Account by Doreen Maddison WAAF on International Women’s Day

Take the Road to Victory! – Join the WAAF
By Foss, Jonathan (artist), Fosh and Cross Ltd, London (printer), Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (publisher/sponsor), WOMEN’S AUXILIARY AIR FORCE (publisher/sponsor) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to remember the role played often behind the scenes by the WAAF, WRNS, WAAC and others in the past who fought and died just like those names that feature in all the historic records and those associated with Manston. Also not forgetting the vast numbers of women who replaced the fighting men in the factories and elsewhere who were essential to the war efforts in WW2.

The following is an article about Doreen Maddison, on People’s War. WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

It is attributed to No.406 Sqn (RCAF) who were stationed at Manston between 27th November 1944 and 14th June 1945, equipped with Mosquitos.

WE KILL BY NIGHT
That’s it!! Packed up munitions, going to join WAAF. After initial tests (wasn’t so dumb as I thought) there I was, a WAAF.

Along with hundreds of like girls, did my square bashing in Morecambe. After passing out parade (two months) posted to Catterick then to Scorton there to be taught (along with four other Geordie girls how to drive any vehicle up to three tons.

A course of three months night and day driving, plus maintenance we were qualified and all five of us posted to Isle of Anglesey. There, we found, we were 406 Canadian Squadron Echelon drivers. Driving first time over the Menai Bridge having driven from Scorton was quite a thrilling experience for (remember I have never been in a car in my life). Little did I know the size of the truck I was to drive on arrival. A non synchromesh Dennis, so big I didn’t even reach radiator and blocks were added to pedals in order to reach the same.

Our main job was to take Pilots to be briefed before a flight and to be there on their return, sometimes to wait in vain, to be taken for breakfast. However, when things were quiet I was in charge of converted Railway articulated truck to be a fire engine woman. On one duty as firewoman I had occasion to put hose on Pilot as his plane had come in in difficulties (not sure whether he could be engulfed in flames). Well, I was only twenty then but I learned more English words than I’d thought possible, I had spoiled his best uniform, and he had a so-so date that night.

There was a feeling around that Invasion was being prepared for and after one or two small moves had to drive up to RAF Manston (a few weeks previously number WAAFs had been killed there).

On arrival we found the drome to be huge with Free French, Polish, Oh! A real mixture of personnel from various countries. Remember too Manston is in direct line to Germany and it wasn’t very pleasant at night in a huge empty hotel right on the front at Clifton listening to the doodlebugs doodling overhead. To the reader this may seem quite an exciting life all told, but!! I can assure you there was a very darker side to all this RAF Manston was the first drome to use FLAREPATH which was two long lines of huge braziers alongside the flight path on the runway as it is known now. This was lit in order to help planes land safely as it lifted the fog which was quite heavy and often at that time. It happened one night, thick fog Flares were lit an American plane was trying to land, unfortunately it didn’t make it. We could hear them talking through intercom, but had to escape through small windows in our hut to escape flying ammunition and flames as plane burst into flames whilst we could only stand by helplessly. Six men were lost in that plane and we girls cried all night.

At last peace was declared and we girls cried again as we were one by one posted home.

On a lighter note celebrating V.E. day, I drank two glasses of Devonshire Cider, never had a drink in my life Your Truly ended up trying to ride farmer’s horse. I lived in Exeter for a week so was able to bid Farewell to Squadron before they left England for their beloved Canada.

PS. On talking to a friend in Mea House Choir in Newcastle upon Tyne found that she was in Ireland, WAAF Plotter plotting my Squadron’s Flights over Germany. It’s a small world.

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