Interview with Doris Reddish


Interview with Doris Reddish


Doris Reddish attended Sleaford High School followed by commercial college. She worked at Moore, Cooper and Burkett’s in Market Rasen until she joined the Royal Observer Corps. She trained in Lincoln for aircraft recognition then served as a table plotter at RAF Digby, RAF Blankney Hall and RAF Fiskerton. After demobilisation she went to work in the family shop, then got married and run a fish and chip shop in Billinghay. Doris also discusses her father’s experiences in the First World War and reminisces about social life in wartime, bomb damage, and rationing.




Temporal Coverage





00:47:42 audio recording


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AReddishDE170131, PReddishDE1709


TJ: Right this is Tina James and I’m interviewing Doris Edith Reddish. We’re at Doris’s home in —
DR: My name was Wright though before.
TJ: [redacted] Heckington. The date is the 31st of January 2017. So Doris your name is Reddish now?
DR: Yes.
TJ: What was it?
DR: Wright, Wright.
TJ: W, R, I, G, H, T?
DR: Yes, yes.
TJ: And that was your name from birth. So you were born in 1925 I see. So what about your parents did, did your father fight in the First World War?
DR: Yes, yes he was in the First World War
TJ: Did he survive?
DR: Yeah. He was in the trenches
TJ: Well he must’ve done —
DR: Yes.
TJ: If you were born in 1925 —
DR: Yes, yes. He got wounded about five times and always in October. Yes.
TJ: Really?
DR: Yes. He got bullet holes, scars all over him and then he finished up being crippled by arthritis from standing in the water all the time.
TJ: Yeah.
DR: And they said they had a pint of tea in the morning and it had to shave them and wash them and drink. And that’s how it was and he said that he’d be talking to one of his mates, those stood in the trenches, and his silence and looked down and he’d been shot dead. Killed. Yes by the side of him.
TJ: Did he talk a lot about his experiences?
DR: Not really. No, no if we just asked him, you know, a bit about it he would then but, no.
TJ: What year did he die?
DR: Um.
TJ: Roughly.
DR: It was eighty — he was eighty when he died, um.
TJ: So he was eighty. So he achieved quite a reasonable age —
DR: He was eighty when he died yes.
TJ: So maybe in the sixties was it?
DR: Um. No it was — oh ‘cause I’m — er.
TJ: So anyway never mind.
DR: I can’t — yes ‘cause he was — fortunately their family they were farmers.
TJ: Um.
DR: He had — there was eight boys in the family. And they left the eldest son each time on, for the farm and then they took three boys, the next three boys and all of them came though, yes. One of them was a stretcher bearer out in the trenches.
TJ: So I bet your dad couldn’t believe it when it was — all started to happen again.
DR: Um. Such a waste wasn’t it?
TJ: Wasn’t it? Yeah.
DR: Dreadful.
TJ: Um. So, when war broke out in 1939 what were you doing at that time?
DR: I was at school. Yes. I was at school.
TJ: In where?
DR: Sleaford High School.
TJ: So you’d have been what — about [pause] fourteen, yeah? So you were fourteen? Your school stayed open did it?
DR: Oh yes.
TJ: Being in Sleaford.
DR: Oh yes. Used to go on the bus, ten miles on the bus every day to school. Yes.
TJ: So how old were you when you left school?
DR: Pardon?
TJ: How old were you when you left school?
DR: Sixteen.
TJ: And then what did you do?
DR: I went to commercial college and then I worked at Market Rasen for Moore, Cooper and Burkett’s for a short time and then —
TJ: In the office?
DR: Yeah.
TJ: And so how did it come about that you joined the—
DR: You had to, didn’t you, it was compulsory.
TJ: Had to do something?
DR: Yes, had to do something like that yes.
TJ: Um. Did you get a choice —
DR: Yes.
TJ: Of what you did?
DR: Yes and we just, I just chose that.
TJ: What else could you have done? Do you know? Can you remember?
DR: You could’ve just gone into the army or something like that. For boys they could go down the mines. They were called Bevin boys or something like that.
TJ: They were.
DR: Um. Yes.
TJ: So, you chose, chose the observer corps, what year would that have been? About forty, forty-one?
DR: I think it was nineteen — was it forty [pause] six?
TJ: Well the war finished — were you doing it during the war?
DR: Oh well yes. That’s right isn’t it? Oh yes, er, um.
