Friends Who Served Together As WAAF Reunited After 70 Years

Not just that Bessie, 89, and Millie, 90, worked together as WAAF radar operators, but they also lived 12 miles away from each other, without even knowing it. They never talked again after the war, but one day Mrs Thomas saw an ad in a newspaper, which led her to now married Mrs Titshall, who all this time lived only 12 miles away from her.

They became friends when they were teenagers and serving as WAAF radar operators from Inverness. As she was reading her newspaper, Mrs Thomas saw an ad requesting information on a RAF base in Norfolk. Although she did not know anything about that particular base, she did get in touch with the person who placed the ad, hoping she might locate some of her former colleagues who might have served there.

There was one old friend she wanted to meet but she only remembered her as Mildred Greener. However, when she requested information about this person, she received a phone number of a lady named Millie Titshall, who lived near her. Mrs Thomas had no idea they would turn up to be the same person. She picked up the phone and called the number she was given. ‘Do you know of a Mildred Greener,’ she asked. ‘That’s me,’ said the other person.

What is even more amazing is that the ladies talked for the first time on Mrs Titshall’s 90th birthday, exactly 70 years since they last saw each other. They met aged 17 and 18, at the RAF Snaith in Yorkshire, after they both joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, the Mail Online reports.

After the war, both women married and lost contact. Bessie Shackley became Bessie Thomas and Mildred Greener became Millie Titshall. Mrs Thomas wanted so much to reunite with her friend Millie, that she called all the numbers she found under the name ‘Greener’.

Both women are now widowed. When they first heard each other on the phone, Mrs Thomas couldn’t wait any longer so she went straight to Mrs Titshall’s place on Chester-le-Street. Her friend didn’t look any less excited as she was waiting just outside her house for Mrs Thomas to arrive.

They remembered typing messages on rice paper, which were given to pilots and which were then eaten if the pilots were captured. But the pilots weren’t the only ones eating their instructions. As they weren’t getting too many sweets because they were rationed ‘Millie told me, “I used to eat it!”‘, said Mrs Thomas, “That’s what I used to do!”

The two friends don’t intend to ever lose contact again, on the contrary, they hope to be able to find other former colleagues too.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE