Elaine Ruth Barlow, Royal Observer Corps

Elaine (b.1925) was the third daughter of Daisy and Wilfred Williams who owned Eborcraft, a cabinet making company in Huntington (now based outside York). At the outbreak of War in 1939, they were living on Meadowfields, Huntington.

Elaine left school at 14 and was apprenticed as a seamstress, and this is what she was doing at the outbreak of World War 2. Her service in the Royal Observer Corps started in 1943.

Elaine was stationed at the Knavesmire (Headquarters Group) and plotted planes. Although being underground for long stretches of time was stressful and the bombing of York was terrifying, the most scary thing she did during the war was cycling alone from Huntington to the Knavesmire under complete blackout.

Elaine said that the work was not hard physically (compared to the lot of the Land Army girls). She had to work shifts from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and found standing for a whole shift exhausting, especially as tea breaks were almost non-existent, as were bathroom breaks! They were allowed one hour to sleep in a local bedroom nearby. It was most upsetting how few planes returned from sorties.

After the War, Elaine continued to work as a seamstress and at the time of her marriage was in charge of the sewing room for the County Hospital, which included all the nurses’ uniforms and patients’ bedding.

Elaine was married in 1957 and had one child.

Elaine was involved in the design and making of Choir Robes and Copes for various Churches in the York area. Her work was much admired by the late Archbishop of York and Canterbury, The Right Reverend Donald Coggan.

The photograph is of Elaine aged 18.

This profile has been written by Elaine’s daughter, Jane Smelt, who also supplied the family photographs.

Image of Elaine Ruth Williams ©By kind permission of Jane Smelt