TJ: Can you remember how old you were when you started with the observer corps?
DR: Yes I was just seventeen. Nearly, nearly eighteen, yes. Because my friend and I were both —
TJ: So about forty-two then?
DR: Yes.
TJ: So it was, by then it was the Royal Observer Corps?
DR: Yes, yes. That’s right. Yes.
TJ: It was 1941 —
DR: Well it used to be, originally, apparently it was RAF OC, Royal Air Force Observer Corps and then it went to Royal Observer Corps.
TJ: Yes, 1941 I understand that was. So tell me about your training. Where was that done?
DR: That was done at St Peters Arches in Lincoln. Do you know where that is?
TJ: Yes, I think so.
DR: It’s on the corner, not far from the Stonebow.
TJ: Yeah.
DR: It used to be the fifty shilling tailors or something I think underneath it. And there used to be a guard at the bottom. We used to go up there in the lift and then after a while we left there and went to Beaumont Fee.
TJ: I know that.
DR: At Todson House. That’s where I did my commercial college training. And then latterly we went to Fiskerton and at Fiskerton it was underground.
TJ: What did your training comprise of?
DR: Aircraft recognition but we were not out on the outpost we were in the operations room. We were plotting the aircraft on a table.
TJ: Yeah.
DR: And also we had what they call an RDF board which stood up, a big metal thing with a map on.
TJ: So do you know what RDF stands for?
DR: Yes, you listen for the planes coming in over the sea and plotted them as they come over, over the coast. Yes. Onto that.
TJ: Do you know what RDF stands for?
DR: Radio? No I don’t.
TJ: No.
DR: No I don’t think we ever bothered. But you see when the aircraft were coming back home the Germans used to mix in with them.
TJ: Really?
DR: Yes, they used to come back with them. So — but from the sounds of the aircraft and things you can tell, you could tell the difference. You knew what each sound was. But with the recognition there was three different classes in that, basic, intermediate and masters. But you had to just recognise planes by just coming on at you, like that. You could only just [unclear]
TJ: Did you get a first class? Did you get a masters?
DR: No, no, no we didn’t, we just did the basic and intermediate. I think the masters was for the people more out on the posts. The outposts. Yes.
TJ: So you, you never went on an outpost?
DR: No, no, no.
TJ: Out onto the fields?
DR: No.
TJ: No.
DR: No we felt there was a bit — [laughs]
TJ: So. How did they get the reports in? Did they telephone them in?
DR: Yes. Yeah. Um, it’s funny because they would be like telling you to have your headphones on they’d be telling you these things about them and the planes were coming closer and closer and they’d be fighting. You know, there’d be one of our Spitfires and things like that and you’d be listening to it like that and all of a sudden, pop [emphasise] off. They’d shot them down. It’s how to see and things. It was really — it was fun anyway and we used to go on different shifts, off at three in the morning and the next day back on at three in the morning. It was a bit — but, em, there was some marvellous times, it was good and because of the ops room and things where we worked the aircrew boys could come in as well to, er —
TJ: Right in the middle of town?
DR: Yes, yes, yeah, but no when it was full on it was really full on.
TJ: How many people would’ve been in that room?
DR: It’s in the book. There’s photographs of them. I should think, how many would be at the table, probably twelve probably and then there used to be along with two people on the RDF board and then up above there was a tellers [?] coming in from Digby and different places. And officers sat at the top. I should think there’d be about twenty. Yes, at a time. Yes.
TJ: Various ages?
DR: Yes, oh yes, yeah, but like I say we were the, we were the two youngest of them.
TJ: You and your friend?
DR: Yes.
TJ: And what’s her name.
DR: Betty Bally.
TJ: And you said she’s still with us?
DR: No she’s dead.
TJ: Oh right. Who’s the other lady you were talking about earlier?
DR: No, no. Evelyn lives at Woodhall but another friend who was with me but her memory is not as good as mine.
TJ: Um.
DR: Yes, yes.
TJ: So did you have quiet nights of —
DR: Oh yes, yes
TJ: Lots?
DR: If they weren’t flying and if there was no ops and things it was very quiet.
TJ: Um. So what did you do whilst you weren’t —
DR: We used to play shove ha’penny [laughs] and all those sort of games like that they had and the food. Beans on toast, cheese on toast, pilchards on toast. It’s what we used to live on.
TJ: And that was provided for you was it?
DR: Oh yes, yes.
