Interview with Audrey Teasdale


Interview with Audrey Teasdale


Audrey left school at 14 and began work as a clerical assistant for a tailoring firm in Leeds, then moving into furniture sales.
Audrey was 23 when the war started and was conscripted on 15 December 1942 electing to join the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. After her kitting out at RAF Innesworth she did some basic training at RAF Morecambe, then posted to RAF Lindholme and eventually to RAF Waddington where she worked as an administrator in the officer's mess. At that time there were four squadrons on the station: 9, 44, 463 and 467 Squadrons.
Audrey's duties in the officer's mess included checking the crews against the battle orders to ensure only crews flying that night got the special pre-flight meal and waiting on tables for VIP dinners, including Wing Commander Nettleton VC. She describes her friendships with the other staff and especially with bomber crews, mostly nice and respectful. Audrey and others would gather on the perimeter track to see them off. She and many others were billeted in a beautiful old building, known as "The Waafery”. Audrey describes her busy social life, dancing at many venues and winning jitterbug competitions. Remembers being called ‘belle gambe’ [beautiful legs] by Italian prisoners of war.
Audrey also describes the events of one night when an enemy fighter followed the aircraft home and strafed the airfield, hitting the incendiary dump, which exploded.
After the war, Audrey eventually worked for the local authority’s adoption service after the tragic death of her husband at a young age.




Temporal Coverage




01:12:25 Audio Recording


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AT: Er, from my own point of view I, you know, after the exam had gone before I got my act together and so none of us really managed a qualification, but we were all very well educated. And my Harry, er my two eldest brothers, they both worked in the Coal Board, as I said, my father was a colliery manager and Fred was in administration with the local authority. My Tom, the middle brother, he finished up as a company secretary for the Coal Board. We did all our study after school, y'know, we did it all off our own bats and erm...
BW: So was it night school that you went to?
AT: Night school and as we progressed, you'll see what I did, y'know but er, so it was night school and it was, y'know, interesting things and, you know, getting on with life generally and we had this encouragement from home and...
BW: You say your Mother was Victorian, she worked in service.
AT: In service yes, yes...
BW: Whereabouts did she work, was it a grand house or something?
AT: Yes, she's worked, yes, cos there's photograph there, I think, with one of the people she was with. Oh no, yeah, yeah. She worked with gentry but she also, at one point, worked at the girls grammar school in Wakefield. Yes but lovely lady.
BW: And what age were you when you left school?
AT: 14.
BW: Which was standard at that time.
AT: Standard, yes. And, do you want to know my occupation from then on?
BW: Yeah, what did you go on to do?
AT: My first occupation, I used to walk to the station, which was a mile away, then get a train to Leeds. And I worked for a firm called Barrens and it was a tailoring firm and I worked in their offices and it all related to production and y'know, what they were using and the sort of stuff that went on to the actual finished product and that sort of thing. So I did clerical work with them and I followed on where I got a job in Wakefield. I worked with a jeweler, a very top shop jewelers, you know, it was Appleyard's, in a terrific arcade, terrific shop. So I went there and then from there I was always sort of in the retail business and I went to work at the Co-op, ha! And I worked in the furnishing department where I was first assistant and I did all the erm, now then, the word, you know when they can't afford to pay...
BW: Debt.
AT: Er, actually making out the agreements for them to sign, you know, when they'd got x number of years to pay it in, y'know, that sort of thing. The name just escapes me.
BW: Repayments?
AT: Er, yeah, it was, it was, y'know, basically the lay out of what they'd bought, the interest to be paid and, and the period that they were going to pay it in. Yes, and that was it, all official and then they made the payments to the [unclear] and I did that and I was first assistant for sales.


BW: How long were you doing that job for?
AT: Oh it was, y’know, it was sort of between the jobs, you know, between that and my service really and er, yeah, and I did sort of clerical work and I actually went into the WAAF from there.
BW: Do you remember where you were, where your family was, when war was declared?
AT: At home. Yes, yes, er my youngest brother, the two boys - the elder brothers, they obviously were in the Coal Board, working in the Coal Board, and of course, were exempt. Fred, the youngest one, was in administration with the local authority and of course, he was conscripted. And he was in the Green Howard Regiment and stationed in Northern Ireland. But he never went abroad. A great brother and we used to, when I was in the WAAF, we used to write to each other and he kept in touch with home, and y’know, we'd always continue, you know, keeping in touch.
BW: So how old were you then when war was dec... when war broke out?
AT: About 23 and it broke out in '39...
BW: So you [unclear].
AT: Yes and then I went to, went to, I was conscripted and then I actually went into the WAAF 15th December 1942.
BW: So, what sort of choice did you have? You mentioned you were conscripted, how did that work, particularly for women because we think of men as being primarily conscripted but...
AT: Yes. I sort of could have gone the fire brigade, which didn't appeal at all [laughs]. Land Army but I think what did it [laughs] I was out one day and I saw this advert [laughs] "Join the WAAF and work with the men who fly", and I thought, 'That's for Audrey' [laughs]. So that's what I did.
