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Phyl Reeve: A Telephone Operator's Tale of Love

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:20 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Phyllis Grace Reeve (nee Hart) (my mother)

Phyllis was born on 4th December 1920 in Plaistow, East London and moved to 88 Willow Street Romford, Essex when she was about five. She was the oldest child of Mr and Mrs Frederick Hart. She had three siblings- Leslie, Leonard and Eileen. Her father was a steam engine driver.

Phyl, as she was known as, left school at 14 and went to work in the local Co-op. She decided to attend evening classes and, at about 17, passed the Civil Service exam, which qualified her to become a telephonist. She worked at Hornchurch telephone exchange - a skilled job she really enjoyed.

Phyl was nearly 19 when war broke out. She continued to work at the telephone exchange, even through all the bombings. Hornchurch was a target because it was close to London and had a large airfield. She used to talk about going up onto the roof of the exchange to watch the bombs dropping over London. She often worked the night shift which was quiet, so she filled the empty hours knitting. She told me she managed to buy some very fine 2-ply wool and knitted herself some very fine lacy jumpers. They must have looked beautiful.

Phyl married Sgt. Frederick Thomas Reeve on 5th March 1945, just before the end of the war, in St Andrew's Church, Romford. There was a lively market in Romford, with stalls selling dress fabrics, which, of course, would be subjected to ration coupons. Apparently, there was a stall holder who ran a black market business from his home. Phyl went there one day and bought white satin fabric for her wedding dress. Her veil etc were borrowed, as were her four bridesmaids dresses. This is what brides did - borrow from one another. All four bridesmaids were in different dresses in different colours. Fred wore his army uniform. Phyl's bouquet was very large and made up of white arum lilies. Several friends and family members saved their sugar rations before the wedding and gave them to Phyl, so that a cake could be made. After the small reception in a local hall, they went away for a few days to Cornwall, after which Fred returned to the Shetland Islands where he was stationed and Phyl returned to her family home in Romford and her job as a telephonist.


Item list and details

1. Phyllis Grace Reeve aged about 21 2. My parents' wedding 5th March 1945

Person the story/items relate to

Phyllis Grace Reeve

Person who shared the story/items

Marilyn Easter

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Phyllis Grace Reeve was my mother.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID