A chance conversation between 97-year-old Isabel Rycroft and Charnwood Lifeline warden Hazel Skellington has led to Isabel’s war service being recognised after more than 70 years.
Isabel served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army, during the second World War and when the pair got chatting, Hazel realised she would qualify for the War Medal 1939-1945 medal.
Hazel, who visits Isabel most weeks at her home on Beacon Road and is also from a military background as her father served in the Royal Signals, applied to the Government for the medal, which arrived recently.
Cllr Hilary Fryer, the Council’s Armed Forces Champion, presented the medal to Isabel and thanked her for her service during the war.
Isabel said: “I remember being told I had to apply for the medal, but I never got around to it. Life just got in the way. I’m so happy that Hazel took it upon herself to apply on my behalf. It’s a lovely medal and brings back so many great memories of my time during the war.”
Isabel was born in Cheltenham and lived in Chesham, Buckinghamshire until 19 years ago when she moved to Charnwood. During the war, Isabel was stationed in London, and was a short-hand typist for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, who were based in the top floor of the Selfridges building.
Isabel would often be responsible for writing sensitive and important letters and documents in the run up to invasion and would often be asked by strangers on the bus for any information she held. It was an exciting and dangerous time.
In 1944, Isabel married Norman, a medical records officer, and had three children. She now has two grandchildren and a great granddaughter who is three years old.
Hazel said: “I began my role as a warden at the beginning of the year and as soon as I met Isabel, I was fascinated by her stories of when she was younger.
“During one of my visits I noticed a black and white photo of a young woman in uniform and she told me that it was her when she was in the ATS during the war. I was bought up in an Army background and when Isabel brought up the medal, I knew I had to apply for her.
“Seeing how happy it’s made her has made my year. If there are any veterans out there who haven’t received their medal, please reach out.”
Cllr Fryer, who is also from a military family, paid Isabel a visit at her home, and the two hit it off straight away, swapping stories and sharing her own memories of serving in the armed forces and growing up during the war.
Cllr Fryer said: “It was an absolute honour to meet Isabel. She truly is a great character and what a fascinating story she has to tell.
“Hazel has gone beyond her duties for Isabel, and she should be commended for that. Support for our armed forces community is so important, and the pride in Isabel’s face was a joy to witness.”
Cllr Fryer has invited Isabel to the Loughborough Veterans’ Breakfast Club, which meets on the second Saturday on every month at the Toby Carvery in Loughborough.
The breakfast club initiative supported by the Council under its Armed Forces Covenant commitment. The Council is also running a project with Rushcliffe and Melton councils to support serving and former personnel in our communities by highlighting issues they face and helping organisations ensure their services are geared towards helping them.