AT: And of course, I could have been anything then, I could have been a balloon operator - barrage balloon, doing anything, really. But basically, all my time I was in the officer's mess and my, all my work was generally clerical and y’know, relating to the crews and different things.
BW: So you decided to join the WAAF. Did you, ah, it may be perhaps too detailed but I'm just interested to understand did you have to go into the air force recruitment office to complete that or was it different, did you go in to sign up?
AT: Er, I remember, you made the decision to go and then of course it just took place after that. I remember going down to, I can't remember where it was but I was interviewed and it was discussed and yeah. That's very vague to me but I do remember that.
BW: I was going to ask you about your interview and whether there was a particular test that you sat for example, maths or English or anything like that?
AT: No, no qualifications. Basically it was the things you were interested in.
BW: And how long between you being conscripted did it take for you to actually get into training?
AT: More or less immediately.
BW: Right.
AT: Yes, I remember I, it was, 15th December '42 and I went, I think, to Innesworth in Gloucester, where I was kitted out then that didn't take long and then I came back to Morecambe to do my square bashing and I was there about a fortnight. We lived, I lived in billets in the West End of Morecambe and that was very funny.
BW: How long did you spend there?
AT: Just a fortnight. It was a training and it was so funny because obviously it was winter, it was December, it was icy. We had a flight sergeant who did a thing and I'll be [laughs], quite [unclear] what he said but we couldn't stand up and he said, "What do you want me to do? Whistle the bloody skater's waltz?" [laughs]. And the other thing that was interesting about the square bashing was, they'd horses on the promenade and there was poo all over the place and you were marching away merrily and if you got your foot in that everybody got it from behind. You used to be absolutely blathered sometimes. But, that was quite an experience, the icing and the horse poo [laughter].
BW: And I believe you would have your passing out parade on Morecambe prom, is that right?
AT: Yes, yes...yeah.
BW: And it must have been pretty close to Christmas when you passed out of your fortnight's training.
AT: Yes, yes...yeah.
BW: Or just past.
AT: Yes, yeah. I can't remember that but I do know I went from there to Lindholme, Doncaster. I didn't stay there very long. I don't know, really and there was a lot of army personnel there at that time. And I don't know what the purpose of that. I wasn't there that very long and then I got a posting to Waddington. And when I got to Waddington, my time at Waddington, I was actually with 9 Squadron, which was English, 44 Squadron, which was Rhodesian and 467 and 463 which were Australian and I sort of did my service there. And from the first day, you know, I sort of worked in the officer's mess and I did lots of clerical work relating to that. Occasionally I did waitressing and I always used to get the job of the VIPs who would have a special room and I would serve them. Like Wing Commander Nettleton VC. I met him. And lots of personalities, you know, they came through. You know, met a lot of people.
BW: You mentioned Wing Commander Nettleton.
AT: Yes.
BW: He led, I think, the raid on Augsburg, which was quite a famous raid.
AT; Yes.
BW: What were your recollections of him? Did you meet him often?
AT: Lovely man. And he married a WAAF officer. Yeah and I remember service tea for them when they came, when she came. Yeah, yeah.
BW: So you were on the base, there, at Waddington, in the officer's mess, were you there pretty much all of the time, were all your duties conducted in...?
AT: In the officer's mess, yes. I did, sort of, I used to get the, the battle orders, if you'd like to call them that and I knew the crews, where they were going and they used to get a special meal when they were going on a flight cos it was often a nine hour flight and I used to, you know, make sure that they got their flight [meal], you know. They all passed through the desk and I checked that they were there and that they should get this meal, and what have you and, so that was that and of course, when they came back and...
BW: So, because the orders were going through your desk as an admin clerk, you would probably know where they were going before they did.
AT: Yeah, yeah.
BW: And was it you that put the orders up on the board each night?
AT: No, no. I was just responsible for the crews, the crews that, you know, who was going through. And this was another funny thing, they were so funny, the life they were living and you know, it was a case of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we, we'd be...they were so, so, you know. And so respectful that it wasn't like it is today, it was, the changes in men's [sic] because they'd so much. I think probably in the early days of the war, when the WAAFs and sort of, army, you know they got the women in, I think probably in the early days they got a lot of the rough but at the time that I was going in, in '42, we got the greatest respect. And they, the crews, knew exactly who was who and what was what understand what I am saying? And, yes, they made an effort. But what I was saying, they were so funny cos, I remember one time, [they were returning] and I was sat at my desk and I looked up at this officer and he smelt beautiful [laughs] and you know, for one moment, I thought, "Anything I can help you with?" and I said, "Have you been flying, Sir?" He says, "No, I've been for a walk in the park!" [laughter]. Yes, so, needless to say, he hadn't but he'd obviously managed to shower and smell beautiful [chuckles].
BW: So, where were you, yourself, billeted?
