Mrs M Evans wrote in response to the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Fellowship News to share her memories of her time in the Civil Service....

I started my Civil Service career in Glasgow at the Lowland District, in Spring 1954. I was in married quarters at Maryhill Barracks, my husband was away on the 6-week NATO scheme and I was bored stiff. I saw an advert for a job at HQLD and went for it. I had left the WRAC when I married in October, 1953, having served 3 years as an intelligence clerk, in the UK and Singapore, and had been positively vetted, and I was accepted straightaway. For the next 3 weeks, I happily set off daily, enjoying being back in the swing of things.

Then my husband came home – when he found I had a job, he was livid - “no wife of mine needs to work” he said, so, reluctantly, I had to resign. I spent the next 20+ years as a “married pad”, raising a family in the UK and Germany, back to England in 1968.
The kids were all at school, and once again, I was bored, mentioning this to my GP, he told me to get a job. I had heard on the “grapevine” that Port Admin Square at Marchwood were looking for staff. My husband had just been posted to Longmore, and was only home at the weekends.

Off I went to the Civilian Employment Officer, who, after reading my army discharge book, told me there was a post I could fill, but, as the Admin Officer Lt Col Pike, was on leave, he could not appoint me but that I could ‘fill in’ as a cleaner at the Royal Engineers Driving School, until Col Pike returned. It was more ‘tea lady’ than cleaner – those sappers were a thirsty lot.
About a fortnight later, I was making tea, yet again, when a ‘runner’ arrived, and I was summoned to Col Pike’s office. He read through my discharge book, said “you’ll do”, and took me through to the Chief Clerk’s office, where I stayed – never to return to REDS – am: cleaner, pm: clerical assistant.

My husband was more amenable this time around – we had just purchased our own home, and cash was a bit tight.
In the meantime, my husband was promoted again and came back to Marchwood as RQMS. As often happens in army offices, people used to ‘sit’ on files so one could never find them, so I instituted a system of signing them out (with full approval of the Chief Clerk). My husbands’ civilian clerk was most annoyed and complained bitterly, but the system remained.

Col. Pike encouraged me to sit the C.O exam, saying “I’ve got a nice little job for you, when you pass”. The “nice little job” never materialised, as my posting came through for the DHSS Legal Aid Assessment Office in Southampton. This caused great hilarity amongst the army lads, comments like “silence in the court” and “all rise” flew around the office.

In October 1970, I started at Legal Aid. To reach the office by 9 I had to leave Hythe at 7:45am, catching a bus which went round all the villages. A neighbour said “why don’t you go on the ferry?”, I gave it a go, 15 minutes from Hythe to Town Quay, Southampton, a brisk walk to the office – total travelling time 35 minutes.

In 1977, we decided to move to Kidderminster, so another different job – supplementary benefit. Our office dealt with a lot of ‘travellers’, I picked up the phone one morning to hear a barrage of expletives from the Matriarch of the local encampment. When she eventually paused for breath, I said “I’m not paid to listen to such filthy language” and put the phone down on her. Five minutes later the phone rang again, my E.O answering this time. “She wants to speak to you” she said, passing me her phone I took the call, with trepidation, ready to plonk it down again. She didn’t swear, she apologised. Ever after that she would ask to speak to “that feisty woman”.

The opportunity arose to return to Legal Aid, in Birmingham, which I accepted with alacrity. I think the training period was 13 weeks, but after 3 weeks the training officer said “you know as much about this job as I do” so I found myself on a section. The other two trainees had to do the full 13 weeks.

The manager decided to have a reshuffle and I found myself on the business section, my E.O was one of the girls who I’d been in training with, and who later became my daughter-in-law.

I left the Civil Service in August, 1982, to care for an elderly aunt. Legal Aid was about to be computerised, and although I had passed my E.O. exam, blood is thicker than water. I have found that when dealing with a government office, slipping into the conversation that you’ve been their side of the desk is a great advantage.