TJ: Whilst you were on duty?
DR: Yes. No they, the manager from Freeman Hardy and Willis, Sidney his name was, he was a, he was nice and things. But yes, I can remember him, but, um —
TJ: He, was he in there too was he?
DR: Yes. He was a, he was a very bit higher rank, was Sidney.
TJ: Did he manage to keep on going in the shop, in the shoe shop?
DR: Um, yes.
TJ: At the same time as –
DR: Yes, yes.
TJ: Yeah.
DR: Yes. I think several of them had part time jobs. I don’t know how they managed it though because of — had to sleep when you came off duty which was difficult with changing times all the time. But, um, no —
TJ: So where did, where were you living at that time?
DR: I was living up Cheviot Street.
TJ: Which I believe is near Monks Road?
DR: Yes, yes.
TJ: What were you in digs or —
DR: Yes, yes, yes we were in digs. Evelyn and I were together there but Betty Bally she lived at Saxilby. So she used to go home to Saxilby.
TJ: What on the bus or the train?
DR: No, no, no, her dad used to pick her up. Or often we used to cycle and I used to go home with her to Saxilby. We used to cycle to Saxilby. But then we got friendly with the full crew and they often used to come in a taxi and pick us up because they could stay in the ops room as well you see. And they would taxi and take us home like that.
TJ: That was nice.
DR: Yes, yeah. So —
TJ: So what about social life?
DR: Well what — we used to find a dance in Lincoln. Tuesday nights it was the Montana which is across the road from the Theatre at Lincoln. Wednesday night it was the Drill Hall. Thursday night it was the Astoria which was over the Burton’s clothing shop there. And, um, we used to [pause] dance, you know about three, at least three nights a week we used to go dancing and like we’d go in, if we was going on duty at eleven well we’d go to the dance till eleven. But if we came off duty at eleven we used to go. Yes.
TJ: To the dancing?
DR: Yes. It’s, it was absolutely marvellous it really was.
TJ: From the social point of view?
DR: Yes. And the work was interesting.
TJ: How good were you at aircraft recognition?
DR: Very. Yes. Very.
TJ: Did you always keep up an interest in that? After the war?
DR: Yes. Yes. I’ve always been interested in the planes. Yes. Um, propeller planes, I don’t know anything about jets and —
TJ: No.
DR: And those sorts of things
TJ: It must have been, there must have been some upsetting times though?
DR: Oh yes. Yes. Because you had various friends and you knew which aerodrome they were going from because we could see, and you’d count the planes out, plot them out and then when they came back you’d plotted that there’d be two or three missing and if you had boyfriends in the thing like I used to have to nip down to the Post Office to ring up to find out if Monty, who was my boyfriend then. Thing with — then one night he went to Berlin on the 1st of January 1944 and he didn’t come back from that. Yeah. But also we had a — at home because I lived at a bakers shop at Billinghay and dad thought it was his duty to help look after them and they had a notice up at the camp at Coningsby and Woodhall if anybody would like a meal to come. Which they did, we had lots of them, lots of them come and this particular one, Ken Ingram his name was and he was only young, he was twenty-one and on a Wednesday if I was off duty we used to go to Boston our parents, did for, to the wholesalers. And he used to want to drive to Boston and I used to want to drive to Boston so he would jump in the driver’s seat to go to Boston but I used to pull him out and I think then, I used to get in and he used to pull me out. Well he went on this raid, right tearaway, sort of little thing he wasn’t very big and of course when they got shot down he bailed out. Joined — wouldn’t be taken prisoner he joined up with the resistance and did that for a while and then the Gestapo got him and they killed him. They hung him up on the wires and his body wasn’t allowed to be cut down for two or three days. Yes. It’s — and he was an only — well he had a brother who was killed by the Japanese and then he was like that. And he had no, his mother was dead. Yes. And his father kept a hotel and he came over to visit us. Yes. After the war to tell us all about it. And it is apparently Wendy who comes, well Billy’s friend, lady friend and she got it all up on the thing and apparently they have put a, some sort of a monument for him over — yes.
TJ: In?
DR: Where it happened.
TJ: And where would that have been?
DR: I don’t think —
TJ: France?
DR: I don’t, I don’t know if he joined with the French or the Dutch resistance. Yes. No. There were lots and lots of them but. Yes. Got shot down. That was dreadful.
TJ: Was there much bombing near or in Lincoln?
