Yeovil at war

Yeovil at war

The wartime Yeovil recollections of Ruth Haskins


During the six months before D-day, the number of troops in camps increased... Everyone knew things were moving but no one mentioned it. In wartime you were careful what you said. 'Careless talk costs lives,' the posters said. My husband was stationed at Yeovil, it was his fifth year in the RAF. On his last leave in late April I realised something was up. He had periods of being quiet. He told me what he thought I should do if I was posted overseas but assured me it was unlikely. On the station before he left, he said: "Could you get away on your own if I send you a message?"

"Of course," I replied.

"Make sure you don't tell anyone where you're going."

Then one night at the end of May a policeman came to the door from the local station, he called me outside. "Your husband phoned to say come tomorrow, go straight to the camp and report to the sentry." I made excuses to my in-laws, they looked after the children. I caught the early train, the platform was crowded with troops going back from leave, Naval officers and ministry officials waiting for a London train. When the train came it was packed with troops and sailors going to the south coast. There were no seats left so I stood to Yeovil. It was a brisk three-mile walk to the camp outside the town. The lanes were full of assorted vehicles, trucks, lorries, gun carriages, covered in camouflage nets, guarded by armed soldiers.

I made good time to camp where he was already at the gate. We were able to stay on the outer perimeter, so we sat on the grass in the sun to eat the picnic I brought with me. He told me he was confined to camp from midnight, not to worry if there were no letters from him for a while. We exchanged news, he gave me sweets for the children from the USA camp, a pair of nylons and a stick of make-up (very precious in those days). Then it was time to go. After hugs and kisses I made my way home with a heavy heart. It was very quiet on the train home, there was only me in the carriage.

In the next couple of days, the troops began to disappear from the streets. It became quite quiet. There seemed to be more air traffic at night, bombers going over. Then came the night when it seemed as if the sky was full of throbbing engines of large planes going over. I remember lying in bed awake, feeling a cold chill, praying for all those young men going out to face danger, perhaps death. I thought of John, whether he was onshore or afloat.

Early next morning we were sat by the radio to hear the early news. Sure enough, it was announced that D-day had come, troops were being landed on beaches in Normandy, there was fierce fighting. A week or so later, I got a card from John to say he was well. He was still in the UK, in East Anglia. He had no address then. He would let me know it when he was allowed to release it. It was a long hard battle, thousands lost their lives, but John came safely home. We have been married 50 years in November with four children and 13 grandchildren.


Reproduced from the BBC's "a href="" target="_blank">WW2 People's War" under the 'fair dealing' terms.