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100-year-old woman receives medal for work on Second World War Spitfires

30 May 2024 3 minute read
Kathleen Clement, now 100-years-old, as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) based at RAF Loughborough, during World War Two. Photo Neath Port Talbot Council/PA Wire

A 100-year-old woman whose mechanical skills helped keep fighters planes flying during the Second World War has received a replacement for the long-lost medal she received for her work.

Based at RAF Loughborough, Kathleen ‘Kay’ Clement was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (Waaf) during the war.

Working as a mechanic, Ms Clement, who was born in 1924 and now lives in a care home in Neath, South Wales, maintained Spitfires, which were vital for the war effort.

After the conflict, she was given a Loyal Service Medal for her efforts on behalf of King George VI, which later went missing.

Replacement medal

While she was being presented with a Mayor’s Award by the former Neath Port Talbot mayor Chris Williams, Ms Clement was surprised with a replacement by Wing Commander Stephen Fry, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, and Air Commodore Robert Woods, Air Officer Wales.

Finola Pickwell, regional armed forces liaison officer for Neath Port Talbot, Swansea and Bridgend, organised the surprise, having heard about the loss while speaking to Ms Clement following her nomination for the Mayor’s Award.

Kathleen Clement (left), 100, who has been presented with a surprise replacement for her long-lost Loyal Service Medal which was initially awarded to her after the war on behalf of King George VI, by Air Commodore Robert Woods (centre), Air Officer Wales, and Wing Commander Stephen Fry, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan (right). Photo Neath Port Talbot Council/PA Wire

Ms Pickwell said: “Her eyes welled up and she said the medal meant more to her than if she’d been given a solid gold watch. It was an emotional moment.

“It’s amazing to think the medal was originally presented to her on behalf of King George VI for her services in the WAAF as a Spitfire Mechanic during the Second World War, and after the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in history, she was eventually given a replacement in the reign of King George VI’s grandson, King Charles III.”

WAAF

The WAAF was established on June 28 1939 by King George VI and by 1945 a quarter of a million women served in the force, working in more than 110 different trades and supporting operations around the world.

The Waaf was a vital part of the RAF’s war effort and demonstrated the contribution women could make to Britain’s armed forces.

Following the war, the Waaf was renamed the Women’s Royal Air Force on February 1 1949.

Former serviceman, Councillor Wyndham Griffiths, Neath Port Talbot Council’s armed forces champion, said: “This lady thoroughly deserved the Mayor’s Award and I’m sure everyone will be delighted she has a replacement medal for the valiant work she did in maintaining Britain’s Spitfires when they were so needed.”


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