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Brenda Woolston


Brenda Gray (nee Downs) Wartime Recollections

Brenda’s most vivid memories of the war come from the time she spent working in the shop/post office that was on the R.A.F. Hunmanby Moor base. At the time when she started working there she was still only 14, but that still didn’t stop her getting invited to many of the dances that were held in Hunmanby Village Hall. Technically, these dances were only open to serviceman and women in the forces but it didn’t take long from the base opening before local girls were invited, and apparently a sergeant called Sgt. Todd used to be well known for giving tickets out to Filey girls and it wasn’t long before he was well known throughout the relevant section of the Filey community. According to Brenda, this somewhat irritated the W.A.A.F girls in the neighbourhood, as it was their ‘territory’, but non of them ever said anything to the C.O. so the practice continued throughout the war.

The shop she used to work in usually only opened twice a day on the base, once in the morning at 8.30am, mainly for papers and the like. It then closed for a few hours and the staff were allowed to go back to their homes in Filey until it re-opened at the soldiers second break, about 3.30pm.

The base was under the overall command of Group Captain Borthwick-Clark, who moved his family to Filey for the duration of the war. They bought a house on West Ave. and his daughter became fairly well known throughout Filey for her help with the local Drama Society. Borthwick-Clark not only had english R.A.F. men under his command, but a group from the West Indies, who had volunteered to come to England to serve. Brenda recollects that these men arrived at Hunmanby Moor in the November after the base had opened and that many cases of pneumonia were recorded in the weeks proceeding. Obviously, for men used to sub-tropical temperatures the harsh East Coast winter proved to be difficult for them and Aircraftsman Wilfred Dawns actually died from the condition.

One of the final things that was related to me was the celebrations that took place in Filey at the end of the war, when to mark the end of the conflict a huge bonfire was built and lit on one corner of Murray St. on V-Day itself. As well as this, Queen St. became one giant street party with tables and chairs all along it and bunting decorating the entire street from top to bottom.