Sand In My Shoes: War-time Diaries of a WAAF


Joan Rice’s diary covers the years from September 1939 to December 1942.  She came from a middle-class family, attended secretarial college and then worked for the Asiatic Petroleum Company (Shell), but her ambitions were not those of most of her contemporaries.  Her wish-list consisted of writing, travelling and becoming famous and so, at the age of twenty, she seized the opportunity to join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1939 when war broke out.

                This is a diary that reads like a novel.  It charts the daily life of a vibrant young woman on the verge of adulthood.  At first the war appears to be simply a backdrop for parties, boyfriends and going to the cinema. Then the tone of her entries changes with the Battle of Britain and the bombing of London.

                She has captured the determined ‘gaiety’ of the young pilots of 504 Squadron and the WAAFs, who are keenly aware of how short their lives may be.  The destruction of places she used often, such as Colindale Station, and the sheer exhaustion caused by the nightly bombings while stationed at RAF Hendon is contrasted with the boredom and frustration of her time at RAF Medmenham. 

                Her life may have been ‘untidy’, but the blend of adventure, romance and everyday wartime life makes an engrossing read and a useful historical resource.  (Joan Rice is the mother of Sir Tim Rice. –ed.)

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