1944/47 WAAF Life and After

BCuthillMSFHCuthillMSFHv1.pdf

Title

1944/47 WAAF Life and After

Description

Margaret Cuthill's account of her time in the WAAF. At the age of 17 she volunteered for the WAAF and was enrolled as a teleprinter operator. She was sent to Wilmslow for training. After four weeks of drill and physical exercise she was posted to Cranwell on a signals course. Work was interesting and there was plenty of social life. After training she was sent to a maintenance unit at Carlisle.
After the war she was posted to Eggington Hall in Derbyshire, then Handforth. She returned to Edinburgh and worked for civilian firms before becoming a teleprinter operator at Prestwick.

This item was provided, in digital form, by a third-party organisation which used technical specifications and operational protocols that may differ from those used by the IBCC Digital Archive.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2009-10

Contributor

Angela Gaffney

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.

Format

28 handwritten pages

Language

Identifier

BCuthillMSFHCuthillMSFHv1

Coverage

Transcription

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[underlined] Oct 09 [/underlined]

[underlined] 1944/47 WAAF Life & after [/underlined]

Aged about 17yrs old I befriended a girl named Doreen at the Red Cross evening class One day she said I've volunteered for the WAAF as a Radar Operator, later on I began to feel I would like to join & train as a Nursing Orderly, but you needed to be 18yrs old & I was 17yrs & 9mths – I couldn't wait. I asked my parents if they would allow me to volunteer – they didn't mind.

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[underlined] 2. [/underlined]
So I went ahead and at the recruiting office in George St Edinburgh I was [deleted] recruited [/deleted] enrolled as a Teleprinter Operator & was off to Wilmslow training camp for 4wks on 24th May 1944.
There we were kitted out with all our uniforms, taught Service discipline, & about all ranks in the RAF, respecting your seniors, saluting officers at all times.
Our drilling & PE came rather tough for us not being use to all that exercise, but gradually

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[underlined] 3. [/underlined]
became accustomed to it. (we had to).
I soon settled down to life in a Nissen Hut. After 4wks I learned to mix in with about a dozen girls from all walks of life & many parts of the UK. I felt a little home-sick at odd times but I was accustomed to living away from home.
We were not allowed out of camp for 4wks. We were taken out on two occasions as a group & marched into Wilmslow town – to the YMCA.

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[underlined] 4 [/underlined]
Our [deleted] were [/deleted] pay parade every fortnight & you had to be well turned out – because the beady eyes of the Pay Officer [inserted] women got £3 [/inserted] Some girls went wild not having been [deleted] with [/deleted] in men's company for wks. There were two girls who broke out of camp – the disciplin [sic] was peeling potatoes & washing & cleaning ablutions (toilets) for 2 days.
After finishing Elementary Training at Wilmslow, I was posted to RAF Cranwell on a Signals Course as a Teleprinter Operator I loved the life there for 10wks. June/Jul/Aug. A very good summer

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[underlined] 5. [/underlined]
I was billetted in a married quarters house 3 girls to 1 room – not alot [sic] of space. The Sgt in charge of our house was the WAAF [deleted] Band leader [/deleted] Drum Major [deleted] on the drums [/deleted]. She was a superb person, elegant – suited her position – fair hair & tall & attractive
Our house was on the edge of the airfield – there were light aircraft trainers – we use to sit in the garden watching them. It was all very new – not having seen the flying before. (me)

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[underlined] 6 [/underlined]
The Teleprinter Operators marched to [inserted] (over TANOY) [sic] [/inserted] music [inserted] to work [/inserted] & typed to music, there [inserted] fore [/inserted] becoming touch typists The camp was not far from Sleaford – a small village/town where we would walk to the shops [inserted] and railway station [/inserted] There was plenty of entertainment on camp. On Sat evenings there was always a dance held in the Appretices [sic] Gym Hall with their own Band. Their signature tune was "You Take The 'A' Train". I loved it, – I had an Apprentice friend, but

