The cleaner in the workshops was a German disabled man with learning difficulties. He was always coming in to me crying. I could not understand
him at all and would ask Barbel to translate. She was very loathe to do so, but reluctantly sometimes did. The reason for this was the German class system; she was an English speaking technical secretary near the higher echelons of the system
and he was at the bottom. “A secretary does not associate with a scheisse’ haus reiniger (shit house cleaner)”, she said. So I used to try and help him if I could. One day he came in to me with a bottle of Coty perfume he
had brought from the duty free NAAFI, illegal for Germans to do. I have still got the bottle and will never know how he managed to get it. Another time I saw him cycling on the road outside my window and stop at the German supermarket. A
little while later he came in with bunch of flowers which he had had to hold and cycle with at the same time. All Barbel would get from him was a scowl and he returned a rude German gesture!
One summer’s day Barbel invited me to lunch at her home during the dinner hour, in her garden. She lived upstairs (she was
divorced from her English husband) and her mother and stepfather lived down stairs. This was the custom in Germany. It was a very hot day. She took off her bra to catch some sun, showing everything, in front of her step
father and me. He said something to her and she turned to me and said he said that you can take yours off you want to, I said “no thanks” and sweltered with all my clothes on for the rest of the dinner hour before we went
back to work!
Barbel was a very stunning,
tall, tanned blonde and far from dumb. One day one of the soldiers came in to my office which was separated from hers by a hatch and a higher standing floor. She did his technical work. He was obviously unhappy about something. “What’s
up” asked Barbel standing high above him at the hatch. “It’s your fault, my wife came in here to drop off some of my worksheets", he said. “What’s wrong with that”, asked Barbel. “ She gets a bit
jealous”, he said, “and when she had previously asked me what you looked like, I said you were dark, plump and not very attractive”. “Well you were wrong”, laughed Barbel, “and it was
nothing to do with me.” I think she felt his wife’s wrath was punishment enough for him.
I loved my job and also got involved with looking after the Wives’ Club while their husbands were in Northern Ireland. They obviously were worried about them going but their husbands
couldn’t wait because they said it was what they joined up for. After 3 years, when I was leaving as my late husband was posted back to England, they called me to their Wives’ Club and gave me a present. It was a statue of a little
old lady holding a carrot for a bunny. I proudly took it back to workshop and showed the sergeant clerk what they had bought me. As I did so, I dropped it and her head fell off and rolled over to his feet. “It’s best we
don’t tell them about this”, he said as we hurriedly looked around for some super glue.
One of the corporals in the workshop always said “flipping” a lot when he was talking to me. I came in early one morning. No one, except the sergeant knew I was there because I had a large
book case alongside of me and I hadn‘t started typing. “Morning Corporal” said the sergeant, “how are you?” “Morning
Sarge” came the reply, I am @#@#@# not happy. @#@#@# this, @#@#@# that and so on. “Are you alright over there ”, asked the sergeant, mischievously . “Fine thanks”, I replied. I heard the corporal make a
hurried exit, probably with a bright red face! I realised where his excessive use of “flipping” came from. In those days you would never hear a soldier swear in front of females.
During the a hot summer, a new craftsman was posted in. He was blond and very attractive. It was Shirt
Sleeve Order (when the Commanding Officer would give the order to roll up their shirt sleeves in the Spring and they would keep them like that until later in the year when he gave the order for them to be rolled down), at the time, but also the
REME craftsmen just wore their dark green coveralls with no other visible clothing, due to the heat. He came in with the front of his coveralls undone to his waist and smelling of Elizabeth Arden Aftershave for Men ( I know that because I asked
him). He said hallo to me and I said hallo to him, but could not look at him because I was all of a fluster and had gone all silly. I certainly couldn’t concentrate on my typing. Luckily for me, he was sent off to
another Regiment a few weeks later, enabling my work rate to improve.
However, one of the Workshop Sergeants took a liking to me. He was, dumpy, short, scruffy and always covered in grease. He was also married with 3 children. At that the time the new Sandhurst educated Education Officer
had set up a monthly newsletter and one month had put in a quiz on where the rich people shopped for their clothing, food, etc. While I was looking at the questions the sergeant came over and asked me what it was all about. I showed
it to him and he took it and disappeared. A little while later he came back with some answers: shirts – Turnbull and Asser; bras Rigby and Peller, etc. “Where did you find them”, I asked. “In the library”
he said. I did win the quiz, but that was because nobody else entered, but it was very educational finding the answers and I think he did it for love!!!
