North Yorkshire’s Unsung Heroes: Their Stories has been produced to mark
the end of the Ex-Forces Support North Yorkshire project. Between April 2017 and March 2020, the project has supported over 1000 older ex-service men and women.
Capturing tales of life during service and the impact military experience had on the veterans who were interviewed, Unsung Heroes provides an insight into the social and personal histories of those who served our country throughout the 20th century.
Download your copy for free here (now with two extra stories!).
You can read a couple of extracts below.
Joy Storrs Fox
Joy felt that the war started for her in 1936 when she was with a German Jewish girl listening to Hitler giving a speech. She was aware of Kristallnacht and the Kindertransport and some Jewish girls were given places in her school.
At the age of 21 Joy got her call up papers and as soon as she had completed her degree she was sent to Middlesbrough for a medical and given an intelligence test. From there she went to Glencorse in Scotland and was allotted a Nissen hut and uniform for the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Her time in the Girl Guides stood her in good stead. Tall, with a strong voice, she was made an Unpaid Acting Lance Corporal. Shortly afterwards Joy was awarded her promotion to Corporal and then trained new recruits in drill which she enjoyed. She had a very good friend, Jean and met her future husband, Michael, when he was on leave from India.
When she got a bad attack of tonsillitis, the army hospital gave Joy M&B, a new experimental drug which was an antibiotic. Recently she discovered that Winston Churchill had been given the drug about the same time!
Then the War Office Selection Board called Joy to Leeds where she undertook initiative tests and passed as an officer. She did a three week course on military law and went on to Windsor for more training.
At the end of the training Joy was sent to Northern Ireland, to a gun site where there were three platoons of ATS, and then on to Belfast Lough as the only female officer in charge of about sixty Irish women. Most worked in catering and the store rooms, but a special team had charge of range taking and search lights. The gun site faced out to sea, so all instruments had to be adjusted according to the tide. She got on extremely well with the girls and accompanied them to a local American base for dances. There were lots of destroyers in the Lough to protect, and then one day they went and didn’t come back. It was D-Day.
Joy was on a promotion course to Junior Commander at the end of the war but didn’t take that up because she was going to be married. She was posted to Ripon and drilled her platoon for the Victory Parade. After the war Joy accompanied her husband to India where she remembers Independence Day and the death of Ghandi.
‘Eddie the Airman’ was born July 1922 in Leeds, and had one brother and a sister. Having attended St Matthew’s School then Dewsbury Road School, Eddie left at fourteen and started an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. He had already worked previously – running errands for neighbours and having a paper round.
Before war broke out, but aware that war was imminent, Eddie joined the Local Defence Volunteers and had a greatcoat, side cap, and rifle, but no bullets. The volunteers would cover all the road junctions and attack German parachutists in the event of an invasion. Eddie’s attempt to join the RAF while under-age was followed by his volunteering again in January 1941. In April he was called to Padgate to collect his uniform, then he moved to Bournemouth for basic training. Here he was in civilian billets, which he didn’t enjoy as the couple he was living with only fed him fruit salad and bread and margarine. Eddie was posted to No 5 Wing at No 6 School of Technical Training in Hednesford. Having spent three months under canvas, Eddie’s Wing finally moved to the main camp and he started his trade training, which covered carburettors, electrics, ignitions, and all elements of aircraft engines. He passed his trade test, and after a leave he reported back for a nine-week conversion course as a second class fitter, engines, which meant extra pay of threepence a day on successful completion.
In January 1942 Eddie reported to North Cotes camp where he worked on the engines of Bristol Beaufort torpedo bombers. The role of 86 Squadron was to hunt submarines and pocket battleships. It was here that Eddie’s life was endangered when he had a ride in a Lockheed Hudson with a pilot who was checking the compass by following a triangular course. After several circuits Eddie realised that the aeroplane was being flown over a bombing range, and planes flying overhead were dropping dummy bombs as Eddie’s pilot flew underneath! That same year Eddie was posted to RAF Skitten, Wick, where on one occasion he was proud to be tasked with warming up the engines on four planes which were leaving on a successful operation to Norway.
In December Eddie started an eventful journey to India and was sent to 307 Maintenance Unit in Peshawar in March 1943, where he stripped down engines on Fairey Gordon aircraft. He had two local men working with him, who taught him Punjabi in return for Eddie teaching them English. He was later transferred to Dum Dum near Calcutta to No 4 Civilian Maintenance Unit where he worked on Merlin engines, fitting crankshafts and bearings. His next role was as a despatch rider on a motorbike which he really enjoyed, then Eddie became a truck driver.
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