Patsy Green


TO JENNY CUTHBERT – no date or time recorded


JC  First thing, Patsy, I want to know why you decided to join the WAAFs, when you decided to join the WAAFs and how it all began for you.

PG  Well, why I decided to join the WAAFs was because I thought the uniform was so much nicer than Khakis and also a friend of my mother’s came to tea. I had just finished a stint in Domestic Science because mother said I must learn to cook.  I was 18 and this nice girl came to tea, I think the parents must have been at school together, and she said ‘join the WAAFs and, whatever you do, say you want to be a radio operator.  Not a wireless operator, a radio operator.’  And that’s exactly what I did.  And that landed me in the RDF and off we went from there.

JC  RDF stands for?

PG  Radio Direction Finding.  Now Radar.  But at the time it was all terribly hush-hush.  Nobody had ever heard of it.

JC  So you were 18 when you joined up.  Where did you go to join up?  Did you have to go somewhere…….?

PG  No, I lived in Canterbury and we just marched down to the Recruitment Office and I recruited myself.

JC  And what happened next?  Were you sent somewhere straight away.   How did  you get your uniform?

PG  No, I had to wait a bit because it seemed there were a lot of other people trying to get in too so I think I finally, actually, got in in September.  So that’s from April to September.

JC  And that was September which year?

PG  1941.  

JC  So, once you’d heard you’d got in, then what happened to you? 

JC  Well then you get a polite little letter telling you to report and sending you a rail warrant to Bridgenorth which is miles from anywhere more or less up on the Welsh border I think, it’s up that way, and I went with a friend actually.  My Godmother’s daughter was doing the same thing and we went together and after that I never saw her again.  She went off to be a plotter.  

We had a fortnight there where you learnt to march, you had to know your left from your right.   To salute, of course, and various medical inspections and I thought ‘well, that’s odd,  what are they looking at those bits of me for?  But, of course, they didn’t want any dodgy babies in there you see.  

And then we went to have jabs and, in those days you’d never had an injection.  Injections just weren’t about so I was rather horrified at the thought of needles coming at me.  But what they did was, they put one needle in and then they left the needle in your arm, unscrewed the barrel, put another one on, and so on until you’d got all the things you should have.  Well I was quite determined that I was not going to pass out because there were four in my crowd you see.   So I stood there with my hand on my hip, all that nonsense, and I felt their hands come away and I thought, ‘That’s good I’m finished now’, and ‘Quick march’, I thought, ‘By the left’.  And I got half way across the room and there was a great shout of ‘Stop that WAAF’ and I looked down and there was a thing sticking out of my arm because the needle was still in there you see.  So back I had to march and they screwed on another one.  Went through all that.  When they’d finished finally they said ‘All right’.   With my nose in the air I thought ‘I’m not going to fall down now’, I marched smartly to the door and there were steps down on to the grass below and I caught my shoe.  I wasn’t used to Air Force shoes, caught my shoe on the top step and went head over heels, bang down to the bottom.  I’m sure they thought I’d passed out but I hadn’t.

JC  So how long did that training spell last?


PG  That was a fortnight.  Just to get you started, to know the rules.  It does sound silly now, but to know the numbers of the forms that you might want, you know, the 252s and the….. this and that.  And then home you went for a few days leave and then you got another letter telling you where to go to start your technical training.

JC  So where were you sent to, to start your…………

PG  I’m trying to think of the name of the place, it’s the……….. Cranwell, which is very posh because it was a peace time station so there were dances, very good dance bands, and there was a swimming pool and you worked jolly hard but you were at it all day learning and of course at 18 you’re like blotting paper aren’t you?  You mop it up.  And going past the swimming pool one day, indoor one, I saw a notice saying WAAFs were allowed on a Sunday morning.  And I thought, great!  So I wrote home to mother to say please send my swimming costume, which she did, and the next Sunday I was there, opened the door, and there were a load of chaps stark naked.  (Laughter)  Leaping in and out you see and for a moment there was a ghastly hush and then they all went splosh, in.  And I, quite scarlet you know, went quickly to the nearest cabin and stayed there for longer than I really needed to and when I came out they’d all got their costumes on and they were all very decorously draped around the edge.   I felt so embarrassed.  I’m not sure that I ever went back.  I loved swimming.  And nobody I’d seen encouraged it.   

