In the Summer of 1941 the armed services were recruiting like mad.

I recently received a superb email from a lady of 92 coming up 93 in March. An excellent story of her time as a Radio Telephone Operator at the Warmwell Air Station. It makes excellent reading…

Thank you so much for your email Marion

In the Summer of 1941 the armed services were recruiting like mad. I was not old enough to be called up, but many newspapers had a form printed, which you could fill in, if you wanted to volunteer for one of the services.

As a result I found myself summoned to report to the recruiting depot at RAF Bridgnorth in Shropshire. There amongst other things you had a health test and various trade tests.

In September 1941 I was posted to RAF Warmwell to be trained as a Radio Telephone Operator. By that time in the war all the fighter stations on the South coast had been heavily attacked by the Luftwaffe and consequently they had been “dispersed” which I am sure you will know, meant that from the air all signs of an air station had been eliminated.

The Admin HQ was in a cottage in the village, the messes were in Nissen huts in the pinewoods south of the airfield, the planes were in barns in what looked like farmyards etc. As a result of all this, when you were finally qualified to be an RTO you would not be working in a well equipped HQ but on your own in a caravan in a field.

So…. You had to be able to maintain your own radio equipment, and know how to maintain the electrical installations as well. Consequently you had to learn electrics, and wireless, which of course had not been transistorised, and had all sorts of valves. As well as this you had to learn Morse code. So it was quite a long training.

This all took place in a hut up a gravel track on its own. Their were a handful of us at a time and we were taught by one man. His name must have been Cronke, but was known as Cronkie. The morse instruction took place in a field with us lying on our stomachs and Cronkie flashing an Aldiss lamp at us.

No sooner had I passed the exam, but I was summoned to go to Adastral house in Whitehall for a commission interview, which in due course I learnt I had passed. I was then summoned to the admin HQ and told that as I would be off soon, there was no point in starting a job as an RTO but to go to the various places where the WAAFs were billeted and keep them clean.

We WAAFs were billeted in the attics of some of the very large country houses in the neighbourhood. Sometimes up to forty girls , with the use of one bathroom! One such house was Moreton House opposite the little cemetery where Laurence of Arabia was buried. And so for some months I was sweeping and keeping clean attic rooms and loos and the odd bathroom, until I learnt that  I was to be a Cypher officer and to report to the Cypher School at Headington, North of Oxford.

And so my time at Warmwell came to an end at the end of March 42. What I learnt electrically has been most useful, and I am quite good at cleaning loos!

I have forgotten nearly all the Morse, and wirelesses don’t have valves any more, but it was all a very interesting experience, and I can cope with most things that life has thrown at me since then!!

And I can even work an IPad even though I am 93 in March.

Sent from my iPad

(email address supplied)


In the Summer of 1941 the armed services were recruiting like mad. — 2 Comments

  1. My Mum was at Warmwell (WAAF) and was an RT Operator there from 40 to I think 1943 when she was moved up to North Berwick. Her name was Helen Laird. Her Job was to listen for strays and lost aircraft and bring them back. She used to tell me stories of Johnny Johnstone and Ginger Lacey (his Bounce Spit is at High Wycombe airfield and still flies, I was astonished when I came across it).

    She kept a scrap book of grateful officers pilot wings who she brought home safely. I would like to be re-united with that if anyone knows where it is? It vanished mysteriously just be fore she was posted.

    She taught me morse code too!! What a Mum!

    A few who didn’t make it are buried at the church nearby, One woman, an auxiliary pilot, was killed when a hangar door was blown of by a bomb the day she arrived, she told me about it and I found her in this cemetery in 2012, Imagine that.

    So many stories. Kept a boy enthralled for years, if you knew her do get in touch!! I would love to hear from you.

    • PAUL!! That is a wonderful comment to add to this site… My apologies for just realising it is there.

      If you have any further information, we’d love to hear about it…. Pictures? If you have any you’d like to share, please do and also our Facebook page is open for as much as you like to add

      Many thanks again Paul


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *