Wartime railway heroine Gladys, 97, shares her memories of VE Day

Gladys Garlick of Hadleigh with a photo of herself during the Second World War Picture: LESLEY COOK

Gladys Garlick of Hadleigh with a photo of herself during the Second World War Picture: LESLEY COOK - Credit: Lesley Cook

Friday’s celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day will bring back special memories for 97-year-old Gladys Garlick of Hadleigh.

Gladys Garlick, right, with two colleagues while working on the railways during the Second World War

Gladys Garlick, right, with two colleagues while working on the railways during the Second World War. Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Mrs Garlick worked on the railway lines during the Second World War, as a passenger guard on the London North Eastern Railway.

She said: “I was at work all day on VE Day, but in the evening my then boyfriend, later my husband, and I went to Trafalgar Square. So we saw all the people and what was happening there.”

Mrs Garlick, whose maiden name was Brewer, was originally from north London and trained in Hatfield. She was one of the women who took on a range of work on the railways during the war while the men were away, carrying out jobs which had been traditionally seen as male.

“I loved it,” Mrs Garlick said. “I really enjoyed working on the railway, but it was hard work - we had to get up at 2am for the first train.”

Gladys Garlick of Hadleigh with a book featuring her memories Picture: JESS EDWARDS

Gladys Garlick of Hadleigh with a book featuring her memories Picture: JESS EDWARDS - Credit: Jess Edwards


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She recalled one of the most memorable and frightening incidents on the line, saying: “A V2 rocket fell in front of my train. We were coming into Palmers Green station,

“The V2 fell at the end of the platform, and we had some injuries, and debris fell on the train. That was one of the worst things that happened.”

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However, she also had happier memories of her service, saying: “I remember, on one bank holiday, there were so many people going out for the day that the trains were full. That was nice to see.”

Mrs Garlick will be marking VE Day at home, and said she was looking forward to seeing the commemorations on TV.

About 20 years ago, she recorded an interview for the National Archive of Railway Oral History, stored at the National Railway Museum in York, and more recently this was used by Dr Susan Major in her book Female Railway Workers in World War II.

Her daughter, Lesley Cook, said: “We didn’t know anything about the book until it came out. My mum then got in touch with the author, and she was absolutely delighted to hear from her.”

She added that the VE Day celebrations were giving a boost to her mum at a time when she can’t go out because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although many VE Day events have sadly been cancelled, there are still ways to celebrate the 75th anniversary from home. Visit the government’s VE Day website.

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