Mrs See, a lady driver at Stewartby for London Brick Company during World War 2, talks with Carmela about her experiences and about War in general.
What else do you remember about the wartime period?
I remember the ships going down but I never thought we’d lose the war, that’s the funny thing. Then getting letters from my brother… who was in the army in Italy and Egypt… he was on the Anzio beach-head. That wasn’t very nice, the worry of it. He was in REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) so he didn’t actually fight, although he was in the danger area.
Then we had different “Guards” (Welsh Guards, Scottish Guards, Irish Guards) picking up the tanks (from Stewartby brickworks), two dozen at a time. They (the tanks) came over from America and had to be got ready for action. They were greasy and dirty, inside… my husband was one of the electricians on them. That’s why they (the military authorities) wouldn’t let him go (to join the armed forces). I went with him to Ampthill… but they wouldn’t let him join. His brother was a sergeant major in the army.
When the tanks started they wouldn’t let him go. He was very disappointed. His brother ended up in a Japanese prisoner of war (camp).
He (my husband) wanted to do something about it but they wouldn’t let him.
1987 circa. Mrs See at Stewartby with her last Skoda. She founded the ‘Stewartby School of Motoring’ and was so popular that she never had to advertise.How many were working on the tanks?
Well, I couldn’t say, but I suppose half were making bricks and half working on the tanks… they were coming in and going out all the time… I was coming up Badger Hill at Ampthill and it was snowing. A tank with a Welshman driving it, testing it, came behind me and said, “Sit still” and bumped me up the hill. One day I was driving a lorry which broke down on The Narrows between Buntingford and Baldock. There’s not a house in sight. I sat there and thought I don’t know what the devil I’m going to do unless someone does come along. That day was a bit depressed, I suppose. Anyhow, a line of black Americans came along and asked, “What’s the matter?” They fiddled with the engine and got it going…
Another time I was going to Kimbolton. There was such a bang in the lorry and I thought, “My God, the engine’s fell out!” I had to climb up and look inside the bonnet and an American jeep came up and pointed out that I’d got two flat tyres at the back. I found a phone and sent for someone to come out.
When you were training how to drive a lorry, did you learn about the engine?
Ooh, not a thing! I knew where the water, oil and petrol went… I knew when a sparking plug had gone but I couldn’t change it… ”