Interview with Pauline Alexander

Title

Interview with Pauline Alexander

Description

During the war, Pauline's siblings Bernard, Guy, Robert and Peter served in the air force and army, her mother volunteered for the Red Cross, and her father volunteered as an air raid warden. Inspired by her brothers, Alexander joined Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1942 and completed clerical duties at RAF Waddington, RAF Skellingthorpe, and RAF Stradishall, before being demobilised in 1946. Although she did not necessarily enjoy her service, she notes that it was a life-shaping experience. Alexander also recounts the harrowing wartime experiences of her family members, including the deaths of her father and three brothers, and how her mother coped with their losses. Finally, she recalls her postwar life including working for the Marconi Company, meeting her husband, and raising their two children.

Creator

Date

2019-05-24

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

01:09:41 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

AAlexanderPM190524, PAlexanderPM1901

Transcription

JH: My name is Judy Hodson and I am interviewing Pauline Alexander for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive. We are at Pauline’s home and it is the 24th of May 2019. Thank you, Pauline for agreeing to talk to me today. Pauline, can you tell me your date of birth and where you were born?
PA: 9.12.23. I was born in Kensington, christened in St Pancras. And I only lived there for a few months before we moved to Leaden Roding in Essex, a little village owing to mum’s health. We lived there for five years and then moved to Chelmsford.
JH: And how many family were with you at that time? What —
PA: Well, all my brothers. I was the youngest of all of them. And we moved to Chelmsford, and my brother Bernard worked at, after we left, after he left school he worked at Marconi’s at Baddow. My brother Guy was a printer. My brother Bob joined the Air Force as a boy entrant armourer, and my brother Peter went in to the, my dad’s business.
JH: Which was, what was that?
PA: Surgical instrument making and repairing. That was in London so he travelled up to town every day. They travelled up to town every day. But as far as childhood was concerned we had a wonderful childhood. We all got on very well together.
JH: Did they spoil you being the baby?
PA: I was always told I was spoiled. And even when I said I wanted to join the WAAF, my dad didn’t want me to go, but mum said, but my mum said, ‘It will do her the world of good. She’s getting too spoiled.’
JH: And where did you go to school then? I know you had moves.
PA: I went to Kings. I went to the village school in Leaden Roding for a few months when I was four, but from there we went to Kings Road School in Chelmsford which was a very good school.
JH: And all the family —
PA: I wasn’t, I wasn’t too keen on schooling I must admit. But —
JH: You did it [laughs]
PA: I did it [laughs] along with everybody else. My brothers were the brainy ones.
JH: Were they?
PA: Bernard was at Baddow Research which was, they were known as the boffins but as it said in the book he, he volunteered in, for the Air Force on a five year stint which was —
JH: What year was that?
PA: 1938, when, when the scare was. And that’s when Peter volunteered for the, and Guy both volunteered for the Territorials. Peter had to get permission to volunteer because he wasn’t quite old enough to go then. And of course, when war was declared they naturally had to go. I mean, Bernard was in a Reserved Occupation. Baddow Research.
JH: Yeah.
PA: But these things happen.
JH: Did you actually go to work from school? Or —
PA: I didn’t.
JH: No.
PA: I stayed at home, and I used to do the shopping and everything, but then for the 1938 Essex Show I helped in the office there just sending out all the tickets for, you know the applications for to show. And then when that finished Miss Cotting, an accountant who lived opposite us in Chelmsford at the time, she offered me a job there. So it was from there that I went into the WAAF when it, it was either joining the Forces or going in the factory and I thought —
JH: So that was what attracted you to, to going into the WAAF.
PA: Yes. Yes.
JH: Yeah. And what age were you?
PA: Well, I was seventeen and a half when I volunteered. Eighteen when I, near enough when I went. Yes.
JH: And where was that based at?