His devotion to me was unrequited and I last saw him rather worse for wear, slouching, hands in pockets, beret askew outside the regimental gates.
I also attracted the attention of the Regimental Sergeant Major because he said I made
him laugh and he liked to come and see me. This was OK for me but very unnerving for the soldiers who had to stand to attention and salute him when he came in, which he did quite often. The soldiers used to get on with their work, but obviously
I chatted normally to him. He always carried his pace stick tucked under his arm. One day I asked him what it was for. “Well”, he said, “you unclip it and open it out like a compass to measure the pace a soldier should
walk”. “Can you show me”, I said. I duly unclipped the stick, it opened out but one side fell off in to two bits. The REME clerks and soldier gazed in horror. The sgt clerk offered to put it back together.
“No”, he said, “I’ll do it. He did and when he was ready to go he whispered to me,” don’t tell them but it has been broken for ages, it’s only for show”!
The Regiment had its own Medical Centre. The doctor and nurses were all officer status.
One day one of the craftsmen came back to the office and he said he had done a silly thing during his medical check up. “What did you do?” I asked. “Well the doctor gave me a bottle, asked me to do a wee, pointed to the sink and
told me to put it over there and went out of the room. “Did you”? I said. “Yes” he replied “ but when the doctor came back he asked me where it was. He picked up the empty bottle and asked me what
I had done with it. “Pured it down the sink Sir”, I replied. “What on earth for?” asked the doctor. “Well, when you pointed at the sink and left the room, I thought you were going to the room underneath and unscrew
the bottom of the sink pipe and catch it in a container Sir”, he replied. I was actually speechless and doubled up with laughter, but I would love to have seen the doctor’s reaction to his reply!
At one time the doctor was a colonel and was having many affairs with the Army wives, when he was posted on his replacement was a young newly qualified major with glasses and flat cap.
The dentist was also a colonel, but you needed to get your teeth seen to in the morning, because he wasn’t in a very fit state in the afternoon after he had had his
liquid lunch in the Officers’ Mess.
replacement was also a young newly qualified major with glasses and flat cap.
I had quite a bit of a problem with one of my teeth and the new dentist decided on a different procedure. It worked very well and the next time I saw him walking across the parade ground, I went over to him and said “it has definitely
worked, look”. I pulled my lip up over my nose and opened my mouth and pointed. He looked at it and said “that’s good” and went on his way. I was surprised he wasn’t more interested in his experiment. Then
it dawned on me, I had shown it to the new doctor!
I went home to England for a weekend and when I returned to work the on the Monday, they told me that one of the soldiers, who lived in the flat opposite to us has been crushed to death by a lorry in the work shop while I was away.
Another married couple moved in to the flat his wife had vacated.
On another UK trip home, when I returned I was informed that the soldier who had moved in to the deceased soldier’s flat had driven in to a tree and been killed. I kept my finger crossed for the next tenants when I came
back to UK for another weekend, but thankfully they remained safe!
As time went on, I learned more and a more about the admin that the sergeant clerk used to do, ie travel warrants, arranging accommodation etc. However, I was also very naïve and innocent of anything that would have been classed as worldy
One day two W. R. A. C. (Women’s
Royal Army Corps), ladies came in to the office and because I was the only clerk there, they asked me where they had to go to book accommodation. “Don’t worry”, I said, “ I’ll sort it out with the RHQ (Regimental Headquarters)”.
I duly telephoned the RHQ clerk there and said “There are two WRACs (racks) here who want accommodation please”. After a silence, he said “are they there with you now? “Yes”, I said, “they are standing right
in front of me so I can give you their information”. “Oh”, he said, “what do they need?” I asked them and they requested a double room although I said there were plenty of single ones if they wanted one,
sorted it all out and they went on their way. A little while later, one of the soldiers who had been speaking to them in the workshop came in. He said to me that they had said that it’s a good job we know that she doesn’t realise
what she was saying of we would have punched her one. “What on earth for?” I said.
