World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

 Bea Winterburn

No Office Work Thank You

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Bea Winterburn
Location of story: Leeds


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Bea Winterburn.


Having worked in an office since leaving school in 1939, I was determined not to do office work in the forces. I had volunteered for the W.R.V.S. in 1942; in July, I went to Mill Hill in North West London for initial training and general assessment.

The “powers that were”, decided that Station X was my destination-the prospect of more secret office work didn’t appeal at all, so I said, “No thank you.”

In August 42, I was on my way to HMS Landrail, Machrehanesh in Argyllshire, as a maintenance WREN. In May, 43, I went on one of the first WREN Air Mechanics’ courses, specialising in engines at HMS Fledgling in Staffordshire. It was a five months intensive course; I learned about “Otto’s Cycles” and how to adjust tappets. I was also able to do daily engine run-ups and complete form 700 (Daily Inspection). On completion of the course, I was posted to HMS Nightjai (between Preston and Blackpool) to become the Commander’s (flying) personal mechanic. I loved the job, especially when Blackpool FC was playing at home. We would fly around Bloomfield Road for the second half of the match. The Commander would ask me for a description of the action. What I knew then and what I know now about football, wouldn’t fill a postage stamp. My father was a Bradford Northern Rugby League supporter and he enjoyed taking me to home matches (especially when I was wearing my WREN uniform).

I was fortunate to be able to work on the “Ancient and Modern” fleet of planes from Swordfish and Albacores to Fulmars, Seafires etc. Being tall, I was able to work inside the engine with a light strapped to my forehead.

I enjoyed my 2 ½ years in the WRVS, especially as I was doing something different from clerical work.