War on the Wheels

War on the Wheels
The story of the people

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Voices of the time

Part of the joy of writing War on Wheels was to pick up on voices from the period. Here is an extract from the Sunday Pictorial, a popular magazine of the time.

'By 1944 there were established ATS units at most depots and the women themselves had become fully skilled at the tasks they undertook.

'They are dressed in grubby fatigue suits - boiler suits more or less to you - with an old piece of rag to tie up their hair.

'Like twenty-year old Beryl Barnes, for instance. People in Rainham, Essex, probably know her by sound. She used to say, “number please?”, at the end of their telephones.

'Until her particular Second Front started at this depot, which nourishes our armies in the field with nuts and bolts, Beryl was a clerk in the office. She used to watch the trains load and unload, rather bored with the whole thing, if the truth be told.

'Then her Second Front started. “May I leave the office?” asked Beryl. “I would like to work out there.” Perhaps the fact that she’s engaged to an officer in the Sherwood Foresters had something to do with it.

'I know it did in Doris Atkinson’s case. This twenty-two year-old ATS wife from West Mailing is married to a Marine who fought at Narvick, Matapan and Crete.

'Yes, these are men and women we tend to forget. But when the historical moment arrives when we set foot on the first stage of the march to Berlin, I suggest you remember this. Remember that without the sweat and toil of thousands of unsung heroes like them your son and husband would have nothing to fight with. Their private Second Front is almost over. They can do no more.



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