Interview with Elizabeth Eady


Interview with Elizabeth Eady


Before the war, Liz worked in aeronautical inspection at a factory which made parachutes. She had an interview in Northolt and enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in October 1942. She went to Uxbridge and chose to be a telephonist. After a month in Harrogate, she was trained at the Bradford Telephone Exchange. Liz was sent to RAF Compton Bassett for further training and then on to RAF Skellingthorpe. She took up a vacancy at RAF Waddington where there were two Australian squadrons (463 and 467 Squadrons).
Liz describes her work on the switchboard, the shifts and accommodation, as well as her social life. Her highlights were the Australians at RAF Waddington and the film unit operating from there.
After pressure from her father, Liz had to leave in May 1946, and went on to have a successful and varied career.




Temporal Coverage




01:24:01 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 28th of June 2016. I’m in Woking with Elizabeth Eady and we’re going to talk about what she was doing on the airfields in, during the war. So, Liz what are your earliest recollections of life?
IE: Do you mean life in the RAF?
CB: No at home.
IE: At home?
CB: Yes, and then leading to the RAF.
IE: Well we, we lived in a village and I was, I had a brother and a sister which – and there were also some other relations in the village. And then eventually – oh my father was, he grew tomatoes, cucumbers, he had about forty greenhouses. And then later on he was able to buy what was my grandfather’s house which had been divided into two. So, we had one half of it which was nearer to the town of Market Harborough. And we had a huge garden and we used to have lots of friends playing tennis and all that sort of thing. And then I went to a small private school, when I was what five would it be? Until I was eleven. And that was really very good. There was about ten of us altogether, boys and girls. And our classroom was in, what had been the stables of this house where the owner of the school lived. So, it was all quite sort of casual. And then, oh gosh I can’t remember. Oh, that’s right, then I had to come and I then went to – my Mother and Father thought because my, one of my Mother’s relations, their daughter had gone to Kettering High School, so that was my next place. Which really was a bit out of my depth. It was – so I did struggle for quite a while although I was very happy there because I made some very good friends. And I was keen on the sport. I represented them for tennis and all that sort. Gin, gin, it wasn’t gin [Laughs] and I was there for a little while and then my parents decided that probably it would be better if I went to boarding school. And I went to a private boarding school which was just outside Chorley Wood in Hertfordshire, was it called, Heronsgate, was the name of the village, which was run by two elderly sisters. Unfortunately, there was another girl there who had been at Kettering and she was very jealous of me if I had any friends there, so I wasn’t very happy. But I had some outdoor friends who were quite wealthy actually. But, and I used to go and stay with them sometimes at weekends because two of the children came to our school and I had to look after them, the little girl. And that was until – oh, I’ve got this wrong. That was before I went to Kettering High School. Kettering High School was my last one. Yes, they decided for some reason, I don’t know why, that they wanted me out of boarding school to be at home. Maybe because war was, you know, the way things were, it hadn’t actually started then. And I had to go home. And then I went to Kettering High School, that’s right. What did I do after that? Oh, that’s right. I very much wanted to be a dress designer. And I’d, there was, I started to go to Leicester College of Art. And it was a three-year course. And I’d got half way through when – I used to have to catch a train to Leicester, so I was having my breakfast early before anybody else to get the train. And then one day my Mother came in when I was having my breakfast and said ‘This is your last day, last week at college, you’ve got to go and get a job.’ And I thought ‘Gosh, what am I going to do?’ So, but there was no alternative. And I was just going down on the Monday morning. I thought ‘Well I must go in the town and see what, what sort of jobs there are going.’ And I happened to meet two people I knew and we got talking. And they said ‘Why don’t you come and join us? We’re at the corset factory but we’re working on parachutes and we need some more help.’ So, I thought ‘Oh, Father’ll go mad if he thinks I’m working at the corset factory, but still.’ So, I got an interview and I was working for AID, Aeronautical Inspection [department?]. And I was a leading viewer. I had five women under me. But because I wasn’t twenty-one I got half the pay. So, I was earning about two pounds fifty to their five pounds. Which was very difficult. And then my parents decided to move down to Buckinghamshire, Iver Heath. And where they had a village grocery store. And I was still at Market Harborough. But as I say I really hadn’t got enough money. I was dipping into my savings. So, I thought ‘Well I’ve got no alternative’. And I’d wanted to join the WAAF so I went home and I told them I was going home and I was going to join the WAAF. Which I did, I went for an interview at Northolt. And I got everything, they said they’d let me know. And that was about June I think, we got to September and I kept saying ‘I can’t think why I haven’t heard.’ Then it got to about October. I was doing the newspapers one morning, big headlines, ‘More women needed in the Armed Services,’ and I said to my Mother ‘Can’t understand this and I’m still waiting’ so she said ‘Oh no you won’t because your Father’s written up and said we can’t spare you.’ So big row, packed my bags and I was gone in a week. [Chuckling] And that’s when I went to, where did I go to? Oh gosh, I can’t remember. Might have been – oh Uxbridge I think it was, yes. And looking at the things, and I thought I’ll – I thought well I’d already done parachutes and so I said I’d like to go into that. But there were no vacancies for that and I really wasn’t sure. Then, I don’t know why, I just suddenly said telephonist. I thought ‘Well, it’ll give me a job after the war.’ And so I went to Harrogate first waiting for vacancy, I think I was there about a month, enjoyed Harrogate, had a wonderful time. Then they sent me to Bradford where I trained at the Bradford Telephone Exchange. And there were six of us and we were in civilian accommodation at night. And lovely lady she was, and she gave us too much food. [Laughs] I think she thought we were starving. And so really most of the mornings were taken up with our training and then we were sort of off duty quite early in the afternoon. And I discovered there was a wonderful lake up the road so we used to go and row, rowing. [Laughs] As I say there was about six of us. And there was one girl who had been a telephonist in civvie street. And anyway, we did the exam, and I had my paper and scribbled away at it. She kept going up for more paper, never seen anyone use so much paper, you know for an exam thing. I thought, ‘Well I’ve had it’ you know. And the next, well a week later when we had the, to go for the results, and the tutor said, when she came in, she said ‘I never thought I would have’ she said ‘It’s a tutor’s dream to have the perfect paper handed in’ and of course this girl was you know, it was hers.
