and it varied from areas.
DK: Right.
JS: If the pay was more in other areas they got the corresponding amount. And you didn’t get free travel. You got one free train pass a year.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Which isn’t very much. If you were ill that was tough. You didn’t get paid. And, well as I say they didn’t, I don’t think there was any appreciation. Not ‘til after the war. And it was some years back now I went to a big service at Lincoln Cathedral.
DK: Right. For all the Land Army girls.
JS: For all the land armies.
DK: Yeah.
JSDK: And it was sad in a way because you thought they’d all been young. All been land girls. And there were so many in wheelchairs, so many on walking frames and you looked around and you thought oh lord. This is —
DK: Did you, did you stay in touch with any of your Land Army colleagues?
JS: Well, for a while.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Yes. And then they’ve all gradually died off or emigrated or whatever. I mean some married. Married some of the farmers or the farmer’s sons.
DK: Really. So some of the farmer’s appreciated them in the end then [laughs]
JS: I had no intention of marrying any farmer.
DK: No. No.
JS: I’d had enough because we were —
DK: Do you think what the Land Army did then in the sort of bigger picture of the war was it something really important do you think?
JS: Oh, yes. It was. Because in, from Fulbeck I was moved up to near Selby. And that was a place called Bourn but not spelled with an E on the end.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And there was a big aerodrome there and that, that was a Bomber Command and we used to grow their vegetables for them.
DK: Right.
JS: Go on the field. And the fields had belonged to the farmers but —
DK: Yeah.
JS: I don’t know what arrangement they had but we used to grow all their vegetables and everything that they needed for that and you know that was, that was quite all right. But we used to get invited to the dances and anything going on there and they would provide transport for us and bring us back and that was good. But —
DK: So you saw quite a bit then of the Bomber Command then. Of the airfields and the aircraft.
JS: Oh yeah. Yes.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Yes. Because we worked on the fields just off from where they were flying really.
DK: And this was Bourn, was it?
JS: Bourn in Yorkshire.
DK: Right. Yeah. So, what are your memories of that then? Of the airfields then.
JS: Oh that, that was, it was a lot [pause] a lot nicer. A lot nicer because I think the farmers there were beginning to accept you and realise that —
DK: Yeah.
JS: If they didn’t, if we were not there they’d be in a real pickle.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Because some of them had been very poor farmers. I mean they were said about a poor farmer didn’t they?
DK: Yeah.
JS: And some of them were very small but with the war that made them because they had to extend with government help and grow crops or get more animals in. So you don’t hear very much of the poor farmer these days.
DK: No. That’s very true.
JS: And, you know as I say it was [pause] and then socially when you moved up there we got invited to all these things at the aerodrome.
DK: Right.
JS: And so —
DK: So what did you think of the airmen when you met them at these do’s?
JS: Well, they were very nice [laughs] I didn’t meet my husband there.
DK: No. Oh. So, if I can ask then where did you meet your husband then? That was during the war then that you met him.
JS: No. Just after.
DK: Right. Ok.
JS: Just after because he was out in Burma and they were the last to be called back.
DK: Right.
JS: Because they called them the forgotten army out there.
DK: Yeah. So, what was he actually doing in Burma? Do you know?
JS: They were flying the Gurkhas out to the Japanese.
DK: Oh right.
JS: To —
DK: To Burma.
JS: From Burma.
DK: Right.
JS: I’ve got, he’s written a thing in here [pause] It’s a chap that much like you’re doing.
DK: Oh right.
JS: And he, he always had a big [pause] that’s, this is all from the Aircrew Association he belonged to.
DK: Ok.
JS: And it’s the memories.
DK: Can I just have a look at the cover of the book?
JS: Oh yes. You can.
DK: I’m just reading this for the benefit of the recording here. So this is a book here. It’s, “Wings on the Whirlwind.” Compiled and edited by Anne Grimshaw. And it’s by the Northwest Essex and —
JS: Yeah.
DK: East Hertfordshire branch of the Aircrew Association.
JS: Yeah.
DK: Well, I’ve never, never seen a copy of this before.
JS: Haven’t you? No.
DK: So, it’s —
JS: It’s the, it’s the story of all those who were in it.
DK: All the various people who were —
JS: That belonged to it and their —
DK: Right.
JS: Their sort of —
DK: So these are your husband’s pages then is it?
JS: Yes.
DK: So that’s —
JS: It’s alright. I can put it in after.
DK: Is that alright there? So that’s George Smith.
JS: Yes.
DK: And he was a navigator with 357 Squadron.
JS: Yeah.
DK: Ok.
JS: And that is [pause] Yeah. That’s him.
DK: He’s on the end there.
JS: Yeah.
DK: So George Smith. So, I’ll just read this out for the recording.
JS: Yes. Of course. Yes.
DK: If I may. “George Smith was accepted for aircrew in July 1941 and trained as a navigator. He flew Wellingtons at 14 Operational Training Unit and Stirlings at 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit in 1943. In 1944 he was posted to South East Asia Command as a Liberator reinforcement.” So he’s flying the Liberators then. Yeah. “And was with the air arm of 357 Special Duties Squadron of the Special Operations Executive.”
