Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ella Irene Redfern

Ella Irene Redfern, who died in October 2006, joined the MTC and drove staff cars in south east England. Her family think she may have been based at Fort Halstead.

For her, it was an opportunity to leave her oppressive home in Lancashire, and to feel useful. She loved the fact that she was working with people from all walks of life, and the camaderie they enjoyed together. She used to say they would mutter that they were working 'night and day, day and night' but it was remembered with a twinkle of delight, not resentment. In fact, in some ways, I think they were the happiest days of her life.

She met her lifelong friend Betty Mead whilst working in the MTC, and mentioned also that the Pilkington girls (from the glass family) were working there too. It is possible that it was through her work in the MTC that she met her first husband P/O Bryan Richards, from Rhodesia, who was killed in a bombing raid in July 1944, about 5 weeks after they were married. She then met Ken Jones, a rocket scientist who consoled her whilst Bryan was missing, and they later married. They had 3 children Vicky, Penny and Robert.

Ella's family would love to contact anybody who remembers any of them. If you do please send information via this blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

MTC members
- brief references from family and local history websites

* Denise Bardell
Recollections of period with Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC) and Civil Defence, UK 1941-1944; joining MTC; uniform; driving experience; initial duties in Horsham, 1941. Status of MTC in comparison with other services; basic training in London; work as courier for MI5, witnessing interrogation of suspected German spy; attachment as MTC driver to Civil Defence; training shift rotation; bases at Hyde Park and Westbourne Terrace, London; pregnancy and leaving MTC; 1944 pay; uniform; food; rations increased opportunities for women during Second World War; accidents in MTC; fuel rations, story of MTC demonstration that went wrong; promotion to Cadet Officer; discipline; attitude towards work with MTC; attitude of other servicewomen towards MTC; scarcity of women drivers in 1940s; attitude towards war meals; reflections on work with MTC.
- Denise Bardell Interview Imperial War Museum Sound Archive http://www.genesis.ac.uk/partner.jsp?INSTITUTION_CODE=29

* Ursula Lloyd Bennett
Below is a list of some 2,300 allied servicemen (and three women) who escaped from enemy occupied territories during the Second World War and returned to the UK (includes a listing for): Bennett Ursula Lloyd Miss Army Mechanised Transport Corps
- From "Escape Lines of World War 2" http://www.conscript-heroes.com/escapelines/SPGnumbers.html

* M B Crowe
Mrs. M B Crowe, of the Women's M.T.C., took care of the hospital ambulance and was its honorary driver for most of the hospital's life. (The North Mymms Auxiliary Hospital)
- From On The Home Front: The People and Parish of North Mymms 1939-45 http://brookmans.com/history/waryears/ch8.shtml

* Veronica Mary Dingle
At age 18, she swopped her bike for a car when she was kindly given an Austin Seven by her Aunt Clara, and from then on, driving was to be Vera's great delight for the next 70 years. In fact, at the height of the war, she signed up for military service and spent 3½ years in the Mechanised Transport Corps, driving 1,000-gallon petrol tanker lorries from the Diglis Depot to airfields and other military bases. It meant her frequently having to clamber on top to check the dipsticks. Her MTC lorry driver chums at Worcester in those war days included two other Alice Ottley old girls - Joan Faram and Joan Jerram. In 1942, Vera had married Scotsman Hector Dick whose working life was spent mainly with the engineering company of Alley and MacLellan on Worcester's Westside. The couple set up home at Pound House, Hallow but Vera had to bow out of her military lorry driving in 1946 when she became pregnant with their only child, daughter Jennifer. Among Vera's prized possessions still are her khaki MTC uniform and photographs from her military service, "doing my bit for the war effort."
- From http://archive.thisisworcestershire.co.uk/2003/3/22/220142.html

* Eileen Knocker
Knocker, Eileen A.C., MTC - Died in Blitz in Sept. 1940. Brass given by her brother Group Captain Guy Mainwaring Knocker, RAF.
- Small brass plaque on column between pulpit and Gratwicke Chapel. Memorials in St Margaret's Church http://www.vaugrat.demon.co.uk/Angvil/history/church_memorials.htm

* Margaret de Reneville
Letter from Margaret, Comtesse de Reneville (Woronzow Rd., London NW8) to CSC, thanks for obtaining declaration of English nationality, which had helped her to obtain post with the Mechanised Transport Corps.
- From the Churchill Archives http://www-archives.chu.cam.ac.uk/perl/node?a=a;reference=CHAR%201%2F355%2F57

* Millie (Stanworth?)
In the midst of this modern fairground you will meet Millie - still keen to be out and about and meeting the customers - and with memories stretching back to horse-drawn days and the travels of her own family, and the Davies family - not forgetting her wartime career with the Mechanised Transport Corps.
- Henry Stanworth Funfair http://users.breathe.com/stanworthsfunfairs/i4new.htm

* Unknown – with MTC at Desford and Leicester
These pictures are offered from the collection of a lady who was given her first Snaffles as a teenager in 1937. From childhood she had been a keen rider, and she hunted with the South Atherstone until she married and moved away from Leicestershire. After a short residence in London, she moved to the Essex Union country where she and the family were regular members of the hunt. Her first Snaffles, a gift from her best girlfriend, was The Timber Merchant - to this day a firm favourite of her collection. On her 21st birthday (1943), her colleagues in the Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC), Royal Air Force Station, Desford and Leicester, gave her a military Snaffles - The Season 1939-40.
- from a Bonham’s Press Release re sale of ‘Snaffles’ paintings - link lost

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

MTC - Making History

On Tuesday 4th December 2007 there was a short item on the MTC as part of the BBC Radio 4 programme Making History.