DR: Oh yes, quite a bit. The worst part about it was like when the planes got home and crashed when they landed and things and that was dreadful.
TJ: I know Waddington Church was bombed.
DR: Yes.
TJ: Was there much bombing in the town itself?
DR: Yes. I know at Tattershall. Was it in Tattershall they bombed didn’t they? I know when war was declared on the Sunday they came over and dropped incendiary bombs at Billinghay.
TJ: Um. I wonder why there?
DR: I don’t know. Well it’s funny because that Lord Haw-Haw man you know who used to come on. And one Sunday lunchtime it was, at Chapel Hill, there was a pumping station and the people at the house were just having their lunch and they got the carving forks stuck in the joint and this plane came over, bombed it, the place, and killed them at the pumping station down there on that Sunday lunchtime. And then Lord Haw-Haw at night said that some, something special they’d bombed but it was just the pumping station. And dad, like I say was a baker, and one particular morning the — you can hear a German ‘cause you know the German planes when they came over, really low over the village and he had got his white apron on and he went outside to look and the thing was just coming over and went ‘tut, tut, tut, tut’. Yes.
TJ: Um. Missed him I take it?
DR: Yep. Yep. Yeah. Really low they used to come over. So we used to have our excitement.
TJ: Yeah.
DR: No and then they had a spell to go to Digby to the RAF at Digby there. And when I was there we were staying at Blankney Hall and one of the WAFs left an iron on the ironing board and I’d gone home on — for the weekend and she burnt the hall down. Blankney Hall was burnt, she burnt the hall. So that’s how I went back to Lincoln.
TJ: Um.
DR: That was sad.
TJ: Did you ever get to go up in an aeroplane?
DR: We went up once but only for just a little few minutes just — yes.
TJ: What sort of plane was it?
DR: In the Lancaster. Yeah.
TJ: And from where from? What airfield?
DR: I believe it was Skellingthorpe I think. I can’t just remember. ‘Cause we went —
TJ: There were so many of them in the area?
DR: Yes, that’s right, yes in the area.
TJ: Was that your first time flying?
DR: Yes. Never done — No. I’ve never been abroad to —
TJ: Never been in an aeroplane since?
DR: No. No, don’t want to. Never. No.
TJ: Did you enjoy that flight?
DR: Well no because it was so rough in the thing. In those Lancasters there’s no comfort or anything and yes.
TJ: So you weren’t keen to do it again?
DR: Yes.
TJ: Did you all go for a ride in the plane or —
DR: I can’t remember to be quite truthful. I can’t — I don’t know why I can’t remember more about it.
TJ: It’s alright. It’s just something I read that the people in the Royal Observer Corps were offered an opportunity if at all possible to go up in aeroplanes.
DR: Yeah. You know to think about it I can’t even think if it even got off the ground or if we just taxied on the thing. It’s funny that I can’t — I wonder why no one wanted to go in an aeroplane since. The thought of being closed in. If you could have the windows open, yes. No I’m not an air traveller. But like I say that my time in the Observer Corps was my happiest time, couldn’t help but enjoy it. It was serious but there was a lot of enjoyment.
TJ: Camaraderie?
DR: Yeah. Yes. Yes. Yeah. I often try to think about — I can remember [pause] getting in the thing but —
TJ: After that?
DR: There was sometimes, I don’t think we went in the air even. I think we just taxied.
TJ: Maybe that’s why you don’t remember it.
DR: Yes, that’s right. Yes.
TJ: Maybe if you’d gone in the air you might have stronger memories.
DR: Yes. I think I would somehow. Yes.
TJ: So you kept abreast of what was going on in the war?
DR: Oh yes. Yes.
TJ: With radio and the newspapers?
DR: Yet [pause] I don’t know why at Fiskerton I don’t really know — I think it must have been at the end more, right at the end while we moved to Fiskerton. Like I said to Evelyn about it, but she can’t, she can just remember us being there.
TJ: What, where you worked from?
DR: Yeah. Yeah. From Fiskerton at the end. Why did we move from Beaumont Fee? I just can’t think. Like I say there’s no one to check with.
TJ: Ask?
DR: That’s the point, yes. I don’t know of anyone round about here who’s left and —
TJ: You did say about what, what aircraft was first on the board in the morning.
DR: Oh yes, yes. The first aircraft on the board was from, it was a Beaufont [pause] Beaufont, Beaufont
TJ: Beaufort?
