Wartime memories of Southwell are being sought for a book about the town’s experiences.
Historian Mr Roger Dobson with Nancy Harrison, left, and Brenda Whitton and some of their wartime memorabilia.
Southwell and District Local History Association is undertaking the project.
Mr Roger Dobson is conducting interviews with people with a story to tell about second world war Southwell or townsfolk who served in it.
Among those he has spoken to are former munitions worker Brenda Whitton, 92, and a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) the women’s branch of the British Army, Nancy Harrison, also 92.
The women, who went to school together, both did their bit on the home front.
Nancy, of Church Street, Southwell, served in the ATS as a secretary to a brigadier based in Mansfield.
She shared a house in Sutton-in-Ashfield with four other ATS girls who became great friends.
“It was a nice job with lots of men around but no hanky panky, as we were good girls,” she said.
“We were well looked after but rationing was severe.
“We used to have beast brains to eat — things I wouldn’t dream of eating now and the thought of which might make people feel ill.”
Nancy caught a bus from where she was billeted to Rainworth, but with petrol severely rationed, there was no follow-on service so she used to walk from Rainworth to Southwell unless there happened to be a vehicle passing and someone gave her a lift.
She worked seven days a week and finished the war as a lance corporal.
She is still in touch with one of her wartime boyfriends — a soldier who was in the Essex Yeomanry when she met him in 1939 — and they speak once a week on the telephone.
Brenda, of Easthorpe, was a fitter in the roller department at the Ransome and Marles factory in Newark.
She said it was good work and she knew she was helping the war effort.
She was at work the day the factory was bombed by the Luftwaffe.
“A lot ran out but I didn’t and they were machine-gunned by the bomber. My charge-hand was killed,” she said.
“I was engaged to be married and my man (Frank Whitton) was on fire watch duty.
“I ran and found him. We ran across to the wood yard and hid there.”
The couple married at Holy Trinity Church in 1941.
“I think this book is a very important thing for Southwell,” said Brenda.
She has all her ration books and unused petrol coupons and has postcards that her brother sent her from North Africa.
Mr Dobson said: “The book will commemorate 70 years since the war finished in 1945.
“It is so important that these memories are passed on.
“So many of our men and our women took part in some way or another and have fortunately been very happy to share their memories.
“The experiences are varied.
“I spoke to a woman the other day who was in the Land Army; there is an ex-Minster teacher called Alan Yates, who is 88, who was in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Malaya and Burma and for three years in India. There’s a big story there.
“Brenda’s father (Albert Kendall) was in both world wars and was the first man in Southwell to be called up in 1939.
“There were evacuees in Southwell from Southend, London, Worthing and Nottingham.
“Many went home but some stayed.
“There were two hospitals in Southwell — one at Norwood Park, which was a convalescence hospital, and another near the workhouse.
“There were a lot of soldiers billeted in Southwell and a number of dances held at The Saracen’s Head Hotel.”
Mr Dobson’s book will carry information from people only with a direct link to Southwell rather than the surrounding area.
He is also interested in any material such as letters, postcards or pictures held by the relations of people who died during the war or who have died since.
Mr Dobson can be contacted on 01636 814539 or at 63 Newark Road, Southwell.