Win Keep's remembers her working days

Cooking with the ATS in World War Two

By Roslyn Cook

Photo:Win as ATS cook

Win as ATS cook

Photo from the Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:An Improvised Oven

An Improvised Oven

Photo from the Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Bluff Stove

Bluff Stove

Photo from Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Win Keep's remembers her working days' page
Photo:Diary pages

Diary pages

Photo from the Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Diary pages

Diary pages

Photo from the Heritage Plus Archive



Photo from the Heritage Plus archive

Win Keep (ne` Rayner)

Win (one of a family of seven children) was born on the 27th July 1921 at 14 Lawes Avenue. As well as having fascinating memories of her time during the ATS during the Second World War, she also gave a lot of information about her father's employment in the Navy.


"My father was in the Navy during the Boer War, and the Great War and then worked on the Royal Mail Ships. He was one of the seamen who pulled the gun carriage for Queen Victoria 's funeral.  He was a wonderful father - he could tell such wonderful stories - all the children around would come round to hear his sailors' yarns.

Before WW2 he worked on the Royal Mail Ships out of Newhaven. For 12/6 I was able to go to France with him - I didn't have a proper passport, my ticket was like a passport  - a section was torn off on the outward journey and the ticket examined when the ship returned to Newhaven.

"I was (as Bosun's daughter) allowed to go up and down a ladder and stay in his cabin during the voyage - the other passengers must have wondered why I was going up to staff quarters! I have wonderful memories of a very happy childhood"

At the time of the evacuation of British Forces from Dunkirk Win's father served on the LMS Paris which was used as a hospital ship.  It was bombed by the Germans and her father was injured.  It was soon after this time that the whole family were evacuated to Gloucestershire.


At the beginning of the Second World War Win was a cook at Micklefield School in Seaford .  When the school was evacuated to Newquay in Devon Win went with the staff and children "We all went in charabancs."

After a while Win decided to join her family in Gloucestershire where she stayed for seven months.  She found it very quiet and boring  and decided to join the ATS.  "I was not happy in the country, the ATS was challenging and showed me a different life, I made lots of new friends and I learned how to cook."

ATS Cook

"I did my training at Droitwich and then went to Barracks in Oswestry, Shropshire , there I was a First Class Cook. I was kitted out just like all the men with a heavy kit bag, gas mask and uniform issue. We had barracks inspection just like the male soldiers and had to keep our Nissan huts tidy and our uniform spotless. The ablutions and toilet blocks were separate but always far from the huts.  The Military Police patrolled, even at night, causing us girls distress - so we 'spent a penny' nearby behind a bush. We did P.E. and drill and learned how to march.  There were definitely no special privileges for being a woman in the army!"

Win worked all over Britain .  "On one occasion I had to go New Battle Abbey near Delkeith in Scotland . To do this I had to get to Edinburgh by myself in an unlit train - it was very frightening.  I met two WRENS on the journey and they helped me find where I was supposed to be going.  One was scared to get off the train to get a drink of tea or something to eat in case the train went without you."

Two books of notes with excellent diagrams

Win learned so many new skills, she had two books of the notes she took during her cook's training.  Her notes were well written and diagrams excellent - so neat and tidy.  She learned all the parts of cows, sheep, pigs etc and how to butcher them. It reminded her of something that happened when she was a child.
"I was taking a 'tinnie' of tea to a family member for his break when I saw a sheep (or pig) being butchered up an alley beside the Ship Inn in Newhaven.  They were slitting its throat and all the blood was running out.  I ran away as fast as I could - dropping the tinnie as I ran!"

Win's skills included every aspect of feeding 1000 men from bakery to butchery and also how to cook on all kinds of army field kitchens in a battle field setting.  She showed diagrams of all different kinds of field stoves, how to use them and when to use them.  Many of these types of stove are still in use today.

Pictured are some of the diagrams - the first is an Improvised Oven which had to be built by the cooks themselves.

Win kept a diary of her duties and on the right are examples of two of the pages - you can see that one diary entry is all about building the stoves.

Win really enjoys her retirement at Rathan Court .  She loved her time in the army and was very enthusiastic and happy about telling us all her memories.

This page was added by Roslyn Cook on 12/06/2009.

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