JS: Well, that’s when they were taking the Gurkhas out there.
DK: Right. So he was navigator on Liberators.
JS: Yeah.
DK: Doing, doing some cloak and dagger stuff by the looks of it.
JS: Oh yes. it was. He was —
DK: But it says here he was made to sign the Official Secrets Act.
JS: Yeah. Well, I never knew anything about this for years after we’d been married
DK: Really.
JS: Yeah.
DK: So he never spoke about it to you either.
JS: No. The only time he [coughs] was when he was, he wasn’t very well and he kept on about this dark patch of water and, ‘I can’t see.’
DK: Right.
JS: And I could never make out what it was you know. And I’d say to him afterwards, ‘What? What is this dark patch of water?’ And he said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ And from his pilot who we were in touch with he said, ‘I can tell you about that,’ he said, ‘Because if we went out with George we knew we’d get back home,’ he said, ‘Because he’d have his head down.’ And they didn’t have all the instruments they have now.
DK: Right.
JS: For navigation. I mean it really had to be done and plotted all out. And he said, ‘It was pitch black. We couldn’t have lights on and everything was pitch black,’ he said, ‘And we had to fly very low over this great big expanse of dark water.’ And he said, ‘That’s what he’s talking about.’ he said, ‘Because it would be mile on mile on mile.’ I mean, sometimes they were flying for twenty two hours.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Which is a hell of a long time. And that’s what he got in and he used to keep saying when he went in to the nursing, when he was dying, it all came back.
DK: Right.
JS: And he’d be saying, ‘Get me out of here,’ he said. Or, ‘Tell them to come and get it over and done with,’ because he thought he’d been captured and the Japs had got him. And it was awful. It really was.
DK: So being captured by the Japanese was something that he worried about for a long time.
JS: Well, yes because they used to drop these Gurkhas and he used to say I mean, well I still send a donation to Gurkhas every year because I think they’re marvellous. And he used to say the way we treated them afterwards was appalling.
DK: Yeah.
JS: But he used to say they were young lads that went out there, he said and you knew you were dropping them right into the Japs, where the Japs were, he said and you thought are they going to ever survive? And he said it was, you know really he said and if they were your friend they were your friend for life and they would do anything for you.
DK: Yeah.
JS: He said they were wonderful blokes. But I think it used to get to him. The fact that, you know once they went out of that hatch that was it, you know. Whether with the blessed Japanese. But he was [pause] they were there for quite a long time after a lot were demobbed.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And —
DK: I notice here, in the picture here he’s at Duxford isn’t he? In the 1970s.
JS: Yes.
DK: So —
JS: Yeah. That’s when we went back. That was when Duxford was beginning because he used to go at weekends.
DK: Right.
JS: And that’s when they started rebuilding and cannibalising some of the aircraft.
DK: Yeah.
JS: To make them show. It wasn’t a showplace like it is now.
DK: Yeah. The big —
JS: It was just a hangar with all these bits and pieces in and volunteers like himself. We lived in Bishops Stortford then.
DK: Right.
JS: He used to go over there at weekends and help with it. And now it’s well a great big showplace, isn’t it?
DK: Yeah. So he, is that him with his crew there then? Is it?
JS: Where’s my glasses? I think it is. We’ve got photographs around the house.
DK: Right.
JS: Yeah. That’s him. That’s him there. The second one. That’s the pilot, Geoff.
DK: Right.
JS: And these two are ones that lived. This one. Wally. He’s a farmer in Canada.
DK: Oh right.
JS: And he used to come over about once every three or four years.
DK: So your husband stayed in touch with his crew.
JS: Oh yeah. They all met.
DK: Over the years then. Yeah.
JS: Every three or four years he used to come over from Canada.
DK: Right.
JS: And then they used to have a big meeting.
DK: Right.
JS: And we used to go to —
DK: Can I ask you when he passed away then? Was it —
JS: Eleven years ago.
DK: Eleven years ago. ok.
JS: So —
DK: So he didn’t really talk about what he did much then.
JS: No. There wasn’t anybody to —
DK: No.
JS: He’d talk about the Air Force as such because as I say he immediately belonged to the Aircrew Association. And then before that when we, he was still working he used to help run a cadets for the Air Force.
DK: Right.
JS: Voluntary.
DK: Right.
JS: He used to go and do.
DK: So he actually left the Air Force immediately after the war, did he? With his —
JS: Well, when he was demobbed and came back. Yes.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And then he went as a surveyor but I think he found that a bit dull.
DK: Right.
JS: But you know that’s the way.
DK: And, and yourself. When you left the Land Army what did you do? Do then?
JS: I came back. I went back in to hairdressing.
DK: Oh right.
JS: Until I got married.
DK: So did you actually meet your husband when he was in the Air Force. Or —
JS: No. He’d just come back. He’d just been demobbed.
DK: Right. Right. Ok.
