This was the Auxilliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army during WW2. Originally, the The 1941 National Service Act required only unmarried women between 20-30 years of age to join one of the auxilliary services. Mum was due to be married in ten weeks time, but her call-up came through in May, so off she went to do her bit.
This Pathe News clip gives some insight into how it was for new conscripts (click on pic).
You may recall that Mum had been a keen First Aider, which is what Mr Harris was referring to in his letter of thanks. I wrote about this in 'First aid Post’. Mum was apparently given a choice of the services to join, and says later that had she joined the RAF, as a married woman, she would have been entitled to be posted to the same station as her husband. As it turned out, they often found themselves posted at opposite ends of the country. Naturally this was not very romantic for newly-weds, who would always be looking forward to the next 48-hour pass, with much of the precious time being spent in travelling.
Fall of Tobruk came through.
In May 2001, the Nottingham Evening Post, ran a piece about the 504 Battery to accompany an old photograph, and asked if anyone had any memories. Mum duly responded and was delighted when her letter was published.
I created quite a stir when I arrived. The Major was delighted as I was the first married woman in the battery (aged 21). I was conscripted in May (I did not volunteer) ten weeks before my marriage. My husband was in the RAF so I had to take a letter from the vicar so that I could be given leave. We later all moved to Ticknall in Derbyshire, then on to Ashby, near Scunthorpe.
We had one very cold winter in Derbyshire when one night some men chopped up a bed (or maybe more) to put into the stove to keep warm. The Major then had all the stoves removed for about a week from every hut - it was freezing. I was lucky enough to be a clerk in the battery office so I was warm whilst on duty - but often could not type because of dead fingers and had to plunge my hands into hot water.
Also, whilst I was with them, the whole battery went by train to Firing Camp at Weybourne for about two weeks. I think there’s a few more memories but I’m getting writer’s cramp."
May 1st is a date which means different things to different people, but for my Mum it was the day she joined the army. Alan has given us a lovely picture of Maypole Dancers as our Sepia Saturday prompt and I’m sure some of the contributors will be remembering more celebratory ways of marking May Day. Why not see for yourself?