CB: Yes.
IE: And it wasn’t, it was mine. A hundred per cent, and, first time in my life. [Laughs] And that’s when I was then sent to, I think it was Skellingthorpe. Oh no, no it wasn’t. It was Compton Bassett for training before I went onto telephonist job I think. Or did I go there first? I think I’m not sure.
CB: It’s alright.
IE: Anyway, I definitely went to Skellingthorpe. And there was already enough. I was a bit, you know, an extra bod there. And then they – I think it was the Rhodesians were at Waddington, and they were leaving to go elsewhere, so there was a vacancy for a telephonist at Waddington and nobody else was going to move, so I went. And that was wonderful. And the Rhodesians left and then we got the Australian squadron, two squadrons. 463 and 467. And I can’t remember. You’ll probably be able to tell me. I can’t remember, it wasn’t intelligence I don’t think. In the room I was in we had a switchboard there. And on the wall was the three, Waddington was the main base and then there was Skellingthorpe, Bardney and those. And then we had listed all the squadrons, what would that be?
CB: The operations board?
IE: Ah yes. But it wasn’t, was it operations? I don’t think so.
CB: It showed the availability of aircraft did it?
IE: Well, it was all listed up who was going where.
CB: Yes.
IE: And we had, quite, well they were mainly sort of Group Captains and such in there. I might tell you, when I knocked on, there was one. Oh, he loved his cups of tea. And I knocked, you know, go in salute smartly, ‘Good morning’ ‘Oh my God,’ he said ‘LACW Edey. Essence of pussy today chaps.’ I was the worst teamaker on the camp. Essence of pussy. [Laughter] He liked his tea, good and strong, plenty of sugar so his spoon stood up in the middle of it. [Chuckles] And I didn’t like tea anyway. But er, must have been operations was it?
CB: Well.
IE: No couldn’t have been.
CB: The other stations were satellites weren’t they?
IE: Waddington was the main base.
CB: Yes.
IE: And then the others were Bardney, Skellingthorpe what was the other one? Can’t think what I, what it was called now.
CB: But you were linking it all together were you?
IE: Um?
CB: You were linking the communications together?
IE: Oh yes. We were the main base, so I had a switchboard but I was also in touch with all the other, yes all the other –
CB: So, what was the task you were undertaking there?
IE: Um?
CB: What were you doing?
IE: Just on the switchboard, just answering whatever came in. And passing them onto whoever really. Just like an ordinary telephonist.
CB: Right.
IE: But mainly the calls were ones that didn’t go through the general switchboard and that.
CB: Because they were secure lines?
IE: Um. Yeah.
CB: That was the idea was it?
IE: Yeah, yes. Yes, so I did outside calls but the main ones inside were purely to the heads of the various departments. Like flying control and operations and that sort of thing.
CB: So what sort of shifts did you work?
IE: Um. Eight ‘til one, one to six. No, wait a minute, eight to one, one to six, oh yeah eight ‘til one, one to six. I’ve got it written down somewhere. Then to eleven and then eleven round ‘til eight o’clock in the morning. Is that four?
CB: Um, yeah.
IE: Yeah.
CB: So, a longer shift in the night?
IE: You had a long one at night, yes.
CB: Um.
IE: It was pretty quiet usually.
CB: Um. So, when the raids –
IE: Eleven ‘til eight.
CB: Yes.
IE: Yes.
CB: Um. How many switchboard operators, telephonists would there be on duty at any one time?
IE: In the main switchboard, they’d be three or four. I was on the main one to start with and then they transferred me to this other switchboard.
CB: All WAAF’s? No, no men on the exchange?
IE: Oh, we did yes. Yes, we did. I didn’t have one on that section, but on the main one yes, there were men. And there were you know in other stations in the group as well.
CB: So how many days did you work in a run?
IE: Yeah, there would be six days and then the seventh –
CB: Because Sunday was a working day like everything else?
IE: Oh yes, yes, yes. Yeah.
CB: So, six days on. How many off?
IE: Then there would be just the one. One whole day off as far as I remember.
CB: So, you’re on the airfield at Waddington. Where are you staying? What accommodation have you got?
IE: Oh, there were, what had been pre-war airmans’ married quarters. And that was the one in the photograph, we had a big room downstairs and then there was like the kitchen bit at the back. And upstairs, there was the main bedroom and a small room. Usually the small room was the sergeant or a corporal. And there was – it was just quite basic, you didn’t really. You went up to, you had to go out for your meals.
CB: Yes.
IE: You could, you know, boil a kettle and that sort of thing.
CB: But you ate in the Airmans’ mess?
IE: Yeah.
CB: How far away was that?
IE: Oh, only a few minutes’ walk. Yes, it wasn’t very far.
CB: ‘Cause the domestic site is near the technical site is it?
IE: Do you know I can’t remember. When I came, went down. No, ‘cause Waddington was a huge complex.
CB: Yeah.
IE: ‘Cause when you went down, and then there was like station headquarters and those. And a few, then further on were these billets like what were airmans’ married quarters, so they were away from the –
CB: They weren’t on the airfield were they?
IE: Yeah, the main headquarters.
CB: Um.
IE: And then just almost opposite us were the hangars. You know, right down the airfield.
CB: So, the airmans’ houses, were standard layout?
IE: Sorry?
CB: They were a standard layout, design?
IE: Yes. Yeah.
CB: How many WAAF’s in each one?
IE: Two, three. About six and a sergeant or corporal.
CB: Right, so.
IE: There were about three downstairs, three upstairs. Yes.
