Miss Elizabeth Lake was the daughter of a school headmaster and she received her call up papers in late 1941 and was ordered to be at Euston Station very early on a December morning. The station was of course blacked out and there were hundreds of service personnel milling around. She along with the others of her intake were put on a train bound for Gloucester, this was to be part of a long tedious journey to Morecambe Bay. Here the RAF had commandeered almost all the bed and breakfast establishments and Miss Lake and her W.A.A.F colleagues were to be billeted four to a bedroom and having to double up by sharing two single beds.
During the first two or three weeks they were tested to ascertain where their talents would be best suited, at the same time they underwent medicals and were put through their paces with plenty of drill on the sea front.
Elizabeth recalls that the W.A.A.F officers were generally a nice bunch of people who made the best of what was a pretty grim time. At the end of the assessment phase the W.A.A.F intake assembled in a cinema and were allocated their work. Their service numbers and surnames were individually called out and they were given their new posting locations, which for Elizabeth Lake was a journey by train to RAF Exeter.
She recollects that her plotting table training at Exeter was carried out away from the main operations block, which was situated at Poltimore a mile or two away from the airfield.
Once she was trained her shift pattern was something like 8am- 5pm, 11pm- 8am, 5pm-11pm, they also had to take turn at night guard duty on the base parameter, kitchen duties (like peeling potatoes) and stoking the main boiler which heated the base. Then back on duty at 8am for the next shift. This all started in the worst winter for some years, it was so cold that the main water tank split open one night and the water froze in midstream to form an arc from the tank to the ground. Their accommodation was in unlined Nissen huts, each with a small stove providing the bare minimum of heating. They all had to take turns during the night to re-stoke the stove and fetch coke from the store, plus any odd bits of wood or whatever was around. Meals were generally pretty awful given the rationing at the time.
However as her photographs show, it was not all doom and gloom and as one would expect with a crowd of young ladies thrown together by circumstances of war, they knew how to let their hair down when the opportunities arrived. These came in the form of twenty-four or forty-eight hour leave passes. Her normal forty-eight hour pass started on the Friday evening so she would board a train for her London home, on one occasion this coincided with an invitation to a Royal Navy dance at Plymouth. She left her baggage in the guardroom at the station and went to the dance, returning to Exeter the following morning with three minutes to run over the platform bridge, retrieve her baggage and then run back to catch her London bound train! When going on leave, she travelled with her two close friends, Norah Crabb and Betty ???
Rules that they had to travel in uniform were often flouted – as they used to change into civvies behind a garden wall near their bus stop. On one occasion, they emerged to find a senior W.A.A.F officer waiting for the same bus.!