From GRACE CONWAY (C-H. Reporter) If you happen to see a nice young W.A.A.F. walking along in the rain with a bright yellow umbrella, blame me. I took her sober Air Force blue one by mistake when I left the War Auxiliary Grail Service Club (more affectionately known as the "Wags"), at number fifty-eight, Sloane
Street, on Monday night, when January was behaving as badly as it knows how.
It really was a disgusting night, and I arrived at the Club damp and muddy, my yellow umbrella dripping all over the hall. But my apologies were wafted away with the umbrella, and a Lady of the Grail, the presiding godmother of the place, produced light, heat, tea and toast by what almost seemed sleight of hand.
I was not expected. I came all unheralded, far I wanted to see for myself why so many of the W.A.A.F.s, the A.T.S., the Wrens and the Vad's call this place " home," and why they talk about it in superlatives. I soon learned.
Listen to what a tired young W.A.A.F. said to me as she flopped into an armchair, after a strenuous day's work.
. BUT TUE ABSENCE OF RED TAPE " It's not the ' we get—like
breakfast in bed, hot water bottles, hot meals any time of the day or night: it's not the fine library or the games room, or the excellent writing room, or the smart snack counter downstairs — those are all material comforts that mean a great deal. of course—but it's the consistent kindness and consideration, the absence of all red tape and annoying rules--" she hesitated seat-0:10 for a word that would put what she meant in a nutshell—" well' it's just the atmosphere of the place. It's quite unique."
Her friends who were sitting round the fire with me eagerly endorsed all this. They were all staying at the club, which can put up ten residents at a time, and this is quite apart from the social side. It is open all day and every day to any member of the women's services, and they can bring their men friends along, too, and entertain them to a meal.
No girl is ever refused admission if there is room, and when the club is full and application for admission is made Miss Makin does her best to get accommodation elsewhere. All the applicant has to do is to produce her credentials and the place with all its amenities is open to her.
Sonic of the names in the visitors' book are famous. Miss Pauline Gower, Chief Commandant of the Air Transport Auxiliary, is a constant visitor, and a keen worker for the club as well.
The club feels very proud that it can count as one of the members Miss Daphne Pearson—the only woman in the British Commonwealth of Nations who bolds the Empire Medal for Gallantry.
Miss Pearson came in from a hard day's work just as we were talking about her, and was not at all pleased when she learned the subject of our talk. She refused to join in, glaring at us quite savagely. But when she found various of her friends relating garbled accounts of what really did happen— few of the papers told a consistently correct story—she corrected us.
TRUE VERSION Here is the really true story: She was lying awake in her bunk close to an airport, counting the planes as they came and went, when suddenly she heard one machine missing fire. She sat up in bed, listening intently, when a tearing sound made her leap out of bed. It was the wing of the plane that had been wrenched off by a tree.
That was enough. She rushed out, past the sentries, telling them to keep the gate open for the ambulance, and came upon the plane that was now burning fiercely. Two of the crew. wounded themselves. were trying to drag out the badly wounded pilot. He kept warning them to keep clear, for he knew that the plane would shortly blow up.
Miss Pearson compelled the two members of the crew to rush away and hurry on the ambulance, and she herself, terrified of hurting the pilot but determined to release him from the imminent danger of fire and explosion, eased him away and laid him on the ground.
The plane continued to crack and burn fiercely when the sound changed ominously. The pilot begged her to keep away but instead she crouched over him ea shield him from the final danger. She did not think for a moment that she could at that moment be blown to pieces.
The next instant it was all over. The flying pieces of the plane had burst over them. Only the blast had reached the two on the ground. " It was nothing," said the girl, " just like a bicycle pump with all the air being drawn out of it. You cough for three or four days after. I was back at work quite soon after."
PYJAMAS, SERSEY AND SLACKS Then Miss Pearson smiled because I asked a frivolous question.
"Did you rush out in your nightie?"
" No. I was wearing red-striped pyjamas. I dragged on a pair of ordinary seaman's bell-bottomed trousers that I had bought for four and eleven—pulled gum boots over those and flung a sailor's jersey round my neck. And that was how I ran out—goodness knows what I looked like."
I looked at her neat, uniformed figure. The red and silver medal struck a warm note of colour on the workmanlike Air Force blue. She resumed her rather grim expression. She did not approve of this conversation at all.
IT HELPS EVERYONE
The club h rightly proud of this girl. But its chief pride is that it is able to help all the girls of the services—the ordinary rank and file who come to them for rest and relaxation in the intervals of their work for the country. The Grail welcomes them all— any or no denomination. There is no subscription—only a box in which voluntary offerings are put by grateful visitors.
The number is fifty-eight—and there are red tiles on the steps and the sign outside says " W.A.G.S."