CB: So how many people to a room normally, a bedroom?
IE: Well yeah. Well the downstairs would be like, in the living quarters, that would be their sitting room but we had it as a bedroom.
CB: Yes.
IE: So, there was one there, there would be three.
CB: Right.
IE: And the same upstairs which would have been the bedroom. And then the corporal or sergeant would have a small, a small room.
CB: Um.
IE: I can’t remember what that was originally but yeah.
CB: So, you went to the Airmans’ mess for food? What was the food like?
IE: It wasn’t too bad actually. Yes, it was a big, huge, great room there. Yes, it wasn’t bad.
CB: Um. So, you’re working on shifts?
IE: Yes.
CB: How did the menu accommodate that?
IE: How many?
CB: How? You were working shifts?
IE: Yeah.
CB: So, people were wanting lunch at different times of the day, how did they organise that, the food?
IE: Oh, that I don’t know. Um, I don’t ever remember being told I’d got to be on a certain shift but it was just depending on you know my job.
CB: Um.
IE: What shift I was on.
CB: But they were serving food twenty-four hours a day?
IE: More or less I think, yeah I think so.
CB: Um, right.
IE: ‘Cause I sort of vaguely remember, you know, lines of people waiting to go in.
CB: Um.
IE: But it was quite big. It was on a separate – away from where we were. We had to go to this big building.
CB: Um.
IE: I can’t remember what else there was. But it was certainly – yes of course there would be. There was the Airmans’ Mess which we were in and then there would be an Officers’ Mess and um.
CB: A Sergeants’ Mess?
IE: I’m just trying to think, were we just WAAF in there? No, I think, I think it was a general mess.
CB: Yeah. What about the NAAFI?
IE: Never, never really went. There was NAAFI but I never really went to that. Don’t remember it anyway.
CB: So, when you’re working on shift?
IE: Yeah.
CB: Then how were you fed? Were you given a break or did you take food with you to eat during the shift?
IE: Well, we could take stuff with us. Yes, that would be more, rather than – no well part of our mealtime came out while we were on the shift wouldn’t it? Yeah.
CB: So, what I meant –
IE: So, you’d go for about, have about half an hour’s break.
CB: Yeah.
IE: For your meal.
CB: Um.
IE: And come back.
CB: Going to the Airmans’ Mess? OK.
IE: Yeah, yeah.
CB: And how did the WAAF’s get on together in these houses?
IE: Oh fine. Yes, well certainly there, there was no problem.
CB: So, you joined the RAF in 1940 was it? Did you join in 1940 or was it earlier? Or ’42?
IE: Wrote it down.
CB: ‘Cause you were born in ’23 weren’t you?
IE: Yeah. Because I didn’t go straight away because –
CB: You joined when you were nineteen?
IE: I did write it down. Oh, it must be there.
JS: There’s something on here.
IE: I think I’ve got it written down over here.
CB: I’ll just pause then for a mo’.
IE: Pardon?
CB: I’ll just pause this.
IE: 1942.
CB: So, you joined the RAF 29th of October 1942?
IE: Yeah, I was enlisted. And then I was a telephonist 13th of June 1943.
CB: Right. When you qualified?
IE: Yeah. This is absolutely disgusting.
IE: Alright.
CB: So that was just after you were twenty?
IE: Yes.
CB: And at Compton Bassett.
IE: Yeah.
CB: What did they teach you there? About the RAF or what were they teaching you? How to use the system?
IE: Oh, no it was drilling that sort of thing.
CB: Um.
IE: I don’t think we learnt too well –
CB: The –
IE: We had – ‘cause every time we were – the whole camp turned out. ‘Cause we were the only WAAF’s there, and they all turned out to watch us. And you can imagine the jeering that when on. I enlisted at Acton, June 1942, but Father wrote to have me deferred and I didn’t find out until October. So, I kept wondering then I found out. I’ve put in here, ‘Big row’. And I qualified as a telephonist, oh no it doesn’t say.
IE: Until 4th of May 1946.
CB: Right. When you, what were you thinking you might do in 1946. Had you?
IE: Well this was when my Father had got me out.
CB: Yes.
IE: I didn’t really get a choice, I just had to –
CB: No.
IE: I just had to go home. But then just after that, once I got home the air force, or WAAF I suppose, got me a job as an – in a factory at er. By then we were in London, Brixton I think it was, where they were making blouses and that sort of thing. And I wasn’t very happy with that. I had a, the lady that I was working with, for, was very difficult at that time. And I thought well I’ve got to do something, you know carry on. And um, what happened? Something happened. I got to the point where I thought ‘This is no good, I’m not learning anything.’ ‘Cause they did it because I’d been learning to be a dress designer you see before I joined up. And then I was, my parents had this tobacconists/confectionery shop in West Norwood and so every now and again when I was off I used to help a bit. And this lady came in, we were talking and she said ‘Why don’t you,’ she said ‘I know it’s not the same sort of thing’ she said ‘But why don’t you go and work in a department store?’ She said ‘I can – there’s a very good – I know they’re looking for somebody in Gorringes in Buckingham Palace Road.’ So, I tootled along there and I was the sixth assistant in the hosiery department. I couldn’t serve anybody until the other five had got it. And when you’re on commission you don’t get much at the end of the week in those circumstances. But I enjoyed it, worked there for about five years I think.
CB: Um. What made you leave?
