'My War Years' by Joan Plant (née Faint)
If you were 19 you had to do war work. Some girls worked in the munitions
factories but their hair and skin would turn yellow. I didn’t like that
so I decided to go into the forces and was advised to go into the WAAF
(Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and volunteer for RDF (Radio Direction
Finding – later known as RADAR). You didn’t always get what you wanted
so I was lucky. I had to take an IQ test to become an RDF operator which
When we first signed up we were given a number and also had
to sign the Official Secrets Act. My number was ACW 2112005. We had the
same badge on our sleeves as wireless operators so everyone thought that
was what we were. RDF was top secret - you couldn’t tell anyone - not
even your family.
On 16 December 1942 I was given a railway ticket to go to
Gloucester. It was very scary as we never travelled far from home. I
arrived at the camp and was put in a room with other girls. I spoke to a
girl from Manchester called Muriel Bevan and we became good friends. We
saw a girl on her own looking lost so we called her over. That was
Marian Boothroyd from Sheffield and the three of us became very good
We worked in Fort Southwick which had lots of different
sections in different Forts. This is where we plotted all the boats on
D-Day (6 June 1944). I can remember D Day very clearly. The day before
all the men tanks and lorries passed through the town. It was quite a
spectacle. When they had gone it was deadly quiet everywhere.
Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of
Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of
German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. Fort Southwick was
the Combined Operations Underground Headquarters.
One day someone came to tell me there was a Royal
Marine looking for me. I said I don’t know any Marines. Anyway I went
outside and it was Albert (a friend from Hartlepool) who was on
survivor’s shore leave and stationed nearby.
(Albert John Plant walked along Portsdown Hill from
Portsmouth towards Gosport asking at every Fort if they had any WAAF
stationed there. Most just laughed at him but eventually he found Joan
in Fort Southwick and their romance blossomed from there. They married
When we were finally demobbed you were supposed to hand in
your uniform. After D-Day we had been allowed to wear our own clothes
off duty. We were given a rail pass and a warrant to buy some clothes.
I enjoyed being in the WAAF. It was very educational and I
made friends with people I would never have met otherwise – that’s why I
wanted my children to go to University.
We were given a letter of thanks from the Navy and a medal
for our services but they were lost when my parents died.