You called them “racks”, he said. “Yes, I said, “ because WRNS Women’s Royal Naval Service are called “wrens”, so the army equivalent must be “racks”. “Well,
he said it, it is very insulting and rude to use that word, you got off lightly!”
I’ll leave it to you to ask a soldier or WRAC what was so bad about it! Suffice to say I never used the term again.
The sergeant clerk hurt his ear drum when he was on shooting practice and was off for a couple of weeks, his deputy, the craftsman clerk was gone on a Commando course to see
if he was suitable to join them and was also away for a few weeks. During that time, a solder in the work shop needed to get to UK on compassionate leave. Compassionate A was when a relative was dying and Compassionate B
was when they had died. He needed a travel warrant from Hanover Airport and then for onward travel to his home, open return. I had seen the Sgt clerk do this many times and when the OC (Officer Commanding) of the Workshop, who I worked for, came
out of his office and asked how we could get this done by RHQ, I said “don’t worry”, I know how to do it”. I completed the necessary paper work and off the solider went. The OC was very impressed.
(This was to stand me in good in good stead in time to come).
One of the soldiers came from Northern Ireland and used to go back to see his mother. As it was at the height of the Northern Ireland conflict, I asked if he ever felt in danger when he went home, especially as he would drink a lot and usually
had to buy his return ticket himself because he had lost his return warrant, usually leaving it in a jacket pocket and losing the jacket. In fact, I tried to persuade him to keep the ticket in his trousers as I didn’t think he would lose them so
easily. He told me he was never afraid to go back as they were only they were only after people who were “up to something”. He always returned safely.
I saw an advert for a shorthand teacher at the Army Education Centre. I wasn’t a teacher but as I could do shorthand, I decided
to give it a go. I went to see the Education Major in his office. Sitting by his side was a beautiful soppy Labrador dog which he obviously adored. As there has been no applicants for the shorthand course, but he had had
a lot of people enquiring about typing, he asked me if I could teach that instead and I said I would give it a go. He went off to fetch a copy of the RSA Stage 1 typing book that the Centre held. As soon as he was out of the room, the Labrador
came over, gripped my leg tightly with his front paws and started humping it. I desperately tried to shake him off without success, but as soon as he heard his master returning he ran over and sat dutifully by his chair.
I went through the book the major bought back and asked if he had the Stage 2 book available.
Off he went to get it and the not so soppy Labrador with the iron grip front paws shot over and repeated the same procedure, again returning to his “faithful dog pose at his master’s chair” position, when he heard him come back.
The book was perused and the major asked if it was useful.
I said it was. “ Well then”, he said, “We have the final Stage 3 book, I will go and fetch it for you, it will be no trouble. “Oh no, there is no need for that, I know it will be perfectly OK”, I said in panic. I knew
it would be no trouble for him, but it certainly would be for me.
The classroom was well equipped with typewriters and I sent off for the typing records that I learned with. Everyone got on well and I put them in for the first exam, Stage 1, they progressed to Stage 2 and one lady achieved Stage III
and landed herself a job in the Regimental Headquarters. I was really pleased with how it went and went on teaching for the 3 years I was there, either new pupils, or the ones progressing who had been with me from Day 1.
They all enjoyed typing to music at the varying speeds of the records. The last one
was the William Tell Overture. They realised that they were not up to that speed, but guessed I was. Do you know how nerve racking it was to type to this particular piece of music with 15 people all gathered round watching you?! I did get
a round of applause when I finished though!
One day the new SSAFA Sister (Soldier Sailor Airman Forces Associaton) the equivalent of a district nurse to look after
soldiers and their families welfare, was brought in to be introduced to us. She was a very well built woman but very attractive. Afterwards Barbel said “she is exactly what the German man likes, not those skinny Page 3 girls”.
I thought this was rather odd as she herself was very attractive and slim. It wasn’t long though before the Sister got engaged to an English man, but he was, funnily enough, the New Army Education Officer. I never knew if he had
a dog or not!
I started the teaching thinking I would just get
them on to typing a letter with paragraphs and basic typing, but it turned out so well that I put some of the class in for RSA exams and was delighted when they passed. One of the Army wives got a typing job with the regiment as well, considering
they had all started from scratch with no typing experience.
