Honours for 26 women killed in Great Yarmouth Second World War bombing

Joan Awbery, 101, unveils the plaque to the memory of 26 members of the Auxiliary Territorial Servic

Joan Awbery, 101, unveils the plaque to the memory of 26 members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth where the women were killed, during the plaque's rededication. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Tributes were paid to more than two dozen women who were killed in Great Yarmouth while they proudly served King and country.

A new plaque in honour of the 26 fallen heroes was unveiled at the Imperial Hotel on Sunday.

Colleen Walker, front, and Carol Borg, both from the British Legion, lay a wreath and a posy at the

Colleen Walker, front, and Carol Borg, both from the British Legion, lay a wreath and a posy at the plaque to the memory of 26 members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Denise Bradley

On May 11, 1943, female members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) were killed following a bombing on their accommodation at the former Whitfield House, which was beside the present day Imperial Hotel.

The aftermath of the bombing raid

The aftermath of the bombing raid - Credit: London Evening News

Only one living ATS member was pulled from the rubble in what was the biggest loss of female Army personnel in British history.

One of the dead ATS signallers was 19-year-old Lilian Grimmer from Great Yarmouth. She is said to have swapped duties that fateful day.

Joan Awbery, 101, front right, and Lorna Lansdown, 100, both members of the ATS, and standard bearer

Lorna Lansdowne, 100, left, and Joan Awbery, 101, and standard bearers at the rededication of the plaque in memory of 26 members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Denise Bradley

The female veterans charity, Women’s Royal Army Corps Association (WRAC Association), hosted the plaque unveiling which was attended by the deputy lord-lieutenant of Norfolk, the high steward of Great Yarmouth and Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor.

Henry Cator, high steward of Great Yarmouth, said: "It's incredibly important we remember our history as it informs the present.

"The fact we are remembering today people who had fought in the war who, up until today, have not been recognised, it is fantastic that we are able to do this."

Joan Awbery, 101, front right, and Lorna Lansdowne, 100, front left, both members of the ATS, with gu

Joan Awbery, 101, front right, and Lorna Lansdowne, 100, front left, both members of the ATS, with guests at the rededication of the plaque in memory of 26 members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Also in attendance were two centenarian veterans, Lorna Lansdowne and Joan Awberry.

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Mrs Lansdowne, 100 and from Sprowston, spent three years as a private with the ATS. She said one of the hardest things about serving was missing her mother and family as she could only see them twice a year.

Members of the ATS played a key role in the Second World War

Members of the ATS played a key role in the Second World War - Credit: Imperial War Museum

Mrs Lansdowne added: "It means everything to be here today. It's been an enjoyable day, even if it was a bit cold."

It took almost 50 years before recognition arrived for these women, thanks to Second World War veteran Joan Awberry.

She did the honours of unveiling the new plaque and during the ceremony, Mrs Awberry was described as the "driving force" behind much of the WRAC Association's fundraisers and memorial services for over 50 years.

Joan Awbery, 101, member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmou

Joan Awbery, 101, member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth for the rededication of the plaque in memory of the women who were killed. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Fiona Gardner, retired brigadier, and vice president and chair of trustees at WRAC, said: “These women not only served their country during conflict, they also helped carve out new roles for women in wider society as a whole. They should thus appropriately be honoured."

The plaque to the memory of 26 members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the Imperial Hotel in

The plaque to the memory of 26 members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth where the women were killed. - Credit: Denise Bradley