Elsie makes friends at her new posting.
|WAAF=Women's Auxiliary Air Force. ACW1=Aircraftwoman 1st Class. MT=Motor Transport. NCO=Non Commissioned Officer. WVS=Women's Voluntary Service. SHQ=Station Headquarters.|
“Dennis!” Daisy said. She nodded towards me and Dennis pulled mike’s arm away.
“She doesn’t want to know, Mike, so leave off,” Dennis said.
Mike walked off but looked back. “I don’t like you that much anyway. And after me carrying your kit bag for you.” He looked away and continued walking off.
“Thanks, Dennis.” I said.
“I told you he was a posing idiot,” Daisy said.
The next morning after a nice breakfast in the mess I reported in at the MT Section. Like Thelma had said, a few seemed to resent me, but the majority were quite friendly. I could tell the signs now that some of them even thought that they may have a chance of going out with me. Or was it just my vanity coming through. I did like some of them, but there was none that I took a fancy to. It was also a good surprise that the Senior NCO’s were very friendly especially after the nasty ones at the training units.
The crew room was a large place where Thelma said she spent most of the free time, but there was also a small room dedicated to the WAAF with its own toilet where we could be on our own if we chose to.
The sergeant walked into the main room. “Do you know the way to Bentley Priory, Elsie?”
“Not really,” I said.
“Thelma, take her with you and show her the way, and show her Stanmore park as well.”
We got into the car and drove to the station headquarters where Thelma went in and came back out with two parcels what looked like document cases. “Do you want me to drive?” I said.
“It’s up to you. You can if you want. I’ll just give directions.”
I was happy with that and off we went. As we drove along I told her about Mike.
“Yeah, he is a chancer and thinks he is God’s gift. There’s a couple of thousand men on this camp so you can be a bit choosy,” she said and started to laugh causing me to laugh with her.
We got back and I looked into the office at the list for tomorrow to see what was going on. It was a surprise that I was to cover for the Commanding Officer's driver who was going on leave for five days. I thought that the MT sergeant must be impressed by my driving to give me this job.
A month later I went to the office in the afternoon to see if the work list was up yet. The sergeant looked through the hatch. “Do you know the way to Kenley, Elsie?” he asked.
“I do, yes.”
“You do,” he said. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, my boyfriend was a pilot at Kenley.”
“Was?” he said.
“He was shot down and killed.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “There is a bit of a do on at the Kenley officer’s mess tomorrow afternoon. If you are up to it you can drive the small crew coach and take the officer’s over there from the mess. Five of them. But you might be a little late getting back”
“That’s all right. I can do that.”
I walked out and saw Thelma going into the WAAF room and I went over and followed her in. “Thelma.” I said. “I’m taking five officers to a do at the officer’s mess in Kenley tomorrow.”
“Well, that will get up the boys noses. They like to do them sort of jobs. Are you sure you know how to get there though? It’s a bloody long way.”
“That’s the trouble. I told the sergeant that I know the way but…”
“Oh, Elsie, you can’t go setting off with five snotty officers in the motor, if you don’t know where Kenley is.”
“I know the way from Wimbledon to Kenley. But I don’t know how to get to Wimbledon from here.”
“I’ll write down the route to Wimbledon for you. But if you want, I’ll do the run for you.”
“No, I really want to do it.”
The next day I was excited at the prospect of re-visiting Kenley.
“Are you quite sure that you know the way?” the sergeant asked.
“Yes, Sergeant, of course.”
I picked up the five young officers and set off following the instructions that Thelma had given me. If only I could get to Wimbledon I would be fine from there. We had not been driving long when I started to panic thinking I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. There were no road signs to help me as they had all been removed or painted over earlier in case of invasion. I was getting very nervous and could feel a flush rising in my face.
“Do you know the way, girl?” One of the officers asked. “Only we seem to be going in the wrong direction, unless you know a short cut that I don’t know of.”
That’s it I thought. I’m in big trouble.
“Have you ever even been to Kenley?”
“Yes, sir. My fiancée was a pilot there.”
Another of the officers spoke. “Are you hoping to meet up with him again?”
“No, sir. He was shot down and killed.” Even after all this time saying those words choked me up.
“Pull over to the side,” he said.
Oh, no. He’s going to put me on a charge.
He got out, opened the passenger door and sat next to me. “I’ll show you the way,” he said.
“You shouldn’t have to.” The other officer said. “She shouldn’t bloody well be doing the job if she doesn’t know the way.”
The one next to me looked back. “Shut up, Derrick. The girl’s fiancée was a fighter pilot killed in action. A bloody hero and not a pen pusher like you. She deserves a bit of respect.”
I suddenly felt good, elated almost.
“Right, what’s your name?”
“It’s Elsie, sir.”
He gave a laugh. “No, your second name?”
“Godsalve,” I said, feeling a little foolish.
“Right, Godsalve, let’s get going.”
With his help we got to Kenley without a problem. I parked behind the officer’s mess. Two other drivers were there chatting. “Do you know if I can get some char near here?” I asked.
“Walk down towards the barrack blocks and you will see a WVS canteen van on the left.”
“Women’s Voluntary Service.”
I started walking and noticed a Pilot Officer limping towards me on his way to the officer’s mess. I was not too nervous about giving a salute as I was getting used to it. I smartly saluted him and he saluted back. As soon as he had passed I turned and looked back. “Mitch!” I said.
He turned and looked at me with a bit of surprise showing on his face. “Elsie, is that you?”
