Joan Eugenie (Elizabeth) Mortimer

Stationed at RAF Biggin Hill, Sgt Mortimer was manning the switchboard during a heavy bombing attack on the airfield from the Luftwaffe. Despite advice from her superiors, she remained at her post as the bombs rained down, passing telephone messages to senior officers. After an anti-air gun was destroyed and the gunners all killed, Sgt Mortimer continued to operate the switchboard and ignored the danger. Then, before the “all clear” was sounded, she picked up a roll of red flags and ran out to the grass runway to mark each unexploded bomb so that the returning 601 Squadron Hurricane pilots could see where to land safely. As she did this, an unexploded bomb with a delay fuse blew up – sending her flying. She was winded and her uniform was torn but she continued to mark the bombs, the last right in the centre of the landing strip. Due to the explosions, she lost 60% of her hearing and was eventually discharged from the WAAF in 1941, suffering from her hearing loss and pneumonia. Her MM citation read that she:

“Displayed exceptional courage and coolness whilst under attack which had a great moral effect on all those whom she came into contact with. Her steadfast courage to both remain at her post whilst under bombardment and to undertake action to prevent further aircraft losses was outstanding.”