PA: When I first went I had to report to Romford recruitment there and then we were sent to Gloucester to get kitted out and everything. From there we went to Morecambe for a month’s training on the front, and we, we always assembled in what used to be Woolworths there then. Woolworths had moved out from their building and it was taken over by the RAF recruitment, and we did all our square bashing and everything there for a month. And then I was posted to Waddington.
JH: What year would that be then by the time you —
PA: 1942, and I was in flying, flying control for a short while but that was very harrowing booking the aircraft in and out. And I worked with two civilian people doing that. They’d obviously been there since before the war and they were retained. And then I, from there I went to the WAAF admin office in the WAAF headquarters, where I was billeted anyway and I had an accident with my leg. The MPs came one night to say that there was a light showing from one of the bedrooms and went, we went outside to see which room it was and he’d parked his bicycle in front of the thing and I caught my leg on the, his hubcap on his bike and I was in sick bay for a month. I had a haematoma. There’s the scar there and another one down there.
JH: Gosh.
PA: And that wasn’t operated on for a week so I had a black leg. That was —
JH: Serious, wasn’t it?
PA: It was, and we had an awful job with it because the MO came to see me after a week and he said, ‘Have you eaten? Had your tea?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I’ll be back in an hour and —’ he said, ‘I’ll operate.’ And we used to have to press like that, and we had the kidney bowl and they used to, oh blood it was all congealed.
JH: Gosh.
PA: And I came out of sick bay and I was on a month’s sick leave for that.
JH: Where did you, where did you go? Did you go home?
PA: Went home. Yes. But I had to report to the Chelmsford and Essex Hospital every few days for dressings and that. And then when I went back to camp I was moved to Skellingthorpe. And —
JH: What duties? What duties did you have?
PA: I was only clerical duties. But there the office I worked in was doing the Committee of Adjustments for the aircrews that were lost, and that was a bit of an eye opener, and that ended up in a court martial for one of the [pause] they were, they were, didn’t send all the personal possessions back that should have gone. And that ended up in a court martial there for one of them but he wasn’t the real culprit. As usual one takes the can for somebody a bit [pause] And that, that combination I had a terrible argument with one of them because they were talking about it one day, you know. They used to hive off the stuff, and I would say something about you know the parents and that. They said, ‘What are you worried about?’ And I said, ‘Well, I happen to have lost a brother. Aircrew.’ I said, ‘And I know the rubbish my mother was sent.’
JH: Right. Which brother was that?
PA: That was from my brother, Bernard.
JH: Bernard.
PA: He’d only just had his twenty first birthday. Birthday. And I mean naturally you had some very nice presents but, ‘Oh, he must have taken them on ops with him.’ So, you know.
JH: You had experience then really.
PA: Yes, and but you live and learn these things. It was all part of parcel of Service life.
JH: Did you have a lot of friends, you know amongst your colleagues, actual close friends or —
PA: I’ve never made real close friends. We were a close knit family, and I suppose I played, I played cricket, football and everything, always with the boys. I was with the boys. They always took care of me so, and I remember one night I had been to night school for shorthand typing and I was on my way home. It was around about 8 o’clock and I was walking along Duke Street, and my brother and his friends were coming the other way. He said, ‘What are you doing out this time of night?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve just been —’ He said, ‘Home,’ he said, ‘And I shall ask mum what time you got home.’ [laughs]
JH: Very protective.
PA: They were. Very protective. I couldn’t have wished for better brothers.
JH: And what was it like —
PA: And I’ve never, I still remember them as they were.
JH: And when you had your leave at Chelmsford or your sick leave and that. What was it like living there at that time because that was wartime wasn’t it?
PA: Quite harrowing.
JH: Yeah.
PA: With all the bombing. Not necessarily Chelmsford but all around Chelmsford.
JH: Did you have any near misses near you or —
