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Rushden A T S
The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) - the women's branch of the British Army during the Second World War, was formed on 9th September 1938, originally as a voluntary service. On 1st February 1949 it was merged into the Women's Royal Army Corps.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 15th August, 1941, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Fifty Smart Girls — A.T.S. Recruiting Parade at Rushden

Fifty A.T.S. girls, swinging hands to shoulder height, marched smartly through Rushden on Thursday evening, asking Rushden girls to join them in service that will help to save the world.

This small parade made local history, because never before had women of the forces marched in Rushden. The local girls looked on with interest and followed their sisters in khaki to the grounds of Rushden Hall.

A second-lieutenant commanded the A.T.S. detachment; a burly sergeant-major represented the orthodox Army. The Band of the Northamptonshire Regiment gave an imposing lead, and the Rushden interests were represented by Coun. W. J. Sawford, vice-chairman of the Urban Council, and Mr. T. C. Percival, manager of the Rushden Employment Exchange, walking with Special Police Inspector Chamberlain and Special Sergt. Skeeles.

Girls of the A.T.S. drove a small transport convoy which completed the procession – watched by many hundreds along the route from Spencer Park to the Hall.

At the park the male sergeant-major barked the girls to attention and Coun. T. W. Cox, J.P., chairman of the Urban Council, made an inspection of the trim khaki ranks.

Going to Get You

Addressing a large crowd from the band-stand, Mr. Cox welcomed the visitors and said that the campaign had been organised by the Ministry of Labour.

The chief speech was by Junior Commander Carlton-Coates, A.T.S., who said they were hoping in the national recruiting campaign to raise their number to 100,000 women.

“Our aim is rather high,” she declared, “but we are very determined that we are going to get you.”

There were jobs for everyone in the A.T.S. and every woman who joined released a man for fighting service. They wanted cooks, and those who were untrained would be trained so that they would not burn any more cakes. Orderlies would be trained as waitresses in Army and A.T.S. messes; clerks and telegraph operators were wanted.

With the Guns

Women now were working on the gun sites and doing a magnificent job there – it had been proved that they were equal to the men. They also wanted convoy drivers, who went from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and women who would drive staff cars and ambulances.

“When you enlist,” continued Commander Carlton-Coates, “you go to a reception depot, and there you find the job you are most suited to. They will fit you out with clothes – you won’t need any coupons; and if your feet have any peculiarity they will make shoes for you. Our cooks will try their cooking on you; the food is very varied and there is plenty of it.”

At their units the physical training would make them feel really fit. They would make friendships which would be carried on when the war was ended, and the social facilities and training would be of inestimable value in civilian life after the war.

After the War

When the day of demobilisation came, the women who had been in the Services would find they were well fitted to take jobs in civilian life, and they were the ones who were going to be considered first. It was also under consideration that the women who had given service would receive a gratuity.

The camps were fitted with all sorts of comforts; the Duchess of Northumberland had provided carpets on the floor, chintzes at the windows, and lots of things that make life happy.

“I am perfectly certain,” added the Commander, “that when the war is over we are going to be proud that the women of England did not let her down.”

Thanking all who had participated, Coun. Mrs. O. A. H. Muxlow said the parade was very smart indeed. She hoped that the local recruiting campaign would be a credit to the town, and that all the girls who could join would do so.

“I can give a personal testimony,” added Mrs. Muxlow, “to the way Rushden women work in the jobs they have done during the war. I know the younger women of Rushden will not let us down.”

The A.T.S. detachment left soon after the meeting to the strains of one of Kenneth Alford’s marches. A recruiting stand was opened at the grounds, and subsequent enrolments will be taken at the Rushden Employment Exchange.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 22nd August, 1941, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Girl Recruits

Several Rushden girls have already answered the appeal of the A.T.S. The visit of the recruiting squad and the military band brought their dormant desires to a head, and they have been after application forms at the Rushden Employment Exchange. Still more girls will follow their example – there is no doubt of that – and still more dislocation will have to be remedied in factories and other places of business.

By some means or other most of the vacancies in civil life will simply have to be filled. Already absorbing hundreds of people who have entered the town as refugees, the local shops and industries will need still more of these visitors, as well as all local women who are fit for employment and can possibly be spared from homes.

There is no “slacking” scandal in Rushden equivalent to the state of affairs which is so often pictured in certain districts, yet the streets are often evidence of the fact that there is still a reserve of potential female labour. When the rearrangement of the boot and shoe industry is finally settled it will be time to review all the available resources and probably make a strong patriotic appeal to all suitable people who have not yet considered how they might adapt their talents to the national need.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 21st August, 1942, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden’s First? - A.T.S. Girl on Her Way Overseas - Pte. Elspeth Percival

Private PercivalNow on her way to an “unknown destination,” Miss Elspeth Percival, of Rushden, a private in the A.T.S., is probably the first Rushden girl to have been drafted overseas on active war service. She came home on embarkation leave about a month ago and was keenly interested in the prospect of going abroad. A letter written at sea has now reached her parents, but gives no clue to the route she has taken.

Eldest of the three daughters of Mr. T. C. Percival, who is well-known as manager of the Rushden Employment Exchange, Elspeth is 24 and her home is at 46, Bedford-road, Rushden. She attended Rushden Newton-road School and Kettering Girls’ School, afterwards working the Post Office Telephone Department at various centres and then at the head office of Messrs. Bignells, Ltd., boot manufacturers. Joining the A.T.S. in September, 1941, she was attached to the Royal Corps of Signals.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 30th October, 1942, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Khaki Cousins - Two Rushden Girls Serve Together

Ivy and RubySo much alike that they look like sisters, Ivy King, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. King, of 30, Brookfield-road, Rushden, and her cousin, Ruby Cook, daughter of Mrs. S. Cook and the late Mr. Cook, of 32, Brookfield-road, Rushden, are now side by side working their hardest to help quicken Hitler’s defeat.

They lived next door and played games together, went to school together, and later worked together as boot and shoe operatives, but last New Year’s Eve they felt that they wanted to “put their backs” into the war effort, and so they both volunteered for the A.T.S.

Now Ivy, aged 22, and Ruby, aged 23, are working side by side at an Ordnance Depot in the Home Counties, signing Hitler’s doom by stencilling destination marks on huge packing cases containing gun equipment and other warlike stores ready for dispatch.

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