Joan ‘Grog’ Arundel may have ended up working in medicine, as both her grandfathers, her father and her brothers were all doctors. Instead she helped British fighter commanders accurately direct pilots to engage with the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.
Joan, or Grog as she is known to her friends because of her maiden name Grogono, joined the WAAF in 1939 with a school friend. She had originally intended to become an ambulance driver, but instead she joined up and trained as a teller at RAF Bentley Priory, the Filter Centre (see page XX). Filterers analysed the ‘raw’ information from the radar stations to create a useful common picture of what was going on in the skies above Britain.
Training was very much done ‘on the job’ and Joan was soon promoted to corporal and moved ‘upstairs’ to become a filter officer. She remembers the plotting room as being incredibly noisy and busy for most of the eight-hour watches, with everyone bustling around focused on their own particular task.
Grog says she worked with many brilliant young filterers and relished the challenge of what she was doing. It helped give her self-worth and confidence, being able to help out with the war effort.
After mastering the job, Grog was sent to Bawdsey Manor to be a filterer instructor. She moved 15 times during the war, going up to Newcastle to inspect digs, to the Lake District for a course and was stationed at Watnall in Nottinghamshire when the war ended. She remembers being exceedingly drunk on that day and being driven around Nottingham!
Grog doesn’t have any mementoes from her war days. With typical modesty she said: “I didn’t realise what we were doing would be ‘history’, so I didn’t keep things.”
She still has a huge admiration for the people who had to go around London and other cities collecting the bodies or remains of casualties after bombing raids. Grog thinks they deserve more recognition for the harrowing work they undertook day after day.
When asked how they all coped with the enormous importance of their role Grog says: “We never thought about the stress, we just got on with it. I don’t remember people being particularly worried, there wasn’t time, we just had to do our work.”
That attitude sums up the nature of the men and women who worked on the ground to secure our skies. They don’t see the role they played as extraordinary, they were just doing what needed to be done. And we are all grateful that they did.