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The Three Page Girls, Site 74, No.937 Squadron
937 Squadron was formed in January 1939. 44 Bridge Street , in Newcastle Town was chosen as Headquarters. In November 1939 it had 23
W.A.A.F. and 479 airmen. The W.A.A.F. based there were mainly involved in secretarial work. 937 Squadron operations were based at a number
of flights and sites at Scotswood, Swalwell, Dunston and Gateshead .
There were 10 balloon sites: Monty Pit, Scotswood; White City, Scotswood Bridge;
Swalwell Cricket Club site; Crowley, Dunston, Power Station, Dunston; and Windmill Hills, Gateshead.
The White City , Old Scotswood Chain Bridge site was based in the car park of the White City Dog Track.
Old Scotswood Chain Bridge
By August 31st 1940 the last W.A.A.F., Miss Hargreaves left to take up a commission in the W.A.A.F., in the Codes & Cyphers Branch. On 5th June
1940 all trades in the Squadron were reviewed by the Trade & Test Board for skills they might have that could be used in the forthcoming round
Not much W.A.A.F. activity took place until 1942.
On 6th June 1942 Squadron Leader Steven went around the sites of "A" Squadron with the Commanding Officer and Flight Officer Landreth
visited, "Underfell", the new W.A.A.F. Headquarters.
On 30th July 1942 the first of six W.A.A.F. arrived at the Squadron. They took over sites Nos. 64,54,50,62,57 and 61 all in "A" Flight under
Flight Commander F/Lt C.E. Lamble. On the 31st July 1942 the Commanding Officer spoke to each and every airwoman and addressed each
On 6th August 1942 Wing Commander Allen S.M.O. No. 34 Group with Squadron Leader Duthie visited Westmorland House, Site 54 with
W.A.A.F. and visited site 4 with R.A.F. and was well pleased with what he saw in the Squadron. A further six sites were taken over by W.A.A.F.
Nos. 75, 58, 15.10, 6 and 5.
On 7th August 1942, Squadron Commander Flight Lieutenant visited all sites taken over by W.A.A.F. to give them a short address of
On 24th August 1942 Air Commodore P.L. Lincoln D.S.O., M.C., and Group Captain Horne (Kenneth Horne of later radio fame!) accompanied
by Squadron Leader Stevens visited sites 62,61,64, 57 and 54 now taken over by W.A.A.F. for the last two weeks. A dress rehearsal for the visit
had taken place the day before and had raised doubts in the mind of the Commanding Officer of the ability of the W.A.A.F.'s. However, on the day
the W.A.A.F.'s came through with considerable success and it was considered a harbinger that W.A.A.F. crews will maintain the best traditions of
On 27th August 1942 a further three W.A.A.F. crews arrived at the Squadron.
On the 1st September 1942 the first Trade & Test Board for many of the W.A.A.F. in the Squadron was held.
On the 13th September 1942 Squadron Leader (Miss Clark) Medical Officer from Command toured the Squadron and addressed many of the W.A.A.F.
On the 27th September 1942 The Squadron Commander addressed all W.A.A.F. officers with Flight Commanders in attendance.
On the 14th October 1942 Air Officer Commanding No.34 Group inspected the Squadron and visited 21 W.A.A.F. sites and completed his
visit to all 27 sites now staffed by W.A.A.F.
On the 18th October 1942 a broadcast was made to all W.A.A.F. sites being a review of a week crowded with incidents and the lessons to
be learnt from them.
On 20th October 1942 Squadron Officers Swatton and Pritchard visited the Squadron area and decided that 37/21 was suitable for W.A.A.F.
occupation. This meant that 39 out of 40 sites were suitable for W.A.A.F.
On the 3rd November 1942 the plans for the W.A.A.F. in the event of a German invasion were discussed.
On the 7th November 1942 the W.A.A.F. Hostel at "Underfell" for Officers and other ranks of the Squadron was occupied.
On 10th November 1942 it was discussed how the W.A.A.F. would be utilised for cooking and First Aid in the event of German invasion.
On 28th November Wind Commander Tiarks, Barrage Inspection Officer from Balloon Command visited 12 sites and inspected practical drill by
the W.A.A.F. crews.
On the 4th December 1942 Squadron Leader Jewell visited "D" Flight and saw games and P.T. being carried out by crews on sites 37/6 and
This was repeated for sites 37/54 and 37/57 of "A" Flight, their ability was excellent.
On 16th December 1942 Sister Dawson P.M.R.A.F.N.S. (Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service) lunched at the Squadron and
addressed the W.A.A.F. officers on "Nits and Gnats"!!
On 21st December 1942 all W.A.A.F. Officers were given a number of inter-flight changes following on from the visit of Squadron Officers
Swatton and Pritchard.
On Xmas Day 1942 the Squadron Commander spent six and a half hours visiting each of the 40 sites, shaking hands with each member of the
crews and giving them all a small gift. Every site had turkey, much food and was decorated. In the evening one Flight Sergeant from each Flight
represented their Flight at the Squadron Commanders Dinner.
On New Year's Eve the Squadron was made up of 315 Airmen and 664 W.A.A.F.
On the 31st January 1943 on Site 37/50 a balloon exploded. Three W.A.A.F some ten feet away were unhurt yet huts and windows some
200 feet away were quite badly damaged.
On the 6th February 1943 the weather was appalling but the behaviour of the W.A.A.F. to deal with these conditions was quite exemplary.