DR: Beaufort I think and it was from up at Donna Nook, up that direction.
TJ: Which air —
DR: You’ll find it in that book, all in that book. Yes.
TJ: I’ll have a little look at that. This?
DR: Yeah.
TJ: So you always got the same plane first up every day?
DR: Yes. The same one, well the weather plane it was. It used to fly out to sea and — yeah. For the weather.
TJ: For a reccy and come back?
DR: Yes. Yeah.
TJ: Beaumont, check.
DR: I can’t even remember the proper name for the thing. Beaumont fighter, yes. That um, the trouble is with, especially with the young Spitfire pilots I mean they were only young boys when they joined and they had about twelve hours tuition, I think it was, and they went and they knew that they would only be there for one or two flights and then they would be killed, it’s dreadful, isn’t it? Yeah. And to start with, in the air crew they were all the cream of the young lads that went, you know the rich peoples sons they seemed to be and — I mean in the village at Billinghay there was quite a few of them stationed in the village. You know they were probably married and got their families and that and then they wouldn’t be there many weeks and then they’d be gone because their husbands had been killed [long pause]
TJ: Did you ever visit one of the outposts where they used to —
DR: I went to Billinghay to — yes, to —
TJ: Where you used to do the spotting and the bringing in from?
DR: To look in there. Yes. But that was, that was not my cup of tea at all. No.
TJ: Did you have to climb down a ladder to get into it?
DR: Yes, yes, yeah. Up and down, yeah. Climb over a bit, yes to get in.
TJ: And what was in there?
DR: Nothing, only a table, chairs and a kettle. Yes. You see they did all that with the binoculars and things you see and — but I mean they were good I mean they knew every, the sound of every aircraft that was, that was coming. I mean well everybody got to know about the doodlebugs and while they kept going and things I mean they used to come over the village and while they were going it was OK. It was when, ‘cause the engine cut out and you knew you know to look out, yes. I mean really and truthfully I mean it should’ve been a frightening time but somehow you weren’t frightened.
TJ: That’s interesting.
DR: Yeah. I can remember you know like Sylv the air raid warden coming round blowing my dad was one, blowing the whistle for people to go and then we used to just run along the road up to the pub and into their cellar. That’s it, it was, it was an experience and really wasn’t it and — no. They were good times, enjoyable times really and sad times.
TJ: So coming towards the end of the war, presumably you knew that the end was in sight, did you or didn’t you?
DR: No. No, I don’t think we did. No. No.
TJ: What do you remember about the news breaking of the invasion? Of the Normandy landings? Did you, can you remember hearing about it?
DR: About the what?
TJ: The Normandy landings? The D-day?
DR: No. Um.
TJ: Did you read it in the paper or hear about it on the radio?
DR: I can remember that all the — we had on the Observer Corps there was part of it called the sea raids, sea rangers or something and they all went out to spotting for the, to do the spotting, yes they did.
TJ: Yeah.
DR: Yeah. Lost a lot of them got killed on that but it was essential you see for them to know to pick which was the Germans which they could do.
TJ: Yes, it was to avoid friendly fire I understand.
DR: Um.
TJ: And it worked well.
DR: Yeah.
TJ: So —
DR: Yes it was — the worst part was plotting things out and them not coming back again. That was — used to cast a cloud over everything.
TJ: So the Observer Corps actually carried on into the nineties I think.
DR: Yes.
TJ: When did you actually finish with them?
DR: Um [pause] that’s another question I asked my friend ‘cause I just couldn’t remember and nor could she said ‘I can’t remember either when we finished’. How we finished.
TJ: Can you remember VE day?
DR: Yes.
TJ: And what did you do to celebrate?
DR: Came home [laughs] yes.
TJ: To Saxilby?
DR: I think [pause]. No, I can’t remember, no.
TJ: Details no?
DR: No. I think, I can remember celebrating I think I must have been in Lincoln celebrating in the streets we did. But then how much longer did we stay on? You know, I just don’t know.
TJ: You don’t remember? No?
DR: I don’t.
TJ: You don’t know when you were demobbed?
DR: No, I can’t. I wish I could. I wish I’d kept a record of all these things but at the actual time you don’t think about it do you?
TJ: So what did you do — let’s look at it. What did you do for work after you left the Royal Observer Corps? What was the first job you had in civilian life?
DR: I just went and did my dad’s business. Just worked at home.
TJ: The bakery?
DR: Bakers, yes. The baker, confectionist, general store, yeah.