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[underlined] 7 [/underlined]
I can't remember his name. He gave me a cap badge – it was the Apprentice Wheel – which I attached to my handbag – but that was lost. He was a very nice young fellow, several months younger than me at just 18yrs old.
Our T/Course finished mid Aug & we then had an end of Course parade in front of Cranwell College where there was a vast parade ground. Our

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8
Air Commandant of the WAAF "Lady Walsh" took the Salute while the various Apprentices Bands played and others.
Cranwell was a happy time for me in the WAAF.
From Cranwell I was posted to:- 14 MU Carlisle (Maintenance Unit). We were given 7 days leave from end of Course – so I travelled from Edinburgh to Carlisle

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[underlined] 9. [/underlined]
My train journey turned out to be a bit of a disaster. The train was rather long & mostly full of service personell [sic] – so when we arrived at Carlisle Station – I was all set to get off but being in one of the two end carriages we were not by a platform & the train pulled away I was devastated all but tears, but there were plenty of comforters – male & female around – so my journey continued to [deleted] Pre [/deleted] York.

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[underlined] 10 [/underlined]
On my return to Carlisle there are always Military Police by the gate – so I had to explain to them in order to use the transport – & [inserted] on [/inserted] arrival face the Station Warrant Officer – who starts bellowing at you about alot "bull" not a very good welcome I learned later that his nickname was "SPAM"

The Signals Section was large & accommodated many teleprinters – cable & post office machines. So we served many small units around [inserted] SE [/inserted] & Carlisle Post Office

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11.
We had civilian supervisors that is where I earned my LACW. (Leading Aircraft Woman.)
We lived in Nissen Huts about 14-16 girls. Our heating was a large coke stove in the middle of the Hut. Our beds wrought iron unsprung & 3 horse hair biscuits like large flat cushions [inserted] 2 [/inserted] white coarse sheets & 3 very rough grey blankets. 1 bolster pillow looking more like a draught excluder.

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[underlined] 12 [/underlined]
The ablutions were about – 50yds away – Baths were limited in as much as they wer [sic] always occupied [underlined] or [/underlined] there [deleted] was [/deleted] were no plugs.
The NAAFI was quite good –
We had a number of W/Indian lads there – they usually worked in the workshops – sometimes on your way into the NAAFI in the winter evenings you got [inserted] a [/inserted] scare from a few of them hanging around the entrance – black faces & white eyes piering [sic] at you.

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13
There I played netball & got my little finger (pinky) of my right hand bent.
I joined the EVT Classes Education & Vocation Training I made a leather writing case – with thonging all around the edge & a zip. My friend Mary and I use to go out to Carlisle quite a lot – to Cinema & also there was marvellous new NAAFI Club – lots of entertainment & lots boys aircrew – was the attraction. I became friendly with a fellow called Peter – he was posted into 14 MU with

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[underlined] 14 [/underlined]
many others aircrew – [deleted] he was [/deleted] they were made redundant at the end of their course – he was a navigator. I was friendly with him for a while and then he was posted away to Stafford. He came up to Edinburgh for a long weekend & met my parents, John & Renee in So Queensferry.
He had mentioned about me going over to Longtown not far from Carlisle to meet his mother however it just happened that we met by accident in Carlisle but I got the feeling I was not welcome –

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[underlined] 15. [/underlined]
There were a group of airmen & WAAF who always gathered round a table in the NAAFI – including Peter – also there was an Airman very much senior to [inserted] all of [/inserted] us & distinguished so there were lots of discussions going on. However many years later in Cirencester with Anne, Linda & a bump, I saw this man whom we named the Professor – I felt annoyed with myself for not making myself present with my family.
"that is me" –

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[underlined] 16 [/underlined]
At Carlisle we had a number of Jamacians [sic] on Camp – they all seem to fit in well & off [sic] course the girls loved to jitter bug with them (at least some of the girls).
Sometimes they wer [sic] a bit scary in the dark on our way to the NAAFI.
Our Signals Section was supervised by civilians. One of the supervisors invited Mary & me to her home in Carlisle where she lived with her mother very comfortably. She invited us to have a bath & meal & then took

