The Manhattan Project

Eileen Doxford's Interview

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Eileen Doxford was a lab assistant at P6, an early site for the British Tube Alloys Project. After answering a radio announcement from the United Kingdom’s government science agency, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, she traveled to the M.S. Factory Valley in Rhydymwyn, Flintshire, Wales to assist engineers attempting to develop a process for the separation of uranium isotopes. She worked at P6 from 1943 until just before it was closed in 1945. She reflects on the secrecy surrounding her work, the separation of P6 operations from the other wartime production activities of the factory, and rationing and life in the United Kingdom during the war.
Manhattan Project Location(s): 
Date of Interview: 
May, 22, 2009
Location of the Interview: 
England
Transcript: 

[We would like to thank the Rhydymwyn Valley History Society for donating this interview.]

Interviewer: It is Friday the 22nd of May, 2009 in Lymm speaking to Eileen Doxford at her house. Eileen can you tell me where you were born and some basic things about your family?

Eileen Doxford: I was in born Crosby, which is up the dale from Appleby [Westmoreland, England], and my parents were Arthur and Alice Sawer, S-A-W-E-R. My dad was gassed in the First World War in the Battle of the Somme and as a consequence he had to do light work. He was the village postman. He walked four miles every day around the farms and as a consequence in a few years his lungs were okay—apart from one of course. He had lost half of one but he was alright. We had a hen farm, six different kinds of hens, and my mother looked after those. 

Interviewer: Brothers? Sisters?

Doxford: I had a brother who was a year and a half younger than I. He left the village school to go to Appleby at eleven, and I had already left and gone to Kirkby Stephen Girls’ Grammar School. Of course, I had to board during the week and my father picked me up at the weekends. I boarded with a girl who came from Gatton Hall, which was a big hall on the moors in Westmoreland and her brother would to take us on the Monday morning and my dad would pick us up on the Friday night. 

Of course, I did not like it at all. I loved to go back to the village school where freedom reigned.

At the grammar school we were very much regimented by the headmistress, Miss Whitley. I did not appreciate this until later years when I realized she really done me a good turn. I was prepared to obey orders and see the sense in things. 

Interviewer: Which year were you born?

Doxford: I was born in 1923. 

Interviewer: Did you stay at school until you were fifteen?

Doxford: I stayed at school until I was seventeen, but the war was on then. 

Interviewer: That was 1940? 

Doxford: Yes. We had a little car. It was a Morgan and he had the village blacksmith cut a little hole in the V part at the back and the joiner put a little seat in it for me. This is when my brother was born and of course he was sitting on my mother’s knee at the front so I had to go into this little seat. I must have looked funny. 

Interviewer: And you used to go and drive around?

Doxford: Yes we used to tootle around in it and he was Clerk to the Parish Council of the Village Ashby and another little adjoining Village of Ormside. So of course he would use the car to go there but the living came across from hens and their eggs. My mother washed all the eggs on Monday morning and they were put into crates and the express dairy came and collected them.  

My dad had served his time with a firm in Appleby to repair shoes and make clogs because we all wore clogs. He spent a period in Kendal to learn how to make shoes, and as I say, he made clogs. He had this workshop, which was adjoining the house, and it used to be a sort of meeting place for the friends and farmers to have a chat. 

Then he got the job of Rating Officer and he would go out into the villages collecting the rates, so he went all around the farms. After a period of time the job increased as far as the rates were concerned and he was given more parishes and so we moved to Kirkby Stephen. That was where I went to school, so no longer did I have to board, which was jolly good.  

Interviewer: So you stayed in school until you were seventeen?

Doxford: I did, I took my school certificate and I got a reasonable one. 

Interviewer: What happened to you when you left school? Did you apply to join any of the services? 

Doxford: This was wartime of course and my first little job was during the school holidays. There was fear of invasion so the children were coming from the northeast by train and they got into a queue. They came down in twos from the station with their gas masks on their chests and a name plate. I felt so sorry for the poor little things, they were so young to leave their mothers. I applied for the job of looking after the evacuees. 

I did that in my holidays and then I persuaded my dad that I would like to not go back to school although Miss Whitley my headmistress wanted me to go the university. I decided I had enough of school. So I went to work in the local Solicitor’s Office and he was the Evacuation Officer as well. As a consequence I dealt with these children so much that I knew where they were billeted. I had to fill in a little form for each house that they went to, and these people were paid a certain amount for the children each week and they could go to the post office and collect the money. 

Interviewer: Good. That continued for how long?

Doxford: Well Hitler changed his mind didn’t he? He did not invade, and of course we all thought that they would arrive around the Middleborough area and Redcar but he decided he would attack Russia first. I think he thought that we were a small island and once he got Russia he could soon get us. 

The evacuees gradually drifted back to the Northeast; they came from Newcastle and places like that. I remember we had two billeted with us at home—a girl of about nine and a little boy of about four—and I remember taking them. As I say we had a little car and we used to go and visit my aunt who was married to a farmer and when we took these two little ones over there it was the first time that the boy had seen sheep in the fields and cows and he shouted, “Evelyn, Evelyn look there, look there, see, see!” He just could not believe his eyes to see these animals. That seemed a bit sad, didn’t it? 

Interviewer: You were around eighteen by now, and so you were directed into other labor?

Doxford: Well at nineteen you have to go to do some form of corps work if you did not join the forces. I had been accepted in the Wrens [Women’s Royal Naval Service] and I was waiting for my caller papers and visualizing myself in this Wren uniform of course. Over radio came this announcement about joining—I think it would be described as DSIR: Department of Scientific and Industrial Research—and my dad said, “You are going to join that. You get yourself written and I reckon nothing to you being in the forces. I was in the forces in the First World War and I do not want you going.” 

I said, “No dad. I have been accepted and I am going,” so I did not write and he was very cross. 

The next time the announcement came over the radio, he wrote and we got this word that I had a choice of three jobs. I did not want to go to either of the first two. Then this third one sounded more interesting. It was in North Wales and you would be doing work which would help in peacetime as much as wartime. That was when I had to change my mind reluctantly. 

When I went down there for an interview this doctor of science interviewed me, and he said that he could not tell me what we would be doing because only two people knew what we were actually doing. I got to accept that whatever it was it would of as much help in peacetime as it was in wartime. So he hoped that I would go and of course I duly did and I was billeted in Mold [Flintshire, Wales].

Interviewer: Do you remember where?

Doxford: I cannot remember the name of the road. I have tried to remember about that because my son took me to Rhydymwyn [Flintshire, Wales] this year to see what I could remember about it. Unfortunately we could not get in the factory it was locked, but if I had made arrangements there would have been someone there to take me in. As far as I could see there were not a lot of the buildings there; they seem to have gone.

Interviewer: Your building is there.

Doxford: Is it?

Interviewer: Oh yes. 

Doxford: There was the big building, P6, and across the road there was a low building where the engineers were and I spent quite a lot of time in that small building. I must say at this juncture that an extraordinary thing—a chap from Morecambe, which was the next village to Kirkby Stephen, had been down there and had put electricity in the caves in the hillside where the large part of the factory was making poison gas and where they were going to store this poison gas. So isn’t that an extraordinary coincidence. 

Interviewer: When you went down and you were interviewed, they said, “Please come we would like to take you? 

Doxford: That is right.

Interviewer: Did you receive a letter saying, “Please Come,” and you said, “Okay,” and you went?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Did you get a railway warrant?

Doxford: I do not remember. 

Interviewer: I just wonder how people got around. 

Doxford: Yes there must have been something because I would not have been able to afford to go without it. 

Interviewer: Did anybody meet you? Did you go to Chester Station and catch the train up to Mold?

Doxford: Yes I remember doing that and going along.

Interviewer: So when you went there were you warned about secrecy and segregation?

Doxford: Oh yes. We couldn’t talk about what we were doing outside. The original digs that I was in—I do not know whether I should say this really, but the foreman was there, the foreman of the workmen in P6/7, this little engineering department, and because he was very friendly, he became too friendly. I will not go into that, but it was decided that I should move from those digs in Mold by this boy whom I had met in the engineering department, and he found me digs in Buckley. 

This boy was Ken Doxford, of course. He was just being kind. I didn’t really think much about it until one of our group—there were ten girls I should say, well one of them was really more than a girl, she was the wife of one of the rectors of the one of the Welsh parishes, and she said one day, “That boy has his eye on you.” So of course that was the beginning of a friendship and we eventually got married in 1947. 

I must go back to being in there. In one of the rooms in this small building they had erected a glass apparatus—there was a glass blower as part of the team. 

Interviewer: And the glass blower was located in Building 45, wasn’t he? P6? 

Doxford: Yes, I think he was. I had forgotten that. I worked with this glass apparatus and I had a pump because I had to pump this apparatus down to below atmospheric pressure. I should also say that there was a little instrument attached to this, which was called a pirani, which earned me the name Pirani Queen. I had to calibrate what was happening in this glass apparatus and pump it down below atmospheric pressure. I would have a piece of graph paper and down one side I would put the pressures as it went down. I suppose along the bottom would be the time every twenty minutes.

Interviewer: Were you measuring the decrease in volume of a liquid?

Doxford: No, it had no liquid, it was purely air. 

Interviewer: What was the effect you were recording?

Doxford: Any air that was in this apparatus was pumped out. And gradually as it got lower and lower. That is how I measured—down the graph paper, where it was every twenty minutes. So this instrument, the pirani, had been calibrated and it was taken away at a certain point and put on the big apparatus in the large P6 building. I had gotten to be accurate. 

Interviewer: You were measuring the efficiency of the decompression on it. Okay, I understand. 

Doxford: I find after all these years it is difficult to explain. 

Interviewer: Yeah you were measuring how pure the volume was and how low the pressure was. 

Doxford: Yes, below atmosphere. 

Interviewer: I guess that the idea behind that was if it held the pressure you could use that in a context, in P6 building. If it was losing it would not be efficient. 

Doxford: On the big apparatus, that is right. It was measuring at what state the lack of atmosphere was in these big apparatus that they had there.

Interviewer: How good was the vacuum and how long did it hold for?

Doxford: That is right. I do remember there was a big tank in the middle of that building which they used to periodically clean all the apparatus. It was all put into this big tank. Now I should remember the name of the stuff that was in the tank but I am afraid I do not. 

Interviewer: A decontamination tank?

Doxford: Yes, but the name of the liquid that they used to decontaminate the apparatus. It would have to be absolutely pure to do the work that they were doing. 

Interviewer: Is that what you did all the time you were there?

Doxford: Yes I guess it was. 

Interviewer: And you went there in 1942? 1943?

Doxford: I suppose sometimes they gave me a change and I worked in the chemistry lab. I was in there with Ron Pearson.

Interviewer: You went there in 1942 did you say?

Doxford: I would certainly be about twenty so that would be—

Interviewer: ’43.

Doxford: Yeah around twenty really would be when I got there. 

Interviewer: Did you have any training before you went there?

Doxford: Oh no. It was just the fact that I got a good school certificate that they accepted me. 

Interviewer: So you went there in 1943 and you stayed until the end war? 

Doxford: No, no I went back home when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, or just before that.

Interviewer: That was the end of 1945. 

Doxford: Well so that was not the deciding factor. 

