A few weeks ago Watton Branch was contacted by Pauline Smith from Guilford, whose mother in law lives in Watton, asking if the Legion would present her mother in law Hilda with her 1939-45 Defence Medal. The reply was obvious that yes we would be delighted but we thought that handing over a well deserved medal 70 years late in a pub was a bit mundane and that we could do better than that.
So the surprise started to take shape, we first contacted the town council to ask if we might use the council chambers for such a prestigious occasion and they of course agreed. The Mayor (Stan Hebborn), himself ex RAF, was ready to do the honours when we had another suggestion from KC Jones, the Watton Sport Centre manager, himself a career soldier, of why not ask the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk to present the medal. After contacting the Lord Lieutenant (Richard Jewson JP) he was honoured to be asked to present a medal for a deserving cause. All this time we are managing to get more information on Hilda and her wartime exploits.
Hilda was 16 at the outbreak of war in 1939 and was an office worker by day and a fire watcher buy night, plotting and reporting the fall of incendiary bombs across London. After the blitz she joined the Women's Land Army and moved to Somerset and it was whilst there she became a member of the Home Guard. Many women served with the Home Guard in administrative and support roles. Many, like Hilda, wore uniform and bore arms, a little known fact as sadly most of our knowledge of the Home Guard comes from the likes of "Dad's Army".
On the day, Hilda was escorted to the council chambers by her daughter and grand-daughter who had carried out most of the investigative works and whose original idea it was to apply for the medal. The surprise was complete, Hilda was over come at the fuss and insisted she was not deserving, as one would expect of any hero, but delighted to see her family and meet the Lord Lieutenant who was extremely gracious in the citation speech.
Another example that the Royal British Legion does not forget and will honour all those who have served however long it takes.