Phyllis Elms

Thinking Back

by Phyllis Elms

I worked as a winder in the Coil Shop from 1940 – 46 and met my husband George who joined us after serving the war years on the continent in a signals regiment. George, a charge hand in the Model Shop and the Machine Shop, used to travel in from Chippenham on an open backed canvas topped vehicle known as the ‘High Flyer’, where before the out break of war he had served his time in the Westinghouse factory as a tin man or sheet metal worker.

I used to travel into work on my bicycle as did most of the workers apart from those bused in from the surrounding villages and I often found myself behind the lorries taking the Italian POWs from the camp at Easton Grey to local farms to work in the fields.

We used to hitch-hike everywhere as there were so many troops on the roads. We would go to Swindon to the SPA concerts which is where I first saw Petula Clark when she was just a small girl. We also had concerts in the canteen at work during the dinner times for which we had an hour but I usually cycled home for dinner so I missed many of these.

Work in the Factory was very hard with long hours and it was also very cold. I used to wind coils for which there was a bonus scheme awarding a prize for the fastest worker. The prize I won was a visit to Bristol where we went on board a Destroyer that had only just docked from active service, this I very much enjoyed. The man who timed our work for the bonus prizes was a Peter Stroud.

I was 19 years old at the time and was very excited to meet special visitors to the factory such as Sir Stafford Cripps, Larry Cooley, and Spitfire Pilots, ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham and Johnny Johnson.

There was a woman called Mildred who worked in the canteen and she would boil eggs that we had brought in to work ourselves on very late shifts. Some of the names of the workers in the coil shop who I remember are Peggy Pike, Freda Holst, Nancy Turner, Phil Vaughan, Eva Hanington, Olive Pinnel, Doris Paginton who came from Cirencester and Dennis Maslin who was our Charge Hand. Mr Taylor was one of the bosses and I think he came from Southend and there was a Mr Rouse too. There were some bosses called the Barrett’s and one of them had a daughter who always dressed to the ‘nines’, everybody wondering where she got all her ‘Tokens’ from.

I was the first girl in Malmesbury to have purchased a pair of ‘Wedge Healed’ shoes, all the other girls would ask me where in Bristol I had got them from but I wouldn’t tell them. I’m not to sure, but I think I was at work when bombs fell nearby at Rodbourne House where some of our workers were billeted. They may have been meant for us or the nearby airfield at Hullavington.

My work friend Nancy Turner came to Malmesbury to visit many years after the war and came to find me at my house and since then we kept in touch by letter and telephoned each-other nearly every day until sadly she recently departed us all.

These are just a few very brief memories as I could talk for hours about those happier days although we did have tough times as well as good.

13/02/2021