Unfortunately the summary of the programme's items does not include much of what was broadcast. However there was a reference to another book written by an MTC member called Red Tape Not Withstanding**.

However the whole programme (No 10) of which the MTC were the last item is available as an audio file.

** Red Tape Notwithstanding: A Study Of The Mechanised Transport Corps In France From November 1939 To June 1940 - Yvonne MacDonald, Hutchinson 1941 8vo, 256pp, 8 plates

Monday, December 3, 2007

MTC - fictional characters in:

* The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

In the general shake-up that followed Dunkirk Clive is relieved of his command. He feels old and useless, but his friends Theo and "Johnny" (Deborah Kerr), a girl in the Mechanised Transport Corps, in whom he again sees a likeness to his beloved Edith, suggest there is still one way in which he can serve his country - The Home Guard.

* Foyle’s War

Vicar's daughter Samantha Stewart was transferred from the Mechanised Transport Corps to become a very unconventional driver for Foyle.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Books by members of the MTC

* What a Way to Win a War! The Story of No11 Coy. MTC and 5-0-2 MAC, ATS 1940-1945 by Pat Hall

What a Way to Win a War! tells the story of a company of women ambulance drivers who contributed a small but unique part to the colourful history of the Second World War in Egypt and Italy.

The story, as seen through the eyes of the Company Sergeant Major, is followed from the first hair-raising parade in Chester Square, London.

The bulk of the book covers the transformation of these naïve amateurs into a highly professional unit which won the respect of all ranks of the army with whom they worked.

UK Midas Books 1978 (ISBN: 0 85936 136 5)

* Spearette by Rachel Millet

When the Second World War broke out Rachel Millet (née Howell-Evans), a qualified children's nurse, was head matron at a boys' preparatory school. France fell, and she decided to join the Mechanised Transport Corps as a driver. Hearing that the Hadfield-Spears Hospital - somewhere in the Middle East with the Free French forces - needed drivers, she applied and was accepted

Spearette (the French nickname for a Hadfield-Spears girl) tells the story of Rachel Millet's adventures as a driver and nurse with the Hospital. Having travelled across the desert with the Eighth Army, and through Italy, she became an honorary Commando to land on the south coast of France preparatory to the main invasion.

Spearette is an intensely immediate and exciting story, with a distressing ending as the petulant General de Gaulle peremptorily ordered the Hospital to be disbanded because the crowds at the Paris Victory Parade dared to cheer: 'Vive Spears!'


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

MTC officially recognised, recruits training and Awards

Short outline of how the MTC was officially recognised plus an outline of recruits training and some photos and a list of Gallantry and Awards is in this extract from Women in Uniform By D. Collett Wadge

How the MTC started

Got to the following link to see an extract reproduced from "The British Home Front 1939-45" By Martin J. Brayley

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This blog has been started on Sunday 11th November 2007 - Remembrance Day - to try and collect information about the women who joined the MTC in WWII.

There seems to be no public record of their contribution and no official archive or memorial.

A few years ago there were a few personal recollections recorded on family web sites, but many of these have disappeared as these web sites are no longer maintained.

The wikipedia entry implies that the women only drove in London (and/or the UK) however it would seem that there were groups of MTC drivers in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as France:

The very first official RAF escapers cannot claim much credit for their remarkable escape. ... In the Troyes district the convoy was turned back due to an expected counterattack and on returning to Villenauxe, as the convoy was directed to turn left, driver Otto turned right, followed by a second ambulance driven by Miss Marjorie Juta. The two ambulances continued at high speed through enemy territory until they reached French lines and safety back at Provins where Barrett and his crew were left at the hospital and the ambulances returned to their Headquarters. Barrett was later evacuated from France by sea from La Baule whilst Asker and Kirk rejoined their squadron. The three women belonged to the British Mechanised Transport Corps and were members of the Chateau de Blois Ambulance Corps which had five ambulances given to the French by American donors in Palm Beach. They later took their vehicles to Bordeaux then Arcachon and were evacuated from Arcachon on board the cruiser HMS Galates 21 June. (from http://www.conscript-heroes.com/Art25-EarlyEscapers.html)

It is said that after France was liberated women from this group of the MTC were given a place of honour in the parade on the Champs Elysee.

Two young women from the MTC who had been regulary driving between Egypt and Palastine were said to be the last members of the Allies to leave Cario before the German advance. Later women from this group were awarded the Africa Star although apparently this was later taken away from them by the post war Labour Government.

If anyone has any information whether from family members or from research of officials records please do add then to this blog.