AT: I were in the Waafery [sic], a beautiful house, I don't know if it's still there, a beautiful old building on the left as you went into the 'drome. Do you know the Waafery? I might have a photograph somewhere.
BW: That was the name of it - The Waafery?
AT: Yes, yeah, yeah. And there was, we used lovely bedrooms and I think I may remember, I was on the ground floor and there was three of us in most bedrooms and, there was a night when someone got through the window on the ground floor - he was obviously looking for a WAAF but [laughs] it wasn't one of us three [laughs]. So, yeah, I lived in there.
BW: So, did you make good friends with the other WAAFs there?
AT: Yes, very good, yes. I've got pictures of them. Yes, really good friendships. And all the staff I worked with, really, because there was the cooking staff and y’know, and everything that went with...and I used to go to some beautiful functions, you know, the officers used to have at The Bulls Head and I mean, the food wasn't a problem, y’know, you got beautiful food and everything and we were just on duty, basically, to see if everything was all going alright.
BW: So it wasn't just your room mates you got on well with, you got on well with the other...
AT: I got on well with the crews and everyone, hmm. Yes, there were, I mean, the English, y’know, were very much the stiff upper lip type and a little bit more serious, 'Yes sir and no sir, three bags full, sir', sort of thing but the, er, Rhodesian and the, y’know, Australian they were so laid back, you know. I mean, we didn't, we couldn't have hair on our shoulders and we were not supposed to fraternise with the officers but, you know, they were so completely different to our officers. Nevertheless, our officers were still very nice.
BW: So, the officer's mess wasn't segregated between squadrons presumably, it was a large - was it a large mess for all of them?
AT: It was a large mess and of course, you had your sergeant's mess and your other ranks, yeah but you know, if I, on my first day arriving back on camp I was in the other rank but I spent my...
BW: So what would a typical day look like?
AT: In what respect?
BW: Well, what would you, would you sort of be up maybe six in the morning and into work for eight or what? And would you spend, say, half the day in the office and the other time at mealtimes on shift? How would it work for you?
AT: No, it wasn’t.. I don't remember it being too specific because you had flights at different times and you know, it varied.
BW: So you were just required to serve meals at particular...?
AT: Times, yeah. And operational meals were separate of course, at a different time of the day but I don't even remember what sort of a shift I worked, you know, the hours I worked or anything. But it was all very normal to me, you know, nothing outrageous.
BW: So it seemed fairly regular hours and then would you have evenings off, most evenings?
AT: Oh yes, yes. Yes, you'd nothing after a meal was served, really. And, of course, at that time I could have been somewhere else, i.e. they weren't all going on operations, yeah.
BW: You mentioned, erm, serving meals to crews who would be out on the night raids, on the missions into Germany and occupied territory, did you ever get to hear what their targets were, did you get a sense of where they were going or was it only when they came back?
AT: Only when they came back, really, yes, yes and you know, it wasn't, that was unpleasant, really because we knew them so well and you know so many went for a burton and, you know their life span wasn't very long, was it? For a, y’know, a newly qualified pilot who would probably be 19 or 20, you know, going on their first ops and lifespan were about a fortnight, wasn't it.
BW: So, when the crew lists were up and there was a raid on for that night, would you be serving them their meal around lunchtime or mid afternoon?
AT: Well the night raids it would be going on, you know, towards you know and have the time to check in, you know, that sort of thing.
BW: Yeah. I was just thinking, because they'd have to allow, you know, you sort of work back from when they would have to be over the target and they've got to go to briefing
AT: Yes and they got to go to briefing, yes, all that, yeah. But, I didn't particularly clock all that because I worked to a timetable.
BW: And when you got the time off on the evenings, what kind of things were you able to do, socially?
AT: There were always something, I mixed with people then and you know, we used to get to dances in the sergeant's mess and there was sport, I used to play tennis and we were always going down to the local pub and celebrating something, y’know, someone had done their first trip or finished a tour of ops or it was somebody's 21st birthday or, y’know, something. We'd a nice social life and we used to go to the villages nearer and we had bikes and we used to cycle to the other villages and go to the village dances and we did a lot of dancing, ha! [chuckling].
BW: Did you get into Lincoln, itself?
AT: Yes. Now, at the weekends, we were allowed to wear civilian clothes and y’know, when we went dancing and there's an officer there in a crew, who, we won [chuckles], we won a jitterbugging competition [unclear]. You know, it was lovely, there was a lovely spirit, lovely. We'd lots of things to do, really.
BW: So who would you socialise more with because you were working in the officer's mess, dances in the sergeant's mess, so would you mix more with officers or with NCOs or with other ranks?
AT: I think I probably mixed more with the officers but I still enjoyed the company of the sergeant's mess so, or the other ranks, if it comes to that. But, Brian Fallon, one of the officers, actually come [sic] and spent a leave at my home in West Yorkshire. You know, I had a lot of contact with them and I suppose I was more inclined to have...but nevertheless, I did, er. I've got a thing there, somewhere, where it was an invitation to the last dance of the 467 Squadron or something like that, you know.