There was a sewing class in the Centre on one of the evenings that I taught. I used to lock up when we were finished and hand the keys to the guardroom. One evening, a few weeks later, we were having a tea break with the sewing class and
their teacher told us about an incident the week before.
tried to leave the sewing room, but the door was locked and no one else was in the building”, she said.
“What happened?” I asked. “We had to hang out of the windows and yell down to the parade ground and hope someone would alert the guard room, which they did”. I sympathised with her but
then the horrible realisation dawned. Previously she had mentioned she would be having an extra sewing class on one of the other nights I was teaching and as I was in charge of locking up, it was me who had locked them in and gone home. After
that I always checked the sewing class room whether they were in there or not.
I had my evening class wages paid in to my account in the local bank in the village.
One day I went in to get some money and found there was quite a lot more in there than I expected. It turned out that I had received the wages belonging to the German language teacher. The bank clerk told me that as they were in my account they
were legally mine. However, I sorted it out with the RHQ and he duly got his wages paid. During this time we decided to buy a car from another soldier and pay for it in two instalments. My husband withdrew the cash and put in his
top pocket of his shirt. As it was hot while he was working, he took his shirt off and when he put it back on again the money was gone. It was totally his fault, but it made us feel quite ill.
My mother-in-law, her niece, her friend and sister came to visit us for a week. As our car could only hold 5 people at a push, I went to work and my husband took them out for day trips. They knew that five
was “funf” as they ordered 5 drinks or meals when they were out. One evening I took them into Hameln and we went to the bus stop at the quarters by the NAAFI to catch a bus. Usually regular bus users would buy a little book of bus tickets
and click them in on the bus ticket machine, using one end and the other end was for the return journey, but we had to buy ours on the bus as we didn’t have any. When you get on the bus, I told them, just say “Bahnhof bitte” as
it terminated at Hameln railway station.
on was my mother-in-law’s friend. “Bahnhof bitte”, she said and bought her ticket. The driver pointed to the ticket machine on his little door and said “in”. Not quite sure what he wanted, she looked quizzical
and he pointed again saying “in”. “Oh sorry” she said. She then knelt down on one knee and shouted in to the machine “Bahnhof bitte”. As I was the only one who knew the procedure, I told her he wanted
her to click the ticket in to register it. I was in hysterics and so were the others when they saw what had happened. Normally the Germans were not renowned for the same sense of humour as us, but this driver was crouched over the steering wheel
helpless with laughter. Luckily we were the only ones on the bus and eventually, when he was in a fit state, we drove off, but I think he was running behind schedule that night.
We had quite a few laughs while they were there and when they got back, they said it was one the best holidays they had. However,
their limited knowledge of German meant that while they were waiting at Hanover Airport, they ordered “funf” 5 beers because none of them knew the German equivalent for four. You could have counted on your fingers to the waiter, I told
them. They hadn’t thought of that, but didn’t mind as they all shared the 5th beer!
When the Queen came to Sennelager during her Silver Jubilee to visit the Tank Regiment and we all went to see her. As she came into sight, the tanks were positioned in the field and at the same time each soldier popped up from
the inside of the tank with his red and white hackle (little feather) in the front of his beret showing. We stood against the roped off area with plenty of room and she came along on the back of an open land rover with the Duke of Edinburgh.
She was dressed in a beautiful powder blue dress and I have never felt such emotion at actually seeing the queen. My friend tried to take her picture but she was also very overcome. For the rest of the day, everywhere we went, we saw the queen.
Funnily the novelty began to wear off.
We visited a few places while we were there. In
Austria we saw the Eagle's Nest where Hitler's Tea House was. We had to get on a coach and drive round a steep mountain untile we reach the top. It didn't stop there though, we had to get in to a lift which was decorated with plush red velvet
upholstery and brass light fittings which took us up to the tea house. We were actually above the clouds. The tarmac winding road had been built by prisoners of war.
We also visited one of his bunkers which had a room for Eva Braun's dogs.