Interviewer: Can I give you a piece of information, which may help?

Doxford: Yes.

Interviewer: I believe at the beginning of 1945 everything was cleared and was closed down there. I know all the test equipment was taken out. 

Doxford: Well, I certainly went back home before then. It could have been ’44 when I went back home to Westmoreland and I went into the food office because I still had to do war work. 

Interviewer: So can I go back to the P6 bit? Did you have a different pass from all of the other people who went on the side? 

Doxford: We would have. 

Interviewer: You were segregated? 

Doxford: We were and we were very much made aware of it too. They felt we were sort of invading their territory. I was billeted after I had to move from this billet in Mold and I went up to one in Buckley where there were already two girls. They worked in the other part of the factory. 

Of course, they quizzed me like mad women because they all wondered what we were doing. They said, “What is it that you are doing? Why aren’t you sort of all open with the factory?”

I said, “I am sorry but I cannot tell you what I am doing,” and they were really hoity-toity about it. I suppose they just had to accept it in the end but it would have been easier if I could have told them. I could not and that was the end of it. I could not talk about it when I went home either. 

Interviewer: Can you remember the name of the girls offhand?

Doxford: One was called Joyce and the other one was called Margaret. Joyce belonged Frodsham and Margaret came from London somewhere, and I should think she was a very clever girl by the look of her. 

They were somewhat put out because I could not tell them. Strangely enough I did meet Joyce, well Ken and I did, since we moved here because we were near Frodsham, but it did not work. There was no rapport between us at all. She still felt as though she had a chip on her shoulder so we just did not bother about it. We have this lovely home and when we went to visit her, which she felt she had to do, it did not make any difference to us at all, the fact that she was in a little semi [detached house] in Frodhsam.

Interviewer: You lived in a house in Buckley with two girls, what was your social life? Did you go to pubs or dances?

Doxford: No, I did not go to pubs. 

Interviewer: Of course you had a boyfriend didn’t you?

Doxford: I had a boyfriend, yes. 

Our entertainment in those days apart from walking was going to the cinema. There were two cinemas in Buckley and one was the—

Interviewer: Tivoli.

Doxford: Tivoli, that is right, and they had good films. Well they had good films at the other one, but it was known as the “flea pit,” it was just a little one. In order to see a different film you would go there and as soon as my landlady knew that I had been to the flea pit she was worried about the fleas. On this particular night I remember her son was home—he was in the Army—so he had to have my bed. 

I was sleeping in his bed because the two girls were in a double bed and she had a double bed in the front room. So I had to go and sleep with her. I do remember I had not been in bed very long when she came and got in and clothes were suddenly thrown back. Here’s me, all snuggled and getting off to sleep, and I could hear her as she was looking for these fleas! That never happened to me before or since. That was Mrs. Hibbert, but she was a dear soul.

Interviewer: Did you go to dances?

Doxford: Well I went to the odd one but I did not go to many. There would be sort or an annual dance I suppose; I remember going to that in Mold Town Hall. One thing I do remember is that someone had asked me to dance and I hadn’t actually gotten up when Dr. Kurti came to ask me and I felt terrible. I had to say, “I’m sorry I have already been asked.” I thought that he was somebody important of course. Oh dear what should I have done? Anyway I just was honest about it. 

Interviewer: Which of the scientists can you remember from P6? You said Nick Kurti, Dr. Kurti. 

Doxford: And Dr. London. 

Interviewer: Yes.

Doxford: And Appleby—I suppose he would be one wouldn’t he? I do not know whether you would call Clarke a scientist. I do not know if his first name was Ron. And then there was Pearson in the lab. 

Interviewer: Very important man?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Professor Simon, can you remember him?

Doxford: I cannot really, no. 

Interviewer: Do you remember Klaus Fuchs being there, the spy? He spent a lot of time in Oxford but I know he was there because he stayed in Maes Alyn.

Doxford: I must be honest and say the name does not really mean anything to me. I do know there were groups who used to come around and chat to one another and look at what you were doing.  

Interviewer: Did you go the evenings in Maes Alyn, the social evenings?

Doxford: I only think I ever went to one. It might have been to two but that would be the most that I would go to.

Interviewer: Or Bryn Belan because that was the other one; there were two. What about eating? Did you eat in the canteen?

Doxford: Yes there were two canteens. There was the works canteen where my husband went. 

Interviewer: I am in front of you go on [laughter]. 

Doxford: Yes and I was in the staff canteen. 

Interviewer: The special person’s canteen. 

Doxford: One thing I though was grossly unfair was the works canteen had entertainment. ENSA [Entertainments National Service Association] they called it. Yes they used to have people come to entertain them and we did not get that. 

Interviewer: Can you remember the people who went?

Doxford: No. 

Interviewer: Can you remember Rob Wilton being there?

Doxford: Come on, really? 

Interviewer: He was definitely there. 

Doxford: Was he? 

Interviewer: How big was the staff canteen then? This quite interests me. Could you get a lot of people there? Not the staff canteen, the general canteen, can you get a lot of people in there? 

Doxford: I think that they would be both about the same size really. 

Interviewer: Do you?

Doxford: I just do not clearly remember. 

Interviewer: So what did Ken do there then besides chase you all the time?

Doxford: What did Ken do?

Interviewer: Yes. 

Doxford: He was instrument engineer. 

Interviewer: Was he?

Doxford: He had been the apprentice of the year in ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries] Billingham. As a consequence, when he went in to the RAF when he was called up the year before me—I did not know it then of course—they brought him out of the RAF to do this job of apprentice in P6.

Well they needed somebody who knew about all the instruments that were on the various pieces of apparatus and who could repair them so we could keep going on. In that engineers hut I suppose he was a sort of foreman and then there was another man under him, Jim, and then there were two apprentices, Ken and Stan who came from the ICI factory in Billngham.

He was disappointed really when he went to the RAF because he was visualizing flying but because he wore glasses he could not fly. He would be ground staff, so I do not think that he was too disappointed when they pulled him out.

Interviewer: When you were in Buckley did you go by train or bus or—

Doxford: Bus. There was a bus that took us there every day, yes. 

Interviewer: Were there many buses parked there waiting for people to take them to and from?

Doxford: Yes, I suppose there were, going different parts of Wales. I would not say there were a lot, but there would be several. 

Interviewer: Do you remember air raids or air raid warnings?

Doxford: Yes that would be when I went over to Redcar. Remember I said that during the early part of the war the people came over from the northeast because they thought Hitler was going to invade that area. And so in Kirkby Stephen came all these little evacuees, and the ones who could afford it, families came as well. There were not many who could afford just to up and come and we had a family staying with us from Redcar. 

When Hitler turned his attention to Russia of course they went back and so I used to go there for weekends to stay with them. While I was there I can remember seeing the sky all lit up because they were bombing Middleborough. But they did not bomb ICI Billingham as you know because they said didn’t they that Hitler came over here before the war and sized it all up. Do you remember that? Of course there was a big German section in ICI Billingham. 

Interviewer: The Bund. 

Doxford: Of course, they would definitely not want to bomb that. Otherwise that would have been a wonderful place for them to bomb but they did not and Middleborough got the attention. Yes, I do remember visiting Middleborough when the sky was red. 

Interviewer: At Valley [Rydymwyn Valley] do you remember the air raid or the air raid warnings?

Doxford: I just remember the warnings but I don’t think anything happened. 

Interviewer: I was thinking where do people go? This was a chemical weapons factory, so where were the shelters? Were they on the banks or ground level?

Doxford: I am afraid that is gone from me. I cannot remember that. 

Interviewer: What about food in the war? Did you get by?

Doxford: Yes, of course in Kirkby Stephen everything was fine there because it was the country and people kept pigs so we did have some extra rations. But we only had our little few ounces of butter and cheese. They said we were all the healthier for it, didn’t they?

Interviewer: When you were in Buckley you handed your card over to your landlady?

Doxford: That is right. 

Interviewer: What about clothes?

Doxford: Well there were coupons in the rations; I think they were attached in the ration book. 

When I went back home, I went into the food office in Appleby and I issued ration books. You could only have a ration book if you presented your old ration book and your identity card. 

Interviewer: Wow. 

Doxford: Yeah. A part of it that I did enjoy, when you’re talking about food, was that our boss, when the time came the year was up for people to have new ration books, it was done in the villages all around Appleby. He had his petrol ration of course, and we used to go off with him, two of us, to a village and we would sit in this village in the clubs in the village to issue these ration books. To me, what was good about it was that we went to the local pub for our meal and so we got a decent meal.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Doxford: And that of course was extra.

Interviewer: Do you remember a British Restaurants being around?

Doxford: I do remember British Restaurants. I would think that was probably a British Restaurant within the factory.

Interviewer: I was speaking to a gentleman in Frodsham and he said to me—and he was brought up in the war years—he said, “I can always tell the people brought up in the war, they never leave food.” 

Doxford: No I never leave food. 

Interviewer: You do not, do you? It is programming. 

Doxford: No, I just simply could not leave any food. I never waste. 

Interviewer: Do you remember the American at Rydymwyn? 

Doxford: The only thing that I remember about them is that they came around in a group periodically. 

Interviewer: Were there colored ones amongst them?

Doxford: I do not remember that there were any colored ones. I think I would because—

Interviewer: And they came on to the factory site? 

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Do you remember Army and Navy and people visiting there as well?

Doxford: Not that I know of. They were not in uniform, I do not think I can remember anybody in uniform. 

Interviewer: Okay it was a different section to you.

Doxford: Yes, oh yes it was. 

Interviewer: But they did visit the site for courses and so on.  

Doxford: It must be the gas part of it. 

Interviewer: So you got to the end of the Tube Alloys stuff and it all went off and you went back home to the northeast 

Doxford: No northwest. 

Interviewer: Sorry, the northwest.

Doxford: Yes Westmorland Appleby. 

Interviewer: You got another job in 1945?

Doxford: Well earlier than that, I would be—

Interviewer: Late 1944, early 1945, whatever. 

Doxford: And I went into the food office at Appleby. 

Interviewer: You said, yes. 

Doxford: So I had to stay in digs in Appleby and I stayed at a fruit and vegetable shop. So we did quite well for food there, we were okay. 

Interviewer: So Ken was still working down at Valley?

Doxford: Yes he was for a little while, and then he came back to Billingham. 

Interviewer: So he was over that side of the country and you were over this side? 

Doxford: That is right.

The first thing he had was a motor bike and [he] used to come over on this motorbike. One weekend I remember we went down to Cheshire. My granny and grandpa lived in Cheshire, my mother was in Cheshire, and my father was Westmorland. I went down and it poured, and when I got to my granny’s I was saturated right through to the skin because the motor bike threw the water up. So I said to him, “that is the last time I am going to ride on a motorbike. If you expected me to go with you, you will have to get a car,” and bless him, he did get a Ford 8. It was a very old one.

Interviewer: Was this after the war?

Doxford: Well I suppose it could have been the last year. Could have been 1945.

Interviewer: He must have loved you to get a car in those years. He must have worked for that. 

Doxford: The funny part of it—he took his dad along Stockton-On-Tees, this was High Street, and one of the wheels came off and it was running along the road in front of them. I think he had not had it very long, only a few days. We never have forgotten that. 