IE: Oh, I got offered something I’d been dying to do. It was something new and we’d had a girl who was working for [Unclear] and she was travelling round to different shops on sales promotions. I thought, ‘I’d like to do that.’ And I’d said to her, you know, ‘If you hear of any vacancies let me know.’ And I went back after lunch one day and there were two very smartly dressed gentlemen by our counter. I thought, ’They’ve come, they must be reps come to see the buyer.’ So, I went over and spoke to them. ‘Cause by then I was an under-buyer. And I said ‘Buyers are at lunch at the moment.’ So, they said ‘Yes, we know they are, she is, ‘cause it’s you we’ve come to see.’ I [Unclear] something. They were from I & R Morley, hosiery and knitwear, and they were just starting up this putting somebody into different department stores to promote their goods. And they said ‘Would I be interested?’ I said ‘Oh yes, I certainly am.’ And so I went for an interview, oh I could have dropped when I found where I was going to work. Arding & Hobbes in Clapham Junction it was the most awful place. [Chuckles] So, anyway I was there for, that was about September to Christmas. And just before that my boss came in and said ‘They need somebody up in Glasgow for two weeks’ and that was before Christmas. ‘Are you prepared to go?’ So, I said ‘Yes, go do anything.’ Better than sticking in Arding & Hobbes. And so, they sent me up to Glasgow. Which I thoroughly enjoyed that and then I went to Edinburgh the second week. And, of course no wonder this chap had gone sick. ‘Cause I didn’t get home until about two o’clock in the morning on Christmas Day, I had to come back by train you know. And, I mean it didn’t matter. So, after Christmas when I got back they called me back to the head office and said ‘Would you like the job of sales promotions all over the UK?’ I said ‘Yes please.’ So, I went for training and that’s what I was doing in different towns. Anywhere from Cornwall, South of England to Edinburgh, Glasgow. I think that was the furthest north I went. But it was, oh I really enjoyed that.
CB: Um. How long did you do that for?
IE: Oh, about three or four years yeah.
CB: Got tired of it?
IE: What did I do after that? Do you know I can’t remember. Oh yes, the buyer that I’d worked with when I was at Gorringes, ‘phoned me up and said she’d been, now been promoted to being a group buyer. And she said ‘I need somebody in the Camberley store in the hosiery department, would I be prepared to do that?’ Well, I was looking, you know, sort of vaguely looking for something to do. So, I went along for the interview to the director in charge of Camberley. And it was a new store, belonged to the Guildford Army and Navy Stores. And anyway at my interview he said ‘You’re too, you’ve got too much experience for that job. What I need is a floor manager for the ground floor’. So, I thought ‘Well that sounds more interesting,’ so I accepted. And they were the best years of store life that I ever had, it was wonderful. So, I had all the departments of the ground floor. The staff were fantastic, the only people that I couldn’t get on with were the buyers, the heads of department. And it was some months before I realised that it was the, and it was my fault in a way, because I hadn’t warned her that I was going to be the new floor manager. And so she was undermining me all the time.
CB: No.
IE: Yeah. Fortunately, she wasn’t there all the time ‘cause she went to all the different stores in her – that she had under her wing. And I did that for about six, five – right until retirement actually.
CB: So, you enjoyed that?
IE: Yeah and um. No, no it wasn’t. I did it for several years and then I heard that one of the directors from Army and Navy were coming. He was going to be in, based in Camberley. And I knew he didn’t like me, he hadn’t got any time for me. And so, I thought ‘I’ll do something else.’ And what did I do? Oh yeah, I applied for a job, something completely different. It was just sort of office work really.
CB: In a different?
IE: Yeah.
CB: Not in retail?
IE: No, no, no. It was, oh can’t think of the name of the people. Atlas Express Carriers.
CB: Oh.
IE: So, I went just as clerical and then I ended up in charge of the staff there. I got quite a big job there. And [emphatic] I got a pension which you don’t get in the retail, in department stores.
CB: Um.
IE: So that was, that was good.
CB: So, you were managing the whole place, were you?
IE: Yeah. Um, it was good. It was very – and I stayed there until I retired.
CB: What age did you retire?
IE: Um?
CB: What age did you retire?
IE: Sixty.
CB: Right.
IE: Yeah, you had to.
CB: Yeah, right. We’ll take a little break there.
IE: Yeah, OK.
CB: So, picking up on the story again now. We were talking about being at Waddington.
IE: Yes.
CB: And linking in with the other airfields at Skellingthorpe and Bardney.
IE: Yes.
CB: And you’re tying together the communications that are on the camp rather than outside.
IE: Yes.
CB: You’re talking to people on the ‘phone. To what extent were you dealing with other people on the station?
IE: Well really not a lot unless you went to a dance or that sort of thing. Or down at the local pub.
CB: Right.
IE: You know, but other than that because, you were in this sort of office with a switchboard and you didn’t really see anybody else much. But this one particular time there was an Australian. I think I’d met him at dance. And coming, I think when they were over the target, something like that. There was an aircraft, the aircraft, another aircraft had dropped their incendiaries. And it had, they’d hit Bill, I’ll call him Bill, hit Bill’s aircraft –
CB: Which was flying underneath?
IE: Bill’s aircraft which was flying below.
CB: Yes.
IE: And hit the, oh what was it? Anyway, one of the crew and badly injured him in his head and that and he died before they could get him back to England.
CB: Um.
IE: And I was on duty when they came back and Bill came into the switchboard, into the telephone exchange to tell me, you know, what had happened. He was in a real state. He just sat there, and, sort of trying to collect himself, until I’d finished duty and then we went and sat outside whilst he was talking about. And it was, you know, very sad ‘cause there was nothing they could do. If it had been a German it would have been different.
CB: Yes.
IE: But it wasn’t. It was one of ours. Yeah.
CB: And the crew is the family.
IE: Um?
CB: The crew is the family.
IE: Yes, of course, yes.
CB: So, it’s a very intense relationship.
IE: Yes.
CB: Um.
IE: Yeah, he was a nice chap. ‘Cause they had to go on and then ‘cause they were almost over the target.
CB: Was it? Do you know if the ‘plane was hit in other areas or just in that particular?
IE: No, just in that particular one. ‘Cause he managed to get it back.
CB: Um.
IE: Back to Waddington.
CB: You mentioned the activities, the social activities, where were those held on the station?
IE: Ah, in the dining, in the dining hall.
CB: Of the Airmans’ Mess?
IE: We had dances and that sort of thing.
