FANY finally gets her wings

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Poppy, Sep 29, 2007.

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    Long awaited Royal Air Force Parachute Wings Ceremony

    After a slightly longer then traditional wait, on 9 Aug 07 Mrs Odette de Strugo, ex of F (France) Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was finally presented her RAF Parachute wings at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina having earned them 63 years ago on 12 Apr 1944 when she dropped into enemy occupied France.

    Odette’s story is a captivating one but like so many others of that time is told in a matter of fact and unassuming manner. An early WWII (and still current) member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), she had been married to a Finnish volunteer RAF pilot instructor who died in a flying accident. Later, she helped train and then volunteered to be an SOE agent and was one of more than 400 (only about 30 were women) sent to occupied France by SOE. Many did not return including nearly 20 of the women and in addition her then fiancé was betrayed on a separate mission, captured, tortured and killed.

    Odette, whose operational name was ‘Waitress’ was originally sent to act as a wireless radio operator for the STATIONER Network. Later she moved to be courier to the LABOURER Network but shortly thereafter, with the network compromised and its head (her fiancé) captured she had to escape back to the UK. This she did through a well organised but nonetheless dangerous network including a memorable bicycle ride down the Champs D’Elysee in Paris escorted by the 13yr old son of a friend of her fiancé’s. Odette eventually crossed the Pyrenees into neutral Spain before being repatriated to England via Gibraltar. It was during this crossing the head of the Spanish escape network (Santiago Strugo Garay) met Odette. Despite having only known her for 3 days, when the war ended he travelled to London, found and married her.

    A remarkable woman, full of vigour and a love of life, Odette had casually lamented to Wg Cdr Simon Dowling, the Air Attaché in Argentina where she lives that it was a great shame she had not completed the requisite parachute jumps in order to qualify for her wings. She jumped only 4 times, all with the RAF (including a particularly ‘hairy’ one she remembers at night from a balloon). The final jump was her operational one on 12 Apr 1944.

    Thankfully for Odette the regulations permit wings to be awarded to personnel who:
    ‘have made a parachute drop on operations against the enemy’
    and as such CAS ACM Sir Glenn Torpy wrote to Odette to formally grant her permission to wear her wings. The ceremony was presided over by the British Ambassador in Argentina Dr John Hughes in front of select number of Odette’s family and friends, many of whom were also WWII veterans or the family of veterans. Following the Ambassador, Wing Commander Simon Dowling presented her with a silver parachute wings brooch she can wear daily with pride.

    That is only a small part of Odette’s story but it should be enough to remind us all how much we owe those who serve their country during the most difficult of times.

    about time too :) congratulations Mrs de Strugo
  2. About time to.

    Maybe this sounds a bit stupid, but perhaps all the other women who earned their wings should be awarded them posthumously, if thats possible.
  3. Well done to CAS ACM Sir Glenn Torpy and his staff for digging up the info as well.
  4. Very few like her made any more.

    Well done to all involved and congratulations to Mrs de Strugo.
  5. All their storys show a courage and determination that is to be saluted
  6. Poppy, Thanks for sharing your story. Suddenly I feel proud again

  7. I felt very humbled when she spoke to the corps. Her words were along the lines of "I didn't do very much" after escaping from the nazis in Pparis, crossing the Pyrenees..................and she and her husband moved to Argentina and never spoke of the war again for years and years

    it is a lot to live up to
  8. About time too. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the women of FANY. :salut:
  9. Excellent! I agree that all female SOE agents who jumped over enemy territory ought be given their Wings, whether belatedly or posthumously. I remember asking why the ex-WRACs assigned to The Parachute Regiment and other AB units were not allowed to do their wings and the response was something along the lines of "the RAF consider that the harness could cause women internal injuries". We were still using the Irvin at the time, the harness of which was the same as that worn by female SOE agents jumping into Occupied Europe during WW2 so that was clearly not the true reason.

  10. Not stupid at all.
  11. Quite agree, I'm sure there were many other brave women like her who have gone to the safe house in the sky. Many of whom sadly died, alone, on ops at the hands of a brutal captor. We, and those in former occupied europe, still owe them our debit of freedom today.

    Hortense is another example of a young Belgian woman who exhibited tremendous courage and determination in the face of adversity. Married a SSGT in the REME and lived in Stoke until she passed away last year.

    a shame that Oddete and her like still need to be remembered more widely, beyond a shabby bar , run by a shabby man, just off Knightsbridge.

  12. Is this another ARRSE campaign in the offing then ??

    Editied because my lappy had a brain fart