Because it was a peace time station you could do all sorts of things.  I learnt to fence – I ask you?  Saturday dances and a lot of air crew up there.  Actually I think we did a six week course and then we were supposed to be qualified to work in a radar station.  And they sent me down to Cornwall and that really was frightful.  I’m sure Cornwall in the summer is lovely, but Cornwall in the winter…….it’s all misty and dark and we were billeted in this huge old house and there was no electricity.  You had a table by the back door with a load of candles on and a box of matches and you lit your candle and you trundled about trying to remember where your bedroom was, you know?  I can’t remember if there was a dining room but there must have been something because we did eat there.

JC  And what was the food like?  I mean did you do better maybe than the civilians would in wartime with the food you got or was it no better than anyone else’s?

PG  Well, it certainly wasn’t there.  And we were a mile and a half from the main gate so you walked the mile and a half and the transport came and picked you up and drove up to the station to work.  And then when you came back they dropped you at the gate and you had a mile and a half in the dark and you couldn’t get batteries much for your torch so you just hoped.  One by one the girls disappeared into bushes because they were bursting (Laughter), legs crossed, and everybody would wait for a moment or two until they toddled out again.  It was a funny old time.  I wasn’t particularly thrilled.  Particularly at Christmas when we just sat up there with the RAF Regiment which, in those days, was just a lot of old chaps you know, supposed to be guarding the station, and they sat there and we just looked at each other and thought ‘Funny way to spend Christmas’.

JC  And how long were you in Cornwall for working there?

PG  Oh, about four months I think.

JC  And were you posted again…………?

PG  Well, what happened was, a notice went up in the ‘Ops Box saying that they needed people to volunteer as instructors and, like an idiot, I thought that would mean I could go back to Cranwell you see.  Of course, it didn’t.  They sent me instead, in due course, to Yatesbury which was in the middle of Salisbury Plain.  Totally wartime so there were no facilities there.  There was a hospital and a cinema and that was it.  But there were odd NAAFIs where you could go and get a cup of tea and, actually, at that time I met my husband.  Not that I knew it at the time.  I wasn’t impressed at all.


And I didn’t much enjoy it.  Of course, the trouble was that the last month or two in Cornwall I had made friends with the boys who came from the nearest aerodrome.  You hear it on the news sometimes, I’m trying to think…………….. I think now they fly helicopters.

JC  Was it Mawgam?  That’s one of the …………….

PG  Yes, that’s right.  And then next to it there was another place.  Helicopters of course are so much better now.  You couldn’t have them much then.  But he was a………. there was a Canadian Squadron there and he was quite something in my life.  And so, when I was posted he nipped down to the station and gave me his ring and all the rest of it and off I went thinking ‘I’m a charlie’ you know, ‘Why didn’t I stay put’.  I landed back in Yatesbury and the first thing that happened was that, marching about in WAAF shoes – which was terribly hard – I got a blister on the back of my heel and it went septic.  It’s very difficult to march on parade with a septic foot so they duly sent transport for me and carted me off to, well the hospital I suppose, yes.  And to the hospital I went.  And when I was there Ned came in and said there’s a Canadian pilot outside asking for you but, would you believe, in those days you were not allowed to be visited.  I ask you!  But he said ‘I told him where you are and I said if he goes round the outside and stands there and looks up he’ll see you.’   So I tottered to the window and leant out and we had a sort of conversation.  It was maddening because he had hitched all the way up from Cornwall.  And that was the last time I saw him.  He got shot down over the Channel and, for a long time we thought he was a prisoner, but he wasn’t.  I think he’d been shot up after he’d got in there.  So that’s a bit………….  

