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WAAF: THE WOMEN WHO KEPT THE MEN FLYING

by Peter Robinson

excerpts from the memoirs of Irene Pearson



"I saw the destruction at some stations and cities. In Coventry, I was on a short weekend and visited a friend who was serving on a station near Coventry. It was the time when the Cathedral was gravely bombed, it was so sad, a beautiful cathedral.

But at the same time a bomb also hit what we think was an orphanage. It wasn’t a boarding school, it was an orphanage I’m sure - I didn’t get the facts of it. There was a radio call for help, so my friend and I rushed off, in uniform, and when we arrived it was the most terrifying thing to see. All these little bodies laying around, all these children. I don’t think any of them survived, nor did their nurses or staff…”
"On one occasion the building next door to Geraldo’s had a direct hit; it collapsed but brought our building down with it. I was luckily on the top floor in the shower room and had finished showering but hadn’t dressed; all my friends had gone down into the basement to get a meal because they were hungry - we were always hungry!

It was three long days before I was dug from the rubble. When I eventually gained consciousness, I was still stunned by the explosion and collapse and I didn’t know what time it was - it was all dark and dusty and cold, very cold, and absolutely freezing. I lay there calling out the names of the other girls but nobody responded; I assumed that I was the only one left alive. I kept dozing but found I could move my toes and my fingers so I realised I wasn’t too badly injured; but I couldn’t move much because I had timber beams across my legs and across one arm and I could only move my right hand. So, I just lay there. Day or night I wouldn’t have known because it was completely dark.

Eventually, I heard a voice call “anyone alive? Can anyone hear me? Can anyone hear me?” and I responded immediately. The man said “knock, please knock!” and I wondered, “where can I knock?” So I felt all around in the dark at the beams laying across me, and I kept knocking on them as hard as I could…”

…”My first duties here were plotting aircraft positions on maps after receiving information over the headphones, where squadrons were situated after leaving Duxford or Biggin Hill or wherever. We knew all the squadrons by their numbers, and where they were heading. This was the Battle of Britain period and of course the bloody raids went on and on, week after week after week. There was no respite from them.

Squadrons weren’t directed from the War Rooms, this was just a matter of putting it on the maps for the War Room Cabinet to decide what to do, what to order. In group headquarters, Bomber Command, was “Bomber” Harris, Portal , and another man in the fighter section. They obviously had a direct line to Churchill and kept him informed of what was needed; more aircraft? We’ve lost two hundred today, what about it?

His Majesty King George VI would occasionally come down and twice I encountered him. Once he came up behind me and spoke about something quite trivial and I turned around and it was the King. He wasn’t escorted in any way, he was just wandering around.

He watched the map movements – things moved very quickly and at any one time there might be four squadrons from here, here and here, heading towards the south coast. It was nearly always to the south coast where they encountered the waves of German aircraft coming over… it was so busy to begin with…”

(Source: trueww2stories.com)

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