BW: And was Waddington where you stayed throughout your WAAF service?
AT: No, when, oh... nine squadron went to Bardney and the Rhodesian squadron moved on and so the last few years I was with 467 and 463 and er. What was the question there?
BW: Did you stay at Waddington or did you move on elsewhere?
AT: Ah, yeah, I went to, when I left Waddington, cos it was at the end of the war, I went down to Silverstone in Northants and that was, you know, there wasn't a great deal to do. It was almost like a civilian thing because we were preparing to be demobbed. But there again, we had a nice carry on, I remember being introduced to greyhound racing [chuckles], when I was in Silverstone. Now then, what was the name of the place, it begins a 'B'... Anyway, I can't remember it. And we used to go to this, and there was a chappie who worked with the greyhounds and the first race you could guarantee a 'cert' and he used to mark our cards for us [laughter]. I always remember thinking, "Oh, if I had only had just put my wedge on it..." but I didn't, I just put my pittance cos it was so little.
BW: So what did you get paid?
AT: I can't remember, but I do remember, at one point, I got an increase and instead of saluting and saying "963" I said, "Thank you!" [laughs]. I was so delighted! Not very popular! [laughter]
BW: So Silverstone was quite different to being at Waddington. You must have been at Waddington, probably, 18 months - two years, easily?
AT: Two years yes. I spent very little time at Lindholme.
BW: Were there particular raids or events that you remember at Waddington? Because the squadrons took part in them during that time but I wonder if anything came out through the talk with the squadrons or [unclear]
AT: No, no. I remember the experience, various experiences, because I remember seeing the greatest bonfire of my life when I was at Waddington because I was watching them come back and I was stood next to a WAAF officer, she was watching as well and they German, the Messerschmidt followed them back and they strafed the 'drome and they didn't hit a Lancaster bomber but beyond, which offices, was the incendiary dump and they hit that and poosh! You can imagine, the place was lit up, it was amazing. That was an experience. Different things happened, you know.
BW: When people look at photos and some film footage they would see, as the bombers took off, people gathered at the halt point waving them off...
AT: Yes, I personally and others, used to go and walk on the perimeter track and we were living very dangerous cos of the 1000 lb bombs but we used to go and wave them off cos, you know, we knew the crews and where they were going. We used to go onto the perimeter track.
BW: And did you watch them come back?
AT: Well, no, no because that could have been early hours, you know, whatever. Basically, we went to see them off.
BW: And, it might sound a daft question but, were you attached to a particular aircraft, did you recognise particular aircraft or did you just generally go and wave everybody off?
AT: Yes, yes, we knew the crews and different things and, of course, as you'll be aware, Hitler said that no enemy plane would ever fly over the German territory but at Waddington, we reach a hundred trips and I've got some classified photographs of the bombers, y'know and 'S' for Sugar, obviously there'd been more than one crew that did the hundred trips but that particular 'S' for Sugar did the hundredth trip [sic].
BW: Did you ever - you were obviously good friends with the pilots and crew - did you ever get shown around a Lancaster, did you ever get inside one?
AT: Yes, I've been inside one, yes.
BW: Did they ever take you flying on one?
AT: I never took, actually, after the war, the WAAFs, we could go to do a parachute jump and what have you and, it got off the ground and then I think there was an incident and the WAAFs panicked and it stopped. Yes, so we'd that opportunity. But I've obviously been in and I've sat in every seat, I've even been in the bomb aimer's part [chuckles], y'know. So I knew the aircraft very well.
BW: And at the time you were there they were mainly flying Lancasters, did you, did they fly anything else, were there other aircraft that came onto the base that you could go and see?
AT: No. Of course the Spitfire pilots were escorts, you know, for the bombers. A lot of Canadians and Polish people flew the Spitfires but generally, it was strictly Lancasters. I mean, you mentioned the Stirling, you know, I didn't see anything of those. Of course, I was around when there was all the talk about the Dambusters and Barnes Wallis and the bouncing bomb and, I didn't, I actually, I didn't personally meet, I wasn't personally introduced but, Gibson came to the 'drome at one point. So I was around when all this was happening.
BW: So when you heard about the dams raid, what was the atmosphere like, how did you feel when you heard about it?
AT: The Dambusters? Oh it was amazing because there was an awful lot of work went into it, you know, a lot of tests and then for them to actually crack it and flood everything I felt it was amazing. I mean, it was a serious business, I always say it was an experience I wouldn't have liked to have missed but there was a lot of sadness and, you know er and I mean, like its happening in Ukraine now but I mean we flattened Stuttgart and Berlin and y' know, but its all, but that was on targets, wasn't it, it wasn't on civilians but nevertheless, they got involved in it, didn't they? So there were lots of civilians.
BW: Did you hear about these raids when crews came back? What was the atmosphere like in the mess, I mean you'd served some of these guys before they went out. What happened when, you know, the crews perhaps didn't come back?