CB: Yes.
IE: Mostly there, yeah.
CB: And how often did they take place?
IE: Oh, well certainly once a month. Sometimes if we got anybody else came in we might get something. Or we’d go down, ‘cause we were so near to Lincoln anyway so quite a lot of it we would go down into Lincoln.
CB: Um. And if there were dances organised off the station where would they?
IE: Oh, in Lincoln.
CB: They would?
IE: Mostly. Or sometimes at one of the other airbases.
CB: Um.
IE: Like Skellingthorpe or Bardney or somewhere like that.
CB: And how did you get around because there was less transport in those days?
IE: [Chuckles] Hitch-hiked.
CB: Yes.
IE: I was the worst person to hitch-hike anyway. I’d leave it to the others and then I’d hop on board. I hated doing that.
CB: Did you?
IE: Sometimes they did organise transport to fetch, fetch you.
CB: Fetch you back?
IE: Um.
CB: So, on your day off, which is only one in seven.
IE: Yeah.
CB: What did you do?
IE: Well mostly go out in Lincoln or one of the other places. I, even before I joined up, I used to love exploring into other places and see how people lived and that so.
IB: So, on an airfield there are a lot more people on the ground than aircrew but did the girls tend to gravitate more in one direction or another and which one was that?
IE: I don’t think so. I don’t – not really we – I think we tended to go off, apart from when there was a dance or something. I think we tended to go off to the village and go and explore. And there was quite a lot of places to go to on the outskirts, that we used to go walking and doing.
CB: So, you started at the bottom and got to LACW, what opportunity was there for advancement above that? To SACW for instance?
IE: No, well perhaps because I didn’t really bother. You know I was quite happy doing what I was doing. And apart from that you see by then I’d got my Father on my back wanting me out.
CB: Yeah.
IE: And as soon as the war had finished, that’s right it was just – ‘cause I missed all the V celebrations. I had to go, I was home on leave. And when I got back to camp he’d already done –
CB: Done the dirty on you.
IE: Done the dirty on me and I had to go straight back home. I was furious, absolutely furious. ‘Cause I really wanted to go on, you know, and further my career in the air force.
CB: Yes.
IE: I would have liked to have done that.
CB: Um. What sort of job were you hoping for next?
IE: Well I don’t know.
CB: In the RAF.
IE: Hadn’t really thought about, got into that. But, no he’d – when I got back to camp they said ‘Don’t know what you’ve been up to, but you’ve got to go and see the WAAF CO as soon as you’re back.’ Which I did and she said ‘Your release is through, go home.’
CB: So, you got leave, how much leave did you have in a year?
IE: In a year?
CB: Yes.
IE: I think you got, was it three?
CB: Three weeks was it?
IE: Seven days.
CB: And where did you go when you were on leave?
IE: I went home mostly. I think there was only about one when I didn’t and I been invited to um – yeah, ‘cause when I was at Lincoln I had my Mother’s sister lived at Doncaster so I could go, nip up there sometimes and stay with them.
CB: Um.
IE: And also I had her other sister was married to, oh what was he? Boston, he was um, oh what did they call them? He had a shop where they stocked all the things for the boats, barges and that sort of thing.
CB: Oh right.
IE: So, I used to go there sometimes.
CB: A quartermaster type job?
IE: Yes, and there was this shop.
CB: Um.
IE: And mostly I went to Doncaster, yeah.
CB: Right.
IE: My Mother’s elder sister.
CB: So how would you travel there on the train or hitch-hiking?
IE: I wasn’t very good hitch-hiking on my own. So, if I went with, if there were other people which I –
CB: Um.
IE: But I didn’t, I wasn’t very good at it.
CB: No.
IE: Because we’d have so many free passes for – I can’t remember how many. And you could travel, have a return journey for your leave which was quite good.
CB: Now as a telephonist you’re at the hub.
IE: Um?
CB: As a telephonist you’re at the hub of the communication.
IE: Yeah.
CB: On the station. Were you alert to what was going on or did you just plug in and you couldn’t hear what was happening?
IE: Um.
CB: On the conversations.
IE: Of course, most of the time you see I was on, I wasn’t on the general switchboard.
CB: No.
IE: See I was on the ones in operations and that.
CB: Um.
IE: So, I didn’t get to know a lot of the other things. But sometimes you know we’d get together and hear various things that were going on.
CB: Um.
IE: Not a lot really. I think really ‘cause you – they were pretty busy you know.
CB: Yeah.
IE: You didn’t get much time to find out anything.
CB: No. Now the loss rate amongst aircrew.
IE: There was?
CB: The rate of loss of aircrew.
IE: Oh yes.
CB: Was very high.
EE: Yeah.
CB: What reaction was there on the ground to that situation?
IE: I don’t think, I don’t remember having – I mean you really rather took it as, you know, accepted what was happening. People were there one day and then they weren’t there anymore.
CB: Um.
IE: I think if you took it too much to heart you wouldn’t survive, which sounds a bit cruel but –
CB: It’s the reality.
IE: The aircrew were the same.
CB: Of course.
IE: You know. What was it, they’d probably come in ‘Oh by the way did you hear so-and-so bought it last night?’ And that was it. Sounds a bit hard but.
CB: Well it is the reality isn’t it of the time?
IE: Um.
CB: It’s a defensive mechanism in many ways.
EE: Yeah.
CB: Of the horror of it I suppose.
IE: Just –
CB: What about?
IE: We used to get – I used to [Unclear] after the war when we got all about Dresden and all those sort of things. And you get this backlash of how dreadful it, you know, and what were we doing and that. And I used to get cross. ‘What do you think they were doing to us for goodness sake?’ You know what about Coventry?
CB: Um.
IE: And all those other things. I mean war is horrible.
CB: Um.
IE: But, so didn’t really talk about it after.
CB: No. Some of the girls will have had relationships with the aircrew.
IE: That’s very true.
CB: So how did that work?
