Interview with Jane Carrington


Interview with Jane Carrington


Jane Carrington joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in 1942 at the age of 18. She served as a cook, and volunteered to join the band as a drummer. She discusses her time in the kitchens, the menus and the equipment they used.








00:57:06 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank, and today is the seventh of February two thousand and seventeen, and I'm in Henfield, Hayfield in Derbyshire, and talking to Jane Carrington about her experiences in the RAF during the war. So Jane, what are the first recollections you have of family life?
JC: We just lived, it wasn't a very particularly happy home for a start, but I don't want that broadcast all over the place.
CB: No. What did your father do?
JC: Well, he was a cotton spinner, which was a very special job in the cotton mills, because you had to work your way up to it, and there's only one spinner, you know, to a cotton mill.
CB: Oh.
JC: And of course the mill closed, that was Clough Mill.
NH: How old were you?
JC: How old, when he was working? I don't know.
NH: School?
CB: So, how many children were there in the family? You, and-?
JC: Three brothers and myself.
CB: Okay, and where were you in the, er, range?
JC: I'm the oldest.
CB: You are. Right. And are your brothers still around?
JC: Three of them are, yes.
CB: All three?
JC: One isn't.
CB: No. Right. So, you went to the local school?
JC: I did.
CB: And how long for?
JC: Until I was fourteen.
CB: Then what did you do?
JC: I was told to go out and find a job. And I landed up at the print works at Strines, and then they told me they didn't want me because (laughs) I didn't like doing the work and had no interest in it. And that was the end of that. I just went from pillar to post. I worked as a cleaning, I've done cleaning, where else did I work Nina?
CB: So, lots of different jobs?
JC: Lots of different, but nothing. Nothing.
NH: Did you work with Gladys then?
JC: (Unclear), with Gladys.
CB: So when the war started you were fifteen.
JC: Nineteen twenty four, I was born.
CB: Thirty nine the war started.
JC: I think I was sixteen.
CB: So you were sixteen. Okay.
JC: Sixteen.
CB: And what happened then?
JC: Do you mean where was I working then?
CB: Mm-hmm.
JC: Well, there was a lady, very old lady, Mrs Pearce, do you remember, Parkhall Crescent, I lived in there, I was supposed to be her companion, looking after her house and cooking for her.
CB: Oh right.
JC: And then of course the war was (slight pause) and I went of to join the WAAF. And she came to meet me, she picked me up at Cardington Camp, took to to Wythall to be demobbed, that lady. I couldn't stand her any more (laughs), I'd had a packet of it.
CB: What made you decide to join up?
JC: (Pause) Just unrest, I suppose, looking to, unsettled. In retrospect. You don't know, do you? When you're young you just, you haven't got the education, you haven't got this, you just-
CB: Okay. And when-
JC: When I came out of the WAAF, I'd worked in the catering office for a while, I got a job in accounts department at Ferodo, where I should have been all the time.
CB: Originally.
JC: And then I got transferred to the North London office at Kings Cross.
CB: Right. So when you were sixteen, seventeen, what made you join the RAF rather than join the Army or the Navy?
JC: Because it sounded more exciting.
CB: Mm-hmm. What else.
JC: I can't think of anything else.
NH: The colour.
JC: The colour, oh, the blue, yes, because as I already told you, everybody always said blue suited me.
CB: Mm-hmm. You like the outfit, did you?
JC: I hadn't mixed in very wonderful company as you know, it was just for me to like. Nothing wrong with people. They were nice people for the most part.
CB: So where did you join up?
JC: I went to enlist at Dover Street in Manchester, 'til they called me to (unclear) roster. Is me voice going?
CB: It's good, keep going.
JC: And there, oh, I went on the train from London Road, as I told you. Never having left the village. And the first to happen was they gave us a sack and a pile of straw, and that was our bed for a week, until they could find beds for us, we slept on the floor.
CB: So where was this?
JC: At Innsworth Lane.
CB: At Innsworth, right. Okay.
JC: Nineteen forty two.
CB: Mm-hmm. And as I say, you were eighteen then.
JC: I was. And then I went to the selection. We've only got vacancies for cooks and ACHGDs
JC: General Duties.
CB: Right.
JC: Well, what does that entail? Well anything, cleaning the toilets, sweeping the things, doing this that and the other. And I thought, well, I like making fairy cakes, I'll be a cook. There was a rude awakening for Jane! It was damned hard work.
CB: Was it?
JC: Mm. Six of us cooking for three or four thousand men.
CB: And what about the menu?
JC: I've got that for you. (rustle of paper).
CB: Ok, we'll look at that in a minute. But in general terms, what was the menu?
JC: Well, it's in the book, and I don't remember a lot until I read the book.
CB: Well, what I'm saying is, it's not fairy cakes, so what what were you feeding them?
JC: Oh no, well porridge and bacon, brown stew was a favourite, you might know about brown stew. When I read the books they come back to me.
CB: Yeah, ok. But in general terms, it was good nourishing-
JC: There was nothing wrong with it, nothing whatsoever.
CB: And how did the cooking system work? Because there were a lot of people to feed.
