Friday 31 October 2014

Women In Wartime - ARC Clubmobile

Women In Wartime - American Red Cross ClubmobileA few months ago I had to write a post for my works' blog to promote a special model we had created of an AEC 10T10 bus, decorated in a grey wartime livery for the American Red Cross, for use as a Clubmobile.

To make the post a little more interesting than just a list of facts, I decided to embellish the history with a few images of a Clubmobile in action, and this was how I stumbled across the subjects of today's post. I'd found a wealth of images in the Life Archive, about one Clubmobile unit called 'North Dakota'. I knew instantly that though the bus enthusiasts would probably not appreciate a post about these ladies (and gent) that perhaps you all would, and so I have spent the last few weeks trying to find out more about the North Dakota Clubmobile & her staff.

But first a bit of History... In 1942 the US Armed Forces asked the ARC (American Red Cross) to create a recreational retreat for its servicemen, who were stationed at various bases across Europe. In England, ARC Service Clubs were set up in towns near to where American Forces were stationed and soon after Areo Clubs were created on air bases. Usually these services were offered for free to its servicemen, but due to the discrepancies in pay between the American Forces and their British counterparts (the British servicemen had to pay for the food at their service clubs), the US secretary of war asked the ARC to charge for its services, though prices for food were kept to a minimum.
Women In Wartime - American Red Cross Clubmobile
(Image Source)

The Clubmobile was conceived by ARC Commissioner to Britain Harvey D. Gibson. His plan was to put a service club "on wheels" which would be able to reach the serviceman directly at their camp or airfield, also by having a mobile club the ARC was able to get around the Forces request that a charge had to be made for their food and so were able to dispense their home comforts for free. In Britain Clubmobiles were created from buses loaned to the ARC by London's Green Line Bus company, they were ideal for the job as they were quickly and easily modified in to mobile kitchen units, with the addition of offside dispensing hatches and the rear could be converted in to a  a lounge with built-in benches which turned into bunks if needed. Every vehicle was given a name (mostly they were named after U.S. State's) contained a built-in doughnut machine and a primus stove for heating water for the all important American coffee. On board there was a Victrola record player with loud speakers for blasting out the latest tunes from back home, paperback books, magazines, cigarettes, candy, gum, and most importantly they brought the GI's, a little taste of home.

Women In Wartime - American Red Cross Clubmobile
Each unit was crewed by three 'Glamorous' young American women (though the North Dakota has four) and was driven to each location by a British driver. They were stationed in a town near American Forces installations and followed a routine of going to different bases each day where they would talk to servicemen while they served coffee and doughnuts and played their music loud, and chatted to the men, giving them a much-needed morale boost.

Women In Wartime - American Red Cross Clubmobile
The Glamorous American crew of the 'North Dakota' Clubmobile

These young women were recruited by the ARC from all over the United States, they were required to be between 20 and 35, to have at least some college education and previous work experience. In addition they had to be "physically hardy" sociable and attractive. On arriving in England they would be taken to London to be given the training in the skills they would need out in the field, essentially how to turn out dozens and dozens of doughnuts a day, an article from The Milwaukee Journal dated Sep 21, 1943 gives us a fuller picture of this training and the effect these 'Glamour girls were having on their British cousins.
In the Basement of one of London's Ancestral homes, in the heart of Mayfair, a doughnut school has been set up. Here pretty girls newly arrived from the states learn how to turn out doughnuts for the troops at the rate of 840 an hour. They wear white overalls and are easily the loveliest Army that has ever visited England. There are nearly 500 American girls in the country working for the ARC which runs the doughnut school. They are helped by more than 6,000 British volunteers. No task is to great or small for these girls to tackle. Some teach American troops London Ballroom dancing and other hold daily shorthand classes for US sailors. 
....There are no beauty bans in this service, and all the girls look glamorous with their silk stockings, varnished nails and elegant footwear. The British ATS, WAAFS and WRENS, look drab in comparison, with their Khaki, Air Force blue uniforms and black Lisle stockings, heavy shoes, little make up and no nail varnish. These American girls have caused a great impression on what is left of the British men in England. When the American troops first arrived in this country most of the English girls went crazy. Every American to them was a potential film star. Their unusual drawl and carefree manner captured numerous hearts. Their generosity and love of simple things endeared them to the hearts of the English mothers and Fathers. 
For a time Englishmen took second place, now things are different. American girls with their alluring accents, trim well cut uniforms, lovable natures and untiring zest for work and play have caused the English 'Tommy' a terrific heart throb. One English Officer said of them "they are so natural, so down to earth, you feel you are talking to a man until a whiff of that glorious perfume they all seem to wear reminds you that these are not ordinary women. These are brave women who have crossed dangerous waters to be of help to us here....When asked what this allusive perfume was, the girls said: " Its toilet water you get back in the states, you can't wear a heavy perfume in uniform, and this toilet water seems to fill the gap. These American girls have really made their British sisters sit up and take notice. Even the hairstyle have altered, and once again the age old argument is raging in the feminine forces, as to why they can't have their nails red, wear silk stockings and reasonable shoes. (Source)
It seems it was not just the American GI's who these ladies made a morale-boosting impact on, they were making the war-weary British Tommy's hearts beat a bit faster too. Though no doubt they made the 'drab looking' British service women, who for years had been restricted from any form of beautification whilst in uniform, just a tad jealous!