PA: Oh yes. We had the landmines at the bottom of the Avenues which I suppose about, well less than a mile away from, much less and they were aiming for Hoffmann’s really which was ball bearing factory. And the ceilings came down. Windows out. Fortunately, we had a very sturdy table. A big table and we used to sit under the table. But after that my dad got an Anderson, a shelter. Indoor shelter so mum could go in the shelter after that.
JH: So you felt safer.
PA: Yes. Yes.
JH: Yeah, for everyone.
PA: Well, the trouble was you see dad worked up in London. When he was in London he worried about mum at home. When he was at home he worried about the business in London.
JH: Did the business survive through the war in the end?
PA: Well, whilst my dad was alive, yes.
JH: Yes.
PA: But when he died the business went you see. It was a good, the good will of the business that was more or less, so we lost not only the business but all my brothers as well, my brothers and my dad as well. And that was before National Insurance and everything. So dad hadn’t made a will. Mum wasn’t allowed to touch anything from the business for six months. And then after that she had, she paid in to National Insurance for fourteen years so that she could get a pension when, she lived on her capital for fourteen years. So —
JH: What year did your dad die?
PA: ’43. So we, the family didn’t have a very [pause] my mum and dad didn’t have a very [pause] until war it was heavenly, but [pause] but as my mother said, she was very sardonic, ‘Oh well,’ she says, ‘At least I’ve got all my money back.’ So —
JH: She had to go on didn’t she so —
PA: Yeah. And somebody said to her one day about after the two boys had been killed, you know, ‘Aren’t you bitter about it?’ And she said, ‘What’s the point?’ She said, ‘They were doing exactly the same. Bombing.’ And she said, ‘They were somebody’s son as well.’ You don’t necessarily do it because you want to. It was them or us. [pause] But getting back to Skellingthorpe and Waddington I enjoyed my, if you can call it that [pause] I never went to any of the sergeant’s mess dances or anything. I never, I didn’t drink for a start so, and as I say with the boys, aircrew I didn’t want to get involved. So I never went to any of the sergeant’s mess dances or anything like that so, but we had some very nice music evenings, and our own entertainment, and we did our job what we had to do. That was it.
JH: And how long did you serve?
PA: From ’42 to ’46. I was demobbed in ’46. When I went to Stradishall on a compassionate posting after my brother Peter had been killed I was home for a month then. Yeah. I suppose you could call it stress but in those days they called it a breakdown if you like. And then I had the compassionate posting to Stradishall but to be nearer home but it took me as long as to get from Stradishall to Chelmsford as it did from Lincoln to Chelmsford, because it was from Haverhill to — [pause] Oh, I can’t think of the name now, the other side of Kelvedon. In between Kelvedon and Colchester. It was a little single line so we shuffled backwards and forwards but the most harrowing thing there was there were only two coaches on the trains, and one coach went to Bury St Edmunds, branched off to Bury St Edmunds and the other one went to Haverhill. I got on the wrong coach one night and I ended up in Clare in Suffolk and I had to walk from Clare to Haverhill and from Haverhill to Stradishall and I never passed a soul. Pitch black.
JH: It must have been very scary.
PA: I’d never been so relieved to get back to camp as I was that night.
JH: How many miles do you think it was?
PA: Altogether about ten miles.
JH: That’s a lot on your own, isn’t it?
PA: Yes. Yes. But another thing I can say, the whole time I was in the Forces at aerodromes we never had an air raid. I don’t remember an air raid. Waddington had been bombed before I’d gone there. But I mean there were a lot of scares from aircraft not taking off, you know. The take off was aborted, and they were, the bomb load was, all that sort of thing.
JH: Did you ever feel that you were in real danger?
PA: We didn’t think about it. We just, alright it just took it as well, life.
JH: Gosh.
PA: I can’t say I enjoyed it, my Service life as such. It was an experience which I think Service life does a lot of people a lot of good. They see life from a different angle even though it was wartime.
JH: Were you influenced by your brothers having gone before you?
PA: Yes, definitely.
JH: So, how many brothers did you lose altogether?
PA: Three.
JH: And their names were?
PA: Bernard, Guy and Peter.
JH: You had one brother survived the war.