JC: Well, we worked on shifts. That's what you want to know, on shifts.
CB: Right.
JC: I could be walking at the front at Skegness with sand blasting in my face at three o' clock in the morning, for doing breakfast shift. And that shift, erm, clean the kitchen. That was awful, doing those floors, with caustic soda. That's – what are you laughing at? With deck brushes, little hard brushes. Then you squeegee'd it, and then you flip-flopped it. That was a load of flags or something to dry it off. The other shift, and I can't remember the time, I think (pause) we did the evening meal and the prep, see, I'm getting mixed up again.
CB: Keep going.
JC: We cooked the, you know, the dinner. That's it, we cleaned the floor, and then we cooked the lunch. No we didn't, we cooked the lunch first and cleaned the floor afterwards. That was the end of that shift.
CB: Right.
JC: Then the next shift would come on and we'd do preparation for the next day, and whatever. I can't remember much more about that. And that would go on until, oh, six, seven o' clock. Then we had to put the passion cocoa out, don't let that go on your thing, will you. That was big bucket fulls of cocoa, and the airmen who didn't want to go out, came in the billy with their mugs and would take the cocoa. At Skegness we had to go and sit on the beach with cocoa for the lifeboatmen, because they were going out to pick the airmen out of the water. That happened very often. There were great big Thermos flasks. Now I might get this all out of context. Chris, but these are the things that happened.
CB: That's alright. That's fine. I'm quite happy with any of the, any of the remarks. In the background we can just follow the sequence.
JC: Yes. Then I was taken out of there and put in the food factory. Where they made the bread.
CB: Where was that?
JC: Skeg.
CB: Still in Skegness? Yes.
JC: I was on so may stations. What did we do in the food factory? We made the bread, we made the stock pots, we rendered down the bones, and fat. All sorts of things.
CB: Did you keep the fat, in order to use it as dripping?
JC: Oh yes, the fat was sent to the soap factories.
CB: Okay.
JC: Outside each kitchen, from the taps and the sinks, were big sumps, grease traps. You had to go out and scoop it off. Horrible. One Christmas day I can remember the bells were ringing out over the base, and the wireless was on all day long. On Christmas day. And there were six of us, cleaning the grease traps. And we were singing. And we called ourselves Corporal Lombardini's Grease Trap Songsters. I can remember that (laughs). That's just one occasion.
CB: So, what was the main producer of grease, in the cooking?
JC: Oh from bones and fat of animals. I did butchering. I did cooking, butchery, field kitchen, (pause) I worked in the catering office, I worked on the ration wagons, I did practically everything. My last job was in the catering office.
CB: And in the catering office, what was your job there?
JC: Oh, that was interesting. Working out that each man got the right calories, you know, and all the rations. Which are all in this book (taps the book cover).
CB: I know, but the idea of this is so that people can hear what you've got to say, and then they can pick out bits from anything else.
JC: We didn't have to do vegetables, the ACHD's did that.
CB: What vegetable options were there?
JC: Oh, everything, that was available in those days.
CB: Was it normally grown locally, or did they-?
JC: Yes, well, in Lincolnshire, of course, the farmers used to bring stuff in. That weren't supplied by the, you know, the industry.
CB: Including turnips?
JC: Oh aye, plenty of turnips. Sacks of new potatoes, all sorts of things, I can't remember.
CB: Going back to Innsworth, when you went there and you had to lie on the beds, and er, what was the main activity there, were you being taught about the RAF, or, what were you doing?
JC: Oh yes, lectures every day.
CB: And what were they about?
JC: Oh, everything. They even told you how to have a bath. Even though I'd been washing in a tin bath in front of the fire for years. You had to learn how to do a bath. Um, all the general things.
CB: Yeah, but people don't know what those are, you see.
JC: Oh well, hygiene, and drill and discipline, venereal diseases, keep away from that sort of thing, um.
CB: Did they show you films on some things?
JC: No. It was only just lectures.
CB: And how long did that go on for?
JC: Just about six weeks. And the drill, of course.
CB: And after that, at the end of the six weeks, what did you do then?
JC: I was posted to the cookery school at Melksham, and I was there for I don't know how long. Some weeks?
CB: I'll stop it for a few- (noises off) (pause) Now, what I'm back on to , if I may, is the sequence of what happened. So you joined in Manchester, then you went to Innsworth, and because they were caught out without all the facilities thy had to give you bedding which was straw, in a bag actually. But what were the facilities like? So what they call ablutions is where you wash and clean, what were they like? What was it?
JC: Well, it was just a hut from the, you know, from our billet, a row of hand basins and a row of toilets with three quarter doors on. Concrete floors and duck boards. If they hadn't been burnt the night before to keep warm.
CB: Right.
JC: Is that what you wanted?
CB: Yeah, yeah. So what were the purpose of the duck boards?
JC: To keep you off the concrete floor. For comfort, if you please.
CB: Okay. And how many toilets and washbasins would there be in this block, roughly? Twenty?
JC: I don't think that many. Perhaps a dozen or so. Ten to twelve.
CB: You were on a barrack block of some kind, were you?
JC: Oh yeah.
