Memoirs of a WAAF – looking back made Mum cry!
Originally born in Canada, Daphne Tester (nee Dangerfield – my Mum!) has lived in East Grinstead with her family for over 50 years. In 2008, having lived in the same house for 48 years, they realised they would have to move to something smaller and more manageable. Luckily they quickly discovered a lovely flat only ¼ mile away. They had accumulated a lot over that time, and re-discovering them brought back lots of happy memories.
Daphne had often reminisced about her years in ‘service’ and vaguely mentioned her diaries that she wrote during that time, but had forgotten that she had still kep them. During the process of sorting ready for the move, there they were, tucked away – 5 years of diaries and photographs from her days in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) from late 1941 to 1946. She rang her daughter Sue, wondering what she should do with them, wondering whether to throw them away!
It wasn’t until they looked at them afresh that they realised her diaries were a rare find. However, after 60 years of storage they had become almost unreadable in places. Daphne asked Sue if she could type up the contents to preserve the history and show the family. While typing up the first batch Sue found them really interesting and often quite funny to read, with her WAAF jargon and some Canadian twang shining through.
The story starts in London, late 1941 when she details the process of signing up, continues on to her training at Cranwell in Essex and her final posting to Bradwell, where she stayed until she was demobbed in 1946. She writes about the good times and the bad, comments on the weather, her duties, and the conditions they had to tolerate, plus of course the many friends she made and the boyfriends she went out with when off-duty. One comment was “I was having the time of my life”, which subsequently became the title of the Kindle book, which is still available. She even did tiny sketches on the spare pages in the diaries – she still draws and paints to this day.
Sue soon realised that the diaries were too good to simply show the family, so she asked her Mum about publishing them as a book. The initial reaction was “do you think they’re good enough, it’s just stuff I did during the war?” Sue laughed and said she thought it was good to read and so would others. Having convinced her Mum that it was possible, and with her business contacts to help produce and self-publish it, the challenge was on!
Finally, in November 2010 ‘Memoirs of a WAAF (Volume 1 1942)’ was published and required several print runs to meet demand. The book has raised lots of interest, with Sue and Daphne doing book signings and Sue giving talks on her Mums behalf. They both appeared on BBC South East news for the centenary celebrations for International Women’s day which was broadcast from Newhaven Fort in March 2011.
After the success of the book Sue decided to convert it to Kindle as (‘Time of My Life’) so that it would be available to anyone worldwide. She is also writing stories about businesses in her local town of Uckfield and would like to hear from any new or small business who have a story to tell. She has the questions, all you do is answer them!
Call Sue today if you would like her to publish your story:
01825 761890 or