ATS Reunion

We have seen recently how involved Nancy Dora Dinnis was during WWII serving with the A.T.S. [Auxiliary Territorial Service] 93rd Searchlight Regiment. They became very close friends, and reunited some thirty years later to look back at their shared experiences. Here are a couple of newspaper clippings regarding the reunion.

12 May 1973

12 May 1973

Wartime Comrades Re-Unite After 30 Years

During the last war a dozen teenagers joked that they would re-unite 30 years later and laugh about the experiences which didn’t seem so funny at the time.

And on Saturday they are going to do just that in Hemel Hempstead. The 12 former Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) girls are now almost 50 and have kept in touch each Christmas. One is travelling from Miami in America and is bringing all her letters through the years with her.

The reunion will be at the home of Mrs Gertrude Mitchell, at Lonsdale, Highfield, Hemel Hempstead.

“Most of us have not seen each other since 1945,” said Mrs Mitchell, “although we have written every Christmas. But we always planned to meet up again to re-live our memories.”

They had hoped to arrange it exactly 30 years later but the one from America couldn’t make it until this year so it was postponed. They will have a meal at Mrs Mitchell’s home before travelling to their wartime post at Chalfont St Peter.

They were stationed in the searchlight installation there and believe that it is now a grazing field. “We should have a good laugh and it will be wonderful to see everyone again,” said Mrs Mitchell.

Nancy Dora Arkell, middle of back row

Nancy Dora Arkell, middle of back row

Memories came flooding back on Saturday when a group of women made a nostalgic visit to the picturesque village of Fulmer, where they were stationed during the second world war.

The women, all members of the 93rd Searchlight Regiment, reunited at the home of Mrs Peddlesden, at Pennicroft, Hay Lane.

The trip down memory lane was organised by Mrs Gertrude Mitchell, of Hemel Hempstead, who remembered one of the many “hilarious” incidents which happened during their stay in Fulmer in the ’40’s.

“I had just climbed over a fence one night into a field and while negotiating a stile I put my foot on a cow, who promptly got up and I went crashing to the ground,” she laughed.

Ten years later Gertrude Mitchell wrote a poem for their 40th anniversary on the 1st of May 1982, entitled ‘Forty Years On’.

It scarcely seems like forty years since all of us first met

We’d joined the women’s army, a time we can’t forget

We came from towns and villages, from Durham and the Dales

From London and from Lancashire, our sergeant came from Wales.

The training was quite different from anything we’d done

And marching on the barrack square didn’t seem much fun

Our uniforms were very smart, with buttons polished bright

We even had a fur coat to keep us warm at night.

At six weeks we were posted to training on searchlights

And given different jobs to do, including guard at nights

The passing out parade came round and off we went again

To a site near Chalfont, along a lonely lane.

We didn’t have electric or water from the mains

A lorry came to fill the tank and we helped clear the drains

We gathered wood to stoke the fires and weeded all the paths

We had to use a bucket to have our daily baths.

We also dug a great big pit to empty ‘Linga Longa’

And sometimes we banged saucepan lids, and often danced the Conga

We planted twigs and flowers to mark the latest spot

You should have seen the plague of wasps that came when it was hot.

We drank a lot of cocoa, on dripping toast we fed

And loved potato and leek soup before we went to bed

We made our own amusements and played cards half the night

We often gathered mushrooms before the morning light.

‘Take Post’ the order of the day came over loud and clear,

Upon our duty R.T. set, the enemy were near.

And so we were on duty all day and every night

Quite often we ‘homed’ damaged planes by putting up our light.

The twelve of us at Jordans, and most of us are here

Were like one happy family, a thing we hold most dear

We shared our ‘cigs’, our clothes and cash, and sometimes boyfriends too

We had our disagreements as all large families do.

But now we’re here together in nineteen eighty two

To celebrate the forty years and all that we went through

So come on raise your glasses, and drink a toast with me

To ‘JORDANS’ and our memories, the best there’ll ever be.

About Jackie Dinnis

Welcome to my blog where I am enjoying meeting my family - past and present - one at a time. Join me as I learn who my ancestors were, where they lived, what their occupations were and what everyday life was like for them.
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