And I stayed there at Yatesbury, not terribly long, I think it dawned on them that I was a bit young to be teaching other people what to do.  And I was posted up to Barrow-in- Furness.  Oddly enough Pete, my better half, had been there a long time before so one or two of the people up there he still knew.  I was billeted on a Police Sergeant and his wife because she didn’t like being alone at night so he worked it very cleverly so that when he was on duty, I was off, and vice versa.  I don’t know how he worked it, I left that to him.  I only heard the other day he’d just died in Canada.  He was a lovely chap and I don’t quite know how it happened but he had gone to hospital to have a hernia fixed I think, and got sick leave, and he came up to see his friends in Barrow and I was up there.  So he pursued me relentlessly.

JC  And you succumbed?

PG  Well to begin with I didn’t and then after a bit I thought ‘Oh, I don’t know it’s all quite fun isn’t it’.  And then I was posted on to Yorkshire.  Right on the edge.  We were billeted in a village, a hotel that had been a hotel but now was just full of bunks everywhere.  You bunked you know, you turned up the next night.  Then a lorry took you up to the station which was CHL which is Chain Home Low Flying so we had one sailor with us.  He was plotting shipping and we were plotting aircraft and it was hand turning.  You know how you see things going round very slowly on the tops of stations we called them flying bedsteds.  Well you turned it by hand.  You imagine, as the wind got up somebody had to come and help you and, eventually, if the wind got really strong, they literally had to lash it down which wasn’t a lot of good.  It was quite fun. But the cold, Yorkshire is cold, right on the edge it was somewhere sort of south of Bridlington I think.  I could find it on the map.  

It was all pretty bleak and by that time I had decided well, perhaps I would get married and I remember trying to ring my father up and he was in Canterbury which is the family home.  All the lines apparently went through London so you started a conversation and then, bang, it was being bombed and you were cut off.  And then you went back again and put some more money in the box and tried again.  I can remember that it took a long time and all my father had said was ‘But you might get left a widow with a child’.  Such a comfort!  And I said ‘Oh dad, we’ve got all that sorted out’.  Oh dear.  (Laughter) But I got 48 hours and went down to London and met my mother and together we went looking for suitable garments.  Of course I had no coupons, no clothing coupons.

JC  So what did you do?

PG  Borrowed hers.  I just got a little pale blue dress with a bolero and a hat, well hats were not on coupons so it was just a bunch of flowers and a lot of veiling.  And I had a pair of shoes from Civvy Street and, no, I hadn’t to buy a coat, I had one – perhaps more mother’s coupons.  When you think of girls getting married these days its remarkable isn’t it.

JC  Where did you get married?

PG  Well I had to get married in Cantrerbury and we had always gone to St. Martin’s Church which is a very old one, dear little church, but when it came to a Special Licence – they did Special Licences for the Forces, for 7s. 6d. cheap at the price – we discovered in fact that only our wood shed was in St. Martin’s, the rest of the house was in St. Paul’s and I wasn’t prepared to sleep in the wood shed for three nights (Laughter).  So we got married at St. Paul’s.  I’d never been in it before and there wasn’t a garden or a churchyard.  You just stepped straight out on to the pavement and into the street.   Not what you might call romantc at all.

JC  And what did you do after the wedding?  Was there some kind of reception possible?


PG  Well, 10 o’clock in the morning we got married, you see because you only had 14 days and we’d already spent one day getting home and going to the hairdresser and that sort of thing, and so we just literally had my mother, father, his mother and father, the best man (who I think was working at the Admiralty but got a day off) and a couple of army friends and one brother.  One of my brothers was home he went, he was the one who was in the tanks and he hadn’t rushed off to Africa.  So he came and really I think that was about it.  Not what you might call a reception but my father announced ‘I found a bottle of champagne, the real McCoy, in the cellar’ I think some in his parents house when they died.  (Laughter) So we did have a drink.  And my mother, not to be defeated, managed to organise a cake with some icing on it.  You weren’t allowed to ice a cake.  