CB: Was it wooden, or was it a concrete hut?
JC: Is was wooden huts.
CB: Okay. And how many in your hut, roughly?
JC: About eighteen, I would think. But on all other camps I did sleep in Nissan huts, on bunks.
CB: Yes. Okay, and was there an NCO in charge?
JC: Yes, in the cabin, at the front.
CB: And what rank would that NCO be?
JC: Corporal or Sergeant, on other ranks, you know.
CB: Okay. Right. So here we're talking about the Woman's Auxiliary Air Force, so all your reporting line was women? So the Corporal was a woman?
JC: Oh yes.
CB: And so it was segregated from the men?
JC: The men daren't come into the WAAF lines at all.
CB: So, they're in a separate part of the camp?
JC: Yes.
CB: Okay. And did you eat together?
JC: Well, in the kitchens you ate in the kitchen.
CB: I meant the WAAFs in general.
JC: We would (unclear) when we could. Because we were supplied from headquarters, because we were permanent staff on the camp, but we did better by just staying in the kitchen where we were.
CB: Right. I'm talking about the training, so in the training area, in this first, while you were at Innsworth-
JC: I wasn't trained cook there.
CB: I know, but in that training-
JC: Oh yes, yes, all the recruits ate together.
CB: And they were separated, you were separated from the men.
JC: Don't remember any men there at all.
CB: Right. Okay. And then at the end, you then went, you said, to cookery school at Melksham. So what happened there?
JC: We were taught our drill there, you know.
CB: At Innsworth? Okay. How did you get on with drill?
JC: I think I marched more than any other WAAF in the RAF.
CB: Oh. Why was that?
JC: Shall I show him why? (rustle of paper).
CB: I'll have a look in a minute.
JC: (Loud rustling) I'd rather you saw that.
CB: Okay, we'll stop. (Noise of tape machine being turned off)
CB: So you were saying you did more marching. That was because, what did you do? (Pause) You did more marching at Innsworth because of -.
JC: No I didn't, that was where I was taught to march. But we'll go back to that when you round to it.
CB: Oh, okay. That's fine.
JC: Because I could march, I was chosen to do that.
CB: Do do what? What was that? What was it called.
JC: It was Group Captain Innsworth Personal Band.
CB: Right. So that's really important, because these, some of these organisations had more activities than others. I'll stop it.
JC: Even though I shouldn't have done it.
CB: So the Group Captain at Innsworth, what was he?
JC: No, it wasn't at Innsworth. This is all out of context now, see. I was at Melksham.
CB: OK, at Melksham.
JC: I worked about twelve or eighteen months in the kitchens.
CB: At Melksham, so where's that
JC: No. That was the School of Cookery, Melksham.
CB: Right. Yes, so lets go to the school of cookery. What happened then?
JC: And I was posted from there as an SACW (unclear) Two to Wilmslow. It was a PDC, Personnel Dispatch Centre, where they bought all the boys in who were to be sent overseas. Thousands of them. And they ring in my ears still. We had to give them their dry rations. They were trained there, and lectured, and all the rest of it. And two 'o clock, three 'o clock in the morning you could here them going down to the station (beats on the table simulating marching), off to Liverpool. How many came back? How many thousands did us WRAF cooks kiss goodnight to? Can you imagine?
CB: Well, I imagine this is the bit that we need to build in to this whole thing.
JC: When it comes to Remembrance Sunday I'd rather sit on my own, because I wonder how many of those boys never came back home. Nobody understands that, do they?
CB: No. That's why we're doing this on the tape.
JC: That was very -
CB: Emotional?
JC: Yes. In retrospect, not at the time.
CB: So, that's the interesting point, isn't it? So at the time, how did you handle the strain of that?
JC: Well, as well as we could. We did it. We had to do it, we did it. There was no argument about it. You did it. We just got on well together, and did it.
CB: And these were all Air Force people?
JC: Oh yes. They were all airmen. Eighteen, nineteen.
CB: And what was their attitude to what they were doing?
JC: Oh, they were upset weren't they? Some of them cried, some of them wanted to be big men.
CB: Had they been away from home before, or was it all new?
JC: No, most of them hadn't.
CB: Right. And did they know where they were going?
JC: I don't know. We WAAFs kept our mouths shut, and we weren't told what we didn't have to know.
CB: But they were being sent abroad, is what you are saying?
JC: Oh we knew they were going, and we knew what time they were going, but we were sworn to not tell anybody.
CB: This is important, yes. And do you know why they were moved, went in the night?
JC: Of course, secrecy. Down to Liverpool docks. We knew where they we going, but we only knew through NCOs and people who'd confide in us, of course. We weren't told officially. (Long pause). That was that.
CB: Good. How long where you there at Wilmslow?
JC: I'm just trying to think where I went from – I was moved a time or two to fill vacancies. One was up at Crannidge where some of the grounded crews were on rest, where I worked for a few weeks up there in a field kitchen. And Leslie Greenhouse was there. Do you remember me telling you about that (aside). (Pause) And I also went down to St Athan for a few weeks, where I fell in a boiler of boiling vegetable marrow (laughs). Yes.
CB: What was the effect of that?