OK, history bit is done, I think it's time for me to introduce you to the North Dakota's crew.

Left to right : American girls Tatty, Mike, Dooley & Ginny discuss the day ahead with their English bus driver Fred

So we've met the team, lets now look at what a typical day aboard a Clubmobile entails. Life did an article on this Unit in February 1943 and after much searching, I have managed to track down an actual copy of the magazine which has helped immensely to piece everything together.

Life Visits Red Cross Girls in England
Their job on the fighting front is romantic, but their days start at dawn and the work is never done

Somewhere in England, four American Red Cross girls staff a Clubmobile bus, one of 51 such mobile canteens operating in the British Isles.
Ginny is mixing the dough for the first batch

The girls are up and at 'em bright and early well before dawn, to make the first batch of the vast quantities of doughnuts that the will need for the day. The Girls take turns in getting up at 4.30 am to make the doughnuts and are all out on their rounds by 8.30 am.

Tatty emerges from the Clubmobile, with a rack full of the freshly made 'sinkers'
Once they are ready they head off to their first port of call for the day. Today's first stop is an American Airbase 'somewhere in England'. As they approach the base the girls put on a record and blast the music from the loudspeakers mounted front and back of their bus.

At each stop, the girls are greeted with howls of delight, and the boys throng to the bus from runways, hangars and trucks, forming long queues all eager to get their coffee and doughnuts and a glimpse of an 'All American Gal'.

A happy Sergeant grins and greets the girls "seen ya' comin' a mile away"
Whilst Ginny and Dooley handout the food Mike and Tatty chat to the GI's. After many weeks of regular visits the girls know most of them by name. Their slogan is "doughnuts will win the war".

“She’s a perfect 42, fellas,” this mechanic teases Mike as the boys measure her waist.
Tatty is deep in conversation with some friendly GI's
Dooley and Mike lark about with a jolly kitchen assistant
The Red Cross girls come in for a lot of good-natured kidding from the servicemen, with whom they become quite friendly.

While the girls are occupied entertaining the troops, Fred takes the opportunity to give the bus a quick once over, he manages to impress the girls daily with his ability to manoeuvre the bus out of a tight spot or two!

Once all the coffee and doughnuts have been served its time to refill the urns by creating a train from the mess hall to the Clubmobile, these 8 urns manage to hold 40 gallons of Coffee!

Next stop for the Clubmobile is a field hospital where the girls dispense the last of the doughnuts and coffee and spend time chatting and reading papers from back home to the patients, before heading back to their billet.

Back at their billet, which is a wing of a large 15th century mansion owned by an English Earl and his Countess, its time to change into there dress uniform ready to attend a party!

The evening is filled with jazz music and dancing though girls are cautious not to have too much fun as their enlisted friends are hurt if they date officers too often!