AT: Well, obviously, there were the sadness, you know, because people had got to...and there's crews, you know and of course, a lot of the...I knew a friend, actually, who flew and, he erm, they got shot down and, for a while I didn't personally get to know whether...anything but I did keep in touch with Peter's parents, he lived in Watford and I remember the number, Bushy Heath, 1428 [laughs]. And it was Peter Kimber and I think, actually they'd a hairdressing business in London and I think, family must still be running that. But for my 21st birthday he bought me a Mason & Pearson hair brush [laughs], which was very expensive for me then. [laughter]. Yeah, erm, no, they'd obviously, they'd, you know, the crews were all gelled together, you know, and, but er... [siren]
BW: Sorry about that. So, yeah, you said the crews were all gelled together.
AT: Yes, yes, and there wasn't a morbid, nothing morbid about it. It was a job, it was a duty and y'know, they got on with it.
BW: Did you...I'm just trying to picture the scene in the mess when the crews come back for their first meal after a raid and obviously you, as catering staff or general staff, you're serving in the mess, you'd be laying the places...
AT: I wouldn't be there when they came in, I'd not necessarily be there but there was no, nothing morbid or...I mean, they weren't throwing a party but y'know, it was a job.
BW; And you'd only find out later, of course, whether...
AT: The crews that had gone missing hadn't got back. You checked in everybody who was coming back, y'know but of course, the others...[unclear].
BW: And you mentioned earlier that fraternising with the aircrew, whether officers or other ranks, wasn't allowed but obviously it went on. Did you or your friends, your friends in particular, end up in serious relationships?
AT: No, no. I had, mine were friendships, y'know, I had some great friendships but, no, I came home and married someone from the village [chuckles]. But, y'know, I enjoyed the time and I had some respect for people and, yeah. I mean Brian Fallon came home but, well, we just, y'know, it was a friendship and we just, I was giving him the opportunity to come and have a civilian life, if you like, at my home.


BW: How did your parents feel about you being in the WAAF and on an operational base?
AT: My Mum was very worried initially but obviously, no objections to the decisions I made. But, obviously, I'd never been away from home, y'know and it was a big thing to do really, wasn't it?
BE: And did you, yourself, get leave, periodically?
AT: Oh yes, yes, it was about every six or eight weeks, leave, yeah, yeah. And yes, y'know, my parents always liked to see me. But my brother, Fred, my youngest brother, the one in Northern Ireland with the Green Howards, he used to write to me and of course he knew everything and the people I were meeting, and what have you and he wrote a letter to my mother and he says, "Mum," he says, "Audrey's life must be mangled something rotten." cos I was always telling him of someone, y'know, a friend, who had gone for a burton, y'know.
BW: And you were talking about Scampton, before we began recording, it had a reputation as a jinx base?
AT: Yes, we used to feel that, the jinx, because, yes, there was always some incident on take-off or something, y'know, we at Waddington always regarded it as a jinx. It was just, just happening there. And of course it was Lancaster bombers then.
BW: And were then any other bases that had a similar reputation or others that had a particularly strong reputation?
AT: No, Scampton was the only name that I remember ever being connected with anything like that, y'know, just felt that there was something...y'know? I never watched anything that weren't always airborne, y'know, they got off and they were away.
BW: And have you ever seen the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight since, have you seen the Lancaster fly, since?
AT: No.
BW: I was just curious if you'd seen it and whether it provoked any particular memories when you saw it fly. But if you've not seen it...
AT: I've only ever seen in parades like, in anything to do with London and armistice and what have you. In fact I, while I've been here, I've got back into art and doing things and for Remembrance Day I did a wall in the dining room and I had the Lancaster bomber and I had poppies coming out of the rear, just for...
BW: And that was just for the painting...
AT: Just for the painting, yes, yeah, yeah. Just for, y'know, for remembering. And we did a lovely wall this time, didn't we, for the armistice.
BW: So, you moved down to Silverstone in Northants, after Waddington and I'm assuming this would be around early '45, cos you said you were demobbed from there.
AT: Yes, it was about August-ish [sic] time, somewhere round about then.
BW: They started flying POWs back from Germany and Continental Europe, did you get to meet any POWs, did you see the Lancasters bringing them back at all?
AT: No, no, I was aware of, y'know, we had prisoners of war, they were actually on the camp, doing jobs, y'know, we had Germans, Italians, erm. I remember those two nationalities specifically, the prisoners were working on the camp.
BW: That's really interesting because I've not heard of that before. I've heard of, obviously, enemy POWs being held in the UK but not that they were working on RAF bases.
AT: Yeah, yeah, well I'm sure I'm right. Yeah.
BW: And what kind of things would they be doing?
AT: Nothing terribly important, they couldn't get themselves into trouble.
BW: Presumably they were just labouring.
AT: General labouring, I'd put it down like that. But I learned a few words of [chuckles] "Bellagambi" [belle gambe] was going round quite a lot.
Ann: Nice legs! [laughter].
AT: Nice legs! [laughter].
BW: That was from the Italian POWs.
