AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE
Below we have tales from 2 well-known residents of Evenwood & Ramshaw who served in the ATS, now sadly departed:
1] Peggy Hicks
2] Hilda Bell
W/42627 Private Margaret Collins ATS (1940 – 1948)
Known to all in Evenwood as Peggy Hicks, 21 year old Margaret Collins, enrolled into the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) which was the women’s branch of the British Army, at London on the 7th August 1940. Peggy originally lived at Crook and, unbelievably, her training took her back up north, to Brancepeth Castle, a mere 5 miles from home! However, her exploits with GHQ 2nd Echelon Group ATS took her further afield to Brussels in 1945 and Hamburg in 1946, even to Ehrwald, Austria over New Year 1947/48 to enjoy the Boar Winter Sports Leave Centre.
1945: Brussels Cookhouse Staff – shelling peas
Entertainment was found at hostelries such as “Café Blighty” and the “21 Club” in Brussels and the “Crusader Club” in Hamburg.
1945: Brussels “Café Blighty”
In February 1949, Peggy married George Edwin Hicks at Bethnal Green, London. During the war, George served in the Royal Artillery as a Despatch Rider and took part in the D-Day Landings. He served in France and Germany.
W/210577 Private Hilda Cox ATS (1942 – 46)
In September 1942, at the age of 17, Hilda Cox volunteered to go into the ATS. This is her family’s story.
“My 3 older brothers were already away at war, Robert was in the Royal Marines, Jack and Donald were in the Army and Jean, my older sister, had already joined the ATS. I started training at Fenham Barracks in Newcastle and was away from home until July 1946.
Jean and Hilda Cox
I enlisted into No. 5 London District Group ATS, “H” Company as a “Domestic Orderly”. I was in various parts of the country including Romney Marsh, Kent where I worked for an officer, somewhere by the sea where the beach was protected by rolls of barbed wire. Close by, were British and American troops camping out in tents. There were gun batteries whose job was to shoot down the German “Doodlebugs” that were launched from France. They’d be called guided missiles these days. We would watch them come over the English Channel – if the flame at the back of the missile didn’t go out, we knew it hadn’t been shot down and they were heading for London and the south east.
Later, I was transferred to London and was there until the end of the war. I was stationed at Abbey Choir Schools in Deans Yard, Westminster Abbey and the choirboys lived and were educated there. We often saw Churchill, Queen Mary and many other dignitaries arriving in carriages to the Abbey. We were escorted around Central Hall, right opposite the Abbey, just before the first ever United Nations Conference. Churchill and the top people were there.
VE Day – I was in St. James’ Park, London. This was a special day, the streets and parks were packed to capacity with people of every nation and the atmosphere was euphoric! It was something to remember. I was in Parliament Square on the night Big Ben was lit up for the first time since the “blackout” – this was a great sight, we had been in darkness for so long.
Because I was away from home, I do not have many memories of Ramshaw. I do recall being told that an incendiary bomb had been dropped on Stephenson’s barn in the Gill. I also remember a German POW who came over from Hamsterley every day to work on Graham’s farm in Ramshaw. He was free to walk about around the village, making friends with people and visiting their homes. He was treated well by everybody. He made me and my sister Doris a pair of slippers each, fashioned from platted string. After work, he walked back to Hamsterley.
After the war, I was sent to Fulford Barracks, York to be de-mobbed, 2 July 1946. I was given £37 gratuity pay and came back home to Ramshaw.
Jean was stationed at Chester and met Fred Galimore, from Chester, who was in the Royal Navy. They later married and moved to Evenwood.”