PA: One brother survived. Yes. And he was the regular, and an armament officer. And there’s a picture of him somewhere sitting on a bomb along with all his mates, all smoking.
JH: And his name was —?
PA: That was Robert.
JH: Robert. So what did you do after you’d got demobbed? What happened to you?
PA: I went to work at Marconi’s. Which was a very reputable firm.
JH: Yes.
PA: And then I met my husband. Well, I knew my husband at school but never any contact in those days. I met him at a RAFA dance. And we met in the March, we were engaged in the May and married in the September.
JH: What year was that then?
PA: ’47.
JH: And what did he do? What was his job?
PA: Well, he was a regular.
JH: Of course, yeah.
PA: He was a wireless mechanic, and do all that sort of thing and when he came out of the Air Force he worked at Marconi’s, and then I was expecting Peter and I left and he joined near enough. And —
JH: So how many children did you have?
PA: Peter and Maureen.
JH: Peter and Maureen.
[pause]
PA: She, by the way isn’t my cat.
JH: Oh, right [laughs] No?
PA: She’s Angela’s cat. Not mine [laughs]
[recording paused]
PA: That was Kate Kipling and she was, worked in munitions at Perivale in the First World War. And the inspectors came around one day and tapped one of the bombs they were, and it exploded and she was seriously wounded. She had scars all down, shrapnel scars all down her back and down her arms, in her head. And when she had no end of operations for the removal of shrapnel, and when she started to go deaf she went for a hearing test and he said, ‘We’re getting an awful lot of interference. A lot of rattling going on.’ And mum said, ‘Yeah. Well, that would be shrapnel, still in her —’
JH: And what age was that? How old would she have been then do you think?
PA: Well, between her forties and fifties. Well, thirties and fifties. Yeah.
JH: So did she work after the war then?
PA: No.
JH: No.
PA: No. She married my dad and had five children.
JH: Course.
PA: All under the age of six.
JH: But by the end of the war there was yourself, one brother and your mum left.
PA: Yes. Yeah. Start the war with seven and end up with three.
JH: Was your mum bitter about the war then with —
PA: Over some things. She was bitter when the Memorial Window was inaugurated at the church in [Broomfield], which is that little church up there where my brother Peter is buried. She went to the inauguration and she was shown her seat at the back. All the dignatories at the front of course, and she wasn’t even acknowledged and she was bitter about that which is quite understandable.
JH: Yes.
PA: But then that’s the way things worked. The mayor and everybody else was more important.
JH: She was obviously very proud of her sons wasn’t she, you know.
PA: Very proud. She was a very proud person and my brother Guy was married for a few months before he was killed and his wife remarried, but she always said and her cousin also always said, ‘Your mother was a lady.’ She was very, she was very upright. Very, what my mother said was law as far as we were all concerned. She could do, you know her word was [pause] when during the war, she worked, she was a member of the Red Cross and also she used to work for charities. Different, you know whist drives and all that sort of thing. She was a member of the Women’s Institute and, as well and my dad was an air raid warden when he was at home. And there again, think what people may my dad, he had a coronary thrombosis. He played golf in the afternoon with his doctor and he was taken ill during the evening and Doctor Henry came and he gave him some tablets, a tablet and he said to mum, ‘He should make it through ‘til the morning.’ But he didn’t. He died during the night and because there was an air raid, an air raid on my mum she washed him down, and then went downstairs and knitted furiously until it was light, and the air raid was over and she went over to the warden’s post and told them what had happened. That was my mother.
JH: Very strong.
PA: Very strong.
JH: And how old was she when she died then?
PA: When she died, a hundred and five.
JH: Did she marry again?
PA: No. No. My father thought the world of her, and so did we all as children. And when we lived in Primrose Hill we lived next door to a Mr and Mrs Young, and Mrs Young said when she heard that five children were moving in next door she said she had reservations. But when we moved out she said she could never have wished for better neighbours. I used to go shopping for her on a Saturday morning. Only across the road to the little shop opposite that, there used to be little shops in people’s front rooms in those days and I, I used to get her a few bits of shopping for sixpence.