Vera Potter with her friend Peggy both 17 years old Vera Potter age 18 in 1942. dressed up for her only day off
in 1941 Waitresses at The Embassy Cinema Cafe, Gillingham, the Barrage Balloon Site in a Fortnight
At some time during the above dates 2018938 Vera Dorothy Potter was one of the new "types" to be seen on balloon sites. She had joined
up to the W.A.A.F. and had chosen the relatively new trade, for a female, of being a Barrage Balloon Operator. She had been born in January
1924 the daughter of Charles W. and Edith E. Potter of 82 Arden Street, Gillingham, Kent. Her father was a retired Royal Navy Seaman.
She arrived at Newcastle Central Station in 1942 in the pitch dark. The trip from Gillingham, Kent had been long and tiring. Eventually the
crowd of newly trained balloon operators were herded together and told to throw their kitbags into the back of 2 three-tonner lorries and then
climb in amongst them. In darkness they arrived at their site, No.74.
2018938 Vera Potter The Gang at Site 74 Re-inflating a Balloon
Two R.A.F. men stayed with the girls that evening to get them settled in. The following morning, they awoke and looked around their site and
were amazed to see no houses or shops, they were in a very isolated part of Newcastle. For many of them the move from city life to green fields
was a bit of a shock. no local shops, cinemas or other entertainment was within easy reach.
As such she was one of many women to lead the drive to replace men on balloon sites so they could be used elsewhere in the war effort.
Such "intrusions" by women in 1942 were not always welcomed by certain officers and some of the male balloon operators. Balloon work was
hard and some men and certainly some officers considered it unsuitable for women. Vera and her female balloon crew soon showed them a thing
The site consisted of three oval corrugated iron huts that acted as sleeping quarters for the sergeant and corporal and a recreation hut.
The second one was sleeping quarters for the other ranks. The third was a cookhouse and dining room. These were basic accommodation and very
spartan they were too. The flooring was covered with a form of linoleum and the hut was heated by a central "Smokey Joe" stove. They did have
electric lights though.
Water had to be obtained in the ablutions and hot water was obtained via the coke fired boiler.
Rations were delivered from a Headquarters at Dunston and two girls took it in turn to cook the crew meals. For may of the girls cooking was
something they had not much experience in and a number of famous disasters in the cookhouse soon became legendary. Like the time when Vera
Potter forgot to steep the mushy peas prior to cooking them!!
Toilets consisted of four cubicles outside that had four Elsan buckets that needed regular emptying by the local council.
Working clothes were the standard W.A.A.F. battledress over which they wore boiler suits and headscarves to keep their hair out of the way.
The crews began to fly their balloons on receiving orders from the Headquarters. Balloon drills were the usual 8 ranks with the leader shouting
instructions from a megaphone.
The usual knots, splicing of cables and patching of balloons was a common practice.
The girls had a dartboard and sometimes were lent a wind-up gramophone for a week at a time. This gave the girls the opportunity for a
sing song or a dance. There was no bath on the site, so the girls used to travel in groups of three or four to the public baths at Scotswood. Later
on, the White City Stadium allowed them the use of a large footballers bath on the premises. The local Vickers Tank factory was not far away, and
the girls would get a few lunchtime visitors who would watch them and pass a few comments about their activities.
In time a few young men would approach the girls on the site. As these were local boys the girls would try and find out from them where the best
places to go were when they had time off. At that time, they found out that Blaydon had three cinemas and two dance halls. Vera chatted to a
young man called Charlie Page who lived at Blaydon Haughs. Charlie was one of seven children and had two sisters and five brothers, including
twins, Joe and Mick.
A romance blossomed and Charlie went home to tell his brothers that there were some lovely young girls on the balloon site. Of particular
attention were 2018366 Grace Futcher and 2024695 Aminda Reeks.
Grace Futcher had been born in October 1918 the daughter of Frederick T. and Ellen Futcher of 10 Landport Terrace, Portsmouth, Hampshire. Her
father had been a Hotel Waiter.
Aminda Mary Reeks had been born in October 1923 and was the daughter of Arthur T. and Catherine A.M. Reeks of 25 Sycamore Road, Stoke
Church, Guildford in Surrey. Her father had been a Railway Locomotive Fireman.
2018366 Grace Irene Futcher & 2024695 Aminda Mary Reeks.
Aminda, Grace and Vera in 1943
In late 1943 Charles K. Page married Vera Dorothy Potter at Durham. True to form the twin brothers struck up friendships with other members of
the balloon crew. Joseph Page married 2018366 Grace Irene Futcher from Bournemouth at Poole, in the late part of 1944, and in early 1945, his
twin, Clarence (Mick) Page married 2024695 Aminda Mary Reeks who was from Sycamore Road, Stoke Church, Guildford in Surrey.
All of the brothers worked as coal miners during the war, and they all lived at 20 Pioneer Street, Blaydon Haughs.
All three Page girls ended up settling in the North-East post-war.
Wedding Photograph of Mick Page and Aminda Reeks at the Brides home town at Stoke Church, Guildford, Surrey
Retired Miners and former Balloon Operators in 1980 (L-R Grace & Joseph, Vera & Charlie, Aminda & Mick)
I think this must be quite a unique story where three W.A.A.F. members on a site ended up marrying three brothers from the same family and all
three Page girls settled well away from their original hometowns.
Teenage Aminda Reeks coming out of her home on Sycamore Road, Guildford, Surrey
Balloon Operators with their Tin hats
Balloon Bedded Down at Site 74
Girls having Fun on the Eagle Gas Trailer
We must always thank these W.A.A.F.'s for their part in winning the war against a tyrranical Nazi threat.
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