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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 19:12 GMT
Memorial to the women of WW2 at last
ww2 women
The York veterans who decided to campaign for a memorial
The final arrangements are being made for the first British memorial to the women who served in World War Two. All our allies have them, but we will get one more than fifty years after the war ended.

The Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, has negotiated with Westminster Borough Council for the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh on Whitehall to be moved to the naval museum in Greenwich.

So the women's memorial will, in about eighteen months, be given a space within a hundred yards of the Cenotaph.

Half the expected cost of over 200,000 has already been collected - an appeal has been launched to raise more - and a final selection of a short-list of sculptures is being made.

Tracing women veterans

Thyrza Meacock: Remembers her marriage in the church across the road
But at the same time, the Imperial War Museum in London, is launching it's own appeal - to trace surviving women who served and collect their reminiscences for a new archive.

It is believed more women served in the Second World War than men, though they were not supposed to be directly involved in the fighting.

Over 7 million, many conscripted, worked to keep the country's infrastructure going, as the men were sent away to fight.

Medals for bravery

They did everything - driving milk floats, working as Land Girls, in munitions factories and shipyards, and throughout the civil service. They also joined up in all three services, and many were killed in action or won medals for bravery under fire.

Lettice Curtis: The first woman to fly bombers
Women took over the delivery of aircraft to the hard-pressed RAF. They made sure our war-ships were supplied at sea. They manned anti-aricraft batteries and were crucial to the early development of radar.

The campaign for a memorial grew out of a reunion of Auxilliary Territorial Service veterans in York. Many of them believe the reason they have been so neglected is that the authorities only think of the brave exploits of men who died in battle, not of the often mundane work of women behind the scenes.

Male chauvinism

However, Dr.Tessa Stone of Newnham College, Cambridge, who lectures on women at war in the Twentieth Century, also thinks male chauvinism is involved.

She has interviewed several women who won medals: one of them Avis Hearn, who carried on reporting aircraft movements while the building was blown up around her but found that she was cold-shouldered for wearing her medal ribbons.

And the first woman to fly bombers, Miss Lettice Curtis, now in her eighties, remembers that the Air Transport Auxiliary, which used women pilots and retired men to deliver aircraft, were almost excluded from a victory parade after the war.

Those women wishing to pass on their war time experiences to the Imperial War Museum should write to:

Memorial to the Women of WWII, c/o Department of Documents, Imperial War Museum, London SE1 6HZ

Donations to: Memorial to Women of WWII Fund, tel no: 01904 662291

Tim Maby reports for PM
Tim Maby reports for PM

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