JC: Well, the effect, the outcome of it was very amusing, actually. I was bandaged from here to here and put in sick bay, and prior to that hams had been missing. Nobody knew where the hams were going. But Jane's sat up in bed in the sick bay, and where the food was kept one of the civilian men, workers on the camp, was going through with a bucket, pinching the ham that was hung into the bucket. (laughs) So I did a bit of detective work there.
CB: So he caught in the end, did he?
JC: Oh yes. That's funny.
CB: Yes. Absolutely.
JC: Richard Murdoch was on that camp.
CB: Was he?
JC: Then I was sent back to Wilmslow. And I worked in the catering office then, this time at Wilmslow. Next door to the office where Ivor Moreton and Dave Kaye, have you heard of those? And two pianos, do you remember them? Busy Fingers. They were two airmen.
CB: And what were they doing?
JC: They were working for BBC in Air Force Blue. And pinching my fire! On a shovel, and into their stove. We had fun, as well.
CB: So what was their actual job?
JC: I think they must have been AGCs, I couldn't think anything else. But also at two camps, Wilmslow and Skegness, was Stanley Tudor who played the organ at the Gaumont in Manchester. And he was always missing. You could hear him on the radio, and he was sweeping out at the NAAFI.
CB: And he was a well known organist?
JC: Oh yes. You've heard of him?
CB: No. It's just what you said, only what you said. So, you went back -
JC: That's where the Lincolnshire bit comes in.
CB: You went back to Linc-, Wilmslow, then you went to Skegness.
JC: Yes.
CB: And what was happening at Skegness, what was it?
JC: Again, recruiting, technical training, command. You know Skegness was taken over by the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.
CB: Right.
JC: All the infantry were in Skegness, the RAF was at Skegness, and the Navy was up at Butlin's. You know about that?
CB: No.
JC: HMS Royal Arthur. Lord HaHa, what was he called, Lord Haw Haw, he said they'd sunk it. And it was Butlin's camp at Skegness. All this is quite true, you know. And that was where I joined this band.
CB: Yes. Right. So,-
JC: He wanted some WAAFs in it, he thought WAAFs should be in it.
CB: Right, but at Skegness, were you -
JC: I was working at the Imperial.
CB: Yes, but were they Air Force people only?
JC: Oh, no. The Infantry were up at the South.
CB: No. Where you were cooking, were you cooking just for the RAF? Or were you cooking -
JC: Oh yes, only for the RAF. You didn't cook for anybody else.
CB: Right. OK.
JC: The Army cooked for themselves. They were a different thing altogether.
CB: So, where were you in the, what hotel were you in?
JC: The South Parade Hotel. I can remember that. Next door (laughs) dare I tell him this one? Every morning, well not every morning, a WAAF had to go out with one of the SB's to do the early calls, to people on early duty. It was pitch black, you know, very early in the morning. I wouldn't sit on the cross bar of these bikes, because I couldn't do it, but one day, in the dark, I went into the wrong mess, didn't I? I'm going up the stairs shouting, 'come on, wakey, wakey, rise and shine', all the rest of it, opened the doors and there were all brown boots, I was in the Army officer's bedroom (laughs). I went downstairs about two at a time. Shall I tell you what I said to the SB, I said, 'hang on to that cross bar, and peddle like bloody hell', I said, 'get me out of this'. And he never reported it. Now he was a decent man, wasn't he? He realised what had gone wrong. I saw this row of brown boots (chuckles). There were a lot of funny experiences like that.
CB: That's it, What else?
JC: At Skegness, Group Captain Insall came in, he'd had this band with him at Padgate.
CB: So what was his name? Group Captain -
JC: Group Captain Insall. His name's there.
CB: Yes. And he was a VC?
JC: He got a Military Cross in the Army, lost his arm. You've heard about it?
CB: A Military Cross in the Army? Go on.
JC: I don't know how he got the VC, but he was a pilot, of course. And that's how I came to be there. He called me the Yorkshire girl, I'm not a Yorkie, but he always referred to me as the Yorkshire girl. I think he did it to annoy me.
CB: Right, right. He was close. Yes. Ok. So, he was commanding the -
JC: The whole issue.
CB: The whole Air Force issue?
JC: No, not the whole Air Force, just the personnel in Skegness, the (unclear) camps there.
CB: Right. And so what did he want? (Pause) He wanted his own band, yeah? So how did you get in to be a member of his band?
JC: I don't know, think they asked us to go and volunteer. Several of us went along.
CB: But was that because you'd done music before you joined the RAF?
JC: No, I don't know anything about music, not even now.
CB: So what were you playing, in the band?
JC: A drum.
CB: Right. How did you learn how to play the drum?
JC: Oh, little wooden things with rubber, you know? Can you imagine? About that big with a rubber circle.
CB: To learn. Who taught you?
JC: This fellow here.
CB: He was the band master, was he?
JC: No, he was the drum. The Leading Tipper. The Pipe Major was the one stood next to Captain Insall, that's Sergeant Watkinshaw. They were bagpipes, makes it even worse.
CB: So you enjoyed that, did you?