IE: I do remember one or two were in a right bad state because their fella had not returned. But I really think you got – because it was happening all the time, it sounds a bit hard but you just were sorry at that moment and it was a shock, and then you just had to carry on. There was nothing else you could do, not really. But I think that’s why we had so many dances and that sort of thing to take your minds off it.
CB: Yeah. So how was the music supplied at the dances?
IE: Oh, there was a small band from local bands and that sort of thing. Yeah, from Lincoln.
CB: Yeah.
IE: Or round about.
CB: What about security? How tight was that on the station?
IE: I don’t really think it was. Looking back it seemed to be pretty lax. I mean you just wandered around. I mean you couldn’t go out or come back in again. You know, there was a sentry there which would charge you for coming in and out. But I must admit you did find a gap in the hedge sometimes, nip out.
CB: Yeah, yeah.
IE: But, um –
CB: Was the airfield surrounded with barbed wire or a fence of some kind, what was it?
IE: Oh, I don’t know, I can’t remember. I think it was fences and hedges.
CB: Um.
IE: Yeah.
CB: And what about anti-aircraft guns on the airfield?
IE: Yeah, they were around. They were circling right round the thing, but they weren’t that near to us.
CB: No.
IE: No.
CB: OK. Just going to pause again. Are you OK or do you need a glass of water? Jan, anything that comes out of the conversation, that perhaps ‘cause you’ve talked to Mary a good deal.
Unknown: No I don’t think so. ‘Cause she didn’t marry did she? Did she marry? Well that has –
CB: No, no, the lady we were talking about. Her fiancé was killed three months after she met him.
IE: Oh.
CB: So that was the same. I mean that was what you said earlier.
IE: Yeah.
CB: They don’t actually get, she didn’t get over it but she put it to one side.
IE: Um.
CB: But always remembered.
IE: Um.
CB: Yes.
IE: That’s true.
CB: So that’s what I’m just wondering you see.
IE: Yes, that it true. But –
CB: Oh, wait a minute. Right, we’re just talking about relationships a bit more.
IE: Um.
CB: Yes.
IE: Yes, it is true. I did know of one or two people who their fellas had been killed.
CB: Um.
IE: And they really went to pieces. But mostly, either that or quite often they got posted elsewhere so –
CB: What to non-operational airfields?
IE: Um, yeah. Yes probably, yes to pick up. But I do remember one or two very sad cases where they, the girl had really gone to pieces. And they had to, you know, go home or they ended up in hospital.
CB: Oh really, yeah.
IE: It’s very sad.
CB: ‘Cause on the air traffic front where they’re listening in to communication, that perhaps created a bit of an extra challenge did it?
IE: Um, what do you mean?
CB: So, the girls are in air traffic.
IE: Oh yeah.
CB: And so, they’re in touch with the bombers.
IE: That’s right. And you would hear them, I know where I was working you could hear them talking.
CB: Oh, could you?
IE: Yes, yes. I wish I could remember what it was called.
CB: So, your office was in the tower, was a room in the tower was it?
IE: No, no. No, I was on the station.
CB: Yes, but on [controlled?] area, on the technical site.
IE: Yes, there was intelligence and all those. I can’t remember what they were called. As I said on one wall there was the, all the stations in our group.
CB: Yes.
IE: Like Waddington, Bardney, Skellingthorpe.
CB: Yeah. Everything was listed up.
CB: Um.
IE: And as, and the names of the crew, the names on the crew. And it was awful once or twice that there were people I knew. Like for instance, I was very friendly, we had the Bomber Command film crew unit at Waddington and I was home on leave, one – Oh it was just as I was going to, I was on my way to Waddington, I’d finished my training so I was going to Waddington. And I was in our shop and I’d got my uniform on. This lady came in and she said ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were in the WAAF.’ So, Mother said ‘She’s just finished telephone training, and she’s posted she’s going off to Lincolnshire.’ So, this lady said ‘Where are you going to?’ I said ‘Waddington.’ She said ‘Oh, my husband’s at Waddington, do make yourself known to him, he’s in the film unit.’ And of course when I get there he’s only a squadron leader. [Laughs] So I didn’t, but he found me. He came and found me on the switchboard.
CB: Yeah.
IE: And so there were three camera men. And a friend of mine who was the corporal she and I used to go out, you know down to the pub, or somewhere. And so we used to meet up with the Crown film unit at the pub at Harmston, which was down the road. Used to borrow camp bikes and cycle off down there. It was great, used to enjoy that. So, there were three camera men and then sadly I was on duty one evening and the – in the ops room, and on the board, and I saw – oh, it was the, it was that raid on Dresden and John who was from Pinewood, the film studio, he wasn’t listed to go on the Dresden raid, the other camera man was going. But he thought it was going to be an interesting raid. So, he tried to beg a lift from someone somewhere and he tried other places in the group. And he managed to get on a flight so he could go and see this raid at Dresden. There was one Lancaster lost over Dresden wasn’t there?
CB: Yes.
IE: And he was on it.
CB: Good heavens.
IE: And gosh I thought ‘What do I do?’ I can’t ‘phone his wife.
CB: Yes.
IE: I can’t do anything. That was awful.
CB: Um.
IE: I found. You couldn’t contact anybody.
CB: No.
IE: To say, you know, this awful thing had happened. It happened to me again another time. A friend of mine that I’d worked with when I was in parachutes before I’d joined up. And she married aircrew at Market Harborough. And she said to him. Oh, he was then posted, I don’t know where it was, I can’t remember. Somewhere near Waddington and he was posted. And so she told him to come and look me up. And he rang me up so I met him in Lincoln, we went and had a cup of tea. A week later he was missing. It was just like that.
CB: Um.
IE: And you know nothing you could do.
CB: No.
IE: You couldn’t ‘phone up and say ‘Oh dear, I’m sorry,’ yeah. I found that difficult.
CB: Um.
IE: But the silly thing was that John in the film unit, he didn’t have to go. And he picked the wrong aircraft.
