Eileen Brush, who was part of the ROC which served Fighter
Command during WW2’.
'In those days when you kept a secret you kept a secret'
This is Cornwall -West Briton
Thursday, November 10, 2011
On the Thursday before Remembrance Weekend, our local newspaper, the West Briton, carried a two page spread relating different aspects of life in the Armed Forces from WW2 to the present day. I was surprised and pleased to see one of the articles was about a local WW2 Woman Observer Eileen Brush.
AS A 17-YEAR-OLD Eileen Brush left her family home in Mabe and moved to Truro to work in uniform – that was as much as her parents knew.
She went to work her shifts every day, entering the offices through a discreet door in Union Street, and putting on her headset, sterilised after each use.
The aeroplane enthusiast spent her days tracking the flight paths of RAF and hostile aircraft through Cornwall, communicating with observers across the county who kept a close eye on the aircraft overhead.
She was sworn to secrecy about her job as a member of the Observer Corps, which passed information on to the tactical Fighter Command – "in those days when you kept a secret, you kept a secret".
"It was just like you see on the TV or in films," said the 85-year-old at her Truro home.
"Except we didn't have those long handles to push things around on the map, we didn't cover a big enough area to warrant it.
"Around the operation table there were ten of us. I liked to know how fast the aircraft went, which wasn't something we really needed to know in the ops room.
"We had to track them, the route they were taking and then let people know in the next area there was an aircraft coming in so it was always safely handed over."
Every two and a half minutes the team would plot the plane's position on the colour-coded chart.
Joining quite late on in the war in 1944, Ms Brush does not recall many planes being brought down or hostile craft flying across the county while she was on duty.
She said the role in Cornwall would have been far easier than working in Kent or Norfolk.
"It was a job but we felt we were doing something to help during the war. And I enjoyed it," she said.
She fondly remembers working, waiting with cigarettes and matches in hand for their five-minute window to smoke on the hour.
"Sometimes the aircraft would become airborne and we would be plotting it and the blighter would go back to St Mawgan again," she recalled. "They had to practise take-offs and landings or were playing around."
A couple of years after the end of the war the section became the Royal Observer Corps as King George VI gave recognition of its efforts during the Battle of Britain.
Eileen joined the ROC in 1944 and served in No 20 Group Truro Ops Room as a plotter. Unusually for a girl she was also an avid aircraft recognition enthusiast. She stood down on 12/5/45 and re-joined the ROC on 1/1/47 again serving in the Truro Ops Room Crews.
She converted from the aircraft role to the nuclear role and moved with the Truro Ops Room when it took over the new protected accommodation in Daniel Road, Truro. Eileen stood down on 31 March 1973 when No 11 Group Truro Control was closed and all the posts transferred to No 10 Group Exeter.
By 2000 she was living in a small flat run by the Royal British Legion in Truro. You can see from the article that she still treats her service in the ROC with extreme secrecy ! The right hand photo shows Eileen complete with Mae West at RAF St Mawgan (12 miles from Truro) where she had no doubt been on an air experience flight in a Shackleton.
We were lucky in Cornwall and had lots of these flights right up to 1995. She never joined ROCA despite invites to do so. There are a couple of mistakes in the article but we can forgive Eileen for those. At 85 her memory will not be perfect !