Yes, we were the first lot that joined the unit, the first ones. So I’ll tell you about my family. At the time I joined the ATS, we lived in a large Victorian house in Lancashire and I was the oldest of 5 children, the only girl. I had auburn hair, was an extrovert and was determined to keep up with my brothers and do things that they were unable to do - i.e. join the ATS.
During the winter we had been climbing in Derbyshire and the friend with whom I was climbing said she was going to join the TA attached to her father’s old regiment, from the First World War. So it was for four years, to go one night a week to do drill and PT and learn about the army and what we would do if a war started. But of course there wasn’t going to be a war was there, because Chamberlain had just come back with his chitty from Hitler saying 'no war in our time’.
However, I joined the ATS much to the disgust of my parents, but I thought it was super. We went one night a week for quite a long time, we were the first ones that were attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers, the 1st/8th Lancashire Fusiliers, whose proud battle was the Minden Day. And the first thing they told us was we had only joined the Lancashire Fusiliers because the LF on their shoulder stood for Ladies' Fancies, so that was why we had joined them.
We went one night a week, until July, when in July, I went for 14 days camp to Blackmore Park at Malvern. We only had the absolute minimum of uniform. We were not allowed to cut anything to fit us and there were only 3 sizes of everything: small, medium and large. I was too big for the small, the medium was too long and the large was far too big. So we could only turn things up we couldn’t cut or make anything to fit us and the only things that we had were - for a whole fortnight's camp - was one overall (workers), seven brass buttons and seven rings, one skirt, two shirts, one cap, [unclear] with two lots of pins to hold them and one shoulder, one tie and that was all we went with and we had, and one badge.
We went, we were with the Welsh Regiment at Blackmore Park, we did the same duties as the men. When they stood on guard all night, they had a rifle. When we stood on guard, we had a broom handle [laughing], on guard we were for a long time.Back to article
This transcript is from a 1995 interview with Mary Coomer. (NAM. 1995-06-56)
Mary served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service from 1938 to 1945. She was one of the first to be selected to go to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). After evacuating back to England in 1940, she served on the Home Front for the rest of the Second World War.