CB: Um.
IE: To go on.
CB: Extraordinary. So, what was this film unit doing most of the time?
IE: Oh, they went out on ops and would be filming wherever, you know.
CB: Um.
IE: That was mostly what they were doing.
CB: So, the WAAF’s were in quite good accommodation, but then the men had barrack blocks so they were quite comfortable as well were they?
IE: I don’t know. ‘Cause some of them, even at Waddington, some of the WAAF’s were in – I don’t know if I ever got into one of those blocks. Oh yeah, I did once somewhere. Can’t remember where it was now. Wasn’t too bad, no.
CB: No. A topic that is discussed a lot now is what is otherwise called battle fatigue. But in the war was called LMF, lacking moral fibre.
IE: Lack of moral.
CB: What do you remember about that?
IE: I remember one chap and he was in a very sad state. He was, he didn’t know what he was doing. And people were being a bit horrible about him, and said ‘Oh, he’s just putting it on.’ I don’t know whether he was or not but, but I don’t remember anything, anybody else particularly. But I think quite often they just moved them on.
CB: Um.
IE: You know.
CB: But he was aircrew was he?
IE: Mostly yeah. You couldn’t blame him could you? You know it’s pretty awful.
CB: Um.
IE: Yeah.
CB: And did you, were you aware of aircrew talking to the girls about their experiences? Or did they tend to keep it much to themselves?
IE: I think mostly they kept it to themselves, yeah. They didn’t – I mean apart from that one incident with Bill you see, because that had happened with this chap had been killed by friendly incendiaries.
CB: Yes.
IE: But he didn’t normally say. I think it was ‘cause he was so shocked he needed to talk to somebody.
CB: Um.
IE: but I wasn’t aware of. I think they probably amongst themselves rather than to us.
CB: Yes. Good, thank you very much indeed Liz. When the war ended, you went your own ways.
IE: Um.
CB: To what extent did you keep in touch with each other?
IE: Yes, well I did. There was, which one is it? Yes, the one in the middle at the back.
CB: In your picture, yes.
IE: Florence, and that’s her daughter.
CB: Oh yes.
IE: So, she’s my god-daughter.
CB: Yes.
IE: There on that little group.
CB: Um.
IE: Yes, I kept in touch with her, you know, we were good friends.
CB: Um.
IE: I’d go and stay with them right up until she died. And as I say, Trish she annoys me really in a way. She will treat me like a real old lady. [Laughter] I know I’m an old lady!
CB: You’re very sprightly.
IE: But I remember when Florence my friend, she was, oh I can’t remember where they lived, her husband died. And Trisha took me over to see her Mother in this home. And we went off into this room where she was, and there were other people there as well. And there she was sitting, with a shawl over her, and she was sitting like this. And I thought ‘That’s not my friend.’ She’s never been like that. And I was so shocked at the state that she was in. And anyway she said to Trish, ‘Would you go down to the shop round the corner’ and get me so and so, whatever. So, she went off, before that girl was out of the building off went the shawl. Mother in the kitchen buzzing around and that was a good lesson I learnt. You know it was really, it was amazing. But she does it to me. When she comes and visits, I’ve got a visit due sometime soon, and I dread it. And the first time, where was I? I wasn’t here, I was oh in another flat, further in Woking. And she came to visit me and she was helping me across the road. I was so cross. I said ‘Trisha, what do you think I do when you’re not here?’ You know?
CB: Yes.
IE: But she does you see?
CB: Yes.
IE: I’ve got a visit due soon and I really dread it. Bless her heart she’s a lovely person.
CB: Yes.
EE: But if only she’d just treat you normally.
CB: Yes.
EE: But [saying that?] but that was a good lesson to learn. That, um what happens when people sort of mother you when you’re really quite capable of carrying on.
CB: Yeah, yeah.
IE: Nobody does it to me here. [Laughs]
CB: Many of the aircrew didn’t get married in the war because they were nervous about leaving.
IE: That’s true, I believe so.
CB: Yes.
IE: Yes, yes.
CB: And were you aware of what happened afterwards, people?
IE: Not really, no I don’t.
CB: Because they married people who were clearly not in the RAF but I was.
IE: Yes.
CB: But I was interested in aspects where they had relationships.
IE: Ah, with other people.
CB: Relationships with WAAF’s and didn’t marry in the war.
IE: Yeah. I’m just trying to think if I know of anybody. Um, no. It was really only that one particular one.
CB: Um.
IE: And in that photograph I think two of them went to Australia.
CB: Did they really?
IE: And because there was quite an exodus of people going to Australia.
CB: Um. They weren’t following some of 463 and 467 Squadron?
IE: Um.
CB: Were they? They weren’t following the Australian aircrew back to Australia?
IE: Oh yes.
CB: Oh, they were?
IE: Oh, they were yes. Yeah, yes, they were. Nearly got there myself, I didn’t want to go and leave England.
CB: Did you? What was the attraction of Australia?
IE: Pardon?
CB: What was the attraction of Australia?
IE: Oh well it was my boyfriend went over there.
CB: Oh, did he?
IE: No, I made it quite clear I would never go.
CB: Oh right.
IE: Funnily enough of my sister’s children, two of them went to Australia.
CB: Did they?
IE: And one of them he did come back. He said he’d never worked so hard in all of his life. He was fruit picking, a fruit farm.
CB: Oh yes.
IE: The other one, I thought he was mad going. Because he was mad on animals and he was working at Chester Zoo. And then suddenly decides to go to Australia on this –
CB: Ten pound?
IE: Was it five years or whatever?
CB: Yeah.
IE: And I thought, I couldn’t understand that. But anyway, they arrived in Australia and he was workin up the west coast and what does he come across? A zoo. So, he got a job there in an Aussie zoo and then he came back and put in for another few years, he’s working in a zoo in Australia now.
CB: Oh really?
IE: Yeah, loving it. But the other one came back, he’s in England.