AT: The Italians, yes, yeah [chuckles], yeah, yes. No, they were definitely on the camp because I can't imagine where else I'd have met any of them...[chuckling]. Are you learning something, Ann?
Ann: Oh yes, absolutely.
BW: So were you, I'm assuming you must have been at Silverstone when the war ended, when the news came through, what was the atmosphere like at that point?
AT: Well, of course, VE Day, I would be, that was first, wasn't it? And then of course we had Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor, didn't we, and that brought it global and America came into it, didn't it? So that was the latest one to go...wasn't it the latest..?
BW: Well, I was thinking about the end of the war and you mentioned VE Day and then there'd be VJ Day in the August, as you were saying.
AT: Yes.
BW: What was the atmosphere like on the base when the news of the war's end came?
AT: Do you know, I don't remember.
BW: I just wondered if you might have had parties or celebrations or anything...
AT: No... no.
BW: Maybe you had extra leave?
Ann: Do you need your glasses on, Mum, if you're looking at photos? Your reading glasses?
AT: No, that was Matt O'Leary, an Aussie.
BW: So, we were just looking at that photo of the rear gunner but it's inscribed 'All My Love, Ken' but it's not someone who rings a bell with you?
AT: No, ha! I must have been drunk! [laughter]. I don't think so.
Ann: You have had lucid moments, Mum, about him! [laughter]
AT: I do recognise the face but do y'know, that's someone, he escapes me. I know this gentleman here, this is Terry King.
BW: Terry King?
AT: Terry King, yeah. He's the one where he's lent me his jacket when it was cold. I think he was a navigator [laughs].
BW: You wouldn't happen to know which squadron?
AT: It would be 467 or 463.
BW: OK, but he was definitely an Aussie?
AT: Definitely an Aussie.
Ann: And definitely Terry King? It's just remarkable, isn't it, remembering that, Mum. There was Matt O'Leary as well.
AT: Matt, Matt O'Leary. He's there and I think the big photograph...
BW: Which would be this one of seven aircrew in front of a Lancaster.
AT: [Pauses]. Look at the other two, can we?
Ann: Which one could have tempted you to live in Australia, Mum?, Was it Matt O'Leary, you did mention you could have been living in Australia.
AT: Mmm. I thought I had one of Matt with a crew.
BW: Erm.
Ann: I think you were looking at that one, Mum, excuse me, just let me [unclear] him at bottom right, yeah.
BW: So that's the four guys on the bottom right.
AT: That's him there, look and he's an Aussie. It was one weekend and we were dancing in Lincoln and we won a jitterbutty [sic], it wasn't the one where they threw you over the hedge, y'know, it was clever footwork [laughs].
BW: So was it a village dance?
AT: No, it was in the city centre.
BW: OK. And was it, were there a lot of RAF aircrew taking part?
AT: No, it was civilian and a mixture, yeah, yeah. But we cracked it!
BW: And you came top?
AT: We won it, yes, yeah.
BW: So, just as a general question, how easy was it to learn to dance in those days, because it seems everybody did it as a social activity but where did you learn?
AT: I danced with my three bothers from being that high because there was ten years between myself and the eldest and, you know, we used to go to the village dances and I could always go to village dances cos the others would always bring me home safely. So I've danced all my life, really. I love dancing.
BW: And it just happened that you paired up this particular...
AT: Yes, we were friends, y'know and we'd gone into Lincoln to the dance and, that was it.
BW: It was a spur of the moment thing, presumably.
AT: Not a spur of the moment, we'd intended going into Lincoln, which a lot of us did do.
BW: So this photo shows a Lancaster crew, seven guys in front of a Lancaster.
AT: And do you know, I don't know any names on there, I can't...
BW: No, there's none on the back, it just says.
AT: No, these were classified, I got, y'know, the pictures...
BW: But it says 'The crew of S for Sugar'.
AT: S for Sugar, yeah.
BW: So that, presumably, is the crew with 100 missions...
AT: A thousand... with... the missions, the last crew to crew it, presumably. Y'know, to get the hundred trips. There's one of the photographs, it shows quite clearly, doesn't it, that 'no enemy plane will ever...'
BW: Which is this one, there's a crowd in front of the aircraft.
AT: Yeah, yeah, that's, y'know, obviously, other ranks and whoever else was there.
BW: Do you remember that occasion?
AT: No, no, I wasn't among that but that was the... of course...I got the photographs.
BW: This particular one's a Lancaster being, what they called, 'being bombed up' also is S for Sugar.
AT: Yes, yeah.
BW: Did you ever get to see the crews bombing aircraft up?
AT: No, No.
BW; There are a couple of photos here, with friends, which one is you and who are the others?
AT: That's me, in the middle.
BW; OK. And who...?
AT: Do y'know, their name escapes me, I can't remember.
BW: And this one also shows you but this time you are on the right and there are a couple of names on the back. Do you recall those?
AT: I don't really, no, I don't.
BW: No problem.
AT: It was a long time ago and but, you know, we were friends.