Interviewer: Through this you come up to VE Day?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Can you remember VE Day?

Doxford: VE Day and VJ Day I think I spent with Ken I went over to the northeast and spent it with him. 

Interviewer: With Ken’s family?

Doxford: Yeah with his family.

Interviewer: Okay. Those big occasions—were those memorable occasions, VE Day and VJ Day?

Doxford: Well they were memorable to me in so much that it was the end of the war but I think they did have street parties at Kirkby Stephen for the people. I do not remember a street party for me, no. 

Interviewer: By now you have been going out for some years, it is about time you got a proper job wasn’t it? Instead of these temporary things you have been having. After the war did you get a job?

Doxford: His dad said that I suppose he would think it would be easy for me to be living with them, which it would not have been really. A part I have not said is that my boss at the Appleby Food Office although we got married on May 24th, he would not let me leave the Food Office until the completion of the rationing in the year, which happened to the end of July. Now how many people today, how many girls today, would have stayed at the food office to complete it? They would not would they? Well I stayed. 

Interviewer: Would you say that was in 1947?

Doxford: No, it would be 1944, 1945. 

Interviewer: So you got married in 1945?

Doxford: We got married in 1947. I just went over for the weekends to stay with his parents. 

Interviewer: So you were working in the Food Office until 1947?

Doxford: Yes I suppose so. You see, food rationing went on after the war. 

Interviewer: Oh yes, I understand. In 1947 when you got married, did you move over to the northeast?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Okay. 

Doxford: Yes I did. 

Interviewer: Did you have a house and so on?

Doxford: No. We got married on the strength of getting a flat, but by the time we were able to go, because of this wretched boss man saying I have to stay there until July, the woman let it, so we lost it. It was decided by Ken and his father, that he should move ICI Billingham to ICI Welwyn Garden City. We were married and we went down there in 1947, and he worked in Welwyn Garden City for a few years. We lived in a flat, well half of a house, in Old Welwyn. Points of interest to me: traveling by bike from Old Welwyn to Welwyn Garden City. I went along a road and at right angles to this road was a long low cottage and who lived in that cottage? H. G. Wells. 

Interviewer: Did he?

Doxford: Yeah they used to be standing in the doorway and see this little gray haired man standing in the doorway there. 

Interviewer: Very sad man. 

Doxford: Yeah.

The other thing living around Old Welwyn—we were cycling long the road one day and we saw this sit-up-and-beg [bicycle] coming towards us, very, very stately and this man in tweeds, Norfolk jacket and his pants—

Interviewer: Who was that? Shaw?

Interviewer: George Bernard?

Doxford: G. B. Shaw, yes. So those two men stick in my mind from that period.

Interviewer: Two literary giants. 

Doxford: Yes, absolutely. I thought I was lucky to have seen them. 

Interviewer: In 1947 there is the worst winter in living memory?

Doxford: A dreadful winter; it really was a dreadful winter. At Kirkby Stephen the snow was level with the walls—the tops of those walls that are put together with stones. They just had to cut a path through and that brings another memory because I had to ring the Food Office to say that I was sorry I could not come in because we were snowed in. He said, “Oh Eileen, of course you can get here, the snow plow is coming through isn’t it? 

I said, “Well yes it is the train has got a plow on the front of it,” but I said, “Mr. Harker they would not want me on the engine, would they now?” 

And so I said, “Oh no, I cannot come.” 

Wasn’t that a ridiculous idea to think I could be on the engine that was going through to open the railway? It was a dreadful winter, that’s true.

Now then living next door to us in Kirkby Stephen was an old gentleman by the name of Wharton, the Reverend John Wharton, and he had been a vicar in Liverpool. More important than that, he was the descendant of Thomas Lord Wharton who was a friend of Henry VIII. 

He was very proud of this fact. In fact I have his family tree somewhere, which he made his job. Now what I am thinking is that my wedding bouquet—he died in the hard winter, and I requested that they took my wedding bouquet and put it on his grave because he was a grand old man. He used to refer to me as Miss Eileen. He lived next door, and his housekeeper, Miss Layton, made my wedding dress for my present. I only got a long wedding dress because everybody gave me their coupons. We came to Leeds to buy the satin, white satin, and she made it for me. 

Interviewer: Do you remember the parachutes being sold?

Doxford: Yes I do. I had one and I made myself clothes out of it. I think I made myself a blouse and an under slip. 

I should say that I remember the wedding car took my dad and I down to the church, Kirkby Stephen Parish Church, which is a big lovely church. When I got out there was a gathering of children all around the church gate, and when I got out of the car they went, “oooooh” because they had never seen a long wedding dress and I was the first one for them to see. I would not have gotten it if people had not took together for the coupons. 

And you asked about cigarettes—I smoked Craven A. 

Interviewer: Did you?

Doxford: Yeah a red pack with a ring on it with A, Craven A. 

Interviewer: It had a brown piece on the bottom but there was no tip in it was there? 

Doxford: No, it was not, I do not think in the beginning. 

Interviewer: Do you know they were made in the West Indies?

Doxford: Were they really?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Doxford: And of course why I started was this twenty minute waiting between [pressure] readings. 

Interviewer: Oh down there [P6]?

Doxford: Yes I started down there and I did not ever smoke very much, five or six a day. I could not afford it anyway because we were only paid about a pound or twenty-eight shillings a week. 

Interviewer: Were you?

Doxford: Yes it was very feeble. 

Interviewer: The process workers were paid a five [pound note] or starter. 

Doxford: When I came, I would have gotten five pounds if I had stayed at the Food Office because I would have been in charge of this department issuing the Russian books. I could only be in charge for a year and he [my boss] forced that. I think he was annoyed because I had taken the job when he felt that I knew that I was going to get married. 

I knew the way he treated the girls that worked there. The girl who was in charge was moving to the south coast to a food office down there, and so I was the one really to take her job. I did get five pounds a week for a short period of time. That would be in 1947, 1946 or 1947. 

Interviewer: Do you recall the Attlee Government coming in? Do you remember Clement Attlee?

Doxford: Yes I do. 

Interviewer: Replacing the great war hero, Churchill—were you shocked by that?

Doxford: I suppose I was a little bit because he [Churchill] had been there for so long and he had been such a wonderful leader. It seemed cruel to put him out. 

Interviewer: People thought they let him down, didn’t they?

Doxford: Yes, I could remember that feeling. And I think he was hurt too even though he must have been very tired, really. 

Interviewer: I think he was hurt as well. I heard Attlee described absolutely beautifully; it was: “Moon to Churchill’s War Time Sun.”

All through your life you were a child of the Depression and you had a war where you were rationing in, you were rationing after the war. When 1953 came along you must have had some hope in your life for the first time with the coronation and a new young Queen and the rump of the war politicians starting to disappear off the horizon. Did you feel that this coronation was a new start for you?

Doxford: I did, yes. It was the beginning of a new era and of course my first boy was born in 1950. Then Paul was born in 1954. 

In between, I looked after my brother’s baby while his wife was in the hospital, and I also had another baby some time to look after. During the war my dad’s cousin came up from London and with her little baby. Her husband had died and she went out during the war to Australia taking this baby with her.

Interviewer: I just have one final thing here. Do you recall Myfanwy [Pritchard-Roberts]? 

Doxford: Oh I remember Myfanwy. She was a very even, kindly sort of girl. There were ten of us. She probably told you that didn’t she?

Interviewer: No, nobody asked that question. So there were ten of you? 

Doxford: There were ten girls and seventy men. 

Interviewer: And the ten girls were lab assistants basically?

Doxford: That is right, we did different sort of jobs but I did spend most of my time in the engineering section. 

Interviewer: You were not clerical?

Doxford: Oh no, no clerical other than writing.

Interviewer: So there were ten girls and seventy men.

Doxford: Yes, which was big joke because [my father said, “You are not going in the forces my girl. This [DSIR] is for you.” Then when I got down there, there were just ten girls and seventy men. [laughter] That was a joke you see because he [my father] thought I was going to be safe.

[We would like to thank the Rhydymwyn Walley History Society for donating this interview.]

Interviewer: It is Friday the 22nd of May, 2009 in Lymm speaking to Eileen Doxford at her house. Eileen can you tell me where you were born and some basic things about your family?

Eileen Doxford: I was in born Crosby, which is up the dale from Appleb

[We would like to thank the Rhydymwyn Walley History Society for donating this interview.]

Interviewer: It is Friday the 22nd of May, 2009 in Lymm speaking to Eileen Doxford at her house. Eileen can you tell me where you were born and some basic things about your family?

Eileen Doxford: I was in born Crosby, which is up the dale from Appleby [Westmoreland, England], and my parents were Arthur and Alice Sawer, S-A-W-E-R. My dad was gassed in the First World War in the Battle of the Somme and as a consequence he had to do light work. He was the village postman. He walked four miles every day around the farms and as a consequence in a few years his lungs were okay—apart from one of course. He had lost half of one but he was alright. We had a hen farm, six different kinds of hens, and my mother looked after those. 

Interviewer: Brothers? Sisters?

Doxford: I had a brother who was a year and a half younger than I. He left the village school to go to Appleby at eleven, and I had already left and gone to Kirkby Stephen Girls’ Grammar School. Of course, I had to board during the week and my father picked me up at the weekends. I boarded with a girl who came from Gatton Hall, which was a big hall on the moors in Westmoreland and her brother would to take us on the Monday morning and my dad would pick us up on the Friday night. 

Of course, I did not like it at all. I loved to go back to the village school where freedom reigned.

At the grammar school we were very much regimented by the headmistress, Miss Whitley. I did not appreciate this until later years when I realized she really done me a good turn. I was prepared to obey orders and see the sense in things. 

Interviewer: Which year were you born?

Doxford: I was born in 1923. 

Interviewer: Did you stay at school until you were fifteen?

Doxford: I stayed at school until I was seventeen, but the war was on then. 

Interviewer: That was 1940? 

Doxford: Yes. We had a little car. It was a Morgan and he had the village blacksmith cut a little hole in the V part at the back and the joiner put a little seat in it for me. This is when my brother was born and of course he was sitting on my mother’s knee at the front so I had to go into this little seat. I must have looked funny. 

Interviewer: And you used to go and drive around?

Doxford: Yes we used to tootle around in it and he was Clerk to the Parish Council of the Village Ashby and another little adjoining Village of Ormside. So of course he would use the car to go there but the living came across from hens and their eggs. My mother washed all the eggs on Monday morning and they were put into crates and the express dairy came and collected them.  

My dad had served his time with a firm in Appleby to repair shoes and make clogs because we all wore clogs. He spent a period in Kendal to learn how to make shoes, and as I say, he made clogs. He had this workshop, which was adjoining the house, and it used to be a sort of meeting place for the friends and farmers to have a chat. 

Then he got the job of Rating Officer and he would go out into the villages collecting the rates, so he went all around the farms. After a period of time the job increased as far as the rates were concerned and he was given more parishes and so we moved to Kirkby Stephen. That was where I went to school, so no longer did I have to board, which was jolly good.  

Interviewer: So you stayed in school until you were seventeen?

Doxford: I did, I took my school certificate and I got a reasonable one. 

Interviewer: What happened to you when you left school? Did you apply to join any of the services? 

