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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 July, 2005, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK
Medal heroine's blitz memories
Gillian Walton Clarke
Gillian Walton Clarke was stationed at Bermondsey
The efforts of millions of women in Britain during World War II have been remembered with the unveiling of a special monument in London.

The Queen attended the ceremony in Whitehall on Saturday.

As part of the BBC Wales news website's series on WWII veterans, we talk to a Ceredigion grandmother who risked her life in the fire brigade in the blitz.

Gillian "Bobbie" Walton Clarke, from Lampeter, is one of only six surviving women given the George Medal.

Mrs Clarke - who was born in London - signed up to the fire service in 1939 at the age of only 20, initially just as a driver.

"I was with the fire brigade in London - I was stationed at Dockhead in Bermondsey," said the 86-year-old.

Gillian Tanner clippings
Mrs Clarke met the Queen Mother when she won the George Medal

"I went there as a driver - there were two of us and we drove the station officer wherever he wanted to go. But as soon as I was 21, I put in for a heavy goods licence and passed."

From then on, she had to drive a petrol lorry around the fire-hit streets, sometimes during attacks.

"We used to carry two galloon tins and filled up the trailer pumps with petrol - we had to keep the pumps going."

But she said she did not feel particularly scared.

"You don't think about it - the things happening when the fires were going. You could hear the bombers, but you just got on with it.

"If you are going to be killed, you are going to be killed and that's all there is about it."

She was awarded the George Medal for her bravery in a ceremony with King George VI in 1941.

"It was awe-inspiring and I was very pleased that my mother was able to come with me to Buckingham Palace to collect it."

Firefighters in London
Mrs Clarke worked with the fire brigade throughout the war

Mrs Clarke, whose maiden name is Tanner, has also been remembered by the fire service, which named a building at their training base in Gloucestershire after her.

"They wrote to me and asked if we can name it after you, so I suggested Tanner House - it is a great honour."

She said the memorial in Whitehall was a good way to remember the efforts of women left behind to keep farms running and the country going.

She had planned to travel to the ceremony with her two granddaughters - one of them, Amanda Jones, said she had not always known how brave her grandmother really was.

"As I was growing up, I just thought everybody's grandparents must have done stuff like that, but more recently I realised perhaps really she is one in a million," she said.

"It makes you appreciate her more and more."



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