After a night of dancing and fun, the girls have a quick chat about the night before bed and before their next day in charge of American morale.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was bugging me for a while that I couldn't figure out where in England this team were stationed, 'somewhere in England' is all the article unhelpfully said, but thanks to my day at IMW Duxford a few weeks back I spotted that the aeroplanes pictured at the airbase are B17's and by searching the tail number shown in the below picture, I discovered a bit of helpful information.

I found this snippet of information:
The B-17F salvaged on May 20, 1944 due to battle damage. It was a B-17F built by Douglas-Long Beach and delivered to Denver on June 23, 1943. From there it went to Dow Field and then on to the 96BG/338BS at Snetterton. Apparently, it was given two nicknames: Hell's Chariot and Wacky Woody.
Which suggests to me that the photos were taken at the Snetterton airfield (which has now been turned in to a race track) if this is the case it would mean the team was stationed in Norfolk.

I have also managed to track down a little information about our team and what happened to them after this day back in 1943.

Katherine 'Tatty' Spaatz

Age 22, “homeless” daughter of the Air Forces from Washington D.C.
Katherine Arrived in England along with socialite Katleen Kennedy and 52 other volunteers in July 1943. Daughter of Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, commander of US strategic Air forces in Europe. She worked with the ARC Clubmobile unit for 2 years, initially working in England and later, after the invasion of France. By July 7th 1945 she was back in the states with her parents in Miami. September 1948 the Milwaukee Journal reports she has married Walter F Bell of Sussex, England

Julia 'Dooley' Townsend
Age 28, from New York City
Not much can be found out about Julia the only reference I can find is that she is still working with Katerine Spaatz by August 1944, they are both now working in France, still serving out doughnuts and warm wishes.

Virginia 'Ginny' Sherwood

Age 24, from Portland Oregon
Ginny was the Captain of the crew and niece to Officer of War information Robert Sherwood. She is also to be found working with Tatty and Dooley in France 1944.

Dorothy 'Mike' Myrick

Age 24, Whiting, Indiana
Before joining the ARC as a teen she was very much into acting and by accounts rather good, as a reference to an Indiana newspaper for 1936 states:

"Dorothy Myrick will present the Globe Theatre version of Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors," at the Congregational church tomorrow evening at eight o'clock. Those who saw the Whiting Juvenile Theatre Guild presentation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," under the direction of Miss Myrick, know what a treat they will have tomorrow evening"

The only other info I have found is a reference to her marrying a teacher by the name of Steve Randal in 1950, they had three children together (all girls) and she died in 1999.

Fred Clark

27, East end of London England
Fred was invalided out of the Royal Navy and became a bus driver for the ARC, and the only one of the gang not to be an American, though the girls accuse him of acquiring a Brooklyn accent!
If you made it this far I salute you! If you enjoyed this post you can read more about women of the Clubmobile below, or if you fancy looking through some my past Picture Posts click the tab at the top!

Further Reading:

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Sewing Stash Giveaway Winner is ...

Whoops! I very nearly forgot to draw a winner of my little sewing pattern giveaway, so let me remedy that now!

Rather than use a number generator, this time, I decided to go down the old fashioned - more theatrical - route and write all the names out on paper...

...fold them all up...

...pop them in my very stylish Victory Beret for muddling, and then pick a winner...

...and the winner is Jo Hoy from Of A Vintage Air!!

 Congratulations Jo!! I do hope you enjoy the patterns, and a big thank you to all of you who took part!

Wendy x

Monday 20 October 2014

The Hepburn Project - The Audrey Hepburn Story

It was after seeing all the wonderful projects shared over the web for this year's Me-Made May  (I was overwhelmed with just how many people wore homemade all month, you guys are amazing!) that I realised that there was a real lack of practical clothing in my wardrobe, especially separates. I have a lot of dresses which I love and wear, but there are far more dressy 'going out' dresses than I will ever need in my wardrobe.

So when I spotted that Sarah from The Creative Perfectionist was updating her Hepburn Project I was as keen as mustard to join in, I figured it would help to motivate me to create some practical yet pretty separates which could be mixed and matched!

I knew instantly which of the two lovely Hepburn ladies I wanted to emulate, my favorite actress of all time, Audrey Hepburn.

1954 La Vigna, Italy {Image Source}

I have already made myself some Audrey inspired items (this black dress and this eye mask) But when contemplating a wardrobe full of Audrey 'inspired' clothes where do you start?

