The heartwarming tale of a wartime mother's special contribution...

The story of DOROTHY PARSONS - by her daughter Dorothy Wills

Hayes woman Dorothy Parsons had left EMI to do her contribution to the war effort in the ammunition factory in Ruislip which was known as "the Sheds". Ruislip was having a railway station built just before the war broke out. When war was declared instead of completing the station they removed three steam engines from their sheds, which were turned into an ammunition factory employing over 1,000 people. Dorothy believes BSA in Birmingham set this up as she went to Birmingham to entertain the workers there during their lunchtime canteen break.

t was 1942, Dorothy was doing her bit for the country for the War Effort. She was doing inspection duties on the Orlikan Gun for the Merchant Navy when a talent contest was announced at the works. She entered singing "Just a Little Love, a little kiss" to a crowd who had gathered in the canteen. It was the very first time she had sung in front of an audience.

That song won her the talent contest the BBC decided to do a radio broadcast from the works and Dorothy was invited to perform. This time singing Tossellis Serenata. Another talent contest was held in 1944 yet again she took the honours with Song of Songs.

A group of musicians all doing war work formed an orchestra. They even managed to find a conductor, Mr Easy, who in fact conducted the Uxbridge Silver Band in peace time. It just so happened that Dorothy saw them performing in the canteen one day, they asked her to sing for them. She accepted and sang with them performing concerts in the canteen every month during the lunch times and evenings for the workers.

The evening concerts would continue well into the early hours, sometimes she would make her way home to Gledwood Avenue at 3am in the morning, the guns would be blasting and the sky lit up by the search lights. They travelled all over the country performing at hospitals in London, Birmingham factories and even St Mary's Hospital in Roehampton where they made artificial limbs, there were men there from the first world war.

An audition was being held at the London Coliseum by Emile Littler who was looking for singers for his new show. It was 1944. Dorothy attended the audition singing One Fine Day from Madam Butterfly. Emile was soimpressed that he wanted her straight away. On returning to sign the contracts she had second thoughts, was it right to leave the children as she had not heard from her husband who was in the Desert. She returned home, the news of her bypassing such an opportunity for her family made the front page of the Daily Express, she continued to sing with the orchestra and also sang with Richard Tauber on stage.

It was at one of the rehearsals that she met a pianist called Stanley Pickard. They formed a duo and performed at Masonic Dinners doing concerts around the country for some ten years until Stanley died of a heart attack in June 1957 not long after losing her husband Tom. At Butlins Holiday Camp, Clacton 1960 she sang We'll Gather Lilacs, it was a performance worthy of being broadcast on Radio Luxemburg. Without her pianist her performances became less and less. She eventually remarried at the age of 65 and moved away from Hayes to the south coast. Her new husband insisted she entered the Senior Citizens Contest and won the local heats going on to win contests at St Albans and Leamington Spa, she returned with the trophies. She continued to entertain at the local Conservative Club and disabled clubs and sang for Margaret Thatcher when she visited the area as Prime Minister.

Now aged 88 she lives quietly in her bungalow by the sea. ...............

As a small child evacuated to Wales with my grandmother I used to sit and listen to her singing when the lunch time broacasts were made from the canteen. Her understudy who took her place in the Quaker Girl was Evelyn Laye who became a close friend of the Queen Mother. One can't help wondering what our lives would have been had she taken the chance and sailed to New York. Needless to say I am very proud of this lady, my mum. - Dorothy Parsons (jnr).

'She would make her way home at 3am, the guns would be blasting and the sky lit up by the search lights'