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May Longworth - Women's Royal Naval Service
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May Longworth
May Longworth



Anne May Longworth

1 December 2005

May was born in 1921 at Timothy Fold Farm, Lever Edge Lane, Bolton. Her father was a Mill Manager and had worked in this capacity in Russia. She attended St Bede's School, Morris Green, St. Paul's School at Astley Bridge and the Municipal Secondary School. In Astley Bridge she lived in Ruby Street. May worked for Wolfenden and Naylor, accountants, and then in the offices of Bolton Leathers, an associate company of Walker's Tannery.

In 1943 she joined the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS), and trained at HMS Fledgling, Mill Meece in Staffordshire, as an air mechanic, and at Worthy Down as an aircraft checker. She served in Blackpool, Inskip and in Scotland, checking and repairing aircraft. After the War May went back to Bolton Leathers as private secretary to the Managing Director, leaving only when she got married.

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Wrens in training...

We were sent to a little place called Mill Meece near Stafford, and the base was called HMS Fledgling and engineers who were still in the Navy taught us different branches of the work. They divided us into groups, you could either be an engineer, that is working on the engines or you could be in the radio or the actual airframe. There were various other things, and I was chosen to be an airframe mechanic. For training, we were given a little piece of metal to begin with, an irregular shaped little piece of metal, and we had to file it and use micrometers to get it to an exact rectangle, the measurements they told you. That was the first little bit, and then in the training we had to learn how to splice metal cables which would be used to work the rudders and the ailerons of aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm. We were shown how to dope the linen that covered the wings of the early aircraft, the biplanes. When you are doing that you had to drink a pint of milk a day to combat the dope, they called it, that they put on the material to preserve it. There were lots of other little bits of training and at the end of each section we had an exam. If you didn't get through you had to do that fortnight again, till the end of the course, which I think lasted about 4-6 months. I'm not quite sure how long it was. And then we were sent to a base and my first base was at Inskip, near Blackpool. There we were put into a gang with about 3 other Wrens, making 4, and a Royal Naval Engineer over us to supervise. We had to do the checks on the aircraft more or less like you would do a check on a car, like an MOT. You'd do it from a book, and you had to check the various bits, and the first aircraft we worked on were called Swordfish. They were biplanes and you would wonder really how they stayed in the air - because they just seemed to be metal wooden struts and linen covering things - but they did!

Once round the Tower...

When we were at Inskip, if you'd done a big job, such as replacing a rudder, the test pilot could ask you to go on the flights with them and, being at Inskip they used to fly out towards Blackpool. These young pilots used to like to show off a bit and they'd do a bit of banking, very steeply, quite often round about Blackpool Tower. So you used to be holding your breath keeping your eyes on this repair job that you'd done and hoping everything was alright. We used to have a sort of belt on over our overalls with a chain and that hooked into something on the deck of the aircraft, because they were open cockpits at that time. I suppose that was to make sure that you didn't drop out. It was quite scary really, until you'd done it a few times, you know!