Violet Nye Memoirs of the War, with brief facts about her and her family's experiences of the war
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|Title||Violet Nye Memoirs of the War, with brief facts about her and her family's experiences of the war|
|Notes||It seems but yesterday that I, with thousands of other girls, applied for enrolment in the W.A.A.C. I received a summons to go before a selection board. I went and found that I was to be questioned, cross-questioned and generally summed up by a few women who, it seemed to me, had had very little training themselves in any way. However, they were anxious to find the right people for the right jobs and having heard what my experience had been hitherto the President of the selections board pointed out to me that I must not be a member but an Administrator - for experienced people were scarce. Having passed a medical examination I joined about twenty other women at a centre. Here we received a number of lectures, on accounting, indenting, store-keeping, administrative work, messing and the like. I received the jeers of the class but the praise of the lecturer an army officer for proposing that our unit should keep a pig “ to be fed on refuse from our kitchens. Later experience taught me that there ain't goin' to be no refuse.|
Having completed our course of lectures and passed an examination we were sent in groups of twos or threes to different camps. We were lodged in hostels. We were taught the practical side of what we had learnt in the lectures. We got to be very friendly with the quartermaster, sergeants', messing officers, army cooks and those all important beings “ adjutants!
Our group of three learnt all these things in a station on the south coast. The branch to which we were attached was made up of men and officers who were either medically unfit for service abroad or those who had been wounded and would go out again later. They were most helpful and friendly and invited us to tea etc. to the intense annoyance of the Unit Administrator in whose hostel we were lodged. She, being worthy, but not beautiful, was not included in the invitations and therefore tried to order us not to go out. This was my first example of what not to do if and when I became an administrator.
At the end of our course a report was made about our behaviour, intelligence, tact and general suitability and the great day came when I received my appointment as Administrator “ three pips (a Captain), a grant was given for uniform (the tailors got it all) and I reported at the Connaught Club. Here I learnt store keeping, how to issue uniforms, catering on a grand scale with limited funds, how to arrange schedules of work, free time, sick leave. All sorts of women were at that club. Girls to whom the war meant adventure. Girls whose brothers, relatives or fiancÃ©s were either out there or going. Women whose husbands were there and some who went on with their daily work even after receiving telegrams that their husbands were dead or wounded. There were women who had never done any sort of work before, but everyone was more than anxious to learn and improve.
My particular work was to go to different stations, report to the adjutants of guards, artillery, anti-aircraft or whatever branch needed women workers, and to install a domestic staff in a hostel. These women cooked for, and kept clean, the hostel for the women who worked in the camp. Our corps supplied cooks, clerks, store keepers, telephonists, waitresses and other categories. I arranged with the adjutant the duties to be carried out, the hours, the free time, sick leave, reliefs etc. Having got a hostel and a unit running well, I handed it over to an administrator who carried on.
After some months of this work I was given my own command and promoted to be a Deputy Administrator. We lived in huts built on a swamp “ I can feel the cold now in my marrow “ but nobody got ill. When we had just got installed, a few weeks before Christmas, I asked the Adjutant whether he would countenance a dance for the girls and the men who were left on duty.
He jumped at the suggestion and with the help of the quartermaster sergeant a list was prepared of men to be invited. The girls worked with great enthusiasm. Paper decorations cheered up out huts, the hostel cooks surpassed themselves with cakes, sandwiches, lemonade, paper napkins, all kinds of luxuries materialised. The men came over and moved furniture, carried coke, nailed up things and when all was ready our guests appeared. How there buttons shone! How white the whistle cords were! How clean their boots! How well shaven they were! The Adjutant led off the dance with my forewoman and a delightful evening was spent. The men sent a message of thanks the next day and only later did we learn that on that foggy, rainy, miserable Christmas eve, while we were dancing and singing, there had been two or three bad characters whose names had not been on the invitation list!
Our daily work went on relieved, from time to time, of news of different sorts. There was the great day when her Majesty Queen Mary became Patron of our Corps and we in future to be known as Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps.
There were the terrible few days when our men were retreating. We had orders to be ready to receive members of our Corps who were serving overseas and would probably have to be withdrawn without their belongings. Each girl in my unit had ready a toothbrush, stockings, hairbrushes and a change of clothes for the expected guests. The quartermaster's sergeant had extra beds and bedding ready to issue. Then the glad news came that our army had stopped the push and the Q.M.A.A.C. in France could carry on.
We had fancy dress dances, concerts and in this way cheered each other up so that we could for a while forget the air raids, the rations, the cold, the wet, the darkness and the casualty lists.
Later we had a wedding! All rallied round to make it a huge success. The cook wept bitter tears when the icing on the wedding cake would not do what it should do, but in the end buzzards would have been proud of that cake. The bride was conveyed to the church in the Colonel's car which had been polished up to the women's legion standard by the Colonels chauffeures “ a pretty girl bedecked with a white ribbon rosette. The Adjutant was the ˜father' of the bride, I was the ˜mother'. As the bridegroom was a colonial soldier, an Australian officer attached to our branch was best man. On the return from the church a breakfast was served by our own waitresses, cooked by our own cooks and as about 60 guests cheered the departing couple we all felt that it had been really a first rate wedding.
[This was written during the Second World War]
Today I am too old for active service and my own daughters are too young but I only hope that the women who enrol today will enjoy their work as much as I did. One met all kinds and conditions of men and women. One learnt to understand different points of view and to deal with different characters. Tears come into my eyes now when I think of the women who stood cooking and working until their free time came and they could fall upon their beds for a rest; the Irish girls from simple homes, always cheery and willing, the girls who had lost someone dear to them, those who elected to stay on when peace came, so that the men could be demobilised first, and those who never, under any circumstances complained.
After we had all parted and found work in civilian life it was difficult to readjust. Then came the telegram which summoned some of us to Buckingham Palace where we were decorated by King George V. (My mother received a decoration)
We met old friends who had served at home and abroad and heard who had married, who was engaged, who had taken this post and that, but each one of us was grateful for the experience we had gained and the friends we had made in Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corp.
Memoir of war service, with photographs: a group in the uniform of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps; unit cooks; three shots of fancy dress costumes; a wedding group, the groom in New Zealand Expeditionary Force uniform, Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps to the right (Note QMAAC armletts).
Deputy Administrator Violet Nye, Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps.
|Item Date||1916 - 1919|
|Item medium||Text: Memoir|
|Copyright||The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor|
|Digital repository||The Great War Archive, University of Oxford|
|Contributor Name||Lady Bannister|