restricted access 9. Southward Ho!: 1944-1945
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123 9.Southward Ho! 1944–1945 RAF Stenigot, though another of the first generation of CH Radar Stations , was at least a little nearer civilization, and I felt a lightening of the spirit as the train brought me southwards, finally depositing me in Lincolnshire.1 The station had apparently been managing for some time without a WAAF Admin Officer at all; in fact it seemed to have been managing quite adequately. The CO, Flight Lieutenant Brill, was a humorous, go-getting businessman from Leeds who, as a result of a big win on a “halt stake” on the Irish Sweeps before the war, had risen to become the owner of a prestigious and successful gents outfitters. In the absence of a WAAF of officer rank, other than a couple of technical Code and Cypher types, who always tended with a hint of superiority to keep themselves rather apart, he had schooled his various WAAF NCOs into an efficient and friendly team. In fact, the news that a WAAF Admin Officer was going to take over was greeted with something like dismay by the WAAF Admin Corporal Osborne, who had been running things on her own with enjoyment and obvious efficiency. The CO was fond of the feminine gender, and one of the cosier aspects of this classless and rankless “family” was tea and crumpets together— goodness knows whence acquired—in his office, and quite often. And a 1. In August 1995, during a joint visit by the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, Chris Lester photographed the buildings and tower at RAF Stenigot. The ancillary buildings have since been razed, but the surviving transmitter tower, the transmitter building, and the receiver building are Listed for Protection and have not been demolished. 124 | From the Sticks to the Cradle rather special “Farewell Crumpet Tea Party” had been arranged to mark the much lamented ending of this pleasant state of affairs. But the signal that the Orderly Room had received announcing my arrival had somehow acquired the wrong date. I turned up the day before I was expected, and in the surprise of the moment no one could think of any way of preventing my being ushered straight into the party. The CO hurriedly took his feet off the desk and stood up, smoothing his black hair and carefully tailored moustache and emanating the very best after-shave lotion. He came round the desk and, gold cuff links glinting , extended a well-manicured hand in a disarmingly apologetic greeting . (Jerry Brill was however not one to be at a loss for long.) His WAAF underlings, quickly gathering their caps and other belongings and the remains of the crumpet tea, and concealing their resentment as best they could, made a discreet exit. I soon found the atmosphere in the Officers Mess marvellously friendly after Ottercops, and I got quite used to coming in from a Kit 28. Transmitting tower at RAF Stenigot. Photograph by Chris Lester, Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology. Southward Ho! 1944–1945 | 125 Inspection or a Mess Meeting over which I had to preside to work out the menus for each week, to be offered a drink to the strains of Bach’s “Toccata in D” or Sibelius’s “Swan of Tuonela,” for the CO was a music lover and had brought a lot of his 78s with him. What he really thought of me, I’ve no idea (innocent, gullible, but easily manageable, perhaps?), for even after almost five years in the WAAF I was still surprisingly naïve. Some of my colleagues must on occasions have found the “upright” stance I took in the face of irregularities exasperatingly unrealistic. But at least the CO and I could usually laugh together. Like most of the early radar stations, Stenigot was perched on a hill, the only sizeable one in Lincolnshire. I soon became aware of a different kind of space around me. It was no longer, of course, the Fells, but I had the feeling that there was far more here than there seemed to be in other counties . Standing, looking out from the station, I was aware of the empty hugeness of the sky above me and of the lowness of the distant horizon line. It was harvest time when I arrived and the fields were golden. The only competition with the bombers going out from nearby RAF Manby was the purr of an occasional distant, tiny...


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Subject Headings

  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- Great Britain.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, British.
  • Great Britain. Women's Auxiliary Air Force -- Biography.
  • Ashbee, Felicity.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Aerial operations, British.
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