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Zoe V. L. Bending (nee Glass) - Memories of WW2

Born 26/ 6/1924 Taunton  Married 17/ 1/1948 London  Died 13/ 9/2001 Leicester

I joined up for war service in October, 1942, and I received instructions to report to ATS Recruitin Centre, Droitwich. The next day we proceeded by train to a HAA (Heavy Anti-aircraft) battery at West Derby, near Liverpool. I was promoted to corporal and put in charge of eight recruits with various instructions towards them.

Training then began in earnest. Marching up and down, saluting, making sure blankets were dead square, and all the other trivia of army life.

Typical happenings during those days would be for the alarm bell to be set off by an air raid warning, with the accompanying fuss and clatter that always occurred. First of all there was the 27 KVA Lister generator to be cranked, and such things as the compressor release change-over valves to be adjusted, with the hope that the relevant operator knew exactly what she was doing. If one was lucky a despairing glance over the shoulder would bring a spare gunner to put his shoulder to the wheel, or rather shall I say, his handle to the crankshaft.

After about nine months I volunteered for an overseas posting, and was sent down to London to fill a vacancy. This was on the clerical side and I had a interview at Virginia Water, I thought I recognised the interviewing officer. My posting came through, and I went to the office to report in, and was delighted to meet again the junior commander, Mary Churchill (the daughter of Winston).

Once it was seen that I could type I became very popular, and I was given a desk in the adjutant's office between the senior commander and the adjutant. All visitors reported to me, and on two occasions an orderly reported to the adjutant "A visitor to see the corporal, Ma'm", it was my Canadian cousin (see Stan Henry) who had enlisted in the Canadian Army.

Whilst at the War Office Holding Unit we had a lot of entertainment meeting different nationalities and exploring London. The highlight was perhaps meeting in Hyde Park with representatives from all available commands for the VE (Victory in Europe) parade.

. At a given signal we lined up in an enormous snake and moved up Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, and round the City. To return some three hours later after taking the salute in the Mall, by the King, Queen and Winston Churchill, accompanied by officers and war heroes. Bands were place every third or fourth units, so that there was a cacaphony of sound throughout the ranks. Willing hands stretched out to receive the fruit, cakes and drinks that were offered from office windows.

Most difficult of all came when the long line of the parade started to round the corner of Marble Arch into Oxford Street. Instructions had been given that the marchers on the inside should take short steps until the outside ranks had lined up again. I was on the outside having to do a hop, skip, and jump in order to catch up.

We returned to Hyde Park and were dismissed. We made our way through the crowds down Oxford Street, passing on our way the Stage Door Canteen, where we were to meet up with friends that evening.

I was involved in the VJ (Victory over Japan) parade. The ATS mustered in Hampton Court and proceeded once again to Marble Arch. To cheers, we, representatives of every branch of the Allied Forces, made our way through the City.

ZVLB - September 2000

Addendum: Zoe does not mention bombs, flying bombs and rockets, perhaps they were taken for granted
Zoe left the Army in the summer of 1946 to enter civilian life where food, clothes, petrol, furniture were rationed, licences were required for new building, there was a waiting list of a few years for new cars, and other goods were 'under the counter'. Zoe married in 1948, had four children, made homes in London, Ipswich, Hull, London again, Southport and Leicester. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1971 and died of the disease in 2001, two days after the twin towers in New York were destroyed.

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