We wanted to see the Salt Mines, but the demand was so great that we had to pay and collect a ticket for a time slot the next day. They were certainly well worth the wait. We had to sit on a kind of wooden
slide with a leather pad which was tied around our waist to slide down on, as the original salt miners wore and wrap our legs around the person in front. I happened to be behind a man who grabbed hold of mine pretty quickly and held on to my
We then got on to a little underground train, luckily there was no leg wrapping needed.
The salt patterns on the rocks were beautiful and then we came across a little lake. It was absolutely
We also saw a castle which had a lot of comical features operated by water pressure
from the hills next to it. It was a clever feat of engineering in the 18 th century.
The saddest place we visited was Belsen Concentration Camp. It was eerily silent with no sounds of birds. There were large mounds which depicted how many bodies were buried there. No grass grew either. The only information
on it was contained in a document house. No-one spoke; there were no words to describe it.
I loved my time in Germany, due to the fact that I
enjoyed my day and evening jobs. My money was tax free then and it was all saved so we would put a deposit on a house.
Then one day, I was in
the office and the craftsman clerk, in the absence of the Sgt clerk, opened a letter. “I think this means you", he said to me. There in black and white it said, workshop
allocation for April clerk typist = 1 not 2. We both knew that it would not be Barbel as the German people got priority and were guaranteed the jobs, as well as the complexity of the work she did.
I told the clerk to completely forget what he had read and not even to tell the Sgt clerk. He took the
post in to the OC who came out of his office looking very upset. I asked him what was the matter, knowing full well what he had just read. He didn’t say anything. A few weeks later he had a big important meeting with a couple
of men in his office and asked me to take tea and cakes in to them with the best silverware and cups and saucers.
After they had gone he called me in to his officer to tell me that, the allocation for the workshop would be 1 typist not 2. However, he said that because I was so useful especially in the absence
of the two soldier clerks etc, he had fought for me to stay and therefore the post would be gone in the following April. I was really pleased and he was visibly relieved as he didn’t have to deliver bad news.
Due to the fact, unbeknown to him, that I had prior knowledge, I had started putting a
plan in action, my savings were mounting up, but then there was news that the interest rate was dropping. We immediately came to UK for a long weekend and looked around 3 houses. We put down the deposit on the 3rd one and paid
full price £9,500. I knew we shouldn’t haggle. Eventually it was ours, after a nail biting wait with phone calls and letters back to England. True enough, the prices started to rise a few months later.
Now I was ready. My husband was given a posting date back
to UK which tied in exactly with my my employment term, so I carried on working for Army until the sad day I knew I would have to leave. I mentioned to the soldiers that I had seen something in a shop window in Hameln which I wanted to get before
I left, but it gone the next time I looked. I found a teddy in green overalls and got some “pips” (little stars of rank the officers wore on their shoulders) and made him in to the workshop mascot for them to remember me by.
I had a farewell do in the soldier’s mess that they put on for me and
amongst the gifts they gave me was the item I had seen in the shop in Hameln. They had nipped out and bought it that’s why it was not there anymore.
Feeling very sad to be going I sent a dedication into BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Services) which everyone listened to on a Sunday, thanking everyone I worked with for
everything including lifts to work. I asked them to play “We’ll Meet Again”. I still think of my time there when I hear it.
I went to work on the day of the “March Out” when they come in and inspect the state of the flat you are leaving, with a fine tooth comb.
It made me feel physically ill when they did it in England, so I left it to my husband to sort out. I had started cleaning it and shutting off rooms 3 months before we left. My husband said they thought it was immaculate, but that still didn’t
stop them from throwing the old settee, etc, out of my second floor front window, which usually meant that the flat was in a bad way. Of course, they were replacing it with new furniture and out of the window was the easiest way for it to go.
Then that was it we were bound for England again. We moved
in to our new house, which my brother had stayed it whilst it was empty. The next door neighbour knocked at the door, to say hello or so I thought. “Well, I’m glad you’re here now, perhaps I won’t be woken up at 4
am every morning by your ‘phone”, she said. I was totally flummoxed, what could she mean, then remembered that our phone was on the passage way wall which was the other side of her passage.
It turned out that my brother, who was a milkman, was getting an early morning phone call
at 4 each morning and it was vibrating on her wall.
back to England, I thought to myself, wondering what lay ahead.