Doxford: This was wartime of course and my first little job was during the school holidays. There was fear of invasion so the children were coming from the northeast by train and they got into a queue. They came down in twos from the station with their gas masks on their chests and a name plate. I felt so sorry for the poor little things, they were so young to leave their mothers. I applied for the job of looking after the evacuees. 

I did that in my holidays and then I persuaded my dad that I would like to not go back to school although Miss Whitley my headmistress wanted me to go the university. I decided I had enough of school. So I went to work in the local Solicitor’s Office and he was the Evacuation Officer as well. As a consequence I dealt with these children so much that I knew where they were billeted. I had to fill in a little form for each house that they went to, and these people were paid a certain amount for the children each week and they could go to the post office and collect the money. 

Interviewer: Good. That continued for how long?

Doxford: Well Hitler changed his mind didn’t he? He did not invade, and of course we all thought that they would arrive around the Middleborough area and Redcar but he decided he would attack Russia first. I think he thought that we were a small island and once he got Russia he could soon get us. 

The evacuees gradually drifted back to the Northeast; they came from Newcastle and places like that. I remember we had two billeted with us at home—a girl of about nine and a little boy of about four—and I remember taking them. As I say we had a little car and we used to go and visit my aunt who was married to a farmer and when we took these two little ones over there it was the first time that the boy had seen sheep in the fields and cows and he shouted, “Evelyn, Evelyn look there, look there, see, see!” He just could not believe his eyes to see these animals. That seemed a bit sad, didn’t it? 

Interviewer: You were around eighteen by now, and so you were directed into other labor?

Doxford: Well at nineteen you have to go to do some form of corps work if you did not join the forces. I had been accepted in the Wrens [Women’s Royal Naval Service] and I was waiting for my caller papers and visualizing myself in this Wren uniform of course. Over radio came this announcement about joining—I think it would be described as DSIR: Department of Scientific and Industrial Research—and my dad said, “You are going to join that. You get yourself written and I reckon nothing to you being in the forces. I was in the forces in the First World War and I do not want you going.” 

I said, “No dad. I have been accepted and I am going,” so I did not write and he was very cross. 

The next time the announcement came over the radio, he wrote and we got this word that I had a choice of three jobs. I did not want to go to either of the first two. Then this third one sounded more interesting. It was in North Wales and you would be doing work which would help in peacetime as much as wartime. That was when I had to change my mind reluctantly. 

When I went down there for an interview this doctor of science interviewed me, and he said that he could not tell me what we would be doing because only two people knew what we were actually doing. I got to accept that whatever it was it would of as much help in peacetime as it was in wartime. So he hoped that I would go and of course I duly did and I was billeted in Mold [Flintshire, Wales].

Interviewer: Do you remember where?

Doxford: I cannot remember the name of the road. I have tried to remember about that because my son took me to Rhydymwyn [Flintshire, Wales] this year to see what I could remember about it. Unfortunately we could not get in the factory it was locked, but if I had made arrangements there would have been someone there to take me in. As far as I could see there were not a lot of the buildings there; they seem to have gone.

Interviewer: Your building is there.

Doxford: Is it?

Interviewer: Oh yes. 

Doxford: There was the big building, P6, and across the road there was a low building where the engineers were and I spent quite a lot of time in that small building. I must say at this juncture that an extraordinary thing—a chap from Morecambe, which was the next village to Kirkby Stephen, had been down there and had put electricity in the caves in the hillside where the large part of the factory was making poison gas and where they were going to store this poison gas. So isn’t that an extraordinary coincidence. 

Interviewer: When you went down and you were interviewed, they said, “Please come we would like to take you? 

Doxford: That is right.

Interviewer: Did you receive a letter saying, “Please Come,” and you said, “Okay,” and you went?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Did you get a railway warrant?

Doxford: I do not remember. 

Interviewer: I just wonder how people got around. 

Doxford: Yes there must have been something because I would not have been able to afford to go without it. 

Interviewer: Did anybody meet you? Did you go to Chester Station and catch the train up to Mold?

Doxford: Yes I remember doing that and going along.

Interviewer: So when you went there were you warned about secrecy and segregation?

Doxford: Oh yes. We couldn’t talk about what we were doing outside. The original digs that I was in—I do not know whether I should say this really, but the foreman was there, the foreman of the workmen in P6/7, this little engineering department, and because he was very friendly, he became too friendly. I will not go into that, but it was decided that I should move from those digs in Mold by this boy whom I had met in the engineering department, and he found me digs in Buckley. 

This boy was Ken Doxford, of course. He was just being kind. I didn’t really think much about it until one of our group—there were ten girls I should say, well one of them was really more than a girl, she was the wife of one of the rectors of the one of the Welsh parishes, and she said one day, “That boy has his eye on you.” So of course that was the beginning of a friendship and we eventually got married in 1947. 

I must go back to being in there. In one of the rooms in this small building they had erected a glass apparatus—there was a glass blower as part of the team. 

Interviewer: And the glass blower was located in Building 45, wasn’t he? P6? 

Doxford: Yes, I think he was. I had forgotten that. I worked with this glass apparatus and I had a pump because I had to pump this apparatus down to below atmospheric pressure. I should also say that there was a little instrument attached to this, which was called a pirani, which earned me the name Pirani Queen. I had to calibrate what was happening in this glass apparatus and pump it down below atmospheric pressure. I would have a piece of graph paper and down one side I would put the pressures as it went down. I suppose along the bottom would be the time every twenty minutes.

Interviewer: Were you measuring the decrease in volume of a liquid?

Doxford: No, it had no liquid, it was purely air. 

Interviewer: What was the effect you were recording?

Doxford: Any air that was in this apparatus was pumped out. And gradually as it got lower and lower. That is how I measured—down the graph paper, where it was every twenty minutes. So this instrument, the pirani, had been calibrated and it was taken away at a certain point and put on the big apparatus in the large P6 building. I had gotten to be accurate. 

Interviewer: You were measuring the efficiency of the decompression on it. Okay, I understand. 

Doxford: I find after all these years it is difficult to explain. 

Interviewer: Yeah you were measuring how pure the volume was and how low the pressure was. 

Doxford: Yes, below atmosphere. 

Interviewer: I guess that the idea behind that was if it held the pressure you could use that in a context, in P6 building. If it was losing it would not be efficient. 

Doxford: On the big apparatus, that is right. It was measuring at what state the lack of atmosphere was in these big apparatus that they had there.

Interviewer: How good was the vacuum and how long did it hold for?

Doxford: That is right. I do remember there was a big tank in the middle of that building which they used to periodically clean all the apparatus. It was all put into this big tank. Now I should remember the name of the stuff that was in the tank but I am afraid I do not. 

Interviewer: A decontamination tank?

Doxford: Yes, but the name of the liquid that they used to decontaminate the apparatus. It would have to be absolutely pure to do the work that they were doing. 

Interviewer: Is that what you did all the time you were there?

Doxford: Yes I guess it was. 

Interviewer: And you went there in 1942? 1943?

Doxford: I suppose sometimes they gave me a change and I worked in the chemistry lab. I was in there with Ron Pearson.

Interviewer: You went there in 1942 did you say?

Doxford: I would certainly be about twenty so that would be—

Interviewer: ’43.

Doxford: Yeah around twenty really would be when I got there. 

Interviewer: Did you have any training before you went there?

Doxford: Oh no. It was just the fact that I got a good school certificate that they accepted me. 

Interviewer: So you went there in 1943 and you stayed until the end war? 

Doxford: No, no I went back home when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, or just before that.

Interviewer: That was the end of 1945. 

Doxford: Well so that was not the deciding factor. 

Interviewer: Can I give you a piece of information, which may help?

Doxford: Yes.

Interviewer: I believe at the beginning of 1945 everything was cleared and was closed down there. I know all the test equipment was taken out. 

Doxford: Well, I certainly went back home before then. It could have been ’44 when I went back home to Westmoreland and I went into the food office because I still had to do war work. 

Interviewer: So can I go back to the P6 bit? Did you have a different pass from all of the other people who went on the side? 

Doxford: We would have. 

Interviewer: You were segregated? 

Doxford: We were and we were very much made aware of it too. They felt we were sort of invading their territory. I was billeted after I had to move from this billet in Mold and I went up to one in Buckley where there were already two girls. They worked in the other part of the factory. 

Of course, they quizzed me like mad women because they all wondered what we were doing. They said, “What is it that you are doing? Why aren’t you sort of all open with the factory?”

I said, “I am sorry but I cannot tell you what I am doing,” and they were really hoity-toity about it. I suppose they just had to accept it in the end but it would have been easier if I could have told them. I could not and that was the end of it. I could not talk about it when I went home either. 

Interviewer: Can you remember the name of the girls offhand?

Doxford: One was called Joyce and the other one was called Margaret. Joyce belonged Frodsham and Margaret came from London somewhere, and I should think she was a very clever girl by the look of her. 

They were somewhat put out because I could not tell them. Strangely enough I did meet Joyce, well Ken and I did, since we moved here because we were near Frodsham, but it did not work. There was no rapport between us at all. She still felt as though she had a chip on her shoulder so we just did not bother about it. We have this lovely home and when we went to visit her, which she felt she had to do, it did not make any difference to us at all, the fact that she was in a little semi [detached house] in Frodhsam.

Interviewer: You lived in a house in Buckley with two girls, what was your social life? Did you go to pubs or dances?

Doxford: No, I did not go to pubs. 

Interviewer: Of course you had a boyfriend didn’t you?

Doxford: I had a boyfriend, yes. 

Our entertainment in those days apart from walking was going to the cinema. There were two cinemas in Buckley and one was the—

Interviewer: Tivoli.

Doxford: Tivoli, that is right, and they had good films. Well they had good films at the other one, but it was known as the “flea pit,” it was just a little one. In order to see a different film you would go there and as soon as my landlady knew that I had been to the flea pit she was worried about the fleas. On this particular night I remember her son was home—he was in the Army—so he had to have my bed. 

I was sleeping in his bed because the two girls were in a double bed and she had a double bed in the front room. So I had to go and sleep with her. I do remember I had not been in bed very long when she came and got in and clothes were suddenly thrown back. Here’s me, all snuggled and getting off to sleep, and I could hear her as she was looking for these fleas! That never happened to me before or since. That was Mrs. Hibbert, but she was a dear soul.

Interviewer: Did you go to dances?

Doxford: Well I went to the odd one but I did not go to many. There would be sort or an annual dance I suppose; I remember going to that in Mold Town Hall. One thing I do remember is that someone had asked me to dance and I hadn’t actually gotten up when Dr. Kurti came to ask me and I felt terrible. I had to say, “I’m sorry I have already been asked.” I thought that he was somebody important of course. Oh dear what should I have done? Anyway I just was honest about it. 

Interviewer: Which of the scientists can you remember from P6? You said Nick Kurti, Dr. Kurti. 

Doxford: And Dr. London. 

Interviewer: Yes.

Doxford: And Appleby—I suppose he would be one wouldn’t he? I do not know whether you would call Clarke a scientist. I do not know if his first name was Ron. And then there was Pearson in the lab. 

Interviewer: Very important man?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Professor Simon, can you remember him?

Doxford: I cannot really, no. 

