Monday, 11 August 2008

The Food Flying Squad

Most of you will know what the Women's Royal Voluntary Service is.

Just before the war, Lady Reading was asked to mobilise the women of the country into a voluntary force. Many were called up or went to nurse, but there were a great many who had to stay at home to look after families etc. They flocked to her banner and were taught to do all sorts of things, one being driving ambulances, which they did in London during the blitze to great effect. Go to to find out more.

After the war (I think) the Food Flying Squad was founded, to do exactly what it said - get food quickly to where it was needed in an Emergency. I joined in 1956 and what fun we had! We had a fleet of lorries and I had to get an HGV licence (of a sort). Driving these things involved double de-clutching which is something all you babies have probably never heard of! We had a stores lorrie, 2 food lorries and a water tanker, as far as I can remember. We carried evil stove things - can't remember what they were called - which had to be lit and kept going to boil water. Also we built the original form of a barbeque - a sort of box built of whatever you could find that was fire-proof, with a grid over. We could produce sausages etc and also stew which was cooked on the stove thingie.

I was made Transport Officer and so had to learn the basics of engines, putting in anti freeze, changing wheels etc. We also had a tent and I remember shinning up the tent pole to get a toggle over the top if it, to the astonishment of the rest of the group who were all much older than me! Thankfully, we never had to go to a real emergency, but I remember feeding the police at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. They were married in York and the reception was at Hovingham so there was an awful lot of road to patrol. We got to see the cars go by - whoosh and they were gone! We were based near Hovingham and as our home was Croft-on-Tees, we had quite a drive and had to get up onto the hills. We did not try to go up Sutton Bank (1 in 5 slope, I seem to remember) so we had to go down to Ampleforth. Sorry about the geography - only a few of you will follow it I fear.

The WRVS Emergency Service does much the same as we did but does not have a fleet of lorries! You will have heard of them in this country, attending things like the Tube bombing, the Lockerby air crash, floods and many other things.


Frances said...

Wow, Withy!

Thank you for solving the mystery.
The Food Flying Squad surely did a great service. I am so very impressed with your participation.

What previously unheralded skills you have! Doesn't it amaze you how many things folks can learn, given either the need or opportunity? Even though I usually do keep pretty active, sometimes I just feel bone idle, and can be very aware of how little I do know, or contribute.

Well done! xo

lampworkbeader said...

I'd never heard of the Food Flying Squad, Withy. How exciting to drive a lorry. I have heard double de-clutching. As a child I remember the awful grinding crash when the driver missed the gears.

Anonymous said...

That was really interesting, Withy. My late mother-in-law was a landgirl, although we never got the chance to talk about it there is lots of memorabilia in the house and Jim used to tell me fascinating tales about her.

CJ xx

Fire Byrd said...

What interesting facts, and personal story, sounds like a big adventure at the time.
So you and QE can fix engines,what a skill to share.

I learnt to double declutch when allowed to drive a family friends original MG when I was 19.

bradan said...

Thank you for explaining, Withy. I had never heard of it before. You should write a book of all your adventures!