JH: It’s amazing what you could get for sixpence in those days.
PA: Exactly. That was a lot of money. My mum, she always boasted with her first wage packet when she started work, she went to Goodwood Races with her sister Nell and she said, ‘We won sixpence.’ In those days. That was before the First World War. They won sixpence.
JH: A lot of money.
PA: A lot of money. Yes. Because they lived at, she was born in Midhurst in Sussex and of course that’s not too far from Goodwood Racecourse [pause] Yes. We had a wonderful childhood until the war.
JH: And what did you do, you know after the war and your family life with your children growing up?
PA: Well, Peter and Maureen always say they had a wonderful, the freedom they had, like we did. We used to have a bottle of drink and some sandwiches and just disappear for the day down the park or —
JH: Was that Chelmsford area at that time?
PA: That was at Chelmsford. Yes. They were born in Chelmsford. Maureen never, didn’t leave Chelmsford until she met her first husband and she moved to Milton Keynes, and she’s still in Milton Keynes. Different houses but [laughs] different husband.
JH: Did you have any hobbies through you know your married life that you both enjoyed? Did you?
PA: Not really. Hubby, he was a Mason eventually for quite a number of years. And we had a big garden like this, and —
JH: You enjoyed your garden.
PA: We enjoyed the garden. Yes. We enjoyed going out on our bikes and stopping for a drink, and Peter used to be on the little saddle on the front of, on the —
JH: On the front of the bike.
PA: On the bar.
JH: Yeah.
PA: At the front of the bike. And Maureen used to be on a little carrier on the back of my bike until we could afford a car. And if we couldn’t afford anything in those days we didn’t have it. Not like today.
JH: What was your first car? Do you remember now?
PA: An old Morris. Yeah. But my, my mum and dad had a car anyway. That was a Rover. And my brother Guy, oh Bernard had it. We took, drove the car up to Dishforth to my brother Bernard’s unit. He had the car up there during the war because we couldn’t get the petrol for it anyway [beeping noise] Excuse me, that’s my hearing aid squeaking. And then when he went missing one of the aircrew from, lived at Ingatestone which wasn’t very far from, about five miles from Chelmsford. He brought the car back for us. And then when Guy was stationed at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire he had the car there. And when I was at Wadding ton he came up to visit me.
JH: Did you drive at all?
PA: No.
JH: No. Never?
PA: No.
JH: No.
PA: No. I mean all my brothers drove. I would have learned to drive but, and after we bought a car for how we drove a car he said about driving. He said, ‘What’s the point?’ He said, ‘I can drive you wherever you want.’ And then Maureen and Peter both learned to drive. No need. So I never learned. Angie, my daughter in law doesn’t drive. She lived in London. Not far from West Ham football. Well, opposite West Ham Football Stadium, and they never had a car. Peter did persuade her to start learning to drive when he worked away for just over a week. She was having two or three hour lessons at a time. You know, one of those quick things. But as soon as he went home she gave it up. She didn’t like driving.
JH: So have you all been —
PA: She’s terrified of the motorways.
JH: Oh, right. So —
PA: So she would never have driven on motorways anyhow.
JH: So has the family been football supporters over the years?
PA: Oh, West Ham. And next door but one neighbour —
JH: Yeah.
PA: In Chelmsford to hubby and I, their uncle he came from London and he was a West Ham supporter and he took Peter when he was ten up to watch West Ham and we’ve been West Ham supporters ever since. Hence even Ross, West Ham mug even now. But the irony of it all was that my husband’s cousin, his daughter married Geoff Hurst. My husband went to their wedding naturally, so, and of course he was West Ham.
JH: Big, big football connection going through the family.
PA: There is. My brother in law, John he played for Chelmsford City for fifteen years. They were a great footballing family as well. Played football. And as I say with four brothers I was brought up with football, cricket. Guy was more in to tennis with Peggy his wife. They played a lot of tennis but, but you know it was all very sporty.
