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A former Wren has finally been presented with her war medals more than 75 years late, as a surprise for her 100th birthday.
Sylvia Dyde, who is known by her middle name, Jacqueline, lives at Woodland Grove care home in Loughton. She served as a signaller with the Royal Navy during the Second World War, with postings to Egypt, India and Sri Lanka.
With her landmark birthday looming, Jacqueline mentioned to her grand-daughter, Caroline, that it might be time to finally get her medals. That was all the prompting Caroline needed.
“I made contact with the Ministry of Defence who were able to send the medals through to me,” said Caroline.
“Grandmama always talked to me about the war. She loved the travelling and it inspired a lifelong interest in visiting different countries and meeting new people.
“She is modest about her war service and never saw herself as a hero, especially as she lost family members in the conflict and her second husband was recognised for his service at El Alamein. But she did earn them, so has every right to claim them!”
The daughter of a clergyman from Cornwall, Jacqueline joined the Wrens aged 18 in 1939. She started as a steward on board HMS Defiance at Plymouth before being sent to Warrington to learn coding.
Her first posting was to Egypt, but it was on board a troop ship, the Devonshire, en route to Sri Lanka, where the reality of war really hit home.
“It was Christmas Day and just as dinner was finishing, action stations sounded,” Jacqueline remembered.
“We dashed to the upper deck and our stations. An unfortunate ship some way ahead had been torpedoed but we all had to just stand there and chug along towards it.”
Her final posting to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, was her favourite. Serving on HMS Anderson, she had the opportunity to meet Lord Mountbatten. When asked, she told him her work was “a bit dull”. Although he found it amusing, she was later reprimanded for not having the right attitude.
And the “dull” work? She was communicating intercepted signals from Japanese war ships back to the code breaking experts at Bletchley Park!
After the war, Jacqueline settled in London where she brought up her son Charles, and worked as a secretary. Life was so busy she never applied for her service medals.
75 years on, the Defence Medal and the War Medal were presented to her in the grounds of Woodland Grove care home on Rectory Lane by Commander Andy Swain MBE, Chief of Staff of the Naval Regional Command Eastern England, in front of Jacqueline’s family and staff from the home.
“I’m absolutely thrilled!” said Jacqueline, “and to be given them by such an important personage is even more wonderful. I’ve never had a birthday like it!”