Mary Flynn, 95, a former Spitfire mechanic in the Royal Air Force, finally received her War Medal 1939-1945 from the Second World War on Friday, 75 years after she enlisted.
Mary was a Leading Aircraftswoman in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force from September 1942 to May 1945, working in Scotland, and then Weston Zoyland, Somerset. Mary worked on Spitfires and barrage balloons, but never got around to claiming her medal after the war. Her family though were very keen to fix this and applied, successfully, to the medal office on her behalf.
One memory she has is hanging onto the tail wings of Spitfires as they took off in windy conditions, to stop them tipping up. As the aircraft accelerated the girls would jump off! In 1947 Mary married Norman, a serving soldier, but sadly he was killed in a traffic accident in 1955 returning from Bisley, where he had just become a member of the Queen’s Hundred, the 100 best shots in the Army.
She always wanted to serve abroad, but her father refused to sign the release papers; this might be related to what happened to her brother, Wilf, who was captured at Singapore and sent to work on the Burma railway before she joined. Wilf survived, though, and retired as a WO1 in 1969. Her other brother, Herb, was in the Parachute regiment and was wounded and captured at Arnhem, but also survived the war.
Air Marshal Sir Dusty Miller, a Vice-President of the Royal Air Forces Association, presented the medal. The Deputy Station Commander of RAF St Mawgan, Flight Lieutenant Owen Crossby, and Flight Lieutenant Rebecca Rowlands from the Armed Forces Careers Office in Exeter also attended to congratulate Mary on behalf of the Royal Air Force. The presentation was made at the Passage House hotel near Newton Abbot, Devon, so that Mary didn’t have far to travel.
Flight Lieutenant Rowlands said:
“It’s very inspiring to hear about Mary’s contribution during the war, particularly as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force. My background is aircrew, and women were flying and fixing aircraft in service 75 years ago, so diversity is nothing new for us.”
Mary’s son, Dennis, grandsons, Jonathon, Timothy, and Benjamin, and niece, Christine, were there to watch the presentation. Her great grandchildren also attended and sang a short song of their own composition to congratulate her, raising smiles all round. Her other grandson, Simon, is working in Argentina, but joined the family by video link so that he could share in the moment.
“It’s very kind of everyone to make the effort to do this for me. I would say that this is something I can tell my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but I don’t have to because they’re all here. Thank you so much.”