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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > May 2018 > A taste of home

A taste of home

The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) served thousands of members of the Armed Services at home and abroad during World War II, and your relatives may have been among them. However, they did not get the recognition they perhaps deserved, says John Leete, who has researched those who served in the NAAFI to learn more about their invaluable contribution to the war effort


Royal Air Force personnel being served tea and refreshments in the NAAFI canteen at RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire, in 1941

‘One of the pleasures of working at NAAFI was the camaraderie between the staff and the servicemen and women. We got all the usual jibes, you know, things like the rock cakes were hard enough to use for building airfield runways, or the tea was like gnats’ pee, but it was always good humoured as far as I remember. I think we all knew that being in the same situation at war, we had to make the best of it. Feeding times were an opportunity to relax and forget your worries just for a while.’

Olive Thomas had been based in Kent and served with the NAAFI after being called up for service in 1941. Until then she had lived in East London with her family and had been bombed out three times, each time she remembered saving the family’s beloved piano. ‘Living in Kent after the trials and tribulations of war ravaged London was quite a change. Apart from anything else I met girls from all over the country and from all backgrounds. We had to put our ‘class’ differences to one side and get on with the job. In some respects I would have liked to have joined one of the uniformed services, but I had no choice so for me it was a wrap-around apron and a ‘mop type’ cap and a permanent smile.

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About Family Tree

Where are you going to take your family history this spring? From planning a trip to The National Archives to a meander down memory lane, there are so many choices... I bet there are few among us whose hearts don’t gladden when spring is in the air, and this issue we’ve got all sorts of ideas to help you get out and about and enjoying your family history. Whether you’re going to pay a visit to the archives, or plan a day out or weekend away to the places where your family once came from, it’s sure to add so much to what you know about your ancestors’ lives. It’s definitely true – the more we look, the more we learn. Have fun!