(Muddled text for a while, unassociated with subject)

Mother saved fruit and icing sugar I suppose and got somebody to fix a little cake.

JC  That’s amazing because I know they were terrifically short and some people ended up with cardboard outsides……………

PG  Cardboard with cake inside.  You’re quite right.  (unclear text and muddled for some time; nothing to do with the interview)

When I think of it you know, mother was very long suffering because I was the only girl and she was obviously dying to have a summer wedding out in the marquee on the tennis court (we had a lot of ground there) and all the trimmings you know and of course she didn’t get any of that did she?

JC  Did  you manage to go away for a few days?

PG  Oh yes.  We went ………… we hopped on a train and went up to London and I was beginning to feel peckish by then, it was 1 o’clock(ish) I suppose, and so Pete said Well we’ll have to get some food somewhere before we catch the next train on’.   And there was one of those sort of trolley things they used to have on the platform and he disappeared and went to the trolley and he came back and he said all they’d got was these sandwiches and then he was starting moaning a bit you see and saying ‘Well it isn’t fish, it’s fish paste’ and promptly choked on a fish bone.  That was daft wasn’t it?  (Laughter)

And then we went on…………. well, we came this way but we didn’t get to Bere the first night, we stopped at Kingsweir.  I think, we stopped at Kingsweir over night and went on from there the next day.  And the first thing we saw when we got into our bedroom and opened the window, there was one of these wretched little stations with a thing twirling round on the top.  Can’t get away from it, can you.

JC  You were actually on the radar! (Laughter)

PG  Hilarious wasn’t it.  But it’s a dear little place there, you probalby know it.  The stream runs down the side of the road and of course that was black out then so you had to sort of shuffle your way.  The place we were staying in didn’t have a licence and if you wanted a drink you went out and went up the road to the pub.  And because we couldn’t see where the stream was, of course we went straight in.  Its a good thing to do on your way back from the pub.  And then we got a telegram from my mother and I thought ‘Oh, here we go again I’m going to be posted’.  Because they used to do that.  They simply sent you a telegram wherever you were and I was more or less starting to pack you know, but it was my mother saying that Canterbury had been bombed but they were OK.  And they had been bombed too, in a big way.  They didn’t hit the Cathedral, they hit a lot of the things around the Cathedral, but they didn’t actually hit the Cathedral itself.  But she thought well, it would come out on the news, and we would be having fits.  And certainly a lot of their friends were killed so it was just as well to know.  And then, of course, we went home.  We got back into our uniforms – he went one way, I went the other way.  That’s a funny way to start out isn’t it.  

JC  What other places were you posted to?


PG  I went down to Hastings, which was fine, again I was in a private digs there.  Dear old motherly soul who I do remember when I had frightful stomach ache one day filled me up with hot gin.  Literally, tipped it into a saucepan and put it on the heat.  And I’d never had gin cold, let alone hot, before. 

JC  Did it work?

PG  I think it did, yes.  Well it knocked me out anyway.  It was incredible.  After Hastings, what did I do?  I think they sent me down to Kent after that, Kingsdown, and I didn’t stay long at Kingsdown.  I’m not quite sure whether they were altering the station or what they were doing but I remember feeling terribly distressed because I was billeted with an elderly lady and she had rheumatoid arthritis and one didn’t know much about it in those days and I used to come in off late duty, about 11 o’clock at night, and you could hear her moaning or crying.  And do you know, when you’re 18 you don’t quite know, do you?  Do you go in and hug her or do you pretend you haven’t heard.   It used to worry me but I didn’t stay long, they moved me on and I went to Dover and I stayed at Dover for the rest of the war.  Which, was by then, ….. no wait a moment……….. I must have gone to Swanage.  Yes, I did, because I went to Swanage and Worth Matravers……?

