'Winnie's here, let it roll!'

Joy Hunter: “It was horrifying actually. The very first time walking into the War Rooms because I've been working upstairs in a much bigger secretariat and we none of us really knew where anybody else worked. I knew General Ismay's office was on the same floor and the pay office where we went on Friday to get our £2.10 shillings and a tiny little brown envelope, and then suddenly somebody said you and you and you will go downstairs tomorrow. Well, we didn't know what downstairs was. We didn't know there was a downstairs because people just worked in their own offices. And so, we approached, we went down the steps and we approached this door, and we couldn't get in and then we discovered we had to press a button and when the door opened, there were two marines in full uniform, so I thought, it's very odd, what's happening here. So yes, it was quite scarifying really. Luckily, the supervisor who had been on our share on, on, our shift came with us. So, she obviously knew what she was about. And we joined the Joint Planning secretariat. So, there were just about eight or twelve of us, a very small group from upstairs had come downstairs, and I suppose the people we were responsible to were the three Senior Navy, Army and RAF officers, and they presumably were the people who sent us the work. But, you know, in wartime, in that sort of situation, the work comes into the supervisor and she gives it out or he gives it that she in that in that in those days gives it out, and then you'll give it back to her, and you have no idea where it's come from, and probably haven't got much idea of what the content is either, because you just have to type it and get it right and get it checked by a neighbour or with somebody and then hand it back. And we signed on and we went to work, and we did shifts from 8:00 until 4 on the day shift and two until 9 the next day and about three times a fortnight, we went in at 3:00 on the two to nine day and worked right through for 24 hours. So, it was a big change from upstairs. The washrooms were still on the 1st floor, so we had to be let out to go to the washrooms and we went to a canteen I think in The Treasury for meals and there were very strict timetables. You know, if you took too long in the washroom or they thought you'd taken too long there was sort of a lot of questions when you got back, ‘why you've been so long?’ and ‘what have you been doing?’ Quite embarrassing in a way, but the same with meals we had specific time. I don't know whether it was half an hour or 3/4 of an hour, but it wasn't very long. Just time to go and get a meal and then come back to work. And again, going home mostly we got off on time, but certainly on the 24 hour shift we, we slept down here in bunks, but we couldn't go to bed obviously until work was finished. I don't think we ever worked right through the night. I think we probably worked quite late, one or two in the morning and we'd have to be up again at 7:00, but there, there was provision was made for us to sleep. Very primitive, very hard wooden bunks. Well, we saw him quite a lot, of course, because all corridors were all used for the same people. I just said: “Good morning, Mr Churchill, good morning, Prime Minister,” and he'd always stop and speak, not stop for long, perhaps he was just passing, “Good morning, afternoon, how are you?” Sometimes if there had been a raid he would ask if we've been affected or how our family were. He was always very affable. I think he liked having civilians around him, whether it took the pressure off a bit because he was a man of great emotions and I think must have been a tremendous strain with those chiefs of staff who sit, as you probably know, in the Cabinet Room, he sits in his chair and they sit bang in front of him here, like a sort of blockade almost. He had a room turned into a kind of amateur cinematograph, and occasionally he'd ask us to join him. He loved watching films, and so one night some of us thought we would, it was must have been gone 12 and so we really would rather have gone to bed. However, we sat in this room and waited and waited and shuffled about a bit, and then all of a sudden, the door burst opened and in came Churchill, in his pyjamas and dressing gown. A cigar in one hand, a glass and drink in the other and just shouted out from the back: “Winnie’s here, let it roll.” And I can't remember what the film was about but he’s, I think he had a good sense of humour, really, and he needed it, of course, because he had some very dark days.”

Joy Hunter was a typist in the Churchill War Rooms during the Second World War.

Despite her early nerves about going into the underground complex in Westminster, she worked hard and remembers how important it was to do everything perfectly. 

She also recalls what it was like to see Winston Churchill at work - and tells the story of one memorable evening with the film loving Prime Minister! 

 

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