Kathleen Eames

Photo:During the summer of 1940 Kathleen's family invited two Frenchmen and an Englishman injured at Dunkirk, from a nearby hospital, for strawberries and cream in their garden.

During the summer of 1940 Kathleen's family invited two Frenchmen and an Englishman injured at Dunkirk, from a nearby hospital, for strawberries and cream in their garden.

Kathleen Eames

Photo:A photo of the two Frenchmen invited by Kathleen's family one afternoon in the summer of 1940.

A photo of the two Frenchmen invited by Kathleen's family one afternoon in the summer of 1940.

Kathleen Eames

Strawberries and cream

Kathleen Eames tells of a time during the summer of 1940 when her family invited injured Frenchmen for strawberries and cream in their garden.

The WRNS

Kathleen Eames talks about how she became a Wren.

A newfound freedom

Kathleen Eames talks about how her wartime service offered a sense of freedom.

Recollections of life on the Home Front and service with the WRNS.

Working life

Living with her family in Farnborough, Kent, Kathleen Eames was fifteen years old at the outbreak of war in 1939. After finishing school, Kathleen had a couple of temporary office positions before she began work in the office of an optician and later transferring to the stock room. Nearing the age of conscription, Kathleen was determined not to start work in a factory as her elder sister had had an unpleasant experience working for British Engineering in Farnborough. As the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was not recruiting, Kathleen joined the WRNS in 1943.

Life as a Wren

Whilst training in Scotland, Kathleen recalls ‘They used to teach us Highland dancing, I think, to keep us warm’. After completing the training, Kathleen was posted to Newhaven, Sussex. Along with other Wrens, she was billeted in a large hotel, with the duty to look after the naval officers:

‘You waited at them at table and kept their rooms tidy, the actual cleaning was done by other Wrens but we made sure their beds were tidy, rooms were tidy. It wasn’t too difficult work. I would have liked to have done something else...[As] I’d worked in a stockroom I could have joined the supply section and I could have done that and I thought, well, if I do I have to start all over again and they would send me elsewhere. That means you got to start making new friends so I thought, oh, I think I’ll stay and stay as I am’.

A newfound freedom

Whilst Kathleen was posted in Newhaven, the preparations for invasion were in full progress and many Americans and Canadians were posted around the area.

‘Canadians were always having parties, they occupied all the big hotels along the front of Seaford and they would send a big lorry up to Seaford House, that’s where the Wrens lived, ‘We’re having a party, do you want to come?’ and they’d whisk us off down there and we’d dance and drink and smoke’.

As to many other young women, wartime service offered a newfound freedom.

‘It was so nice to get away and not having mum and dad breathing down my neck and I was old enough at that time to go into a pub and have a drink...But I felt quite rebellious in a way going in to a pub, I could write to home and say, ‘I’ve been to a pub and had a drink’’.

'You knew you were in the Navy'

When the war in Europe ended, Kathleen was transferred to Portsmouth. She recalls:

‘My goodness me, as it changed. You knew you were in the Navy then. It was all in naval terms, you see. Floor became deck and all these other names they used, I can’t think of them all now...The Wrens were taken out for drilling and [laughs]. I didn’t think much of the Wrens drilling...We were at Wyle Island, gunnery school. It was just joined the mainland by the bridge so the men who were there, the Gunnery Instructors, my goodness me, were very, very strict, made sure we were walking properly, marching properly’.

After VJ-Day, Kathleen was demobbed and returned the position she held before conscription.  

Downloads

Interview with Kathleen Eames
Interview with Kathleen Eames (201k)
To read the full transcript of Kathleen's interview please press the above link.

Strawberries and cream
Strawberries and cream (33k)
Transcript of audio clip.

The WRNS
The WRNS (45k)
Transcript of audio clip.

A newfound freedom
A newfound freedom (46k)
Transcript of audio clip.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 02/05/2012.

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