This week we have a nice little postcard from the Second World War. The fit (or lack thereof) of army uniforms has long been a source of humour and one famous joke went that in the army there were two sizes of clothing, too large and too small. If your uniform fitted you , then you were clearly the wrong size. This card though pokes gentle fun at the size of army trousers:In many ways the back of the postcard is more interesting than the front:The card was sent to a Private Hatfield of the ATS who was based in Chilwell:It seems to have been sent by a fellow ATS member, possibly on leave:The card reads:
I am having a fine time, dancing, beer and men, but it’ll be grand to see all the girls in Camp. Hope you are all fine in Hut 44.
Chilwell Camp was particularly large, as recalled by one member of the ATS, Joan Ball:
After training I was sent to Chilwell, Nottinghamshire. The camp was enormous, with three thousand army personnel and three thousand civilians. Military policemen were on duty at all the entrances and we had to salute every officer we met. We were billeted in the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, a large building on top of a hill. The dining room, catering for a thousand girls, was huge. The food was generally plain and rather stodgy. We had scrambled egg, which arrived on huge trays and was made from dried egg, for breakfast. It was not a pretty sight; but it was either that or porridge. We brought bread and cheese back from meals to toast for supper while sitting around the fire trying to keep warm. Mother sent me food parcels occasionally, which was a treat.
Fortunately there weren’t too many air raids. Life was busy but we had plenty of leisure pursuits at the camp. Telephones were a luxury in most homes at the time so I wrote lots of letters.
I was trained as a clerical officer. After passing my exams I was allocated to an office about a mile from the barracks. It being such a large camp, discipline required that we march to work in platoons. When it was dark the last person at the rear carried a lantern. Eventually I was promoted to Lance Corporal and was in charge of the platoon as well as joining the guard duty rota at the barracks.
M Newberry was another at Chilwell:
I served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S) and the Women’s Royal Army Corps (W.R.A.C) from 1940 to 1951. I was aged 23 when I volunteered to join the A.T.S at the recruiting office in Trinity Square, Nottingham on 12th September 1940. A week later I was embodied at Neville’s Cross Recruiting Depot, County Durham on 20th September 1940. After 3 weeks training and being kitted out in uniform I was posted to Central Ordnance Depot (C.O.D), Chilwell, Notts, Platoon 4, Hut 48 on 11th October 1940.
From then my work was in the Depot M.T. (Mechanical Transport) Stores, Building 157, R.A.O.C (Royal Army Ordnance Corps), with the road and railway bringing the stores in at one end and the rail and road taking the stores out to all the war zones at the other end.
The A.T.S were billeted in a camp on the hill overlooking the Depot brick huts with the so called ‘Donkey Store’ (hard to get going). These huts housed 24 girls each. They had to be meticulously cleaned each day, except weekends, for inspection, with all bedding barracked perfectly. This was before we marched on parade to and from work, twice a day to the Depot.
The stores we were packing were for the R.A.O.C and we had to be Trade Tested and learn about stores. This meant that we were given an increase in pay when we passed these Tests and then allowed to wear the R.A.O.C badge over the lapel coat pocket. After that we worked hard to earn promotion, I was fortunate to gain a quick year of holding Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant ranks in 1942/43. Then finally I was promoted to Warrant Officer II in 1945, which is shown in my records.
Trade Testing gave us a foresight into stores we could be handling in the course of our work, particularly the areas due to receive them in all corners of the world such as in the African Campaign, the North Atlantic (Mumansk) and Japanese (Far East) where stores were specially treated for the climatic conditions for example Tank Sealing (Arcticisation) for Russia, (Wax Dipping) South East Asia Command for humidity. Welding and tyre re-treading was a speciality done by A.T.S as well as Clerks, Cooks, Orderlies and Admin. We had Russian representatives stationed in the Depot to oversee the Arcticisation of tanks, vehicles and spares.
Night shift was introduced as the war intensified and bunk beds were introduced to accommodate more A.T.S up to 5,000 in Chilwell from all over the country and the British Empire e.g. Jamaica. D Day, VE Day and VJ Day will long be remembered by the A.T.S. who were stationed at Chilwell.
At the end of the war we still had plenty of work to do as stores were returned to Chilwell by the troops coming home. This continued until my demob number was due and after careful consideration I decided to accept my recommendation for a Commission in the A.T.S.