BW: Do you know where they were taken? Were they taken during training or it looks like they might have been taken...
AT: Er, it was at Waddington, it was Waddington, it looks like first post thing.
BW: OK, did you keep in touch with your friends after the war at all?
AT: No, no. No, I y'know, got on with life again [laughs].
BW: And we were talking about the Australian crews earlier and obviously Matt was a good friend who you won the competition with, do you know if he survived the war?
AT: I don't know, no.
AT: Obviously it'd be sometime in that period, y'know, the period, he was there most of the time I was there. But I don't know...Peter, Kimber, when I rang his Mum, she said, y'know, I sort of asked had she'd heard anything and she said, "I've heard this morning, he's been made a prisoner of war." So, obviously he survived and he would get home. That was another, y'know, just friendship.
BW: But you didn't hear anymore from Peter? You didn't hear where he was or what had happened to him?
AT: No. Nothing at all.
BW: How did you feel when you got the news, were you relieved?
AT: I was so pleased that, at least, he was safe cos he could have been blasted into eternity, couldn't he? Yes, I was very pleased and pleased for his Mum.
BW: were the rest of his crew captured?
AT: The concern was Peter, y'know, I was enquiring about him and she told me she was absolutely delighted, yes.
BW: And you were never tempted to move to Australia, having got to know some of these Australians. Did they ever try and tempt you with them?
AT: No, actually, there was one thing: a lot of them they [were] staunch Roman Catholics. Y'know, I thought it was one thing, leaving your country but also, being Church of England and being brought up in that way. But it didn't really, there was no one who meant that much to me, to do that, cos you've got to love and care to take that step, haven't you? And when I met my husband, that was it and I'd just 15 years of super marriage and y'know, short-lived but I didn't work during that period and, we weren't like ships that passed in the night. So, we'd a good life Ann, hadn't we?
Ann: Yes.
AT: And we just had the one daughter.
BW: You said earlier that you'd left the WAAF in August, around August '45.
AT: Yes.
BW: What happened next? You'd worked and had experience in administration, you'd worked at admin in the WAAF, what happened after you left?
AT: I came back...I think I went back to the Co-op, I had a decent position there. Er, do you know, I don't think I did anything then. And then I met Norman and y'know and the next thing was marriage.
BW: When was that, when did you meet?
AT: Er, well, he lived in the same village and I'd been friends with his sister, y'know, she'd been a good friend for many years. But, suddenly that was it. So, you know, obviously, that was after the war and... What year did I get married, Ann, was it '53?
Ann: 53.
AT: 53. And you were born in 56, weren't you? Yeah. But I never worked once I got married, I never worked. And then, of course, my husband died young, at the age of 39. You've spoken about this, have you, Ann?
Ann: Only briefly.
AT?: Yes, yes. It was tragic really, a minor operation and he got an infection in the hospital and the drug they had used damaged a kidney. And I travelled to Leeds with him from Wakefield, left Ann in the care of the nurses at the hospital and he died between Leeds and Wakefield, er Wakefield and Leeds. And I had to wait ten days for a post mortem, because the coroner wasn't happy but at that time the medical profession were very much round each other and it was brought in 'misadventure'. So that was it. So, about six months after that I hadn't the confidence to pick up a telephone. I was devastated, wasn't I, in a mess and you witnessed it, didn't you, unfortunately. When Norman died, Ann had just turned 12 months at grammar school, obviously very clever and y'know, Norman and I had plans and we saw great things in the future and so, in my mind, I just wanted to bring my daughter up, see her through university and I never had to decide [unclear] beyond her age of 18, when she could manage her money. It was a very sad time.


BW: And you just had that short time between, finishing with the WAAF and working in the Co-op where you went back to and then married life.
AT: Yes, yes, and, so when Norman died I had to get my act together and y'know, go out to work. So the first job I took, I got, was with the county council and it's statistics, erm...sorry, and I worked with the county, the fact that I needed to work and keep a roof over our heads, y'know and money, I wasn't averse to any change or anything I was asked to do, so consequently, over the time, I built up a, y'know, a lot of information about various things and then, I got involved with the director, who used to be appointed as a Guardian ad Litem in care related proceedings at the court either relating to children in care y'know, where there was a conflict of interests and er, and er, children who had probably been placed for adoption, and the putative father, y'know, was objecting. So I worked with the director getting reports to the director, it came to me, did all the documentation and I made sure that the social workers got out and saw every respondent that had the right to be seen and heard, regarding those proceedings. So I'd got that experience with the Guardian ad Litem and then, years later, the social service - they amalgamated the children's department and the county and [they] became Social Services and later, in '75, it's a long way ago, in't it? [The 19]75 Act the local authority said that the, all the...the government said that the Local Authorities had to become adoption agencies. So I had all this knowledge about, already, about adoption so I got all the White Papers from HMSO regarding the adoptions and proceedings and what the government expected and I studied it all and I got an interview for the post on the board of directors and I got the job. And one of the directors said, "I wish I knew as much as Audrey about the Children Act," [laughs]. And that's the sort of thing, I was saying, my brothers and I, that's what we've done, we've progressed but it's been our effort, you know. So that was it and I thoroughly enjoyed it cos it was so interesting, y'know we approved prospective adopters and we accepted children for adoption and lots of babies and some of the mums could only tell, all they knew about the father was, they could only tell you the colour. You know, they'd known these were one night stands and things - all very interesting. And of course we arranged placements and y'know, all the time we never had a problem and we got some really good placements. And then after, it came into force at 18 they could have knowledge of the prospective adopters so I did Section 26 counselling, which meant interviewing the mum because we didn't let anyone turn up on anybody's doorstep saying, "You're my Mum."or anything like that. We made sure that they, the natural mother, was happy with the decision that we were making and all that. I worked with professional people, y'know, solicitors, police and everybody, but thoroughly enjoyed it. And got a nice side of it, going to the pediatricians with babies [chuckles] and I did that till I retired and I could have stayed longer but my grandson was, [to Ann] you were pregnant, and I thought, " Oh, Norman's missed so much and I'm not going to miss these babies so I retired at 64. I had the ability to carry on but I didn't.

