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ORAL HISTORY - VERA ROBBINS - WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE 1998.
Vera Robbins was born Vera Stratton in 1910 at Ladygrove Farm, Goring Heath where she lived until she married in 1950 to Mr.Robbins.
At the time of the war she was working part time as Housekeeper to Mr.Page of Cleeve, Goring who ran a bus service. She did not immediately work at 70MU as soon as it opened but by 1943 she was working there as well; also part time; as the date on her photographs indicate. She soon worked there full time.
She started in Shed 9, Site 1 as a labourer. Shed 9, she recalls, held 'aircraft bits and pieces needed to keep them flying, and emery paper, sandpaper, French chalk, Perspex, celluloid sheeting etc.' She took her Storewoman's test at HQ which she passed and continued at Shed 9. She recalls that when she was working in this shed and climbing the ladder to reach the top shelves of the racking, she always wore trousers. When she later took her Leading Storewoman's test, again at HQ, and passed, she moved over the road into the office and undertook clerical work.
She remembers that Shed 14 was initially the 'Acid' shed where they held carboys (large glass flagons protected against breakage by packed straw and a wire frame) which housed acid. Later shed 14 was used purely for 'clocking on and off'.
Paints were stored in shed 1; linen and cotton; V & A (leather) in shed 5; string and rope in shed 6. She recalls the storage of 'glycol' (antifreeze) in containers; carbon tetra chloride in containers; Fluorescent blocks which were used as markers when aircraft or pilots were ditched in the sea. When dropped in the water the immediate surrounding area turned a fluorescent green thus identifying the area of search and rescue. All these items were stored in shed 9, together with a substance that she could not identify. These were in small tins, not unsimiliar to small tins of paint, say 6 inches high, which the lids kept 'popping' off on their own accord. They were told to dump them and they buried them at the back of Shed 9 where they remain to this day. She thought that the contents came under category 33C.
She remembers the Air Ministry Police; Mr.Cork; Mr.Green from South Stoke; Jack Wells; Lilly Simmonds and Miss Hood who were employed to search the women workers. The Offices were divided with a partition and the Police had one half as their Police point; as in 62A.
In 1946, about July on a Saturday at mid day (she remembers the date because her brother died in August and she missed his funeral) she was knocked off her bicycle by the MU fire engine which was being driven by Whitehead at the time. She had nicknamed the fire engine the 'Bantam' and recalls that it was red in colour. They called out the MU ambulance which turned out to be a small RAF pick up truck with a canvas top, and took her back to the HQ site where the Medical Staff there declared her fit to return home. An airman then drove her home to Ladygrove Farm and she has suffered from a bad back ever since. The matter went to the Magistrates Court in Henley, the one and only time she has ever been to court; another civilian employee of 70MU; Frank Ashworth who stole from the MU had his case heard at the same time.
Vera recalls the Cinema Shows, dances, and other forms of entertainment to which she additionally remembers Bingo or 'Housey Housey' as they called it then. She remembers the POW labour force; Big George and Little George and they way they drove their slurry cart - erratically when passing the girls in the road so as to make the contents intentionally slop around and spill over the edge and to splash the walkers.
She remembers Mr.Bradley, who had been in the RAF, as the civilian driver to the AOC in the war years; giving a sheet of Perspex to an Officer to replace his broken windscreen. After the war this officer was the landlord of The Shepherds Hut at Ewelme, and although she and her husband drank at the pub, neither mentioned the subject. She recalls Miss Whittington, who was a nurse at the Red Cross Hospital at Flint House; E.Cox, her cousin, who was also a civilian driver; Jim Walton the ex Buckingham Palace butler who as a Corporal served in the Officers' mess; the Queen Mary trailers bringing in large wooden crates, but does not recall their contents or the going of them.
She feels that a firm called Chivers had a hand in the building of 70MU.
Finally, as an example of the bureaucracy, she recalls an instance when working in the office, of an order for 1 piece of sandpaper to be dispatched to South Africa. It was probably a mistake and should have been a much large order. However it was processed on all the necessary and various forms as 1 piece and dispatched as such.
She remained at 70MU right to the end.