Red-letter day as Phyllis, 95, gets her medal at last

Published on: 30 May 2017

DESPITE serving as a civilian telephone operator and fire-watcher during the Second World War, Phyllis Green thought she would never be awarded the Civil Defence Medal she so richly deserved.

Her service records were lost when the fire station she served at was bombed and this meant Phyllis was unable to claim her medal following the war.

But thanks to some painstaking detective work by her family, Phyllis was finally presented with her medal during celebrations to mark her 95th birthday.

It came as a complete surprise to Phyllis, with her family saying she was "overwhelmed" with emotion.

Phyllis, who lives in Woodlands Court, Downend, was born and bred in South London and had qualified for the award by serving as a civilian telephone operator and fire-watcher with the Auxiliary Fire Service in Battersea from 1941 to 1944, including during the London Blitz.

Her son Chris Green said it was a case of providing evidence to prove Phyllis had indeed served, which was tricky as her records were lost.

Chris, who looks after Bromley Heath Scout and Guide HQ, said: "I had to do a bit of detective work! First of all I went to the War Office but they only deal with war medals so they pointed me to the Cabinet Office. I went to them and discovered my brother Cliff had already tried to claim her medal some years ago but was unable to provide sufficient information so he didn't get anywhere.

"I think I was very lucky because the guy who was in charge of civil medals at the Cabinet Office was so helpful and encouraging. I kept saying I didn't have anything else to show him but he said 'Come on, let's not give up!'"

The civil servant asked Chris if he could provide any photographs of his mother during her years of service and Chris then came up trumps.

"I went off and in mum's collection of old stuff I found some old photos and there was mum in her uniform!"

But there were still gaps to fill so Chris quietly recruited his son Robert to casually ask his grandmother questions about her time in the war.

Her answers were mentally recorded and the official forms completed.

Chris said: "The man in the Cabinet Office then told me the information we had provided was sufficient and Phyllis was justified in having the medal. He sent it to me with a very nice letter congratulating her and wishing her a very happy 95th birthday."

Phyllis was still in the dark until her recent birthday bash where her great-granddaughter Eloise presented the medal to her, surrounded by 23 other family members, including her three sons Chris, Cliff, and Colin, seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. There was even a special visit from her niece all the way from Australia.

"She was absolutely delighted and overwhelmed," said Chris.

"After the war lots of things were lost or had been disposed of and she thought she'd missed the opportunity. We just pieced everything together from stories she told us but what clinched it were the photographs we found. I wouldn't have got the medal though without the Cabinet Office being so helpful."

Phyllis married Maurice on April 26, 1941, her 19th birthday. Maurice served in the British Expeditionary Force, taking a week's leave to marry his sweetheart. 

Phyllis moved from South London to Wimborne in Dorset in the early 1980s. She moved to Downend after her husband died nine years ago so she could be closer to son Chris, who moved to the area when his company relocated to the South West in the 1970s.

 

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