Boots & Bullsh*t
A Precious Moment - Literally
Ponder on the part of ‘luck’ during a time of war. In 1941 I was an ACW 2 in WRAF Signals stationed at RAF Andreas on the Isle of Man working and living in the local school in Ramsey which had been turned into an ‘Ops’ room. I had a secret date with a young officer, Flight Lieutenant Brooke – the Chief Signal Officer on the airfield. I was an innocent girl of 19. He was 21. In those days of course officers and other ranks were not allowed to mix.
One afternoon we agreed to meet just outside the base but to my horror he didn’t turn up and I was due back for duty in the operations room shortly. I used a nearby telephone box to call him at the Officers Mess. Much to my surprise it was he answered the ‘phone. His explanation for not meeting me was having been delegated ‘Duty Stooge’ taking lunch and drinks with the Commanding Officer and his wife together with a friend Major Waite and other VIP’s. They were all about to go across to the airfield on a short flight. The CO wanted to take up the aircraft which had landed earlier in an emergency having lost a glider it was towing over the Irish Sea.
Returning to base I went on duty straight away taking over ‘Ops A’. The controller told me to ignore the lone plane that was just taking off as it was the CO with his group of friends. Minutes later I was horrified to take an alert call to be told the tragic account of the aircraft having crashed while taking off and that the Wing Commander and all the others on board had been killed. I could barely repeat the message to my controller while desperately hiding the shock and horror of my feelings. Imagine then everyone’s shock in ‘Ops’ when, half an hour later, Flt Lt Brooke walked into the room. In due course everyone was to learn the whole story.
After lunch they were all leaving the Mess to drive across the other side of the airfield. Just as they were all going out of the door the telephone rang which the ‘Duty Stooge’ answered. Of course it was me enquiring why he had not turned up for our secret rendezvous. By the time he had put the phone down the group had then left. For a moment he was going to follow in his own car but decided not to and returned to the Mess.
So, it was by a sheer stroke of good luck I saved the life of my future husband.
Footnote: Those who died were buried in the tiny village Churchyard very close to the airfield. Indeed, it was so close that when the war started the Church spire had to be taken down so the Spitfires could take off and land safely. After the war the MoD offered to replace the spire. However, the PPC requested the money be used instead for a Church organ. To this day the story is on a plaque inside the church.
Ex-ACW 2 WRAF Mrs. Joyce Brooke, Winchester.
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