Kath’s wartime words would suit today - ‘We had to push ourselves forward and look forward to another day’

Flashback to Remembrance Day and Kath

Flashback to Remembrance Day and Kath - Credit: Archant

Kath Tozer had spent six years helping to defend us against Hitler’s bombs. Now the war was over – and all she wanted was to go home to mum!

Wartime sweethearts - Kath and Bill Tozer

Wartime sweethearts - Kath and Bill Tozer - Credit: Archant

Kath joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a gunner in 191 at the age of 17 and she defended anti-aircraft bases on the Home Front.

Part of her remarkable story was told in the Torbay Weekly last week.

It was down to Pauline Marr. The Women’s Royal Army Corps veteran discovered Kath living in the Bay during Lockdown and befriended her.

Kath remembers vividly VE Day. On May 8, 1945, after nearly six years of war, Allied Forces accepted Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender. Kath says: “I was in Leeds on leave when the news came in. The announcement came over on the radio.

Flashback ot last week's story about Kath Tozer

Flashback ot last week's story about Kath Tozer - Credit: Archant

“I went to the Town Hall, all the bands and drums were going – to think the war in Europe was over and we could all go back to civvy street. Thousands were on the street. Everyone was screaming, shouting, laughing and making merry. It was wonderful. Shouting: “The war’s over, no more killing”. “We can go back home”.

“I used to drink then. It was so full it took an hour to get a pint. We drank in a pub called the Three Legs of Man.

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“I wish my husband Bill had been with me on VE Day. He was posted in Hong Kong and so I had to wait until the war in Japan finished for him to come home.

“At the same time as all the joy, I was nervous – I think most people were, wondering what was going to happen next. But we got over it. We had to push ourselves forward and look forward to another day.

“My dad had died when I was two, so it was always just me and my mother. All I wanted to do was go back to her. Sounds pathetic doesn’t it… wanting to go back home to my mother!”

After the war, Kath went on to have a family with Bill. She heads up five generations, with 40 members of the family.

She says: “I look at my family and think, ooh these are all mine! And I wouldn’t have them if it hadn’t been for the war. I would never have met Bill.

“75 years on from the war, that makes me feel old. To think I went through it all.

“I hope others now sit and think about that time and know that we tried to make it a better world.

“Us women often don’t get the recognition we deserve – even though the Queen was in the ATS. I would like it to be remembered that we did our bit.”

Harry Ellis, divisional secretary of the SSAFA, and Kath met and became friends decades after the war and she shared her war stories with him. Help from the Armed Forces charity was to prove invaluable.

Kath said: “I told him about one day, when we were in a Nissen hut full of mustard gas. We had to go in with masks on and test it for the civilians. When we came out, I fell over something and injured my ankle. The pain went on for a while, but I never took much notice. I was excused boots, and Bill always said, “you walk funny with that leg don’t you”. Eventually it became a nuisance and I mentioned this to Harry.

“Harry told me that I should be eligible for a war pension, and so he set about helping me. He did all the paperwork and drove me back and forth to Plymouth, to doctors and to court. I got given a lump sum. I think SSAFA and Harry are wonderful.”

Pauline is appealing for other WRAC or ATS ladies Bay to get in touch. “They may like to get to know others for a chat,” said Pauline who can be contacted here: paulinemarr55@gmail.com