JC  I know it very well, my brother has a house there.  

PG  He does?

JC  So you were at the radar station  there?

PG  Well, we trained there on Pathfinding.  There was a radar station, there was a lot going on there.  It was getting near the time of the Second Front so the place was crawling with Americans and Jeeps and over the land, it was there, and we used to laugh about it because the chaps would lean out of the Jeeps and say ‘Do you wanna come to cawfee?’.  We never knew if they were offering us a cup of………… or Corfe Castle.  (Laughter)  And then I did this course, going back and forth a bit because they used to do that, to guide Pathfinders out.  It was something quite new then over……….. we knew it was 9,000, but it was extraordinarly accurate.  It involved an awful lot of arithmetic.  I could only think I got in on it because I’d done trig when I was at a school and somebody must have looked it up in the book and said ‘Oh, she’ll do’, you know.

JC  It was quite a complicated procedure though?

PG  Yes, because you’d got to know the exact distance, I mean you are aiming for one hut, you’ve got to know the exact distance, you’ve got to know which way the wind is blowing – is it taking them on or pushing them back – is it taking off to the left or the right?  And I can still tell you the rate of a falling bomb in vacuo, the acceleration is 22 feet per second, per second, in vacuo.  It sticks doesn’t it?  things you learn when you’re young, stick.  So yes, we were there quite a while and then we had to practice because it was two stations working together and the distance had to be right to get the angle right.  One of them kept the plane going like this …………… and it wasn’t a beam you could bend – it was a series of dots and dashes – and the other one picked it up at a certain stage and gave it letters as they got nearer to the target…………. A, B, C cross reference –  exactly how it went?  But then, when you finally gave them the push they pressed the button and you had to allow for that half-second before, you know, that it took.

JC  So really you were working out all the mathematics and the pilot was just………………..?

PG  On the nights, the chap who was in charge actually pressed the button.  But you really did spend all day up there and you all did it.  Between four and six of you on the Watch.and you all did it when you were given the exact distance and then you all came up with your answers and probably somebody was different so you went through the lot again, and then you gave it to the Sergeant. The Sergeant had done her calculations and if, by any happy chance, she agreed with you they then went on the green phone – you know, scrambler – to the other station we were working with and they had done the same thing and then we compared again.  If anybody was different you started from the beginning.  But it was very satisfying and of course they took a photograph as we did it so from time to time you would get a photograph of what you’d done.  Or, if not, you might get the Controller from the other Station coming on and saying, you know, ‘We hit it’.  But the funniest thing was, and it is naughty really, one of the Controllers, it had to be ex-aircrew you see having a break from flying, and we had a Lieutenant (can’t think what his name was) and he went on and on, he didn’t like the job you see so they put him back on Operations again. The very first night he went out he got shot up the backside.  (Laughter)  It was before they had……. you know they put metal sheets underneath them afterwards, and I’m afraid we all fell about laughing, it serves him right!  Very naughty.


It was incredibly accurate.  I thought that all Pathfinders worked that way but when we went out to Germany the other day I went to lay a wreath with a Pathfinder pilot and I said to him ‘Did you go out with OBOE’ and he said ‘No we went out with GEE-H’ and I don’t know but I think GEE-H was what we called 7000 lb.  Only two Squadrons used OBOE but I suppose you see, with all these different stations, it was getting a bit confusing.  So I felt………… I didn’t say we we were much more accurate than you boys.  Yes, it was fascinating and my brother by then was in Poland in the prison camp, Poznan.   Well he was out there and I remembe we were guiding chaps out there……   (speaks to dog)  I couldn’t make up my mind you know whether he would look up and see British bombers going over and think ‘WOW’ or whether, you know, if they went mad and didn’t press the button at the right time they might have hit the prison camp instead.  I had mixed feelings about that.


JC  During the war period were you ever under fire yourself?

