Banburyshire woman, 95, recounts VE Day experiences and work plotting weather to aid Britain's bombers

A Hook Norton woman, aged 95, has recounted her experience of VE Day in London after six long years of the Second World War.

By Roseanne Edwards
Friday, 8th May 2020, 11:41 am
Updated Friday, 8th May 2020, 1:45 pm
Joanna Chadwick, 95, who served in the Met Office of the RAF for three years up until the end of the Second World War
Joanna Chadwick, 95, who served in the Met Office of the RAF for three years up until the end of the Second World War

"I had been allowed by the RAF to go and live with family and was staying with my sister, Pat, in a top floor flat in Kensington. Pat was also in the WAAF as an officer and she had a car," said Mrs Chadwick.

"We could hear on the radio that there was a huge amount going on and very large crowds were gathering. So we went in Pat's car to Trafalgar Square, Fleet Street and Pall Mall up to Buckingham Palace.

"I became a bit scared really because the crowds were huge and hysterically excited. They started rocking the car for the fun of it.

Joanna Chadwick soon after the end of the Second World War

"I can't describe the feelings we had though. It was hugely emotional. The war was over and all the effort we had put in was over. I had been to boarding school so was used to being away from home but for many of my servicewomen friends, joining the services was the first time they'd ever been away from home.

"Everyone was singing the Vera Lynn songs we loved so much - We'll Meet Again and others. It is wonderful that she is still here today, aged 103-years-old.

"We had stopped fighting in Europe. We had won the battle over Germany - they had surrendered and it was a huge relief for people, particularly those with sons in the forces in Europe who could now look forward to them finally coming home. For us girls it was over but not for the young men in the Far East as we had the war against Japan to see through."

Mrs Chadwick - then leading aircraftwoman (LACW) Robins 2130156, daughter of the well-known novelist Denise Robins - and her sister were not demobbed until VJ Day (Victory over Japan) in August.

Mrs Chadwick's veterans' war medals

She had joined up the day she left school at 17 but was not called up until she was 18 in 1942. Elder sister Pat had joined up at the start of the war in 1939. The eldest of the three sisters, Eve, had joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women's branch of the British Army where she was also an officer.

"I joined on the premise that I would request to go on camp with Pat but there was no question and it didn't happen til the last year of the war when I was posted to RAF Stanmore with Pat, where I had to salute her whenever I saw her and call her Ma'am. I could not be an officer because in the Met Office, you had to have a science degree and at that time I had not been to university," she said.

"They tried very hard to get me to leave the Met Office and go into admin so I could be an officer but I didn't want to leave my job.

"On the hour, we would go out to do observation - observe the way of the wind, rain and cloud where you were. You measured the rain and direction of wind and in a good camp you had a measure to tell you position of the wind and how strong it was. The information was sent by teleprinter and plotted immediately onto the 'new hours' printouts of the British Isles which showed up as a mass of tiny circles all over the country with a number and you had a code which told you where the number was, for example Durham or Derby.

The three Robins sisters - Pat Clark, Joanna Chadwick and Eve Sutton - all of whom served in the Second World War

"The exciting thing was on the night shift when you would get the weather reports from occupied France - sometimes via a spy in Germany - and you could plot weather for bombers and other aircraft which was vital for them."

LACW Robins did her initial training in Innsworth, in Gloucestershire and during her war years was posted to Portreath in Cornwall, Preston, Defford (near Pershore) and finally to Fighter Command at Stanmore.

Mrs Chadwick's sister Pat (Clark) was a member of a top secret group using brand new radar system - Britain's secret weapon - which helped to outwit the German bombers and win the Battle of Britain. Specially recruited women, they were known as the Beauty Chorus. Aged 92, she helped other veterans host Prince Charles and Camilla in the restored 'filter room' at Bentley Priory, which boasts a life-size statue of her with her colleagues tracing the movements of Nazi aircraft. Pat Clark herself went on to become a very successful author, writing under her own name and pen-name Claire Lorrimer.

After the war, Mrs Chadwick continued her passion for music, gaining her licentiate in music specialising in clarinet and piano at Trinity College of Music, London. She later became a well-known clarinet teacher at Banburyshire schools. She retired finally aged 80. Married to her late husband, artist Roland Chadwick with whom she has seven children, she celebrates VE Day today with her grand daughter and carer, Phillipa Turner and will enjoy a special VE Day afternoon tea provided by Hooky Neighbours.

The front page of the popular daily broadsheet newspaper, the Daily Express, on VE Day