“Well, don’t you look smart in your officer’s gear,” I said.
“Yeah, well I managed to get a commission, but not long after I was shot up by a Messerschmitt that had crept up behind me. I managed to land the plane but I had a bloody great piece of metal in my leg, and that grounded me, I’m afraid.”
“At least you survived,” I said.
“Yes, and I’m grateful for that. So you joined up and look at you in your WAAF uniform. How long have you been in the WAAF?”
"Nearly five months months."
"Ronnie would be so proud of you."
I had no wish to get upset in front of him so I changed the subject. “So are you going to the thing at the officer’s mess?”
“Yes, and I wish I could take you with me but we would both be in a lot of trouble if I did. Maybe if I didn’t go we could go over to the Wattenden Arms.”
“Behave yourself now, Mitch,” I said. Three hurricanes suddenly took to the sky. “Is there a raid?” I said.
“No, just an exercise I think, or maybe a rogue aircraft has been spotted in the area. Listen, Elsie. I am so sorry about how I behaved last time. I was devastated after you drove off saying we were no longer friends and it played on my mind for weeks.”
“Maybe I over-reacted a bit. But I have missed you as well. I wish I were here instead of Uxbridge. It so good to see the fighters taking off again.”
Mitch looked at his watch. “I’d best be off. So are we friends again?”
“Of course, and I’d give you a kiss if I were allowed.”
“Allowed! I’m not worried about allowed,” he said and kissed me on my cheek before walking off.
I felt good as I walked on. Not only was I pleased to see him, but it felt great to make friends with him again. After my tea and toast and a chat to the women in the WVS van, I went back to the bus and sat reading a book. Two hours later I noticed my five officers walking over. My officer guide sat in the front again. As I pulled away Mitch came out of the mess and put his hand up. I stopped the bus and Mitch walked around to the passenger side.
“How are you getting on with that gammy leg now, Mitch?" The officer asked.
“Fine, Malcolm,” Mitch said, "but I do miss the flying. Now you look after this WAAF," he said. "She is special to us here at Kenley. If anyone upsets her there will be a dozen fighter pilots coming over to Uxbridge to sort them out.”
“Don’t worry, we will look after her.”
Mitch looked over at me. “You keep in touch now,” he said.
“I will, sir,” I said.
“Sir, sir fiddlesticks.” He began to laugh and shook his head. “Off you go, Elsie.”
We got back to Uxbridge. “Drop me at Station Headquarters before you drop the others at the Mess,” the officer Malcolm said.
“Going to hit the scotch bottle again with your uncle the station commander?” One of them said.
“Something like that.”
Two days later I was walking across the transport yard when the sergeant came out from the office and called me over.
“What’s up now,” I thought.
“Godsalve, I don’t know what you have done, but you must have impressed someone. You have been promoted to ACW1 by the Station Commander. Congratulations.”
This was the best news ever and I could not wait to get back to the block to tell the girls.
“Now get to SHQ, there is a package to take to Bentley Priory,” he said.
It was late when I got back and I just caught the end of the evening session at the mess. Any later and I would have had to go and get a chit from the guardroom. When I got to the barrack room a few of the girls were there and a cheer went up as I walked in.
“Bloody hell look at you, ACW1 Godsalve,” Daisy said. “You’ll be a sergeant soon the way you’re going.”
I laughed. “How did you know?”
“Thelma told us.”
I looked over to her bed space. “Where is she?”
“Gone out on a date.”
“Not with poser Mike is it?”
“I don’t bloody well think so,” she said, and we both laughed.
Two weeks later I had just made a brew in the rest room when the sergeant came rushing in. “Godsalve, get round to the hospital and up to Hillingdon House. Someone has been shot.” He tossed the station ambulance keys over.
“I’ll get the paperwork,” I said.
"Never mind the paperwork the nurses are waiting to be picked up. Just get going."
I rushed round picked up the two nurses and sped up to Hillingdon House. A police corporal was keeping people back. It was a WAAF lying on the pavement with blood everywhere. I looked and looked again. Daisy! To my horror I saw that it was my friend Daisy and I rushed over with the nurses.
A nurse ripped Daisy’s shirt open and covered the wound in her chest.
“I don’t want to die,” Daisy said. “Please don’t let me die.”
“You’re not gonna die, Daisy," I said. “You’re not.”
Two airmen fetched the stretcher from the ambulance and the nurses carefully lifted her on. “Quickly, let’s get her to the hospital,” they said.
We got to the hospital at breakneck speed and they rushed her inside and transferred her onto a trolley. I followed on to get the stretcher back.
An orderly stopped me. “Leave the stretcher here,” he said. “You can collect it after it has been cleaned.”
I looked down and saw the blood. I quickly turned away, went back to the ambulance and drove back to the yard.
“What happened?” the sergeant asked.
“A corporal was at the machine gun post.” I was full of emotion and had trouble speaking “He was messing about with a revolver and it went off accidently. It hit my friend, Daisy.” I couldn’t help myself and I burst into tears.
“Calm down, now, Elsie. I’m sure your friend will be all right. Go to the WAAF room and make yourself a nice sweet cup of tea.”
“No thank you. Can I be excused?” I sobbed. “I want to be with her.”
“Of course. Take the rest of the day. Just get here in the morning.”
I got to her bedside. She was very groggy and hardly awake after coming out from the operating theatre. I held onto her hand while the nurses were doing what they could but two hours later, she died.