Well, obviously you go wild on Pinterest, pin everything Audrey related...

{Image Source}


Then you go back over her films to oggle/research her style a bit more. So today's post is actually a sneaky way of me introducing another Film Fashion Post, remember those! I am actually going to start somewhere you might not expect, with made for TV movie, The Audrey Hepburn Story.

The Audrey Hepburn Story is a biopic from 2000, it stars Emmy Rossum as young Audrey and Jennifer Love Hewitt as the older, as you would expect from a biopic it charts her life from her early days growing up in Belgium and Holland during the war, barely surviving by all accounts, through her early ballet and acting career and leading up to her filming of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

So let's have a quick look at the fashions, shall we ...

Brown Circle calf length skirt, with a white lacy blouse with cute little slit sleeves and round collar, pulled together with a brown leather belt and ribbon neck tie.

I can't be sure if this is a dress or a blouse and skirt as we don't get much of a look at it, but its still lovely! It has a button through front, trimmed pointy black and white polka dot collar and matching sleeve cuffs.

White, head scarf, cream oversized knitted jumper, embellished with red scalloped (looks crocheted) edging around the neck hem and cuffs above which is a red band which has been woven through the neckline and finished in a bow/ Paired with capri pants and red wooden clog shoes.

This outfit is the costume departments attempt to capture the essence of the iconic scene where Audrey sings 'Moon River', in reality, the outfit in the film is much less interesting Audrey's hair is wrapped in a white towel she is wearing grey jersey sweater, with denim capris and ballet pumps.

When Audrey meets Hubert Givenchy for the first time she is wearing a silk button backed blouse embellished with beads around the collar and yoke and a simple grey pencil skirt.

Well, I know this is a dress but it's rather lovely, especially the colour, again more polka dots a full circle skirt topped with a sleeveless bodice and v-shaped neckline which has a slim collar and is gathered by a bow.

I am rather smitten with this little red cap, it looks like it's crochet, but could quite as easily have been woven straw.
The same brown skirt as above, this time, it's worn with a simple yet lovely short sleeve black blouse with buttons down the front and cute little necktie style collar.
A Mid blue V-necked jersey with embellished neckline and a little stand-up collar teamed with a pair of 'classic' Audrey Capri pants.

I honestly set about watching this expecting to hate it, but I really didn't, I actually really rather enjoyed it! The reason I started here rather than with one of her classic films, was I thought it would give me a better idea of what Audrey's most iconic pieces were when distilled through the eyes of the costume department. If someone had to find the essence of Audrey's style what would they pick? what colours would they use and would it be believable?

And I think it certainly is, they have obviously changed a few things but nothing major and it's given me a good starting place for isolating what would make a 1950's Audrey inspired wardrobe.

Bold Colours - Browns, Pinks, Blues, Black & White.
Patterns - Essentially very little in the way of patterns mainly a little embellishment here and there and a few polka dots!
Separates - Obviously!  Full Circle skirts are always worn with a belt; capri pants and short sleeve blouses, with some neck embellishment, tie or brooch.

So now it's time to seek out some appropriate patterns to fit the job and I'll be back with my findings soon!

Wendy x

Saturday 11 October 2014

Day Out At Duxford - Warbirds Take Flight

A few weekends ago I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the annual airshow at the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - B17 Flying Fortress 'Sally Bee"
B17 Flying Fortress 'Sally Bee"
I've been to Duxford many times before, though during my previous visits I'd never had any time to explore the museum as I was always working, so I was really excited to finally get a good look at everything, with the added bonus of seeing some of these amazing machines in flight!

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - Line up of spitfires
A line up of Spitfires

It was a bit of a long day, not pre-booking a ticket meant a 5am wake up call to ensure we got one of the limited on the day tickets by the opening at 8am (even at seven there was already queues on the motorway, it was mental). I somehow managed to find time to smarten myself up for the occasion, its been ages since I set my hair as I've been feeling a bit off for the last few months, but it was about time despite a crack of dawn start to make a bit of an effort.

