Winifred Kate Wyatt
Date of birth: 25.2.1912
Date of death: 9.2002
Regiment: Blackburn Aircraft Factory, Sherburn in Elmet
Family information: Wife of Samuel Charles Baker (died late 1950s) and Denis Chaplin.
Blackburns’ built the ‘Swordfish’ aircraft for the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm. They were designed to land and take off from aircraft carriers. Of a total of 2,400 Swordfish manufactured, Blackburns’ made 1,700. The planes were nicknamed ‘Stringbag’ by pilots because of all the wires and war items fixed to the underside.
Between 1940 and 1945 Swordfish planes were involved in some remarkable action, including the sinking of the Italian fleet and the German battleship ‘Bismark’. There is much more information about this plane in Charles Lamb’s book ‘War in a stringbag’.
I feel quite proud that my Aunt was involved in these events, making parts for the Swordfish.
Winifred Kate, always known as Kay, was my aunt. Her parents, William Henry and Elizabeth, moved to Castleford from Gloucestershire in 1908. Elizabeth’s brother was already living there. They arrived with Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Stephens, a six month old baby daughter, Mary and if family stories are true, two horses.
Kay was born on the 25th February 1912 and baptised at Castleford Parish Church.
Kay’s father, my Grandad, had found work in one of the local collieries where he worked until the 1920s when he was diagnosed with heart problems and was no longer able to work at the pit. Changes had to be made for the family to survive.
William and Elizabeth rented a large house called Allerton House in Lock Lane, Castleford where in 1934 they opened a boarding house with Granny Elizabeth caring for the guests with help from three of her daughters, Kay, Cicely and my mum, Nellie. The majority of the guests were actors and stage performers engaged by the Theatre Royal.
Meanwhile, Grandad helped out with finances by working as a carter for some of the local grocers, delivering orders to customers’ homes.
Aunt Kay left home in 1936 to become a live-in housekeeper but after returning home for a holiday in 1938 she was taken ill with meningitis. Her long convalescence meant she lost her job but in September 1938 three young men arrived to stay at Granny’s. They were employed by a Kent chemical manufacturing company, Hicksons, and had been sent to do work at their Castleford plant. In true romantic fashion, love blossomed for Aunt Kay and one of the young men, Samuel Charles Baker. He was destined to become her husband. They married in 1940.
Once Uncle Sam’s work was completed in Castleford, the couple moved back south to the borders of London and Kent.
Beginning their married life they experienced a very frightening time. War was raging around them, with air raids and bombings. Aunt Kay said they were terrified 24 hours a day, always wondering if they would be bombed next.
During 1941 Uncle Sam was called up for army services. He served in the Medical Corps, acting as a stretcher- bearer, carrying out emergency first aid and moving injured soldiers to hospital. With Uncle Sam away, Aunt Kay felt the need to go back home to Castleford and be with her family. So home she went.
Some time after arriving home, Aunt Kay was also ‘called up’ to aid the war efforts at home. She was employed by the Blackburn Aircraft Factory at Sherburn-in Elmet.
When Uncle Sam was demobbed, he and Aunt Kay returned to Kent with the son they had adopted, Kay’s nephew Peter. Uncle Sam died in the late 1950s and Aunt Kay remarried in 1963, gaining a family, the daughters and grandchildren of her second husband, Denis Chaplin. She died in September 2002, aged 89.