[recording paused]
JH: Ok. So, we were just going to talk about when you actually started work again.
PA: Yes.
JH: After you had your children.
PA: I joined Marconi’s again for the second time, and I worked in the registry there, and I became deputy boss and we, we used to deal with every, all aspects of the division. We vetted all the post that came in for orders and enquiries and everything, and I used to, payday all the payslips for the division came up to the registry, and I used to sort them all out into rooms and we delivered all the pay slips to everybody. They were pleased to see us that day [laughs] And also all the requirements, letter-heading and all the, for the typists for —
JH: The stationery was it, the stationery cupboard.
PA: The stationery.
JH: Yeah.
PA: Used to order the stationery for the whole division. Get all the personal cards printed for all the sales and engineers on their trips abroad and everything. So it was a wide scope of things, and when I, when I retired apparently my card went around all. I got over a hundred pound when I retired, which I thought was very, very generous of everybody.
JH: Very well thought of.
PA: I did my best. I was very trying at times. I still am, and always will be I expect. But that’s all part and parcel of life. My son, and son in law whenever I was, ‘Are you behaving yourself?’ [laughs] Yeah.
JH: Well, that’s lovely.
PA: Well, when you’ve lived on your own for so many years you are very independent. You have your own ways and means of doing things. It may not be the best way but it’s what you’re used to.
JH: Yeah, ok. Right. Well, I can only really say thank you Pauline for allowing me to record this interview today.
PA: Well, thank you for coming.
JH: It’s a pleasure.
PA: I certainly didn’t expect it.
JH: Well, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you very much. Thank you.
PA: Thank you, dear.
[recording paused]
JH: We’re just having further anecdotes from Pauline regarding an episode when she was serving as a WAAF.
PA: Ok. I remember when I was at Waddington and in flying control. One day one of the officers decided to go for a little flip in his Oxford aircraft and he was, he was on the runway waiting to take off and a Lancaster revved up and he completely somersaulted, much to the amusement of everyone in flying control. No harm done. He saw the funny side of it as well.
JH: That’s very good. And you were also saying about your husband. When he was serving he, he actually went in to, up to Scotland didn’t he at some point?
PA: My husband. Yes. He was up at Leuchars but he was with air sea rescue at Lowestoft during, Felixstowe rather during part of his service and that was very harrowing. Going out and rescuing the aircrews that had ditched in the sea.
JH: A lot of losses I presume.
PA: A lot of losses, yes. And he did say they picked up one survivor once and they just had to drop him straight back in the thing. He was cut in half. Terrible injuries some of them. My brother Guy he, all his crew came to his wedding and so of course we knew them quite well. But when Guy came home on, Guy came home on leave once, and when he went back he wrote a letter to his cousin and he said, ‘I’ve been lucky so far.’ And the next night he, he went on ops with another crew and that’s when he didn’t come back. But that’s the way. They, his crew they, they were lovely load of, but within next to no time they’d all gone except one because they all had to split up you see when Guy, Guy’s pilot as well he’d gone as a second pilot with another crew, and he didn’t come back, but he did escape. He wasn’t captured and he did get back to this country but he was a Canadian and they sent him back to Canada.
JH: And what were they flying?
PA: Stirlings. And George, one of Guys original crew, he finished his tour of ops and he went as a trainer and collided in mid-air and was killed. I went to his funeral.
JH: A very sad time.
PA: You know it’s [pause] and they talk about mental sickness these days. They don’t know the meaning of it. Of stress and strain. But then again of course it’s encouraged these days.
JH: Did it affect your husband do you think over the years. Do you think from his experiences —
