Memories Of World War II
In May of this year, we had the great pleasure of meeting Thelma Jackson, who had come to Elveden, from Lexington, Kentucky with her daughter, Diana and son-in-law Doug. It had been Thelma's dearest wish to return to England and Elveden and to re-live her time here as a WAAC. As a gift, for a very special birthday, Thelma's family presented her with tickets for a trip to England; travelling with her and visiting all the places she wished to see. It was lovely meeting them all in Elveden, and seeing Thelma's dream come true; there were some extremely emotional moments.
As requested, Thelma has kindly sent us her reminiscences, together with some photographs to add to our collection.
Our grateful thanks to her.
Neville and Gillian Turner.
"On September 27, 1943 I arrived at Elveden Hall with a group of American WAACS, yes we had an extra 'A' in those days - Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.
In September the WAAC dropped the 'Auxiliary' and became part of the regular Army - the WAC. We were all volunteers therefore we had the option of staying in or going home. Only one girl left. The rest of us were sworn into the regular Army.
We worked fourteen days and were off for two. For the first few months we went to London almost every time we had days off. [Pic 6:bus-icewell-horse-huts]A lorry picked us up in the late afternoon in front of the Hall and took us to Thetford train station.
Mr. Budden, who lived at one of the lodge gates, had a taxi service, which was used often to go to Thetford. When my family asked me why we went to London when it was being bombed, I answered that we just wanted to see London. Sometimes we took the train to other towns. I remember a wonderful day in Cambridge (and was it different when I was there in May 2000!). I spent one furlough in Scotland - mostly Edinburgh.
The dining room for the officers was on the ground floor of the Hall but the WAC mess hall was in a hut in the Park on the estate. We got one visit each week to the PX (post exchange), which allowed us one candy bar and I believe, one pack of cigarettes. We were issued English bicycles and we rode them a lot. They all had numbers - mine was 175. Sometimes we went down the road to a pub - can't remember the name - where there was only one rest room and we had to take our own toilet tissue! Males and females stood in line waiting to go in, and chatted with each other.
We had dances every few weeks at the base and one thing that sticks in my memory is the playing of "God Save the King" as well as "The Star Spangled Banner" at the end of each evening. There were eight or so bomb groups under the 3rd Air Division and we were invited to dances at those stations quite often. We went by lorry and got home in the wee hours.
There were many romances and a few weddings but after we were out of the service and home several couples that had met in Elveden married.
When we stood retreat it was in front of the Hall by the flagpole. I remember the flag being flown at half-staff when President Roosevelt died.
I became friends with an ATS girl who spent some time in Thetford. We had some good times together but she was transferred and we lost track of each other. I also had a Scottish friend in Thetford whose husband had a chemist shop there. He was away in service but she and her daughter lived over the closed shop. A lot of us from the base went often to Paddy's Tea and Sandwich Shop in Thetford. It was just up the street from the Bell Hotel.
In the Spring of 1944 when the Allies were preparing for D-Day we could travel no more than 25 miles from Elveden. During that time I was stricken with a terrible stomach pain and was taken to the Army Hospital. It was appendicitis and I had surgery. I was in a ward with about 15 other women and we were released sooner than normal because D-Day was coming and beds would be needed.
Finally the War in Europe was over and the entire base celebrated with an all-night party.
After that I guess you could say we were tying up loose ends and looking forward to going home. Of course we didn't know how long the Pacific War would last.
My two years at Elveden made me love and respect the English people and their country. My fondest dream had been to return to England and Elveden and that dream was realized in May 2000.
(Some of the photographs used are from the collections of Mike Fulkerson and Louis Pennow).
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