JC: Yes. It got me out the kitchen. Many times. We used to play in Bedford. You know, they had Wings For Victory week and what was the one to get money for warships? There's one in the council offices here (pause) oh, dear.
CB: So they ran fund raise events for the war.
JC: Yes, they used to have the parades in Bedford because the Americans were there. Betty married one.
CB: So how did you meet your American?
JC: How did I? I didn't marry an American. I wouldn't have ought to do with them. (whispers) Don't tell Betty.
CB: Ah, Betty married one.
JC: I just, I was frightened of them, actually.
CB: So he went to a number of these events himself, and took his band with him, is that what it was?
JC: No he didn't. He -
CB: He just sent the band.
JC: Whan he was moved from Skegness, Captain Insall, Group Captain Insall, he was taken to Cardington camp, sent to Cardington camp, and he took every member what's on this picture with him, was posted to Cardington camp.
CB: Right. So when was that? Roughly. You'd been at Skegness for a while.
JC: Yes, quite a long time. (pause) I came out in forty six didn't I, so will be end of forty four.
CB: OK. So you moved to Cardington yourself.
JC: That's right. And I was demobbed from Cardington.
CB: And what did you do at Cardington?
JC: I worked in the catering office, I worked on the bread wagon, I worked on the wet ration wagon, I used to go out every morning with two big trucks, two old civilian drivers, and I had six Italian or German prisoners.
CB: POW's. Yes.
JC: I used to go up to Turvey, to collect the rations, you know, sort them in, sort them out when I got back. And there was a Captain from your lot there. Nichola Woods. Don't know if he's still alive. He maybe.
CB: What's his name?
JC: I can't remember. He had a great big moustache like Jimmy Edwards. And I used to ask for cigarettes for the prisoners. 'If you'll come in the rum store and give me a kiss, I'll give you some cigarettes'. (Laughs) So I went in that rum store, and I gave them some cigarettes. They weren't all bad lads, you know.
CB: So you went out in the trucks to get the local produce.
JC: I went out out, yes, every morning, with two big trucks. Which supplied the whole of the camp. Which had five wings, Cardington.
CB: So what was happening at Cardington?
JC: Technical training. Oh, another interesting thing that happened there, when they liberated Holland, all the Dutch boys came to Cardington to be trained in the RAF. That was quite a, well, it was different. We couldn't understand each other at all. And they planted marigolds all over Cardington camp, it was one mass of orange marigolds. If that's of any interest to anybody, which I don't suppose it is.
CB: Well it is. It is, because it's the significant point about, it's their colour, isn't it, of Holland?
JC: There are two Dutch boys here on this photograph.
CB: It's called, the Royalty, is called the House of Orange, isn't it?
JC: It is, yes. And, oh, I know what. That Queen Willomena, I've got that photograph at home. She came to the camp to decorate two of her pilots. And she spoke to me.
CB: Did she?
JC: Yes. And I couldn't tell what she said, but her interpreter said that she said, 'how do you keep up with these men with your little legs?' (chuckles) That's all I know.
CB: Amazing. Yes. And what else, did you, were you demobbed from Cardington?
JC: I was demobbed from Cardington, at Withall in Birmingham.
CB: Right.(Pause)
JC: I'm sure none of this stuff's of any use to you whatsoever.
CB: It's all vital. Just going back.
JC: I told you I'd never done anything interesting.
CB: Going back to the earlier stages, the reason for having this is because people today have no idea what happened in those days
JC: They don't know who we were.
CB: They don't. They don't even know war. So, when you went to Melksham to train for catering; what happened there? What did they do?
JC: Well, lectures, that's where I did butchery there.
CB: So they taught you butchery. What else did they teach you?
JC: Cookery.
CB: And how did they do that?
JC: It was just like going to school, actually, (unclear), you know
CB: Because the military kitchens catered for lots of people, their equipment was a bit different from being at home.
JC: Ooo, two and three thousand we catered, I have catered up to four thousand at the height of the war.
CB: Right. So what was the equipment like, to be able to do that?
JC: Well, there were big boilers. Have you not seen them, you must have seen them. I took (unclear) of that book with all the pictures in, didn't I? Picture of Lady (unclear) and the WAAF Assoiciation. Massive big boilers.
CB: Right. Big ovens, were there?
JC: Oh yes, big ovens. See, that would be the kitchen, and here was the stoker, and here were steamers, I can see the kitchen, there were six boilers, and there some friers, and there the servers, the NCO servers.
CB: And were they running on gas or coal?
JC: No, they were on coal.
CB: Right. So the stokers were putting coal into them.
JC: Yeah, all night along he was there, it was kept going all the time. Supplied the hot water and the boilers and whatever, the ovens. Hard work.
CB: Yeah. And washing up? How was that handled?
JC: That was done by the SHDD's, and they had washing up machines of a kind, great big, with water coming down, they'd tray them up and put them in thingeys.
CB: So, you did butchering, you did cookery
JC: Field cookery.
CB: Field cookery, so what was the technique for field cookery?
JC: At Skegness I used to go up with them, when it was my turn to do that, to Gibralter Point, where there was a shooting range. And two used to go up there, and you had to build a kitchen with biscuit tins filled with sand, make your own oven (coughs), and cook a meal. For the boys that were up there doing rifle training.