CB: Um.
IE: They were cousins, they weren’t –
CB: Final question. We’ve talked about the squadron associations, are mainly aircrew and mainly men.
IE: Yeah.
CB: So, to what extent did you feel linked to a squadron and then follow up with associations afterwards?
IE: Not, not really. I did join the WAAF Association.
CB: Um.
IE: And the trouble was that they met at Putney. And I was down here and it was such a job getting there and then crossing London.
CB: Um.
IE: Getting to there. And it was a bit boring. But I do belong to the RAF Association. I’m thoroughly disgusted with them. It’s about a year now. I used to join in everything when I was, belonged to it.
CB: Um.
IE: And we first used to meet in the town and it was, what’s his name? Pip. He’s RAF Association at Fareham. Pip, Pip something or other. And he used to be at the one here.
CB: At Woking, yeah?
IE: Yeah, Woking. And when I first joined, and I’d been doing some fundraising at the department stores I’d worked at and I managed to raise a really good sum. And he said ‘Would I do the Wings appeal?’
CB: Oh.
IE: So, I said ‘Yes, sure I would.’ Of course, I go to do it and of course I’m up against English RAF aren’t I? With all due respect to them, and nobody would help me.
CB: Really?
IE: ‘Cause I, first of all I –
CB: How strange.
IE: I said, you know, can you tell me if you’ve got any particular place you’d like to stand, you know, with your tin and the rest of it. No, they weren’t going to tell me anything. In fact, they weren’t going to co-operate with me at all.
CB: How strange.
IE: So, I thought ‘What am I going to do?’ And across the road, the house straight across the road, number twelve, a cousin of mine used to live there. And when I came, I used to during the war – I mean this was a lovely house. Oh no it was after the war. Anyway, I got, when I came to live in Woking, can’t remember how but I got friendly with them. And so, I was over there one day and I said ‘I’ve got this problem about collecting and nobody’s going to co-operate with me, where can I raise money?’ They said ‘Car wash.’ I said ‘Car wash, where am I going to do that?’ They said ‘You could do it there but people like having it done at home.’ And I don’t know where it is now, it might be there. I got photographs of these youngsters from across the road, and their friends all busy doing car washing. And I raised over two thousand pounds.
CB: Fantastic.
IE: And I never told the RAF Association what I’d been doing, doing it quietly. [Laughter]
CB: How funny.
IE: Yeah. And Pip, ‘cause in that time he’d already been sent over to Fareham.
CB: Um.
IE: But he’s still in touch, he still contacts me every now and again.
CB: Does he? Um.
IE: Yes, him and his wife, Betty.
CB: Yeah.
EE: But um the Woking RAF Association they don’t, didn’t like the WAAF at all. There were ten ex-WAAF at one time and now there’s one.
CB: Extraordinary.
IE: ‘Cause everybody got fed up with it and they just left, they didn’t.
CB: Yeah.
IE: Which is a shame really.
CB: Yes. What was the most memorable part of your RAF service?
IE: Oh gosh, well I think the days with the Australians in Waddington really were. I suppose that’s the time, and with the film unit. I think because that was the time when most things happened.
CB: Um.
IE: Really.
CB: So, did you get yourself on the film?
IE: On film? No, I ducked out. No, not that I know of anyway.
CB: No.
IE: never seen any –
CB: So, do we detect a bias here towards Australians? ‘Cause you had an Australian boyfriend.
IE: Not really, no, no. No I did, but unfortunately he also had a girlfriend in London where he went on leave.
CB: Oh.
IE: I was quite well aware of it.
CB: Oh, you were?
IE: And –
CB: Two-timer, right.
IE: Well he didn’t say and I wasn’t letting on I knew but his crew they didn’t like her.
CB: Oh right.
IE: They liked me. [Laughter]
CB: So, you didn’t swap him for an English version?
IE: No, no. Not really, I really wasn’t bothered. I, one way or another. After was it um, no, much to my Father’s disgust. I um, I got to within ten days of my, the date of my marriage and I chucked it in.
CB: Did you?
IE: It wasn’t RAF.
CB: Oh, right.
IE: It was very silly but. No, it was to do with money.
CB: Um.
IE: And it was so silly. But thank goodness I knew, I found out in time.
CB: Um.
IE: My Father wouldn’t speak to me for a long time and I never told him what, you know, exactly what had happened, so he didn’t know.
CB: No.
IE: All I got was a curt letter. ‘How very foolish, just like Aunt Lucy.’ Apparently, this was what one of his sisters did.
CB: Oh really.
IE: And that’s all I got. Sympathy, didn’t get any.
CB: Yes. So, you forged a good career instead?
IE: Yes. no, I had good friends so I was alright.
CB: Yes. Well, thanks very much Liz, it’s been fascinating.
IE: Oh well. I can’t think there’s anything else but –
CB: We’ve just been talking about the winter snow in this picture. And tell us what you had to do then.
IE: Yes.
CB: How deep was the snow?
IE: Oh, it would be up to your – more than knee deep.
CB: Yes, right up your thighs?
IE: Yes. And it would come down and we had to clear the runways. Of course, there was a mechanical thing.
CB: Yeah.
IE: But everybody that was off duty was given a spade.
CB: Oh.
IE: And shovel. Shovel the snow away.
CB: Yeah.
IE: And I found this, it was a Christmas card. I thought it was wonderful. That’s exactly what it was like.
CB: A picture of a Lancaster.
IE: Yeah.
CB: And ground crew shovelling the snow away. Yeah, so it would take some time to clear the runway ‘cause it’s long.
IE: Oh yes. Yeah, I mean there was people just shovelling, yeah.
CB: How long would it take to clear?
IE: Oh I don’t know –
CB: The runway.
IE: I mean most, part of it would be mechanical. You know, they’re have this whatever. I don’t know what it was but it would go down.
CB: Um.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Elizabeth Eady,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 22, 2024,

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