My 8 year old daughter is currently learning all about World War 2. My 92 year old Grandma was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), so I suggested she write a letter to her Gran Gran asking her about her experience of the war.
I was conscious that the generation that served and fought in World War 2, are now beginning to pass away, and although many historical facts live on, the family stories are being lost, and I want my children to understand a little of what past generations lived through.
My Grandma sent a lovely letter back, with lot’s of information in – and I’ve just been typing it up for my daughter to take to school, and thought I’d like to share it:
I hope I’ve answered all your questions about World War 2.
I joined the WAAF, which was the women’s branch of the Air Force. We were dressed in an Air Force blue uniform, in skirts instead of trousers, although for work we had Battledress, which was a kind of blouse and trousers in a thick serge material, our hats were a soft top cap, with a shiny peak and the Air Force badge.
We had cereals or porridge, toast and a spoonful of jam for breakfast; midday stew or meat and veg, and for pudding we had sago, tapioca or rice. Teatime we had, macaroni cheese, potato pie, bread and a spoonful of jam.
My job after 9 months training was Flight Mechanic. I was sent to a maintenance unit where airplanes were repaired. I worked on the engines, changing plugs, oil and cleaning. Every 4 weeks after the plane had been flying, it came into the hangar, the engine was taken out and a new one put into the plane. Then everything had to be put on in order – plugs, put oil and coolant in, and the propellers put on. When everything had been checked, we took it outside to the sergeant in charge of our gang. He would get into the cockpit and start the engine up and test it, to make sure it was ready for the pilot to fly a test flight, so he could say everything was working.
In civilian life, the people had ration books with coupons in; food was rationed so everyone had the same amounts:
- 2oz butter
- 2oz cheese
- Bacon and other fats
- Portions of food were controlled as well.
In the forces, we had the NAAFI shop and when we got a sweet ration we had no choice – we had to have whatever sweets they had, just a small piece of chocolate or a ‘5boy’, also cigarettes as well, again what they had, only once a week, sometimes every two weeks. You had to be first in the queue or you were unlucky.
But it wasn’t all gloom; we had lots of fun – dances, cinema, NSA shows.
On our day off, which was Saturday, we went into the nearest town, and there was always a canteen which catered for the forces so we could get a cup of tea, beans on toast, or cheese on toast, quite cheap.
I also attached a couple of pictures of Grandma in uniform, that mum has recently e-mailed to me:
I know the story she tells is quite a soft one, edited for an 8 year old, but I love the picture she paints, and as an adult, I can add the depth myself.
I hope you enjoy reading my Grandma’s story. Don’t stop learning about your family – you may find out something incredible!
Update My mum has just reminded me of Grandma’s war injury – a family in joke! She threw herself in front of an oil barrel that was rolling away and cut her thumb!
Joking aside, she would have been punished if the barrel had hit the plane it was rolling towards.