Interviewer: Do you remember Klaus Fuchs being there, the spy? He spent a lot of time in Oxford but I know he was there because he stayed in Maes Alyn.

Doxford: I must be honest and say the name does not really mean anything to me. I do know there were groups who used to come around and chat to one another and look at what you were doing.  

Interviewer: Did you go the evenings in Maes Alyn, the social evenings?

Doxford: I only think I ever went to one. It might have been to two but that would be the most that I would go to.

Interviewer: Or Bryn Belan because that was the other one; there were two. What about eating? Did you eat in the canteen?

Doxford: Yes there were two canteens. There was the works canteen where my husband went. 

Interviewer: I am in front of you go on [laughter]. 

Doxford: Yes and I was in the staff canteen. 

Interviewer: The special person’s canteen. 

Doxford: One thing I though was grossly unfair was the works canteen had entertainment. ENSA [Entertainments National Service Association] they called it. Yes they used to have people come to entertain them and we did not get that. 

Interviewer: Can you remember the people who went?

Doxford: No. 

Interviewer: Can you remember Rob Wilton being there?

Doxford: Come on, really? 

Interviewer: He was definitely there. 

Doxford: Was he? 

Interviewer: How big was the staff canteen then? This quite interests me. Could you get a lot of people there? Not the staff canteen, the general canteen, can you get a lot of people in there? 

Doxford: I think that they would be both about the same size really. 

Interviewer: Do you?

Doxford: I just do not clearly remember. 

Interviewer: So what did Ken do there then besides chase you all the time?

Doxford: What did Ken do?

Interviewer: Yes. 

Doxford: He was instrument engineer. 

Interviewer: Was he?

Doxford: He had been the apprentice of the year in ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries] Billingham. As a consequence, when he went in to the RAF when he was called up the year before me—I did not know it then of course—they brought him out of the RAF to do this job of apprentice in P6.

Well they needed somebody who knew about all the instruments that were on the various pieces of apparatus and who could repair them so we could keep going on. In that engineers hut I suppose he was a sort of foreman and then there was another man under him, Jim, and then there were two apprentices, Ken and Stan who came from the ICI factory in Billngham.

He was disappointed really when he went to the RAF because he was visualizing flying but because he wore glasses he could not fly. He would be ground staff, so I do not think that he was too disappointed when they pulled him out.

Interviewer: When you were in Buckley did you go by train or bus or—

Doxford: Bus. There was a bus that took us there every day, yes. 

Interviewer: Were there many buses parked there waiting for people to take them to and from?

Doxford: Yes, I suppose there were, going different parts of Wales. I would not say there were a lot, but there would be several. 

Interviewer: Do you remember air raids or air raid warnings?

Doxford: Yes that would be when I went over to Redcar. Remember I said that during the early part of the war the people came over from the northeast because they thought Hitler was going to invade that area. And so in Kirkby Stephen came all these little evacuees, and the ones who could afford it, families came as well. There were not many who could afford just to up and come and we had a family staying with us from Redcar. 

When Hitler turned his attention to Russia of course they went back and so I used to go there for weekends to stay with them. While I was there I can remember seeing the sky all lit up because they were bombing Middleborough. But they did not bomb ICI Billingham as you know because they said didn’t they that Hitler came over here before the war and sized it all up. Do you remember that? Of course there was a big German section in ICI Billingham. 

Interviewer: The Bund. 

Doxford: Of course, they would definitely not want to bomb that. Otherwise that would have been a wonderful place for them to bomb but they did not and Middleborough got the attention. Yes, I do remember visiting Middleborough when the sky was red. 

Interviewer: At Valley [Rydymwyn Valley] do you remember the air raid or the air raid warnings?

Doxford: I just remember the warnings but I don’t think anything happened. 

Interviewer: I was thinking where do people go? This was a chemical weapons factory, so where were the shelters? Were they on the banks or ground level?

Doxford: I am afraid that is gone from me. I cannot remember that. 

Interviewer: What about food in the war? Did you get by?

Doxford: Yes, of course in Kirkby Stephen everything was fine there because it was the country and people kept pigs so we did have some extra rations. But we only had our little few ounces of butter and cheese. They said we were all the healthier for it, didn’t they?

Interviewer: When you were in Buckley you handed your card over to your landlady?

Doxford: That is right. 

Interviewer: What about clothes?

Doxford: Well there were coupons in the rations; I think they were attached in the ration book. 

When I went back home, I went into the food office in Appleby and I issued ration books. You could only have a ration book if you presented your old ration book and your identity card. 

Interviewer: Wow. 

Doxford: Yeah. A part of it that I did enjoy, when you’re talking about food, was that our boss, when the time came the year was up for people to have new ration books, it was done in the villages all around Appleby. He had his petrol ration of course, and we used to go off with him, two of us, to a village and we would sit in this village in the clubs in the village to issue these ration books. To me, what was good about it was that we went to the local pub for our meal and so we got a decent meal.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Doxford: And that of course was extra.

Interviewer: Do you remember a British Restaurants being around?

Doxford: I do remember British Restaurants. I would think that was probably a British Restaurant within the factory.

Interviewer: I was speaking to a gentleman in Frodsham and he said to me—and he was brought up in the war years—he said, “I can always tell the people brought up in the war, they never leave food.” 

Doxford: No I never leave food. 

Interviewer: You do not, do you? It is programming. 

Doxford: No, I just simply could not leave any food. I never waste. 

Interviewer: Do you remember the American at Rydymwyn? 

Doxford: The only thing that I remember about them is that they came around in a group periodically. 

Interviewer: Were there colored ones amongst them?

Doxford: I do not remember that there were any colored ones. I think I would because—

Interviewer: And they came on to the factory site? 

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Do you remember Army and Navy and people visiting there as well?

Doxford: Not that I know of. They were not in uniform, I do not think I can remember anybody in uniform. 

Interviewer: Okay it was a different section to you.

Doxford: Yes, oh yes it was. 

Interviewer: But they did visit the site for courses and so on.  

Doxford: It must be the gas part of it. 

Interviewer: So you got to the end of the Tube Alloys stuff and it all went off and you went back home to the northeast 

Doxford: No northwest. 

Interviewer: Sorry, the northwest.

Doxford: Yes Westmorland Appleby. 

Interviewer: You got another job in 1945?

Doxford: Well earlier than that, I would be—

Interviewer: Late 1944, early 1945, whatever. 

Doxford: And I went into the food office at Appleby. 

Interviewer: You said, yes. 

Doxford: So I had to stay in digs in Appleby and I stayed at a fruit and vegetable shop. So we did quite well for food there, we were okay. 

Interviewer: So Ken was still working down at Valley?

Doxford: Yes he was for a little while, and then he came back to Billingham. 

Interviewer: So he was over that side of the country and you were over this side? 

Doxford: That is right.

The first thing he had was a motor bike and [he] used to come over on this motorbike. One weekend I remember we went down to Cheshire. My granny and grandpa lived in Cheshire, my mother was in Cheshire, and my father was Westmorland. I went down and it poured, and when I got to my granny’s I was saturated right through to the skin because the motor bike threw the water up. So I said to him, “that is the last time I am going to ride on a motorbike. If you expected me to go with you, you will have to get a car,” and bless him, he did get a Ford 8. It was a very old one.

Interviewer: Was this after the war?

Doxford: Well I suppose it could have been the last year. Could have been 1945.

Interviewer: He must have loved you to get a car in those years. He must have worked for that. 

Doxford: The funny part of it—he took his dad along Stockton-On-Tees, this was High Street, and one of the wheels came off and it was running along the road in front of them. I think he had not had it very long, only a few days. We never have forgotten that. 

Interviewer: Through this you come up to VE Day?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Can you remember VE Day?

Doxford: VE Day and VJ Day I think I spent with Ken I went over to the northeast and spent it with him. 

Interviewer: With Ken’s family?

Doxford: Yeah with his family.

Interviewer: Okay. Those big occasions—were those memorable occasions, VE Day and VJ Day?

Doxford: Well they were memorable to me in so much that it was the end of the war but I think they did have street parties at Kirkby Stephen for the people. I do not remember a street party for me, no. 

Interviewer: By now you have been going out for some years, it is about time you got a proper job wasn’t it? Instead of these temporary things you have been having. After the war did you get a job?

Doxford: His dad said that I suppose he would think it would be easy for me to be living with them, which it would not have been really. A part I have not said is that my boss at the Appleby Food Office although we got married on May 24th, he would not let me leave the Food Office until the completion of the rationing in the year, which happened to the end of July. Now how many people today, how many girls today, would have stayed at the food office to complete it? They would not would they? Well I stayed. 

Interviewer: Would you say that was in 1947?

Doxford: No, it would be 1944, 1945. 

Interviewer: So you got married in 1945?

Doxford: We got married in 1947. I just went over for the weekends to stay with his parents. 

Interviewer: So you were working in the Food Office until 1947?

Doxford: Yes I suppose so. You see, food rationing went on after the war. 

Interviewer: Oh yes, I understand. In 1947 when you got married, did you move over to the northeast?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Okay. 

Doxford: Yes I did. 

Interviewer: Did you have a house and so on?

Doxford: No. We got married on the strength of getting a flat, but by the time we were able to go, because of this wretched boss man saying I have to stay there until July, the woman let it, so we lost it. It was decided by Ken and his father, that he should move ICI Billingham to ICI Welwyn Garden City. We were married and we went down there in 1947, and he worked in Welwyn Garden City for a few years. We lived in a flat, well half of a house, in Old Welwyn. Points of interest to me: traveling by bike from Old Welwyn to Welwyn Garden City. I went along a road and at right angles to this road was a long low cottage and who lived in that cottage? H. G. Wells. 

Interviewer: Did he?

Doxford: Yeah they used to be standing in the doorway and see this little gray haired man standing in the doorway there. 

Interviewer: Very sad man. 

Doxford: Yeah.

The other thing living around Old Welwyn—we were cycling long the road one day and we saw this sit-up-and-beg [bicycle] coming towards us, very, very stately and this man in tweeds, Norfolk jacket and his pants—

Interviewer: Who was that? Shaw?

Interviewer: George Bernard?

Doxford: G. B. Shaw, yes. So those two men stick in my mind from that period.

Interviewer: Two literary giants. 

Doxford: Yes, absolutely. I thought I was lucky to have seen them. 

Interviewer: In 1947 there is the worst winter in living memory?

Doxford: A dreadful winter; it really was a dreadful winter. At Kirkby Stephen the snow was level with the walls—the tops of those walls that are put together with stones. They just had to cut a path through and that brings another memory because I had to ring the Food Office to say that I was sorry I could not come in because we were snowed in. He said, “Oh Eileen, of course you can get here, the snow plow is coming through isn’t it? 

I said, “Well yes it is the train has got a plow on the front of it,” but I said, “Mr. Harker they would not want me on the engine, would they now?” 

And so I said, “Oh no, I cannot come.” 

Wasn’t that a ridiculous idea to think I could be on the engine that was going through to open the railway? It was a dreadful winter, that’s true.

Now then living next door to us in Kirkby Stephen was an old gentleman by the name of Wharton, the Reverend John Wharton, and he had been a vicar in Liverpool. More important than that, he was the descendant of Thomas Lord Wharton who was a friend of Henry VIII. 