CB: So you filled the tins with sand to make the sides. What did you put on top?
JC: Ee gum, I can't remember that that.
CB: Big slab of steel, was it?
JC: Oh no, nothing sealed it. Oh, you mean for the fire.
CB: For the cooking on the top.
JC: I suppose it was grids, grills. I can't remember every detail, you know.
CB: That's ok.
JC: The highlight of the day was the officer would let you use the rifle, so you could lie at side of him and fire the rifle (laughs).
CB: So you became good at shooting, did you?
JC: Only once. I hurt my shoulder, I didn't do it again. (chuckles) Just once.
CB: What would the menu normally be in the morning?
JC: Porridge. Maybe a fried egg on fried bread, or bacon and tomato. It's all there, in that book.
CB: Good. OK. Then for lunch, what did people have there?
JC: It's all there in that book.
CB: Yeah, but what was it?
JC: A lot of brown stew. We did roast beef, you know, and all the rest of it. And pies, we made pies. They were big pies that were cut up, you know.
CB: And what did the vegetables?
JC: I was just telling Nina, there were big troughs, as big as this.
CB: So maybe three or four feet wide.
JC: Five or six of us, maybe more, up, on our knees, making pastry. Rubbing in the fat into the flour.
CB: And was this on large wooden blocks, that you were making the pastry?
JC: It was concrete floors.
CB: Oh, you made it directly on the concrete floor.
JC: No, they were big troughs, big wooden troughs.
CB: But when you made the pastry?
JC: Oh no. Roll it. To roll it we had tables, and bits. (Aside) Thanks Neil, I'm glad you came.
CB: And then put it into the troughs. Yeah. Ok.
JC: No, you took it out of the troughs into a Hobart mixer where you mix- can you make pastry, by the way?
CB: I'll try later.
JC: You put water in to make it into pastry, and then you rolled it out into these big square tins.
CB: And then te food was in, er, various troughs, but how was it dispensed to the troops? They had to
JC: Oh, sorry, sorry. Yes. Well it went into a servery. Hot plates. You must have seen those, surely. You must have used one of those. With big cupboards.
CB: So there were coal fires underneath?
JC: And then someone, one of the NCO's, would shout 'servery', and everyone had to go and make themselves look respectable. To make sure your hair was tied up in the turban, your hands were clean, and you had to show that your hands were clean. And then we had to, whatever, you know, if you were doing potatoes, you did potatoes. You slid it off with a knife.
CB: Did you give them a choice, or did they have what you gave them?
JC: No, they got what they were given.
CB: And after the main course, they had a pudding?
JC: A sweet, yes.
CB: What did they have for that?
JC: Rice pudding, we made rice puddings, Manchester Tart was a favourite, that was back to pastry. With the jam and the custard. There were various things, don't ask me to remember.
CB: Wholesome things, for people that were energetic?
JC: Pardon.
CB: Wholesome. Food.
JC: There was nothing wrong with it whatsoever.
CB: Exactly. And ten for their evening meal. What did they get for that?
JC: Well, I can't remember that. I know, I know, pease pudding and savaloy, that was one. Another was a herring, they'd get a herring. I can see know, we had a big tub at the side, chopping the heads off the herrings. You get used to it, you know. You can get to it.
CB: At Skegness -
JC: Oh, Spam sandwiches. Spam in a sandwich was one. Beans, baked beans. They all came from America, of course.
CB: And because you were on the coast at Skegness, did you get a lot of fish? Or nothing to do with that?
JC: No. There was no fish at Skegness in those days.
CB: Was there fish normally on the menu?
JC: Well, there was Grimsby, I don't remember fish actually, no. Only herrings, that's all (unclear)
CB: Ok. That's for the airmen, did you do cooking in the Officer's Mess as well?
JC: No. (unclear)
CB: Did they have a different menu there, or was it all the same?
JC: Oh, yes. Of course. Of course.
CB: Did you know what the menu was?
JC: (pause) Oh, it's gone.
CB: That's where they had some cakes, was it?
JC: Oh, The Countess (pause), doesn't matter. She was at our WAAF Association, Diane, Countess of Ilchester, you've heard of her? She was a waitress in the Officer's Mess. She used to say, 'I was in charge of the salt and pepper'. (chuckles) She was nice, Diane. She would only be called Diane, you know. Mustn't refer to her as anything else. She was doing a far more menial job than I was doing.
CB: And proud of it.
JC: She was lovely. You know the story about (unclear) went in to the Observer? He'd come back from doing, what do they call it, well he'd been out on a raid, whatever, and he was having a bath, and the siren went, and this is absolutely true, it was printed in the newspaper at his death, and all the WAAF's were in their own air raid shelter, of course, because the sirens had gone, and he ran in naked, the Earl of Ilchester. And Diane was at the back, and she shouted. 'he's mine!'. And he married her. (Laughs) You ask Betty, she knows that story.
CB: So how did the liaison go with men in the Air Force, then? The relationships.
