Although they have helped us in so many ways, America have always tried to be a neutral country but now they have no choice. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbour. The newsreel is once again full of burning ships. Everyone is saying it was so unexpected, then Germany declared war on America. They must be mad, how could a country like Germany fight America.
The news is getting worse every day, I tried not to listen to the nine o’clock news, there was so much going on. but there was no getting away from it. I heard mum saying how bad it was. A little Island like Malta had been bombed almost as much as London. A lot of Spitfires that had just been delivered were blown up before were able to fly. The island was later given a medal by the King for their bravery. A Czech village somewhere had been bombed so much that there was nothing left of it, why would the Germans do something like that—perhaps it’s that ‘spreading fear and havoc’ they seem so fond of.
At home in England, it is quieter, and the news is bit better than it has been for a long time. I am always surprised when I see a lady driving past in a big lorry, they look so small behind the wheel. They do any sort of job now, ambulance driving, and heavy factory jobs that men would usually do.
The Land Army Girls played a huge part in the war. My sister Chrissy who was land-girl, told us the German pilots were instructed to strafe anyone working on the land—more to intimidate than to kill. She heard stories of these women working in the fields, shaking their fists at the enemy planes rather than running to the shelter. Another story was of tractors in a field, being driven in opposite direction, so one Land Army girl could see an enemy plane coming from behind the other tractor—the noise of the tractors would hide the sound of an aeroplane engine.
Many women joined the armed services and did all sorts of work. In the battle of Britain, we saw them on the newsreel, they were vital in plotting where the Germans were coming from, and how many planes there were. They even flew the big bombers and fighter planes from the factories where they were made, to the RAF aerodromes all over the country.
Just as she Iris was taking more of a housekeeping role in Weybridge, and with a higher wage. The war changed everything for her, she had to leave the job she loved and started working for Vickers Supermarine. An aircraft factory in London Street, Chertsey. It must have been a bit of a shock for her, working alongside men and women in the dust and noise of a factory—but she loved it, and told us all about it.
“There was so much shouting and joking going on, it’s a wonder to me how any of the work was done, but we always beat the targets set out for us, and once had a special bonus for exceeding the targets by so much”.
She told me the fuel tanks were made of a sort of coated paper, these tanks were very light and strong. They gave the Spitfires extra time and range, allowing them to stay aloft for longer. This gave them the advantage over the German planes, they had come all the way over from France. If the paper tanks were jettisoned over enemy lines, a paper fuel tank would be of no use to them. But if they were made of aluminium, which was in short supply, it could be collected and reused by them.
The women, with just a few men for heavy lifting, worked very long hours in this small ex-Bedford lorry garage. It was said without their hard work ‘The Battle of Britain’ may have lasted very much longer and could even have been lost.
Iris was always coming home with jokes, she really enjoyed working with ordinary people, although the lady in Weybridge was very nice to her. Her two workmates, Florry Pendry, who lived up the end of Church Path and Betty Smith, from Frithwald Road, would come round to our house before going up to The Golden Grove. They had a great time with the soldiers who were stationed miles away. They would arrive in an army lorry and would be sitting outside on the grassy bank having a lovely time with the local girls. We kids would hang around hoping for a packet of crisps or even just a story of where they have been, they were all heroes to us.I