BW: And, just to, I suppose, come back to the RAF and Bomber Command, you've been to the IBCC at Lincoln, how do you feel, seeing that?
Ann: That was me.
BW: Oh, I beg your pardon.
AT: What was that?
Ann: You know I went down to the International Bomber Command Centre?
AT: Yes, you went, didn't you, yes. I've not been but I'd love to but I don't think I could make it down there.
Ann: No, they've offered to entertain [you] but no.
AT: Yeah but I've read the book. [to Ann] You got the book, didn't you. And I refresh my memory with it. Yes, yeah, it's very, very impressive, very impressive and it's amazing what they've done with the grounds. I was looking for the Waafery, [laughs] but I guess they've demolished it but it was a beautiful building. There was another nice thing in the village, I don't know the name of it, it was a nice pub, where we went, but there was a man in but it was only like a shed but he used to make jam and lemon curd tarts and we used to go and buy [laughs] them from this man in the village. Lovely time really.
BW: So, knowing about the memorial, how do you feel about there being a memorial to the crews of Bomber Command?
AT: I think it's wonderful, I don't think they should ever be forgotten. No. I think it's wonderful, I love the way they've got the walls with all the names, and the gardens, I think it's beautiful. And I think they deserve remembering, y'know, they've given their lives, and young lives.
BW: Cos, the guys were largely only around the same age as you were at the time, weren't they? The chaps in the RAF, the aircrew, they were only around your age.
AT: They were, yes, yes, very young, yes. That was the sad thing, it was so much in life going, y'know.
BW: Whereas you say, I think you summed it up well, you wouldn't have wanted to have missed the experience...
AT: Oh no, no, not for a moment. And I've often thought about it, haven't I?
Ann: Yeah.
AT: Yeah, I did not [unclear] it's an opportunity I wouldn't have missed. It was really good.
Ann: I think it's affected Mum's outlook on so many things because I think, for my Mum's age group and generation, you've got a very rounded, cosmopolitan attitude towards people of all nationalities and I think that's quite impressive.
AT: Hmm.
BW: And through all the things we've talked about this afternoon, are there any other aspects or recollections that you want to add from your time in the WAAF?
AT: No, I don't think so, I think I've covered it. You know I enjoyed the life, enjoyed the company of the people and the various things. Do you know, I'm 99 [unclear] but not very long ago I was, he was speaking to me on the phone and he said, "Mum, do you ever regret any of the decisions you've made in your life?" and I said "No, and I'd make them all again, all the same." Because, since my husband died I had this tunnel vision and it was family and I wanted to see Ann where, y'know [unclear] but then, you see, grandchildren came and then that was another life line and I've just, I had so much happiness with Ann and the children so I've not really wanted anything else. And strangely enough, when I came to this home and it was my decision but we chatted it over, didn't we, because Ann gave me 24/7 care when I came out of hospital, which was a near death experience and she gave that care and I could see what was happening and I, I mean, I had a good life, born into the right family, met the man I loved, enjoyed 15 good years and y'know, I wanted Ann to enjoy her children so I made the decision to come in here. But when, about the same time I met a man, he was upright and mobile but he'd had an accident, his wife had died and he'd scalded himself and he'd come in for respite care, initially and he was a professor of politics but he was such an interesting man I had a friendship with him while he was here, which was about five or six months, wasn't it Ann?
Ann: Yep.
AT: And it was a nice, good friendly relationship but he died just before Christmas but that was nice, y'see. But that's life, isn't it?
BW: Well, I've no other questions and you've answered everything very thoroughly and clearly so, thank you very much for your time.
AT: Yeah, thank you! Cos you been very tolerant and we haven't interrupted you very much, have we?
BW: Not at all.
[Audrey laughs]



Brian Wright, “Interview with Audrey Teasdale,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

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