PA: I don’t think so. He didn’t enjoy India. He was out in India for a while. He didn’t like India and India didn’t like him. He came back with ulcers. But Bob went to Africa. I could have gone to Egypt, but I can’t stand the heat so it wouldn’t have done me any good. I mean you had to volunteer to go, and my mother said, ‘Why ever didn’t you go?’ She said, ‘It would have been a wonderful experience.’ I said, ‘Yes. I know.’ Knowing me I can’t, I just couldn’t have. Guy went to Canada to train and he loved it over there and he said although it’s bitterly cold it’s a different, it’s a dry cold. Not the damp cold over here and he, if he’d have survive he’d have loved to have gone back. But at Stradishall I worked with a Canadian corporal, a girl, a female corporal from, as I say she was Canadian. She got frostbite over here. Damp cold. Completely different to Canada. Yeah. Amazing isn’t it?
[pause]
PA: There were some very happy times, there were some very sad times when I was at Waddington and Skellingthorpe in the Wing Commander Nettleton era, and the Dambusters. All that sort of thing. They were at Scampton, and from Waddington you could see the aircraft all taking off from Scampton as well. It was a wonderful sight, but —
JH: Consequences.
PA: Yes, exactly. I know I was out, my brother Bernard was home on leave once and we were going out to visit, see some friends of mine. This was before I joined up of course. The air raid warning went. You could hear the guns going and the bombs dropping and he said, ‘Hadn’t we better go home?’ I said, ‘Good heavens, no.’ I said, ‘That’s at Romford.’ And, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘And to think I do that.’ He was an observer as they were called in those days and then they became navigators you see. Bernard was an observer, his twin brother was a navigator, but the same thing.
JH: They were very brave, weren’t they?
PA: Hmmn?
JH: They were very brave and strong to keep going back.
PA: Well, to think they did that night after night. How harrowing that must have been. And what would those youngsters of today make of it? But then it’s been encouraged. You mustn’t smack them, they’re not, I know my two have had a few hidings. I’ve had a few hidings and I deserved it and so did they. Maureen when she came out at, she was still at school when I first started work, and when we got home one night she’d put the potatoes on, on full gas and she’d gone swimming. Yes, she didn’t do that again.
JH: Wow.
PA: But that’s what we did.
[pause]
PA: It was nothing for her to have a meal. She was only thirteen but it was nothing for her to have a meal ready for her dad and I when we got home from work.
JH: That’s brilliant.
PA: Oh yes. My dad was useless at sort of odd jobs. Mum did the decorating and that sort of thing and gardening. Mum did the gardening. It hurt my dad’s back, but a round of golf did it the world of good. Mum always had help though. She always had somebody come in a couple of times a week to do the heavy work as it was called, and the sheets and all the boy’s shirts and everything went to the laundry, she didn’t have to do any of that.
JH: Well, that’s you know, that’s very very interesting to hear all these experiences and how life was then and —
PA: Yeah.
JH: It’s, yeah no thank you very much for sharing with us. So it’s —
PA: Well, thank you for coming.
JH: Yeah.
PA: Well, I had such a wonderful reception when I went to Bomber Command. I just couldn’t believe it.
JH: That’s lovely.
PA: Right from the moment, I just happened to have my Veterans badge on my jacket and they said, ‘Oh, you’re a veteran.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh, we’ll have to reimburse you then.’ Well, of course Maureen had paid anyway. But every, they couldn’t have looked after me any better, and you know the walk up to the plinth, don’t you?
JH: Yes.
PA: It started to rain. I was in my in a, pardon me, in a wheelchair but they came running up in the rain with a plastic cape for me to put on and another plastic cover over my legs.
JH: Good.
PA: And also they said, ‘Oh, about the canteen. ‘You have whatever you like. It’s free.’ And then the lady, she said, ‘Oh, can I have a, can I take a photo of you?’ And she took a photograph of Maureen and I in the foyer just before we left.
PA: That’s lovely.
JH: As far as I was concerned preferential treatment I’d had.
PA: I’m glad you had a good experience.
JH: It was a fantastic experience. It was the last thing I expected.
PA: Good. Well, thank you again very much for your time today.
JH: My pleasure.
PA: Thank you.

Collection

Citation

Judy Hodgson, “Interview with Pauline Alexander,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 19, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/17295.

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