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War Memorials

WW2 - JOINING THE ATS

 

An ATS patrol

After September of 1939, women aged between 17½ and 43 were liable to be called up to serve . They could choose to join either the Army (ATS) the Navy ( WRNS) or the Air Forces (WRAF) and the idea was that they should take over many roles which would release men to serve in action. So they worked as drivers, cooks, nursing orderlies and mess servants but as the war continued,  they took on roles which required far more from them and became war room assistants, telephonists, sick  bay stewards and so on; they worked in searchlight batteries and anti-aircraft gun and balloon emplacements and in intelligence. A large number, here in Devon, worked in clerical roles  for the pay corps which was removed to Ilfracombe for the duration. But most war memorials in Devon have at least one women recorded on them for World War 2 - brave women who contributed much to the war effort and who died  alongside the men who served at the front.

Like Lillian Ackerly, HM the Queen chose to join the Army and did her war service as a driver in the ATS.

 

Contributed to the BBC* by Lilian Ackerly© through Cheshire Age Concern:

"I was 19 at the outbreak of the war. During the war I lived in a little village called Abbotskerswell. The evacuees who arrived from London refused to drink the milk they had seen come from the cows - they had to be given it in bottles. The villagers collected clothes for the evacuees who were tired, cold and hungry and did there best to assure brothers and sisters stayed together. When this was not possible the eldest were kept with the youngest.

All signposts were taken away, car, bicycle and street lights were extinguished and windows were blacked out. With rationing in, we'd colour our legs with tea and pencil seams at the back to imitate stockings.

I worked in Newton Abbot as a wages clerk at John Vicary and Son, a woollen mill. The mill provided woollen clothing for the forces. Due to this I received 6 months deferment. I was eventually called up on 26th January 1943. I was conscripted into the ATS and began a month's training in Wrexham. This involved both drill and exams. Those who failed these exams would be sent to the cookhouse whilst those, like me, who were successful were sent to the 67th Light Ack-Ack regiment in East Allington, South Devon. We had gun batteries all around the coast.

I was stationed with 15 others at the ATS headquarters. A fully-trained corporal was sent to oversee us raw recruits and, as there were no other NCO's permitted in our regiment, promotion was not a possibility. Some of us however were granted Special Proficiency stripes and badge which entitled us to extra pay.

Our H.Q., and as a consequence, the entire regiment moved to Ince Castle, near Saltash, Cornwall in July 1944 and in October of that year to Sandford House in Dorset. We moved again in December to Cleethorpes, Lincs. Here we were split up - the men being sent for training for the occupation of Europe, we ATS women to a camp in Derby in January 1945. In March we transferred to Coventry and from here some of us were sent to The War Office. I went alone to Combined Operations in Whitehall until the war's end."

 

Ince Castle

Ince Castle, near Saltash, Cornwall

Copyright owner not known but acknowledged

During the war, buildings of this kind were requisitioned at short notice and owners were reuired to vacate the premises at once.

 

* 'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'

 

 

 
 
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