He was very proud of this fact. In fact I have his family tree somewhere, which he made his job. Now what I am thinking is that my wedding bouquet—he died in the hard winter, and I requested that they took my wedding bouquet and put it on his grave because he was a grand old man. He used to refer to me as Miss Eileen. He lived next door, and his housekeeper, Miss Layton, made my wedding dress for my present. I only got a long wedding dress because everybody gave me their coupons. We came to Leeds to buy the satin, white satin, and she made it for me. 

Interviewer: Do you remember the parachutes being sold?

Doxford: Yes I do. I had one and I made myself clothes out of it. I think I made myself a blouse and an under slip. 

I should say that I remember the wedding car took my dad and I down to the church, Kirkby Stephen Parish Church, which is a big lovely church. When I got out there was a gathering of children all around the church gate, and when I got out of the car they went, “oooooh” because they had never seen a long wedding dress and I was the first one for them to see. I would not have gotten it if people had not took together for the coupons. 

And you asked about cigarettes—I smoked Craven A. 

Interviewer: Did you?

Doxford: Yeah a red pack with a ring on it with A, Craven A. 

Interviewer: It had a brown piece on the bottom but there was no tip in it was there? 

Doxford: No, it was not, I do not think in the beginning. 

Interviewer: Do you know they were made in the West Indies?

Doxford: Were they really?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Doxford: And of course why I started was this twenty minute waiting between [pressure] readings. 

Interviewer: Oh down there [P6]?

Doxford: Yes I started down there and I did not ever smoke very much, five or six a day. I could not afford it anyway because we were only paid about a pound or twenty-eight shillings a week. 

Interviewer: Were you?

Doxford: Yes it was very feeble. 

Interviewer: The process workers were paid a five [pound note] or starter. 

Doxford: When I came, I would have gotten five pounds if I had stayed at the Food Office because I would have been in charge of this department issuing the Russian books. I could only be in charge for a year and he [my boss] forced that. I think he was annoyed because I had taken the job when he felt that I knew that I was going to get married. 

I knew the way he treated the girls that worked there. The girl who was in charge was moving to the south coast to a food office down there, and so I was the one really to take her job. I did get five pounds a week for a short period of time. That would be in 1947, 1946 or 1947. 

Interviewer: Do you recall the Attlee Government coming in? Do you remember Clement Attlee?

Doxford: Yes I do. 

Interviewer: Replacing the great war hero, Churchill—were you shocked by that?

Doxford: I suppose I was a little bit because he [Churchill] had been there for so long and he had been such a wonderful leader. It seemed cruel to put him out. 

Interviewer: People thought they let him down, didn’t they?

Doxford: Yes, I could remember that feeling. And I think he was hurt too even though he must have been very tired, really. 

Interviewer: I think he was hurt as well. I heard Attlee described absolutely beautifully; it was: “Moon to Churchill’s War Time Sun.”

All through your life you were a child of the Depression and you had a war where you were rationing in, you were rationing after the war. When 1953 came along you must have had some hope in your life for the first time with the coronation and a new young Queen and the rump of the war politicians starting to disappear off the horizon. Did you feel that this coronation was a new start for you?

Doxford: I did, yes. It was the beginning of a new era and of course my first boy was born in 1950. Then Paul was born in 1954. 

In between, I looked after my brother’s baby while his wife was in the hospital, and I also had another baby some time to look after. During the war my dad’s cousin came up from London and with her little baby. Her husband had died and she went out during the war to Australia taking this baby with her.

Interviewer: I just have one final thing here. Do you recall Myfanwy [Pritchard-Roberts]? 

Doxford: Oh I remember Myfanwy. She was a very even, kindly sort of girl. There were ten of us. She probably told you that didn’t she?

Interviewer: No, nobody asked that question. So there were ten of you? 

Doxford: There were ten girls and seventy men. 

Interviewer: And the ten girls were lab assistants basically?

Doxford: That is right, we did different sort of jobs but I did spend most of my time in the engineering section. 

Interviewer: You were not clerical?

Doxford: Oh no, no clerical other than writing.

Interviewer: So there were ten girls and seventy men.

Doxford: Yes, which was big joke because [my father said, “You are not going in the forces my girl. This [DSIR] is for you.” Then when I got down there, there were just ten girls and seventy men. [laughter] That was a joke you see because he [my father] thought I was going to be safe.

y [Westmoreland, England], and my parents were Arthur and Alice Sawer, S-A-W-E-R. My dad was gassed in the First World War in the Battle of the Somme and as a consequence he had to do light work. He was the village postman. He walked four miles every day around the farms and as a consequence in a few years his lungs were okay—apart from one of course. He had lost half of one but he was alright. We had a hen farm, six different kinds of hens, and my mother looked after those. 

Interviewer: Brothers? Sisters?

Doxford: I had a brother who was a year and a half younger than I. He left the village school to go to Appleby at eleven, and I had already left and gone to Kirkby Stephen Girls’ Grammar School. Of course, I had to board during the week and my father picked me up at the weekends. I boarded with a girl who came from Gatton Hall, which was a big hall on the moors in Westmoreland and her brother would to take us on the Monday morning and my dad would pick us up on the Friday night. 

Of course, I did not like it at all. I loved to go back to the village school where freedom reigned.

At the grammar school we were very much regimented by the headmistress, Miss Whitley. I did not appreciate this until later years when I realized she really done me a good turn. I was prepared to obey orders and see the sense in things. 

Interviewer: Which year were you born?

Doxford: I was born in 1923. 

Interviewer: Did you stay at school until you were fifteen?

Doxford: I stayed at school until I was seventeen, but the war was on then. 

Interviewer: That was 1940? 

Doxford: Yes. We had a little car. It was a Morgan and he had the village blacksmith cut a little hole in the V part at the back and the joiner put a little seat in it for me. This is when my brother was born and of course he was sitting on my mother’s knee at the front so I had to go into this little seat. I must have looked funny. 

Interviewer: And you used to go and drive around?

Doxford: Yes we used to tootle around in it and he was Clerk to the Parish Council of the Village Ashby and another little adjoining Village of Ormside. So of course he would use the car to go there but the living came across from hens and their eggs. My mother washed all the eggs on Monday morning and they were put into crates and the express dairy came and collected them.  

My dad had served his time with a firm in Appleby to repair shoes and make clogs because we all wore clogs. He spent a period in Kendal to learn how to make shoes, and as I say, he made clogs. He had this workshop, which was adjoining the house, and it used to be a sort of meeting place for the friends and farmers to have a chat. 

Then he got the job of Rating Officer and he would go out into the villages collecting the rates, so he went all around the farms. After a period of time the job increased as far as the rates were concerned and he was given more parishes and so we moved to Kirkby Stephen. That was where I went to school, so no longer did I have to board, which was jolly good.  

Interviewer: So you stayed in school until you were seventeen?

Doxford: I did, I took my school certificate and I got a reasonable one. 

Interviewer: What happened to you when you left school? Did you apply to join any of the services? 

Doxford: This was wartime of course and my first little job was during the school holidays. There was fear of invasion so the children were coming from the northeast by train and they got into a queue. They came down in twos from the station with their gas masks on their chests and a name plate. I felt so sorry for the poor little things, they were so young to leave their mothers. I applied for the job of looking after the evacuees. 

I did that in my holidays and then I persuaded my dad that I would like to not go back to school although Miss Whitley my headmistress wanted me to go the university. I decided I had enough of school. So I went to work in the local Solicitor’s Office and he was the Evacuation Officer as well. As a consequence I dealt with these children so much that I knew where they were billeted. I had to fill in a little form for each house that they went to, and these people were paid a certain amount for the children each week and they could go to the post office and collect the money. 

Interviewer: Good. That continued for how long?

Doxford: Well Hitler changed his mind didn’t he? He did not invade, and of course we all thought that they would arrive around the Middleborough area and Redcar but he decided he would attack Russia first. I think he thought that we were a small island and once he got Russia he could soon get us. 

The evacuees gradually drifted back to the Northeast; they came from Newcastle and places like that. I remember we had two billeted with us at home—a girl of about nine and a little boy of about four—and I remember taking them. As I say we had a little car and we used to go and visit my aunt who was married to a farmer and when we took these two little ones over there it was the first time that the boy had seen sheep in the fields and cows and he shouted, “Evelyn, Evelyn look there, look there, see, see!” He just could not believe his eyes to see these animals. That seemed a bit sad, didn’t it? 

Interviewer: You were around eighteen by now, and so you were directed into other labor?

Doxford: Well at nineteen you have to go to do some form of corps work if you did not join the forces. I had been accepted in the Wrens [Women’s Royal Naval Service] and I was waiting for my caller papers and visualizing myself in this Wren uniform of course. Over radio came this announcement about joining—I think it would be described as DSIR: Department of Scientific and Industrial Research—and my dad said, “You are going to join that. You get yourself written and I reckon nothing to you being in the forces. I was in the forces in the First World War and I do not want you going.” 

I said, “No dad. I have been accepted and I am going,” so I did not write and he was very cross. 

The next time the announcement came over the radio, he wrote and we got this word that I had a choice of three jobs. I did not want to go to either of the first two. Then this third one sounded more interesting. It was in North Wales and you would be doing work which would help in peacetime as much as wartime. That was when I had to change my mind reluctantly. 

When I went down there for an interview this doctor of science interviewed me, and he said that he could not tell me what we would be doing because only two people knew what we were actually doing. I got to accept that whatever it was it would of as much help in peacetime as it was in wartime. So he hoped that I would go and of course I duly did and I was billeted in Mold [Flintshire, Wales].

Interviewer: Do you remember where?

Doxford: I cannot remember the name of the road. I have tried to remember about that because my son took me to Rhydymwyn [Flintshire, Wales] this year to see what I could remember about it. Unfortunately we could not get in the factory it was locked, but if I had made arrangements there would have been someone there to take me in. As far as I could see there were not a lot of the buildings there; they seem to have gone.

Interviewer: Your building is there.

Doxford: Is it?

Interviewer: Oh yes. 

Doxford: There was the big building, P6, and across the road there was a low building where the engineers were and I spent quite a lot of time in that small building. I must say at this juncture that an extraordinary thing—a chap from Morecambe, which was the next village to Kirkby Stephen, had been down there and had put electricity in the caves in the hillside where the large part of the factory was making poison gas and where they were going to store this poison gas. So isn’t that an extraordinary coincidence. 

Interviewer: When you went down and you were interviewed, they said, “Please come we would like to take you? 

Doxford: That is right.

Interviewer: Did you receive a letter saying, “Please Come,” and you said, “Okay,” and you went?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Did you get a railway warrant?

Doxford: I do not remember. 

Interviewer: I just wonder how people got around. 

Doxford: Yes there must have been something because I would not have been able to afford to go without it. 

Interviewer: Did anybody meet you? Did you go to Chester Station and catch the train up to Mold?

Doxford: Yes I remember doing that and going along.

Interviewer: So when you went there were you warned about secrecy and segregation?

Doxford: Oh yes. We couldn’t talk about what we were doing outside. The original digs that I was in—I do not know whether I should say this really, but the foreman was there, the foreman of the workmen in P6/7, this little engineering department, and because he was very friendly, he became too friendly. I will not go into that, but it was decided that I should move from those digs in Mold by this boy whom I had met in the engineering department, and he found me digs in Buckley. 