TJ: Were you a baker yourself? Or a confectioner?
DR: No. No. We had special people to do that.
TJ: Did you work in the shop during the day?
DR: Yes, yeah. Drive the vans on bread rounds. We had, you know we used to go round to all the houses then down the fens and everything. I used to drive a van.
TJ: Did you have to do a driving test in those days?
DR: No, I didn’t take a driving test. On the day I was seventeen my dad said to me ‘jump in the car and go get a licence’. So I drove to Sleaford without a licence, got a licence and drove back again.
TJ: On your own?
DR: Yes. Just went on my own because I’d been driving since I was eight years old.
TJ: On private land?
DR: Yeah. Used to go down the fens with the bread down all the fens you used to have to drive across fields to the farmhouses and things as soon as you used to get through the gates dad used to say ‘you drive’.
TJ: Can’t imagine that these days, can you?
DR: No.
TJ: You’d have been put into care [laughs]
DR: [laughs] Yes. I’ve been driving since I was eight years old.
TJ: Wow. So you’ve never, never held a driving licence?
DR: No. My brother, no my brother, he wouldn’t. No. He was three years older than me.
TJ: So you worked in the family business?
DR: Yes, until I got married.
TJ: And what year did you get married?
DR: That’s another thing I can’t even remember. I know I’ve been a widow fifty years. On the 19th of February.
TJ: When you got married would it have been the fifties, early fifties possibly?
DR: I think I was twenty-four. Was I? Twenty-four.
TJ: Yes, if you were born in twenty-five.
DR: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
TJ: Yes, about 1950 ish, forty-nine, fifty
DR: I think I was twenty-four. Was I? I don’t know.
TJ: So, what did your husband do in the war?
DR: He was, he was in the army. I didn’t know him then, yes. He was a sergeant in the — I don’t even know what regiment.
TJ: Where was he during the war? Can you remember that?
DR: I know he was abroad, I don’t know where. I know it was hot [laughs]
TJ: Africa then [laughs]
DR: Yes. Yes. It’s funny ‘cause you never talk about it you know.
TJ: Did you not?
DR: No.
TJ: Between yourselves?
DR: No. No.
TJ: Didn’t swap stories?
DR: No.
TJ: What did your husband do for work?
DR: He was a butcher.
TJ: Oh. So the butcher and the baker.
DR: Yes, that’s right, yes.
TJ: Where did you meet him?
DR: Heckington. It was in Heckington where I got married. And I had a fish shop.
TJ: Oh.
DR: A fish and chip shop. Yes.
TJ: That was your own was it?
DR: Yes. A small holding we had as well.
TJ: Did you sell wet fish?
DR: Yes.
TJ: As well as fish and chips?
DR: Fish and chips. And the shop is still there. Yes.
TJ: How much did it cost?
DR: Tuppence for the fish and a penny for the chips.
TJ: I bet they were absolutely delicious.
DR: Yes. That’s a fib anyway because they weren’t. It was — no, it was how much was it, probably was, it was only a few pence anyway. Yes. And when you think now how much it is. About six pounds for fish and chips isn’t it?
TJ: Something like that, yes.
DR: Yes. But I could buy fish then for eleven shillings a stone. Yes. And we had coal fired pans which made good fish and chips. Like all the people in the village here they said ours were the best fish and chips you could get.
TJ: What did you fry in? Dripping?
DR: Yes. Yes.
TJ: Beef dripping?
DR: Yes. Yeah. Butcher’s dripping.
TJ: Well that’s handy ‘cause your husband was the butcher.
DR: Yes. Used to get this beef dripping for, from Spalding. From the butchers up Spalding way.
TJ: I remember you telling me about Christmas Day when you were in the Royal Observer Corps.
DR: I know. That’s naughty.
TJ: Oh go on.
DR: Oh. Yes my friend and I on the Christmas Day we were on the RDF board and the officers brought us a crate of cider and we just sat there and drank this, steadily drank all this cider while we were on — but I don’t know, was there an armistice on Christmas Day? but the Germans didn’t come over did they? [laughs] So if they’d come sneaking in over the sea it would’ve been just too bad. ‘Cause we weren’t quite responsible enough to think that — yes. So we didn’t get bombed. Yes.
TJ: What about rationing? Did you, did you find that very difficult?
DR: Pardon.
TJ: Rationing of food and clothes.