JC: Oh fine. You got some rough stuff, you know, didn't you. Some were a bit cheeky, went a bit too far. I never experienced anything really bad. One Corporal smacked my bottom one day as he walked past, and I picked up a dipper and smacked him round the face with it, and he said, 'You're on a charge'. (Laughs) That's true.
CB: And what happened?
JC: Nothing. He daren't, dare he? That was Corporal Lombardinerie, the pastry bloke. Hmm. He didn't do it again.
CB: We'll stop there for a mo.
CB: So clearly, in the catering system in London there were people who were fairly sophisticated chefs. Did the Air Force use these people to train you?
JC: They used them to work in the cook-house. They used them as cooks, we were all the same. There was two grades. There was a cook or a cook-butcher. One got a bit more money than the other, perhaps it was coppers.
CB: What did the cook-butcher do? That was different?
JC: They could say to you go on cutting meat up or whatever.
CB: Right. So it's knowing how to cut the meat that's the butchering, is it?
JC: Oh yes. We had to, what I couldn’t do, draw the animal, you know, like you see in the butcher's shops. I know how to buy a piece of meat, don't I?
CB: But the animals came in slaughtered?
JC: Oh yes.
CB: But not cut up?
JC: That's right.
CB: Soi that's why the cook-butcher was there, to convert that into the -
JC: We had a Polish butcher there, too. He was horrible.
CB: So did you, bearing in mind that the animal is whole when it arrives, did you do steaks as a result of that? Or chops?
JC: Well if they did that, I never saw any. I think they may have gone to the Officer's Mess.
CB: So the meat was mixed up was it?
JC: That's what I used to collect from Turvey, the wet rations. The dry rations were supplied by the NAAFI, that was the sugar, the flour, the salt. And all the, all the wet rations came from Royal Army Service Corps.
CB: Right. And they supplied the RAF because they dealt with everybody's catering. And what about the hierarchy? So you were working as a chef, effectively.
JC: Cook. They call them chefs now, they've gone all posh now.
CB: Cook, yes. So you were, what rank were you when you finished?
JC: When I finished? Well, I did two courses at Wilmslow for promotion to NCO, but if I'd gone I couldn't have stayed with the band, and I wanted to stay because I was enjoying my little bit.
CB: So what was your rank?
JC: LACW. But I did have a Good Conduct stripe, so now you know I'm (unclear)
CB: Right. That's really good.
JC: (Rustle of paper) There it is, see.
CB: I can see it on your picture.
JC: (Laughs) So I did behave myself a little bit. There's some they never found out about, or heard about, of course (chuckles).
CB: In the kitchen, what was the hierarchy there? There were Corporals, and/or Sergeants?
JC: Oh yes. There'd be so many ACW 2's, so many 1, LACW Corporal, Sergeant, Flight Sergeant, and Warrant Officer, because they were big kitchens, you know. But the Warn Officer would hv two or three kitchens, it wouldn't be confined to the one.
CB: How many people would be in a kitchen, roughly?
JC: You mean really working? Perhaps seven or eight. In the back, where the ACHG is, mostly men, doing the potatoes and all the wet stuff.
CB: The dangerous stuff with the knives.
JC: They were members of this band.
CB: Were they? Yep.
JC: Shall I tell him the other bit? There was a photographer at headquarters in Skeg, no, in Cardington. And this was the day Queen Willomena came to the camp. You can see all the top brass here. And this photographer thought I was a bit of alright. So he took my photograph, so like an idiot I walked into the potato room and said, 'who is the smartest member of this band? Well, I am.' And do you know what they did? They picked me up and dropped me in the potato thing, full of water and potatoes. (laughs)
CB: Not very nice. How did that effect the flavour?
JC: Haven't a clue. (laughs). But that's what happened.
CB: So you then had to put your uniform to the wash.
JC: That's right.
CB: I'm just going to stop again.
JC: Blimey, Charlie. I met my husband at the Royal Air Force Association in Edgware, at the Station Hotel.
CB: When was that?
NH: Was it after the war finished, Jane?
JB: Gosh, it must be nineteen forty nine, because Peter was born nineteen fifty, wasn't he?
CB: Ok, forty nine. And what were you doing there?
JB: I was working in the office at Ferrodo, Kings Cross. Because I couldn't settle back here. And I had a boyfriend who worked in the bank, the National Provincial, an airman. And I went down to be with him, originally. Went to the club because he'd lost all his training, he was apprentice aircrew (unclear), and that's where I met my first husband. And he was an Italian.
CB: What was his name?
JB: John Branner. And his father was the Managing Director of Gamba shoes, Soho, have you heard of them?
CB: I have. Yes. So he always wore good shoes.
JB: Do you know him?
CB: No.
JB: You don't know him, well I can carry on then. They were Roman Catholics, we did like, you think you've fallen in love, don't you, and you get married, and I wasn't good enough for his family.
CB: Because you weren't a Catholic.
JB: Yes. Straight on the head.
CB: And they wanted you to convert, did they?
JB: Unfortunately there was a child on the way, and he left me six weeks before Peter was born, with no home, and half a crown.
CB: Good god.
JB: And they fought me and fought me, and they never got anywhere. And it was all very sad. And it still is sad, isn't it?