This boy was Ken Doxford, of course. He was just being kind. I didn’t really think much about it until one of our group—there were ten girls I should say, well one of them was really more than a girl, she was the wife of one of the rectors of the one of the Welsh parishes, and she said one day, “That boy has his eye on you.” So of course that was the beginning of a friendship and we eventually got married in 1947. 

I must go back to being in there. In one of the rooms in this small building they had erected a glass apparatus—there was a glass blower as part of the team. 

Interviewer: And the glass blower was located in Building 45, wasn’t he? P6? 

Doxford: Yes, I think he was. I had forgotten that. I worked with this glass apparatus and I had a pump because I had to pump this apparatus down to below atmospheric pressure. I should also say that there was a little instrument attached to this, which was called a pirani, which earned me the name Pirani Queen. I had to calibrate what was happening in this glass apparatus and pump it down below atmospheric pressure. I would have a piece of graph paper and down one side I would put the pressures as it went down. I suppose along the bottom would be the time every twenty minutes.

Interviewer: Were you measuring the decrease in volume of a liquid?

Doxford: No, it had no liquid, it was purely air. 

Interviewer: What was the effect you were recording?

Doxford: Any air that was in this apparatus was pumped out. And gradually as it got lower and lower. That is how I measured—down the graph paper, where it was every twenty minutes. So this instrument, the pirani, had been calibrated and it was taken away at a certain point and put on the big apparatus in the large P6 building. I had gotten to be accurate. 

Interviewer: You were measuring the efficiency of the decompression on it. Okay, I understand. 

Doxford: I find after all these years it is difficult to explain. 

Interviewer: Yeah you were measuring how pure the volume was and how low the pressure was. 

Doxford: Yes, below atmosphere. 

Interviewer: I guess that the idea behind that was if it held the pressure you could use that in a context, in P6 building. If it was losing it would not be efficient. 

Doxford: On the big apparatus, that is right. It was measuring at what state the lack of atmosphere was in these big apparatus that they had there.

Interviewer: How good was the vacuum and how long did it hold for?

Doxford: That is right. I do remember there was a big tank in the middle of that building which they used to periodically clean all the apparatus. It was all put into this big tank. Now I should remember the name of the stuff that was in the tank but I am afraid I do not. 

Interviewer: A decontamination tank?

Doxford: Yes, but the name of the liquid that they used to decontaminate the apparatus. It would have to be absolutely pure to do the work that they were doing. 

Interviewer: Is that what you did all the time you were there?

Doxford: Yes I guess it was. 

Interviewer: And you went there in 1942? 1943?

Doxford: I suppose sometimes they gave me a change and I worked in the chemistry lab. I was in there with Ron Pearson.

Interviewer: You went there in 1942 did you say?

Doxford: I would certainly be about twenty so that would be—

Interviewer: ’43.

Doxford: Yeah around twenty really would be when I got there. 

Interviewer: Did you have any training before you went there?

Doxford: Oh no. It was just the fact that I got a good school certificate that they accepted me. 

Interviewer: So you went there in 1943 and you stayed until the end war? 

Doxford: No, no I went back home when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, or just before that.

Interviewer: That was the end of 1945. 

Doxford: Well so that was not the deciding factor. 

Interviewer: Can I give you a piece of information, which may help?

Doxford: Yes.

Interviewer: I believe at the beginning of 1945 everything was cleared and was closed down there. I know all the test equipment was taken out. 

Doxford: Well, I certainly went back home before then. It could have been ’44 when I went back home to Westmoreland and I went into the food office because I still had to do war work. 

Interviewer: So can I go back to the P6 bit? Did you have a different pass from all of the other people who went on the side? 

Doxford: We would have. 

Interviewer: You were segregated? 

Doxford: We were and we were very much made aware of it too. They felt we were sort of invading their territory. I was billeted after I had to move from this billet in Mold and I went up to one in Buckley where there were already two girls. They worked in the other part of the factory. 

Of course, they quizzed me like mad women because they all wondered what we were doing. They said, “What is it that you are doing? Why aren’t you sort of all open with the factory?”

I said, “I am sorry but I cannot tell you what I am doing,” and they were really hoity-toity about it. I suppose they just had to accept it in the end but it would have been easier if I could have told them. I could not and that was the end of it. I could not talk about it when I went home either. 

Interviewer: Can you remember the name of the girls offhand?

Doxford: One was called Joyce and the other one was called Margaret. Joyce belonged Frodsham and Margaret came from London somewhere, and I should think she was a very clever girl by the look of her. 

They were somewhat put out because I could not tell them. Strangely enough I did meet Joyce, well Ken and I did, since we moved here because we were near Frodsham, but it did not work. There was no rapport between us at all. She still felt as though she had a chip on her shoulder so we just did not bother about it. We have this lovely home and when we went to visit her, which she felt she had to do, it did not make any difference to us at all, the fact that she was in a little semi [detached house] in Frodhsam.

Interviewer: You lived in a house in Buckley with two girls, what was your social life? Did you go to pubs or dances?

Doxford: No, I did not go to pubs. 

Interviewer: Of course you had a boyfriend didn’t you?

Doxford: I had a boyfriend, yes. 

Our entertainment in those days apart from walking was going to the cinema. There were two cinemas in Buckley and one was the—

Interviewer: Tivoli.

Doxford: Tivoli, that is right, and they had good films. Well they had good films at the other one, but it was known as the “flea pit,” it was just a little one. In order to see a different film you would go there and as soon as my landlady knew that I had been to the flea pit she was worried about the fleas. On this particular night I remember her son was home—he was in the Army—so he had to have my bed. 

I was sleeping in his bed because the two girls were in a double bed and she had a double bed in the front room. So I had to go and sleep with her. I do remember I had not been in bed very long when she came and got in and clothes were suddenly thrown back. Here’s me, all snuggled and getting off to sleep, and I could hear her as she was looking for these fleas! That never happened to me before or since. That was Mrs. Hibbert, but she was a dear soul.

Interviewer: Did you go to dances?

Doxford: Well I went to the odd one but I did not go to many. There would be sort or an annual dance I suppose; I remember going to that in Mold Town Hall. One thing I do remember is that someone had asked me to dance and I hadn’t actually gotten up when Dr. Kurti came to ask me and I felt terrible. I had to say, “I’m sorry I have already been asked.” I thought that he was somebody important of course. Oh dear what should I have done? Anyway I just was honest about it. 

Interviewer: Which of the scientists can you remember from P6? You said Nick Kurti, Dr. Kurti. 

Doxford: And Dr. London. 

Interviewer: Yes.

Doxford: And Appleby—I suppose he would be one wouldn’t he? I do not know whether you would call Clarke a scientist. I do not know if his first name was Ron. And then there was Pearson in the lab. 

Interviewer: Very important man?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Professor Simon, can you remember him?

Doxford: I cannot really, no. 

Interviewer: Do you remember Klaus Fuchs being there, the spy? He spent a lot of time in Oxford but I know he was there because he stayed in Maes Alyn.

Doxford: I must be honest and say the name does not really mean anything to me. I do know there were groups who used to come around and chat to one another and look at what you were doing.  

Interviewer: Did you go the evenings in Maes Alyn, the social evenings?

Doxford: I only think I ever went to one. It might have been to two but that would be the most that I would go to.

Interviewer: Or Bryn Belan because that was the other one; there were two. What about eating? Did you eat in the canteen?

Doxford: Yes there were two canteens. There was the works canteen where my husband went. 

Interviewer: I am in front of you go on [laughter]. 

Doxford: Yes and I was in the staff canteen. 

Interviewer: The special person’s canteen. 

Doxford: One thing I though was grossly unfair was the works canteen had entertainment. ENSA [Entertainments National Service Association] they called it. Yes they used to have people come to entertain them and we did not get that. 

Interviewer: Can you remember the people who went?

Doxford: No. 

Interviewer: Can you remember Rob Wilton being there?

Doxford: Come on, really? 

Interviewer: He was definitely there. 

Doxford: Was he? 

Interviewer: How big was the staff canteen then? This quite interests me. Could you get a lot of people there? Not the staff canteen, the general canteen, can you get a lot of people in there? 

Doxford: I think that they would be both about the same size really. 

Interviewer: Do you?

Doxford: I just do not clearly remember. 

Interviewer: So what did Ken do there then besides chase you all the time?

Doxford: What did Ken do?

Interviewer: Yes. 

Doxford: He was instrument engineer. 

Interviewer: Was he?

Doxford: He had been the apprentice of the year in ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries] Billingham. As a consequence, when he went in to the RAF when he was called up the year before me—I did not know it then of course—they brought him out of the RAF to do this job of apprentice in P6.

Well they needed somebody who knew about all the instruments that were on the various pieces of apparatus and who could repair them so we could keep going on. In that engineers hut I suppose he was a sort of foreman and then there was another man under him, Jim, and then there were two apprentices, Ken and Stan who came from the ICI factory in Billngham.

He was disappointed really when he went to the RAF because he was visualizing flying but because he wore glasses he could not fly. He would be ground staff, so I do not think that he was too disappointed when they pulled him out.

Interviewer: When you were in Buckley did you go by train or bus or—

Doxford: Bus. There was a bus that took us there every day, yes. 

Interviewer: Were there many buses parked there waiting for people to take them to and from?

Doxford: Yes, I suppose there were, going different parts of Wales. I would not say there were a lot, but there would be several. 

Interviewer: Do you remember air raids or air raid warnings?

Doxford: Yes that would be when I went over to Redcar. Remember I said that during the early part of the war the people came over from the northeast because they thought Hitler was going to invade that area. And so in Kirkby Stephen came all these little evacuees, and the ones who could afford it, families came as well. There were not many who could afford just to up and come and we had a family staying with us from Redcar. 

When Hitler turned his attention to Russia of course they went back and so I used to go there for weekends to stay with them. While I was there I can remember seeing the sky all lit up because they were bombing Middleborough. But they did not bomb ICI Billingham as you know because they said didn’t they that Hitler came over here before the war and sized it all up. Do you remember that? Of course there was a big German section in ICI Billingham. 

Interviewer: The Bund. 

Doxford: Of course, they would definitely not want to bomb that. Otherwise that would have been a wonderful place for them to bomb but they did not and Middleborough got the attention. Yes, I do remember visiting Middleborough when the sky was red. 

Interviewer: At Valley [Rydymwyn Valley] do you remember the air raid or the air raid warnings?

Doxford: I just remember the warnings but I don’t think anything happened. 

Interviewer: I was thinking where do people go? This was a chemical weapons factory, so where were the shelters? Were they on the banks or ground level?

Doxford: I am afraid that is gone from me. I cannot remember that. 

Interviewer: What about food in the war? Did you get by?

Doxford: Yes, of course in Kirkby Stephen everything was fine there because it was the country and people kept pigs so we did have some extra rations. But we only had our little few ounces of butter and cheese. They said we were all the healthier for it, didn’t they?

Interviewer: When you were in Buckley you handed your card over to your landlady?

Doxford: That is right. 

Interviewer: What about clothes?

Doxford: Well there were coupons in the rations; I think they were attached in the ration book. 