DR: No not really because with being in a shop we weren’t really rationed you see were we. We could dip in — though. [pause] No we didn’t seem to be even in our digs. No we didn’t. No it wasn’t too bad at all. There’s always things that you could get. I mean you never got bananas and things like that in the wartime and I can remember with being in the shop and things that they’d probably send six tins of salmon. Well what could you do with six tins of salmon when you’ve got scores and scores of customers can you. And they always used to come in and say ‘have you got any salmon?’ and all these sorts of things but no and Monty my boyfriend, at one time, all he loved was Fry’s chocolate cream when he was went on ops. Chocolate and we used to save all our points, sweet points to keep to buy it so he could have plenty of this Fry’s chocolate, yeah. That’s what he loved when he was flying and like I say he got, he got killed. Yeah [pause] but they used to know you know those boys when they weren’t coming back.
TJ: Did they?
DR: Um.
TJ: Premonition?
DR: Yes, yeah. Yes they knew. Yes ‘cause I can remember one particular friend that I had and he had cycled down from, from Coningsby and that and I stood you know to wave, to wave to him when he went and he went up the road about six times and came back.
TJ: Um.
DR: And that and away he went and then he went out I think it was at night and he didn’t come back again. No it was very funny, but well [long pause]
TJ: That’s war for you isn’t it. Terrible. Let me just —
DR: He was my friend for several years. Even after, after the war and he was a flight lieutenant but he was gunnery leader and he used to have to take the crews out to Scherluffer[?] for practice. Yes. But he was, he got the DFM and bar and the DFC, in fact I’ve got the ribbon somewhere round about from them. Yes. And he did three full tours of ops. That’s twenty in a tour. And a few odd ones at the end. He did over sixty tours. He got shot down a couple of times, once in the sea and I think it was about a couple of days before they got picked up. Yeah. But he got through, came through it all relatively unscathed. The good part about it was when he went in the sea he got these, all these new things and I got a new pair of flying boots out of it [laughs] yes.
TJ: Did you find it hard to adjust to ordinary life —
DR: Yes. Yes
TJ: After the war.
DR: Yes. Yes it was difficult.
TJ: Tell us about how you felt.
DR: Yes. I think it was just having all your friends together and all doing the same thing.
TJ: Did you miss the sort of the friendship?
DR: Yes. Well I kept friends with Betty Bally right up to her dying. She’s been dead probably four years I think. About four years. She lost her leg and everything. It was sugar diabetes I think it was that caused that. No we just stayed friends. Like I say they called us the terrible twins because our birthdays were only about five days apart and with the young ones they used to call us babe because we were — yep.
TJ: So working in the shop out in Saxilby, was it, wasn’t as —
DR: Billinghay.
TJ: Sorry Billinghay.
DR: Yes.
TJ: So where does Saxilby come in?
DR: Betty lived at Saxilby.
TJ: That’s right, yes. Billinghay. The shop in Billinghay —
DR: Well her dad was a beekeeper. He kept bees. He was a small holder but he had bees, all these bees and I think he was head of the bee —
TJ: Keepers Association?
DR: Yes, that’s right. Yes, yeah.
TJ: So the shop in Billinghay must have all seemed a little bit ordinary mustn’t it after what you’d been doing all during the war?
DR: I didn’t think, didn’t look at it like that no.
TJ: No.
DR: Well it was like a bit strange coming back to live in the village. Yeah.
TJ: So you must’ve been proud of the contribution you were able to make —
DR: Yes.
TJ: To the war effort.
DR: I notice on the Armistice Day and things there are, that there are members of the families I think of — must be ‘cause the people, but they march right at the — with the RAF and then the Observer Corps with them aren’t they next to them when they march.
TJ: Yes, when they do the Cenotaph
DR: Yes, that’s right. Yes because I mean there was some younger people who were on there I didn’t see many old crocks [laughs].
TJ: Yeah marching it’s more of a young person’s sport isn’t it?
DR: Yes, that’s right. Although you get the old people in the wheelchairs and things don’t you at that ceremony.
TJ: Well I’m going to finish this interview here. So thank you very much for sharing your memories with us.
DR: Yes. It’s a pity you don’t read through the book there because it’s all about the Observer Corps and that.
TJ: Yes, we’ll have look at the book and perhaps we’ll copy it for the archives.
DR: Yeah, yeah.
TJ: OK. End of recording.



Tina James, “Interview with Doris Reddish,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 7, 2023,

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