JS: When I met him.
DK: You met after he was demobbed.
JS: And, you know. We met and we were married within [pause] got engaged after a fortnight and then we were married in the two months.
DK: Right.
JS: And I know my dad said, ‘It’ll never last. It won’t last. It’s too soon. They don’t know each other.’
DK: But it did.
JS: But it did.
DK: That’s good to know. So your, just for the recording here so your son in law was in the Air Force as well.
JS: Yes.
DK: And, and he’s retired now, is he?
JS: Oh yeah. About three years ago I think it is now.
DK: And you say he was a navigator.
JS: Yes. He, well engineer.
DK: Right.
JS: Because that’s, I don’t think, they don’t have navigators.
DK: So a flight engineer then.
JS: Yes.
DK: And he was on the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight then.
JS: Yeah. Yeah. He did all the flights. And after my husband died he got permission to take his ashes. And he trained at [pause] oh gosh. Not, what’s the one over that way. The aerodrome.
DK: Coningsby.
JS: Coningsby.
DK: Yeah.
JS: He trained there and there’s a bottom road and you can cut across this farmer’s field to the back of it which when they were late in at night they used to sneak in so that, you know.
DK: Yeah.
JS: They could stay out late.
DK: Yeah.
JS: And he got permission to fly over and drop his ashes on the grounds there. And we were there. And the funny thing was the farmer was in the next field on a tractor and me being in the Land Army just as this came over it was weird. But we go there every year now and there’s a long avenue of trees down it right to the thing.
DK: So his ashes were dropped from the Lancaster then were they?
JS: Yes.
DK: Right. Ok.
JS: And then they did a, like a salute around and came away and then every year now on that date because it was on his birthday that he was buried —
DK: Right.
JS: We go over there. We’ll put some flowers and each tree as we go down, we’re running out of trees now and just then we go out for a meal which, we do that every year.
DK: So for the recording your son in law’s name is?
JS: Ian [Malton]
DK: Ian [Malton] Right. And he has now left the RAF as well then.
JS: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
JS: He still goes there. He runs the shoots there for because there’s lots of rabbits and things on there that are a pest to the aircraft. And they go to the annual dinners and things there at —
DK: Coningsby.
JS: No. Not at Coningsby. He’s not at Coningsby. He’s at [pause] Cranwell.
DK: Cranwell. I see. Right. And how long was he with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight? Do you know? Was it —
JS: For some time because he was up in Scotland at [pause] God my memory.
DK: Don’t worry.
JS: What’s the big one?
DK: Lossiemouth is it?
JS: Lossiemouth.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
JS: And he was there for, they moved up there from Brize Norton.
DK: So was he on the Shackletons then?
JS: Yes.
DK: Oh. Right. Ok. That explains why he then went to the Lancaster then if he was on the Shackletons.
JS: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Right.
JS: And he was at Brize Norton. And my daughter was in the RAF as well. That’s how they met. And then he was moved up to Scotland and she didn’t want to go and she said, ‘It’s like, it looks like the end of the world up there. There’s nothing.’ But in the end she didn’t want to leave. She really liked it. And then he was moved back down to Cranwell.
DK: Right.
JS: And then they moved the Memorial thing to [pause] Oh. The other airport. But now they’ve moved it from there now and its elsewhere.
DK: Yeah.
JS: But no, he enjoyed that. He —
DK: So just going, going back to the purpose of the interview was about the Land Army. How do you all these years later look back on your time in the Land Army?
JS: Yes. I wouldn’t want to go back to doing it.
DK: No.
JS: Because, well of course you’re younger then. You’ve got more up and go haven’t you? But it was hard work and it was pretty miserable at times when you were clogged up with mud and it was raining and you were feeling miserable and thinking what am I doing this for? But as they would say, ‘You’re helping to feed the nation.’
DK: Yeah. Do you think that was important then? The —
JS: Not at the time I didn’t [laughs]
DK: No. Do you think you became a better person? You learned something from it or [unclear]
JS: I suppose I must have done.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Yes. And the fact that you were, because I only had one brother, I had no sisters.
DK: Right.
JS: So it was, you know I mean plenty of girlfriends but they, it’s not the same as having, living with somebody is it?
DK: Yeah.
JS: And —
DK: So after the Land Army then you went back home,
JS: Yes. To live at home.
DK: You lived with your parents.
JS: Yes.
DK: And did they notice a change with you at all do you think? Or —
JS: No. I don’t think so.
DK: So you sort of slipped back into that family life.
JS: Into what you were doing. Yes.
DK: Yeah.
JS: Well not like now. As soon as they start work they’ve got a place of their own haven’t they?
DK: Yeah.
JS: Well, then you more or less stayed at home until you got married. You couldn’t afford to have a place of your own anywhere.
DK: Ok then. Well, that’s, that’s marvellous. That’s been very interesting listening to you.
JS: Right.
DK: I’ll end the recording there but thank you very much.
JS: Ok.
DK: I’ll switch that off.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Joan Smith,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 22, 2024,

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