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Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Tuesday, 17 August 2010 14:38 UK
Battle of Britain: A WAAF's view
Joan Fanshawe
Joan Fanshawe became a WAAF in 1940

In 1940, 19-year-old Joan Fanshawe worked in the Ops Room at RAF Uxbridge plotting the air battle on a large map.

On 15 September, with Churchill at the west London base, the most intense day of Battle of Britain began at 1100 BST.

"It became more and more hectic for us to find spaces to put the plots on the table, we realised that this must be such a battle going on," she recalls.

"They [the Luftwaffe] thought we'd run out of planes and of course we hadn't," she said.

Blocks and arrows

Now 89, Joan, who lives near Petersfield has been looking back on the historic summer of 1940 when she left her her family home on the south coast and joined up.

We realised that we were fighting for our lives
Joan Fanshawe

Between 10 July and 31 October 1940, the RAF and the German Luftwaffe were fighting for air supremacy over Britain.

Joan was one of 10 special duty WAAFs (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) who worked shifts in the Ops Room at RAF Uxbridge.

Their fast-moving role was to pinpoint both RAF and enemy aircrafts' positions using flagged blocks and arrows on a huge plotting table and grid reference map of southern England.

Joan Fanshawe
Joan's role was to plot the battle on a massive map

"When the weather was good we were frantically busy because the planes were coming up this way, and we were getting our own planes up from the airfields so the table was crammed with blocks and arrows," she remembers.

"Some days you would have nothing on the table at all and nothing to do. We'd get our reading out or knitting."

On 15 September 1940, Battle of Britain day, Churchill came to the bunker. RAF Fighter Command claimed victory over the Luftwaffe after a day of bombing raids ended in heavy losses for Germany.

She said: "I think we realised that we were fighting for our lives. I can't praise Churchill enough.

"I know he made mistakes but he inspired us all."

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