Joyce Storey

Joyce Storey

Joyce Storey was born in Bristol in 1917. Agter leaving school at fourteen she worked in service before finding work in a corset factory.

Just before the outbreak of the Second World War she married a member of the Royal Air Force and moved to Grimsby where he was working in the Air Sea Rescue Service. Over the next few years she gave birth to three daughters and a son. During the war she moved back to Bristol and worked at Magna Products at Warmley

Her husband died in 1979 and four years later she joined the Bristol Broadsides writer's workshop. This resulted in the publication of three volumes of autobiography, Our Joyce, Joyce's War and Joyce's Dream. Joyce Storey died in November 2001.

Primary Sources

(1) The British government believed that some form of poison gas would be used on the civilian population during the war and it was therefore decided to issue a gas masks to everyone living in Britain. Joyce Storey wrote about this in her autobiography Joyce's War (1992)

Elsie remarked that she had spoken to Mr. Fry, the local Councillor and her next-door neighbour, and he had told her in confidence that the first consignment of gas masks due to be delivered the following week would be far from adequate and it was a question of distribution. Whoever got there first would be lucky.

Elsie was right about the gas masks, and several weeks later there was a mad panic for these frightful looking things at local school rooms, where they were being distributed. People reacted in the most uncivilised way because they were so certain that poison gas would be used by the Germans and there were not enough gas masks issued on that first delivery. We carried them everywhere with us. In fact, it became a kind of ritual to say each time we ventured forth, 'Don't forget, Gas Mask, Identity Card and Torch.'

The Identity Cards had to be carried in wallets and handbags at all times. My identity number was TKBR/82/10. There was a brisk trade done with identity bracelets and necklaces. We bought special ones for loved ones and friends. Shelters were erected in back gardens. Ours took up all the small dirt square, with the opening coming right up to the edge of the path. Each street had an Air Raid Warden. My father was the warden for our street. He had no flowers to look at now, but spent hours looking up into the sky.

(2) In the summer of 1940 Joyce Storey witnessed the Battle of Britain. She wrote about it in her autobiography, Joyce's War (1992)

There had been that day when two planes had appeared from behind a feathery, frothy white cloud. The sun was glinting on the wing tips, making both planes look as though they had been shot with silver. We stood there by the harbour walls with our eyes shaded against the sun to watch this drama being enacted over the water: the attacker and the attacked. As one streaked away, veering sideways to avoid the staccato burst of gun fire that could be plainly heard by those standing below on the ground, the other again zoomed upwards. There was a moment when both planes blotted out the sun so that they seemed like a purple shadow against the sky. In that momentary silence there was a tiny cough and a splutter as if the engine of that plane was emitting a half-strangled death cry before finally bursting into flames and beginning its dizzy spiral descent into the cold waters below.

Witnessing this tragic episode affected me deeply. I watched the bystanders who were beginning to disperse, some shaking their heads sadly before walking on to attend to their own affairs. I felt suddenly very cold and empty. I wanted an answer to all this insane killing and aggression. I was very aware of being pregnant and creating life, while men were wasting it.

(3) As a result of the severe labour shortage during the Second World War the National Service Act was passed by Parliament. This legislation called up unmarried women aged between twenty and thirty. Later this was extended to married women, although pregnant women and mothers with young children were exempt from this work. Joyce Storey wrote about her experiences in Joyce's War (1992)

I went to work at the Magna Products at Warmley, a big engineering firm with huge wartime contracts. My first impression of this great all male domain was not a good one, and the dust, grit and grime mingled with a strong smell of oil, along with all the lathes and machinery, awed and scared me. Because of the shortage of men, women were coming into the foundries and into the Works. There were women conductors on the buses taking over until the men came home again, though, at the end of the war, they were not so keen to let go of their new independence. The end of this war brought many unheard and undreamt of changes.

(4) Joyce Storey, Joyce's War (1992)

When the sirens sounded, it was works policy to leave the factory and file quickly into the shelters. One day, a bomb made a direct hit on one of the shelters at the Filton Aerodrome works, killing all the people inside. Later that day, all the other employees at Filton had been sent home because of the tragedy. They had arrived home white and shaken, none of them being able coherently to tell the story, and wondering how their friends and workmates could ever be properly buried. The shelters at Filton were never re-opened, but were sealed over and became a tomb.

After that, we were not so inclined to use the shelters at our works but would get right away from the place and run into the fields instead. Some of the men would make a bee-line for the pubs if they were open, but I enjoyed fresh air and the break from the dusty atmosphere of the machine shop. It cleared my head so that I was more alert when I returned.

(5) Joyce Storey, Joyce's War (1992)

That same year that Patty started school, the war ended. It had lasted for six long weary years, and for those of us who had been young at that time, it was a big slice out of our lives. When it was finally all over, there was singing and dancing in the streets. Victory bells rang and people cried and laughed at the same time and hugged each other. We had street parties for the children, and although they were too young to know what it was all about, they caught the excitement of the moment, and with balloons and streamers they joined in the fun. I made sponges and jellies along with Jean Brodie from down the road, and even helped with the paper hats.

News filtered through that the war had ended suddenly because a small bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. Nobody questioned why it had come to an abrupt halt. Like thousands of others, we were relieved and happy that hostilities had ceased and hoped that our lives could proceed along normal lines once more. It was several months before the word atomic was mentioned, and we were ignorant of its consequences. We ignored it all. The war was over and that was enough. Much later, we saw and heard the full horror of this weapon that the Americans had used and were appalled. That it must never happen again was a phrase that Governments bandied about for years, and which we believed, like so many other things. We were young and we were gullible. Impossible to think, then, that nuclear weapons would become the ultimate 'deterrent'. Impossible also to believe that when the final page of history was being written, we discovered that Germany had also been busy perfecting this deadly weapon of destruction, and it could have been us and not Hiroshima as the target. A moment for reflection. One sobering thought. How could things ever be the same again?