When I went back home, I went into the food office in Appleby and I issued ration books. You could only have a ration book if you presented your old ration book and your identity card. 

Interviewer: Wow. 

Doxford: Yeah. A part of it that I did enjoy, when you’re talking about food, was that our boss, when the time came the year was up for people to have new ration books, it was done in the villages all around Appleby. He had his petrol ration of course, and we used to go off with him, two of us, to a village and we would sit in this village in the clubs in the village to issue these ration books. To me, what was good about it was that we went to the local pub for our meal and so we got a decent meal.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Doxford: And that of course was extra.

Interviewer: Do you remember a British Restaurants being around?

Doxford: I do remember British Restaurants. I would think that was probably a British Restaurant within the factory.

Interviewer: I was speaking to a gentleman in Frodsham and he said to me—and he was brought up in the war years—he said, “I can always tell the people brought up in the war, they never leave food.” 

Doxford: No I never leave food. 

Interviewer: You do not, do you? It is programming. 

Doxford: No, I just simply could not leave any food. I never waste. 

Interviewer: Do you remember the American at Rydymwyn? 

Doxford: The only thing that I remember about them is that they came around in a group periodically. 

Interviewer: Were there colored ones amongst them?

Doxford: I do not remember that there were any colored ones. I think I would because—

Interviewer: And they came on to the factory site? 

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Do you remember Army and Navy and people visiting there as well?

Doxford: Not that I know of. They were not in uniform, I do not think I can remember anybody in uniform. 

Interviewer: Okay it was a different section to you.

Doxford: Yes, oh yes it was. 

Interviewer: But they did visit the site for courses and so on.  

Doxford: It must be the gas part of it. 

Interviewer: So you got to the end of the Tube Alloys stuff and it all went off and you went back home to the northeast 

Doxford: No northwest. 

Interviewer: Sorry, the northwest.

Doxford: Yes Westmorland Appleby. 

Interviewer: You got another job in 1945?

Doxford: Well earlier than that, I would be—

Interviewer: Late 1944, early 1945, whatever. 

Doxford: And I went into the food office at Appleby. 

Interviewer: You said, yes. 

Doxford: So I had to stay in digs in Appleby and I stayed at a fruit and vegetable shop. So we did quite well for food there, we were okay. 

Interviewer: So Ken was still working down at Valley?

Doxford: Yes he was for a little while, and then he came back to Billingham. 

Interviewer: So he was over that side of the country and you were over this side? 

Doxford: That is right.

The first thing he had was a motor bike and [he] used to come over on this motorbike. One weekend I remember we went down to Cheshire. My granny and grandpa lived in Cheshire, my mother was in Cheshire, and my father was Westmorland. I went down and it poured, and when I got to my granny’s I was saturated right through to the skin because the motor bike threw the water up. So I said to him, “that is the last time I am going to ride on a motorbike. If you expected me to go with you, you will have to get a car,” and bless him, he did get a Ford 8. It was a very old one.

Interviewer: Was this after the war?

Doxford: Well I suppose it could have been the last year. Could have been 1945.

Interviewer: He must have loved you to get a car in those years. He must have worked for that. 

Doxford: The funny part of it—he took his dad along Stockton-On-Tees, this was High Street, and one of the wheels came off and it was running along the road in front of them. I think he had not had it very long, only a few days. We never have forgotten that. 

Interviewer: Through this you come up to VE Day?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Can you remember VE Day?

Doxford: VE Day and VJ Day I think I spent with Ken I went over to the northeast and spent it with him. 

Interviewer: With Ken’s family?

Doxford: Yeah with his family.

Interviewer: Okay. Those big occasions—were those memorable occasions, VE Day and VJ Day?

Doxford: Well they were memorable to me in so much that it was the end of the war but I think they did have street parties at Kirkby Stephen for the people. I do not remember a street party for me, no. 

Interviewer: By now you have been going out for some years, it is about time you got a proper job wasn’t it? Instead of these temporary things you have been having. After the war did you get a job?

Doxford: His dad said that I suppose he would think it would be easy for me to be living with them, which it would not have been really. A part I have not said is that my boss at the Appleby Food Office although we got married on May 24th, he would not let me leave the Food Office until the completion of the rationing in the year, which happened to the end of July. Now how many people today, how many girls today, would have stayed at the food office to complete it? They would not would they? Well I stayed. 

Interviewer: Would you say that was in 1947?

Doxford: No, it would be 1944, 1945. 

Interviewer: So you got married in 1945?

Doxford: We got married in 1947. I just went over for the weekends to stay with his parents. 

Interviewer: So you were working in the Food Office until 1947?

Doxford: Yes I suppose so. You see, food rationing went on after the war. 

Interviewer: Oh yes, I understand. In 1947 when you got married, did you move over to the northeast?

Doxford: Yes. 

Interviewer: Okay. 

Doxford: Yes I did. 

Interviewer: Did you have a house and so on?

Doxford: No. We got married on the strength of getting a flat, but by the time we were able to go, because of this wretched boss man saying I have to stay there until July, the woman let it, so we lost it. It was decided by Ken and his father, that he should move ICI Billingham to ICI Welwyn Garden City. We were married and we went down there in 1947, and he worked in Welwyn Garden City for a few years. We lived in a flat, well half of a house, in Old Welwyn. Points of interest to me: traveling by bike from Old Welwyn to Welwyn Garden City. I went along a road and at right angles to this road was a long low cottage and who lived in that cottage? H. G. Wells. 

Interviewer: Did he?

Doxford: Yeah they used to be standing in the doorway and see this little gray haired man standing in the doorway there. 

Interviewer: Very sad man. 

Doxford: Yeah.

The other thing living around Old Welwyn—we were cycling long the road one day and we saw this sit-up-and-beg [bicycle] coming towards us, very, very stately and this man in tweeds, Norfolk jacket and his pants—

Interviewer: Who was that? Shaw?

Interviewer: George Bernard?

Doxford: G. B. Shaw, yes. So those two men stick in my mind from that period.

Interviewer: Two literary giants. 

Doxford: Yes, absolutely. I thought I was lucky to have seen them. 

Interviewer: In 1947 there is the worst winter in living memory?

Doxford: A dreadful winter; it really was a dreadful winter. At Kirkby Stephen the snow was level with the walls—the tops of those walls that are put together with stones. They just had to cut a path through and that brings another memory because I had to ring the Food Office to say that I was sorry I could not come in because we were snowed in. He said, “Oh Eileen, of course you can get here, the snow plow is coming through isn’t it? 

I said, “Well yes it is the train has got a plow on the front of it,” but I said, “Mr. Harker they would not want me on the engine, would they now?” 

And so I said, “Oh no, I cannot come.” 

Wasn’t that a ridiculous idea to think I could be on the engine that was going through to open the railway? It was a dreadful winter, that’s true.

Now then living next door to us in Kirkby Stephen was an old gentleman by the name of Wharton, the Reverend John Wharton, and he had been a vicar in Liverpool. More important than that, he was the descendant of Thomas Lord Wharton who was a friend of Henry VIII. 

He was very proud of this fact. In fact I have his family tree somewhere, which he made his job. Now what I am thinking is that my wedding bouquet—he died in the hard winter, and I requested that they took my wedding bouquet and put it on his grave because he was a grand old man. He used to refer to me as Miss Eileen. He lived next door, and his housekeeper, Miss Layton, made my wedding dress for my present. I only got a long wedding dress because everybody gave me their coupons. We came to Leeds to buy the satin, white satin, and she made it for me. 

Interviewer: Do you remember the parachutes being sold?

Doxford: Yes I do. I had one and I made myself clothes out of it. I think I made myself a blouse and an under slip. 

I should say that I remember the wedding car took my dad and I down to the church, Kirkby Stephen Parish Church, which is a big lovely church. When I got out there was a gathering of children all around the church gate, and when I got out of the car they went, “oooooh” because they had never seen a long wedding dress and I was the first one for them to see. I would not have gotten it if people had not took together for the coupons. 

And you asked about cigarettes—I smoked Craven A. 

Interviewer: Did you?

Doxford: Yeah a red pack with a ring on it with A, Craven A. 

Interviewer: It had a brown piece on the bottom but there was no tip in it was there? 

Doxford: No, it was not, I do not think in the beginning. 

Interviewer: Do you know they were made in the West Indies?

Doxford: Were they really?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Doxford: And of course why I started was this twenty minute waiting between [pressure] readings. 

Interviewer: Oh down there [P6]?

Doxford: Yes I started down there and I did not ever smoke very much, five or six a day. I could not afford it anyway because we were only paid about a pound or twenty-eight shillings a week. 

Interviewer: Were you?

Doxford: Yes it was very feeble. 

Interviewer: The process workers were paid a five [pound note] or starter. 

Doxford: When I came, I would have gotten five pounds if I had stayed at the Food Office because I would have been in charge of this department issuing the Russian books. I could only be in charge for a year and he [my boss] forced that. I think he was annoyed because I had taken the job when he felt that I knew that I was going to get married. 

I knew the way he treated the girls that worked there. The girl who was in charge was moving to the south coast to a food office down there, and so I was the one really to take her job. I did get five pounds a week for a short period of time. That would be in 1947, 1946 or 1947. 

Interviewer: Do you recall the Attlee Government coming in? Do you remember Clement Attlee?

Doxford: Yes I do. 

Interviewer: Replacing the great war hero, Churchill—were you shocked by that?

Doxford: I suppose I was a little bit because he [Churchill] had been there for so long and he had been such a wonderful leader. It seemed cruel to put him out. 

Interviewer: People thought they let him down, didn’t they?

Doxford: Yes, I could remember that feeling. And I think he was hurt too even though he must have been very tired, really. 

Interviewer: I think he was hurt as well. I heard Attlee described absolutely beautifully; it was: “Moon to Churchill’s War Time Sun.”

All through your life you were a child of the Depression and you had a war where you were rationing in, you were rationing after the war. When 1953 came along you must have had some hope in your life for the first time with the coronation and a new young Queen and the rump of the war politicians starting to disappear off the horizon. Did you feel that this coronation was a new start for you?

Doxford: I did, yes. It was the beginning of a new era and of course my first boy was born in 1950. Then Paul was born in 1954. 

In between, I looked after my brother’s baby while his wife was in the hospital, and I also had another baby some time to look after. During the war my dad’s cousin came up from London and with her little baby. Her husband had died and she went out during the war to Australia taking this baby with her.

Interviewer: I just have one final thing here. Do you recall Myfanwy [Pritchard-Roberts]? 

Doxford: Oh I remember Myfanwy. She was a very even, kindly sort of girl. There were ten of us. She probably told you that didn’t she?

Interviewer: No, nobody asked that question. So there were ten of you? 

Doxford: There were ten girls and seventy men. 

Interviewer: And the ten girls were lab assistants basically?

Doxford: That is right, we did different sort of jobs but I did spend most of my time in the engineering section. 

Interviewer: You were not clerical?

Doxford: Oh no, no clerical other than writing.

Interviewer: So there were ten girls and seventy men.

Doxford: Yes, which was big joke because [my father] said, “You are not going in the forces my girl. This [DSIR] is for you.” Then when I got down there, there were just ten girls and seventy men. [laughter] That was a joke you see because he thought I was going to be safe.