Wartime Memories from Jo Collett (née Robbins).

Regarding VE day, my father and I were amongst the crowds outside Buckingham Palace, it was terribly exciting. Suddenly a large black limo drove through the crowd and someone shouted “It’s Winston” and so it was, for a few minutes later he appeared on the balcony with the Royal Family to renewed cheering.

I left school at 16 and as I had Physics with Chemistry, I joined the Women’s Technical Service Register and did my war work at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington in the Optics section of Light Division. The journey from Godalming to Teddington by train and trolleybus was onerous, but it was fascinating to work in such a prestigious organisation. We had to present our work at the first Physical Society Exhibition after the war which was held at the Science Museum. During my time at the Lab our Director General was Sir Charles Darwin, grandson of the famous author of ‘Origin of the Species’. V1 and V2 rockets were falling at the time and as most of my colleagues worked nearby, every time we heard an explosion everyone ran up to the roof to see where the smoke was rising. Sometimes I stayed with friends to save me my long journey home and on one occasion ‘the grapevine’  heard that a V2 had fallen on the Hampton Court Viaduct strewing debris on to the Portsmouth – Waterloo line below.  Although the line was electrified, on this occasion we journeyed back by steam taking 4 hours in all. I left the Lab in 1946 due to parental pressure, my piano practice had been suffering and I was close gaining my LRAM [ The Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music]. As work of national importance was still mandatory, I took a job in the Path Lab at St Thomas’s Hospital, Hydestyle (part of St Thom’s had been evacuated to Godalming for the duration). I have so much more to tell, especially about our schooling during the war, but this will suffice for now.

Leave a Reply