PG  Well, only at Dover.  They were shelling al the time.  Well, on and off.  Because I had to bicycle to work – we lived in the village – and you went across the cliffs what, two or three miles, and in front of the big guns.  They were naval guns which were set up all the way along you see, and of course, if they fired you got the blast.  I mean it was enough to push you off your bicycle and whoosh you through the air.  It’s terrific.  And of course, if one came the other side………….. that was awkward because the little tiny station we had when you finally got there was right on the cliff edge and I was up there one night and I knew we’d got half an hour or so before we’d started, took off dropping bombs, and so I nipped out to the WAAF (? unclear) – it was like a little sentry box you see,- and there was a socking great hole in front of it.  And I looked at it and I thought ‘that’s odd ‘.    

And then it dawned on me it was an unexploded shell that had gone in and hadn’t gone off if you see what I mean.  And I thought ‘Now do I chance it, do I leap the hole and sit over an unexploded shell?’  and I thought no.  So I went back back into the ‘Ops room and there was a very nice technical officer we had – we thought he’d got one foot in the grave – he was probably about 35 I should think, and I said to him ‘Mr. S there’s an unexploded shell under my (? unclear).  What do we do?’  And he went and had a look and he came back and said ‘You keep well away because if that goes up we’ll know all about it’.   And he took a torch and led us round the blast wall round the ‘Ops box you see.  Between the ‘Ops box and blast wall there was a sort of no-man’s-land and he took us round there and then he turned off the torch looked the other way and said ‘Get on with it girls’.

JC  And that’s where your shrapnel came from then, Dover?

PG  Oh yes, definitely, from Dover, yes.  And that night we were next door to the Air Sea Rescue plotting room which was big, there were a lot of people on that, and apparently one of their shells coming over took the top off it.  

One of the girls had just been dispatched to make tea and she’d got a tray with about twelve cups of tea on it, and she clung grimly to this tray and of course, carried by the blast still carrying her tray of tea, landed up in the field.  I thought that was devotion to duty.  (Laughter)

But after that they put them down in the Castle which was very, very thick and you see, they didn’t need an (unclear, possibly aerial?) people were just phoning into them and giving them fixes where they had seen people stuck at sea and that sort of thing.  But we had to stay there, we had no option. So in future I crossed my legs at night, there was nothing else to do.  It was really funny.   

They had a funny Watch system.  The evening Watch systems you went on at 6 and you could be there until 8 in the morning which is a long time.  But if, by any chace, the operation was done and the planes had been safely seen home, I was in the stronger position because I’d got my bicycle you see and I could get on my bicycle and bike home and hope that our guns weren’t blasting.  

But the thing that really made us laugh, in the village there were two policemen.  I suppose they were too old to go to war maybe.  A fat one and a thin one.  The fat one was quite a jolly chap you see.  And he, apparently, was walking up and down  (I suppose he had to promenade about you see) on duty one night.  Obviously a moonlit night and he thought ‘Oh there’s their loo, I’ll use that’.  So he got in their little sentry box and he opened the door and he was looking out at the moon and enjoying the view and suddenly the guns went off.  And they just went suddenly – boom – and the rush of air will move you a long way so he was flung, trousers round his ankles, into the (?) field.  I think he dined out on that for weeks.  I’m sure he got a lot of free drinks.  I thought it was hilarious.  

JC  Were you demobbed at the end of the war or did you come out before that?

PG  I came out just before the end because when we got to the stage when we were out of bombing range, and the war was plainly drawing to a close, I thought, now is the time.  I didn’t want to get put on to something else so I decided that this was the moment to start the family.  And I was very lucky because I had had a miscarriage before and so, when they thought I was pregnant but they weren’t quite sure, they said ‘Well you can have three months.  If you haven’t grown in the right direction by then, you’ll have to go back in again.’  But I did.  So that was all right.  that was it.

JC  Well that’s been absoluely fascinating Patsy. 


Recording is stopped.