My Life as an LF Wife Vivienne Eastwood
Joe was a civvy when we met, but had done his two years National
Service. We married and had our daughter, Jane, and settled in
a rented, typical Lancashire two up two down house, outside loo,
little yard and garden, which we enjoyed doing up a bit and where
we were very happy. But as we know, civvies are different and
Joe could not settle at several jobs- even in the days when you
could walk out of one in the morning and have a new one in the
afternoon. So, eventually, he re-enlisted as a Regular in the
Lancashire Fusiliers. He had been in the Manchester Regiment TA
but as the LFs were due to be posted to British Guiana, that was
where he went- with his old pal Eric Ogden, and by co-incidence
my brother Colin (Dave Boutty )REME attached, and now our WebMaster.
So began my life as an LF Wife.
At first, the LFs were at Worcester and I saw Joe only at weekends.
On Jane's First Birthday we moved into Married Quarters at Lichfield-
oh what a treat that was! Brand new flat completely fitted with
all you could need, from pure wool blankets and cotton sheets to
baby chair, potty, you name it, we had it provided, even clothes
In the New Year, the men went off to BG.
We had only a few LF wives at Whittington Barracks,
Barbara Yates, Brenda Mort, Vi Davies, among them.
It was an opportunity to meet girls from other units.
The camp was all women and children, Mum said it was like a Mother
and Baby home.
I was lucky, I loved my flat, I was busy with a baby and of optimistic
and independent spirit. Some young girls were just set down, and
left at a loss- away from Mum, family and friends and with no interests;
the older or more sure ones of us would talk to them, help them
and encourage visits to the Wives' Club- mainly organised by the
Officers' wives- not all silly women by any means but really helpful,
and the SSAFA sisters were always on hand to give advice on babies
We kept in touch with our husbands by mail- no internet, no telephone,
no mobile, no text - but it was a thrill when the letters came,
often in batches, as did ours to them. I would put Jane to bed and
lie on the sofa to read mine while eating Naafi peaches straight
from the tin- pure indulgence!
Some of the wives had jobs, in the Naafi or in shops in Lichfield
or Tamworth, but having a baby made this difficult for me. I did
a bit of hairdressing at home and this was a success- I bought a
hairdryer on credit from the Naafi and every Monday, drew the Housekeeping
Allowance from my Order Book at the Post Office,, then, highlight
of the week, trip to Naafi, pay instalment, buy food for week, maybe
a new Max Factor Mascara- a nice organised life.
We were always looked after well- Reliable Medical Care from the
RAMC and repairs or replacements via the Barrack Wardens, - unlike
today the families get nothing and the quarters are neglected.
It was often said that you left a good quarter and took over a
grotty one but most of mine were fine, some had to be scrubbed up,
but I have lived in some gorgeous places, houses and flats.
The men were away ten months, coming home in the autumn. By Christmas
1965 we were all nicely settled in Weeton Camp, near Blackpool,
ex-RAF house, very nice, with good gardens and big kitchens. We
soon fell into a routine- the men were, as always, away a lot on
exercises and courses but we had a good happy two years there.
We had well-attended wives' clubs, (Yes, more Bingo!) and a keep
fit class- all my shoes were glam stilettos and Rita Boardman lent
me some red leather flatties for the keep fit-we had some fun !
We also had a shooting club, using an Anschutz Rifle and taught
by Dave England. I can win a coconut even today.
In 1967 we left Weeton for Hong Kong. How excited we were- although
some of the more experienced wives were quite cool -'oh yes there'll
be cockroaches big enough to ride on' -and there were ugh!!
But what a posting! We did not believe rumours of LF disbandment
and settled in happily.
Again, I was lucky to have a fabulous apartment, at Vista Panorama,
like a film star flat, beautiful.
Jane was now four and went to nursery in the mornings. This gave
me the chance to do something ' for me '- the start of womens' equality
in the 1960s,- and I got a lovely teaching post at St Mary's Canossian
College, opposite Gun club Barracks, doing English 'O ' levels.
I felt quite cosmopolitan, getting a taxi to work or hopping on
a local bus. It did not last long- Jane came down with really bad
Measles and I had to give it up. Later, I had another go at St Catherines
College but that was a different place- squalid and filthy, I could
not bear it, but ended up with two beautiful cheongsams uniforms
which I kept until recently.
The men as usual were away a lot but we had trips
to the beach, fab shops and markets, it was great, But some poor
girls never left their areas- Naafi and home. I heard one on the
flight home say what a boring place it was-unbelieveble!!
It was eventually known that the LFs were to be disbanded and absorbed
into RRF. They had sold us down the river.
There was an emotional ceremony where yellow hackles marched off
and red and white ones marched on.
Joe was away in Malaya but it was very upsetting to see soldiers
all around weeping openly-including Eric with whom Joe had re-enlisted.
Many left the Army and others carried on in new units, and a good
life we had-
But it was never the same again.