CB: Yes.
JB: Then, when Peter was sixteen, his maintenance from that father, oh, I'll tell you what they did, they said he was only earning eight pounds a week, so they put him on the payroll, at the shop.
CB: This is John Branner?
JB: Yes. So they didn't have to pay maintenance. I had two pounds ten shillings a week. I rented a cottage here in this village for seven and sixpence a week, and I brought him up. When Peter was sixteen his maintenance stopped, but Peter was still at college in Buxton, and I needed money to keep him, fares, 'til he was eighteen years on. Well, it went on and on, they kept saying the case wasn't prepared, so my solicitor said, 'well, the thing to do Jane, is to apply to the National Assistance Board,' he said, 'and they will make you a payment, but you'll have to give it them back, because they've got to pay all the back money that is owing to you, obviously'. And, dare I tell him? (chuckles)
CB: Go on.
JB: The man that came stood on my doorstep, he had a suitcase in his hand, and he walked in and said, 'what a beautiful little home you've got here, I'd give anything to live here.' And that man proposed to me the week after.
CB: And his name was?
JC: John Carrington. And (pause), what was it he said?
NH: He'd been looking for you.
JC: He wanted to take me somewhere, I said, 'no', I said, 'I can't go anywhere, I've got a little job that I can't afford to lose.' There was a dentist in the village, and me and my friend who's deaf, and his wife still is, and I used to babysit their three children, look after them. I said I'd got to go. 'And where's this?' An I explained to him where, and all the rest of it. And at night o' clock that night there was a knock on the door (knocks), I opened the door, and there he was stood on the step. 'And what are you doing here,' I said. He said, 'I've come to tell you I've been looking for you for fifty years, and I'm never going to let you out of my sight again. And he never did.
CB: Fantastic.
JC: He was the most wonderful husband. He bought me the most expensive jewellery, (unclear). And he'd been a bachelor, and he'd also served in Burma. He was an Executive Officer in the Civil Service. He was General Christensen's wireless operator on his aeroplane. Three and a half years, wasn't he, in Burma. And life was sweet all at once. Shall I carry on?
CB: Yes, keep going, I want to hear it.
JC: And do you know, that son of mine has never spoken to me since. (long pause) He would walk past me in the street, wouldn't he. I gave him my all.
CB: Did he ever have any contact with his father?
JC: No, he went down. I took him three times down. The first time I took him Peter was three months old, I still had friends, I lived in Mill Hill, with friends, they were still friends. He walked out of the shop with me, and we had a coffee, and he said, 'I'm going to look for a flat, Jane.' I never heard from him again. So I took him again, but his father made sure he didn't see him. And Peter's been down on his own, and they've turned him away. I bought in iPad, that might amuse you at ninety odd, but I did.
CB: Very impressive.
JC: And I found out on that iPad his mother, who caused the trouble, died when she was sixty. He died in twenty three, been dead a long time, his father. And they must have left a terrific lot of money.
CB: Did John Branner marry again?
JC: And they had a house in St John's Wood, London, on erm, what's it called Barrack? Oh I don't know what it's called, well I do know, it'll come to me in a minute, when my mind, it's delayed action. And I found out on the iPad, it's been rented since his death for four thousand, four hundred and forty one pounds a month, so that house must be worth well over a million pounds, mustn't it? And Peter never got a penny. And I think that's wrong. Whatever they thought about me should not effect Peter.
CB: No. What happened to Peter?
JC: Well, I don't know what's happening, Nina knows more about him than me, she lives next to him, don't you?
CB: But he's local, is he?
NH: He lives in Chapel. He's retired now, he was working at Swizzles, wasn't he? He was a foreman there, at the sweet factory.
CB Very distressing. Extraordinary.
JC: It's not good news.
CB: Did John Branner have any brothers or sisters?
JC: No.
CB: Right. And did he re-marry after divorcing you?
JC: No. But, shall I tell you more? It's nought to do with this thing.
CB: No, but it is because it's part of your life.
JC: It isn't my life, it's his life. I found out from my iPad he's living with a Mary (aside) what was her other name?
NH: I don't know, I can't remember.
JC: Tommy Cooper's mistress, whose husband was a composer. They're all in the theatrical. Mary what? Kay! Mary Kay, K-A-Y, Kay. I found out all this on my computer, I mean the iPad.
CB: Amazing. How old was John Carrington when he died?
JC: He was born in nineteen twenty three, and he died in two thousand and three. Eighty, was he, eighty one, eighty two. He was an airman. And I think they took advantage because his father was reporting to the police station every week.
CB: John Carrington?
JC: John Carr-, John Branner's father. My first father in law. And he goes along, and he couldn't have a commission because his father's, do you get the message? So do you know what job they gave him? Bomb loader. I thought that was very pointed. I don't think he should have been, I don't think he was deserving of that. Because he was British, a British subject. He was born, I think on Wardour Street. There you are, that's nothing to do with the -
CB: Well , it's part of your life isn't it? John Carrington died in two thousand and three?
JC: Yes.
NH: No, you're getting mixed up.
CB: I'm going to stop this.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Jane Carrington,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 21, 2024,

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