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Wings Over Wick
Best, Hartlepool, Cleveland
The Met WAAFs were billeted in the upstairs of one of the houses that used to be married quarters. The hot water system was a back boiler in the downstairs of the house where the plotters lived, so we had no control over the hot water, even though we did have the bathroom. However, we did have weird Heath-Robinson contraptions (no doubt highly dangerous) to heat water, baked beans and anything we could lay our hands on. These were the elements from electric fires, laid uppermost in a roasting tin and fixed into the light sockets. As all the light sockets were used in this way for a pan of water for washing or frying eggs collected from the Hen-wifey who lived on a croft at Staxigoe, the lighting in our flat was done with candles. It was so cold in Wick in winter, we very rarely washed all over and we went to bed in more clothes than we worked in. The weight of the army blankets topped by a greatcoat on top meant you were so weighed down in bed you could hardly move.
With Wick being a dry town, it gave us the impetus for a lot of expeditions to the places outside the town - the excuse being for a drink. We could have a drink if we went to the Rosebank over looking the park, for a meal. But most of the fun was making up a party and all piling into one small car owned by one of the pilots, to go to Lybster. The car was so overloaded that I can remember the local policeman passing us on his bike. I can also remember sitting on the dicky seat at the back holding up the lid, then someone let go of the lid and it crashed down and knocked me out, and they all carried me into the Portland Arms at Lybster. The dances in the villages were great fun, and there were always events like the best male ankles, when a lot of men stood on stage rolling up their trousers, a blanket was held in front and great deliberations went on choosing the best ankles.
We also went to dances at the Rifle Hall and on a Wednesday at the Breadalbane picture house where they used to take out the cinema seats for the dance, so you danced up hill one way and down hill the next.
We were allowed one 48-hour pass every six months, and 14 days leave a year. From Wick we couldn't get far in 48 hours but would go to Bonar Bridge or Brora for a change. To the 14 days leave was added 2 days travelling time, it took so long to get to the rest of Britain - but this isolation had a lot to do with the special attraction of Wick. It was like being apart from the rest of Britain. It took 8 hours just to get to Inverness and the train stopped at every village and was often held up by a cow on the line or a snowdrift. But the Wifies used to bring hot rolls and coffee to meet the train at different stations, which was so very welcome on such a long journey from England to Wick.
When anyone was posted to Wick they felt it was a punishment to be banished so far away from everybody and everything. But being cast adrift seemed to bond everyone together, and it brought out the best of humour in everyone so that everyone who was stationed at Wick remembers it as being great fun. Everyone seemed to be very entertaining and no one took their talents off as there was nowhere else to go, so they all produced their wit and their bright ideas for each other and so we all had a wonderful time as well as getting on with the war.