It reminded me, in my sleepy haze, just how much my freshly curled locks make me resemble Johnathan Creek which I found utterly hysterical, blame tiredness. After a bit of brushing I did manage to tame the curls into something less amusing, though my styling lasted about 15 minutes after exiting the car, airfields are windy (duh), so this is the only evidence of my efforts, at least I tried. 

Getting to the museum bright and early meant there was plenty of time to look at all of the packed to the rafters aircraft hangers before the majority of the visitors turned up, which meant it was lovely and calm.

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - two seater trainer spitfire
Two Seater Trainer Spitfire

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - Airspace Hangar
Air Space Hangar
Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - Boeing Stearman
Boeing Stearman Training Plane 
Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - English Electric Lightening
English Electric Lightening

After a spot of lunch, it was time for the show itself, now I wont bore you all my three million photos, most of which are just of dark specs against the sky, just my favourite parts, one of which was the majestic WWI display team which included a Fokker Triplane piloted by Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, which certainly explained the plethora of Iron Maiden T-shirts which were being worn around the airfield! The aircraft were so slow yet elegant and graceful, it is hard to believe how much aviation evolved in the 20 years between the wars.

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - Fokker Triplane and BE2 Replicas
Fokker Triplane & BE2 replicas

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - WWI Dogfight
WWI Dogfight

My main reason for going to Duxford, was actually to see the flypast of the only two flight-worthy Avro Lancaster's. I'd managed to miss them at all the other locations they were at over August so I was well aware this was my very last chance and I was not disappointed, it was an experience that I wont forget.

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - AVRO Lancaster Bombers and Spitfire Escort
Avro Lancaster B Mk 1, Lancaster B Mk. X & their Spitfire escort

The weather which had been all blue skys and sunshine mere hours before had turned to thick grey cloud, I was initially irritated by this, but to be honest the heavy cloud seemed utterly appropriate and if anything added to the experience. When the announcement came over the tannoy that they were on there way, everybody was scanning the sky desperate to be the first to see them. As they came into view over the top of one of the hangars, the sound of their engines competed with the clapping of the crowd and rapid fire of cameras clicking in frantic unison to get a memento of the moment.

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - AVRO Lancaster Bombers Thumper and Vera
UK based Thumper and Canadian based Vera

Honestly it was a wonderful sight and the roar of the eight Merlin engines was incredible (I know the spitfires were there too so probably ten Merlin engines) I can confess to feeling a bit emotional and shedding a tear, daft I know but I had really, really wanted to see them, it was a once in a lifetime experience, like a little bit of time travel. I can only imagine the sound a whole squadron would have created impressive, yet terrifying.

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - Four Spitfires
Four Spitfires hove into view

Once I'd composed myself, erh-hum, there was plenty more to see. The only areoplane I had seen in all the times I had visited before, was the American Flying fortress B17 'Sally Bee' (see top photo) this time it took to the skies which was wonderful, also there was an simply amazing display from a tri-jet Boeing 727 which I was to flawed by to take any photos. Having deciding to leave a little early to avoid the traffic chaos, the last display of the day was from four Spitfires, tailed by a lone Hawker Hurricane.

Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - Hawker Hurricane
Tail End Charlie - A Hawker Hurricane

By this time the sky had returned to its more turquoise hue, which illuminated their aerial acrobatics perfectly. It reminded me of the first time I saw a Spitfire fly when was a child, one flew over our back garden, I'm not sure how we knew it would be flying past, but we were all out cameras in hand. Somewhere I still have the spec of black on blue image I took that day. I was as mesmerised then as I am now, this time though I was able to get a few better pictures!

Duxford based Spitfire F Mk.Ia P9374
Duxford Airshow September 14th 2014 - Spitfires one with clipped wings
Supermarine Spitfire's 
The clipped wings increase the roll rate, which meant they were able to compete better with the Fokker 190.

As we walked back to the car park the Red Arrows were swooping, soaring and painting the sky red, white and blue, which was the perfect end to the day! I have to say it really was a fabulous trip, well worth the early start.  I've never been to an airshow before, so I wouldn't consider myself a plane spotter, though I do love an old Warbird, but it would be impossible not to find the sheer amount of aircraft on display simply breathtaking, I would heartily recommend a day out to Duxford to everyone!

Wendy x