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[underlined] 15 [/underlined][sic]
us to the cinema – we saw "Song of Bernadette (Jennifer Jones) I loved watching her (mainly about life in a Convent). We both thoroughly enjoyed our Sups generosity.
On 'D' Day 45' some of us WAAF stood or sat on one of those long trailer's called a Queen Mary. (a bit like one of our long car trailers we have today 2000) parading through Carlisle. (not very enjoyable).
In camp we were given a special meal served by officers

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[underlined] 16 [/underlined][sic]
& all the boys were given a cigar. Next to our camp was a small airfield 15 EFTS Kingston. They trained on "tiger moths". The Pub in Kingston was the first time I had a drink with the girls – a shandy which I disliked.
During my time in the WAAF I never went out drinking [inserted] or [/inserted] even after.

I 1946 I was posted to 90 Group Egginton Hall Derbyshire – a large country house – with a river

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[underlined] 17 [/underlined]
running through the estate. The story went that there was a ghost "A White Lady". I never saw her. – but felt nervous at times when we would have to walk by that area where she was suppose [sic] to be on our way to evening / or night shift.
Not many personnel on the station. Our Sigs Office was what would have been a servants bedroom – level with the courtyard.
There were a small number of Italian prisoners there wandering around sweeping up etc Sometimes I would push open

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[underlined] 18. [/underlined]
my [inserted] (sash) [/inserted] window level with the ground & have a chat with them.
My frind [sic] Joan was Telephonist there She liked classical music. Sometimes [inserted] we [/inserted] would [inserted] go [/inserted] into the Reading Room where you could play records. Joan liked 'Corgi [sic] & Bess' but next time we found it broken. Our nearest town was Derby for entertainment & Market Drayton was walking distance
In camp some of the girls & RAF would go moonlight bathing in the river.
I played table tennis there.

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[underlined] 19 [/underlined]
I was there for 6 months While there for a few months I was made an Acting Corporal on temp basis while they awaited a permanent one. I wasn't exactly happy – felt to [sic] conscious. However it was only a few mths. from there I was posted to 16 MU Stafford & Handforth near to Wilmslow Where I trained for the WAAF. It was a very scattered station
We lived in groups of wooden huts – isolated from our place of work

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[underlined] 20 [/underlined]
This was 1946/47 – the very bad winter where everything froze. We use to fill a pan with ice to heat [inserted] it [/inserted] up for my hot water bottle – which four of us would share the [indecipherable word] warm water to wash in a.m.
Each day a truck called a 15 tonner with seats & cover would collect us for work 800 hrs.
The ablutions were about 200yds up a slope from our huts. They were all frozen & baths

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[underlined] 21 [/underlined]
As you can imagine desperation for baths etc
Whilst living there Mary & I went to Bell [sic] Vue stadium to watch the Scramble dirt track racing. It was at this camp I had my purse stolen from my bedside locker. It upset me, mainly because the purse was a gift from an Uncle of mine & was suede in the shape of an old style lum hat. I became frindly [sic] with a Cpl there for a short time – He wanted to be serious & said we could make a go of it, but

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[underlined] 22 [/underlined]
I said no, I'm still very young & finished He was much older than me by about 8yrs. He came from Mersey. I was demobed [sic] from there Oct 1947.
Our Signals Officer – gave me a very nice report.

After WAAF life – I lived at home for a short time while I worked at Romains [sic] & Patersons in Princess St, Edinburgh for some months with their firm in Boston doing the [deleted] Ex [/deleted] Export work.

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[underlined] 23 [/underlined]
Still trying to find a job as a Teleprinter Operator. Then I found a job as a Dictaphone Opr at Bruce Peebles engineering firm, for a short time & then a job as a Teleprinter Opr MOD 'Redbrae' Prestwick. All these jobs while short term, I quite liked them – I didn't ever feel settled but I made friends, & from there I met Dad in Edinburgh & the rest is history.

Collection

Citation

Margaret Cuthill, “1944/47 WAAF Life and After,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 26, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/17858.

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