Women’s Royal Army Corps
Reference Library – Services – Adjutant General’s Corps – Women’s Royal Army Corps
The newly sworn-in mayor of Lincoln could finally realise her long-held ambition of driving a tank. Councillor Yvonne Bodger, who was handed the chains of office during a ceremony at the Guildhall on May 17, drove big Army trucks as territorial soldier with the Women’s Royal Army Corps in the 1960s. The “inspirational lady” has chosen to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation in her mayoral year, a charity which has helped members of her family.
Councillor Ron Hills, leader of the opposition Conservative group on the council who proposed Cllr Bodger’s appointment as mayor, revealed that she drove all sorts of vehicles with the TA “but regrets never having the opportunity to drive a tank”. This September marks 100 years since the tank, invented in Lincoln by William Foster & Co Ltd, first rolled into battle during the Great War. And with a nod to civic officer Kate Fenn, Cllr Hills added: “Kate, a fundraising idea for her charity to fulfil that dream, as mayor of the home of the tank?”
Cllr Bodger, who tradition dictates is addressed as Mr Mayor, told the Echo: “It would be brilliant to get the chance to drive a tank, or at least sit in one, this year.
“Many esteemed people have held the post before me and it is a privilege to become part of Lincoln’s history.
“I will feel honoured to represent our wonderful city.”
Cllr Bodger is a mum of two who grew up in Stickney and learned shorthand, typing and commerce at Skegness Commercial College. Her first job was taking depostions in legal and domestic court cases before a successful career with Lincoln law firm Langley, Phillips and Coleman. She and husband Paul, who died in 2004, lived in Yarborough Road and then Greetwell Road, where she still lives.
The 13th female mayor of Lincoln has a lifetime’s wealth of voluntary and public service including as a director of the YMCA for 32 years, a governor at Monks Abbey Primary School, voluntary services organiser at St George’s Hospital and a founder of Befrienders in Grief. She first entered politics as a county councillor for Abbey ward in 1977 and then was elected to Minister ward as a Conservative city councillor in 2007, and held the environmental portfolio holder. Cllr Bodger returned as a Minster ward councillor after a two year absence and polled 843 votes in the election on May 5.
And her great friend Hilary Willerton, who was appointed Sheriff of Lincoln, joked: “According to my diary, we were supposed to be having coffee at Pennells on Tuesday, but then there was an election.”
Councillors Chris Burke and Sue Burke were re-appointed Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayoress respectively. The civic party cut a colourful dash as they emerged on the steps of the Guildhall in their robes and chains as a medieval band sounded a fanfare and the town crier announced their arrival. Onlooker Richard Lindsay, 39, a music teacher from Monks Road, Lincoln, said: “We should have a mayor in a place like Lincoln because of its history and culture – it’s a good British tradition and even though it costs money, the office of mayor probably helps bring in a lot of money to the city.”
Stuart Carr, 68, and wife Gay, 65, from Cleethorpes, visit Lincoln every week to look after the grandchildren.
Mr Carr said: “It’s nice to see the mayor in all her regalia. Lincoln is an historic and beautiful place and I think visitors, especially from abroad, expect to see such traditions.”
The retiring mayor Andrew Kerry raised just under 4,000 for his chosen charity LIVES first responders during his year in office. He thanked the support of everyone who had helped make it such an incredible year in office, including Mayoress Sharon Longthorne, Sheriff Graham Kent, Sheriff’s Lady Gill Kent, the deputies Councillors Burke and the civic office staff. Highlights included meeting Princess Anne at the re-opening of the castle, building friendship links with Germany and China, and photobombing people’s snaps of the council baron from the Guildhall.
Cllr Kerry said: “This year has been an incredible mixture, from the pomp and ceremony of the Royal visits, to the fund-raising tea parties and the resurgence of the Teddy Bears Picnic.
“From the laying of the colours of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment to the deep sadness felt in Bradford on Tuesday, May 11 as they remembered those who died in the Valley Parade fire, it has been a privilege and an honour to serve as Mayor of Lincoln.
“For me, every engagement was an important as the last.
“I would like to wish Cllr Bodger well as she prepares to take over for the next year.”
Heartfelt tributes have poured in following the death of a 93-year-old Royal British Legion veteran with more than 50 years’ service under her belt. Elizabeth Letitia Poole, better known as Betty, was the head of an armed forces family who served the Auxiliary Territorial Service throughout the Second World War, before settling down at RAF Cranwell in the 50s. Her funeral was led by a Royal British Legion guard of honour as a tribute to her service and dedication to the legion, where she served as president of the women’s section until it closed.
Donna Poole, Betty’s granddaughter, said: “Betty was a modest generous woman, immensely proud of her Scottish heritage and her forces family. Words cannot convey the pride that we felt on the day of her funeral.
“I will always remember my granny for loving her holidays to Skegness or Great Yarmouth, loving her grandchildren and friends and enjoying bingo with a glass of sherry.”
Scott Poole, Betty’s grandson who now lives in Australia, said: “Granny was my biggest ally when I was a kid. Always telling my parents to leave me alone, saying ‘they’re kids,’ and let me be a kid and do kid stuff. She always made me feel like I was her favourite.
“When I lived with granny and grandad after I left school, she couldn’t do enough to look after me.”
Betty was born as a twin in Gourock, Scotland in 1921. She joined the ATS at the start of the Second World War in 1939. In 1940, she married the late Ken Poole. Ken’s service with the Royal Army Service Corps took him to India and Burma from 1940 until 1945 while Betty served at home with the ATS throughout the Second World War. In 1946 they started a family and had a total of five children, of which only two survived into adulthood Iain and Maureen.
Donna, Iain’s daughter, said: “She was a very loving mother who went through a number of child births one son and daughter, but unfortunately she also had two still-born and a child that died at 18 months.
“Granny and grandad gave rise to a proud forces family Iain joined the Army, served an operational tour in Aden and then married a member of the Women’s Royal Army Corps, and then later joined the Royal Air Force. His son and daughter both served lengthy tours of duty with the Royal Air Force.”
After the war Betty and Ken settled in Leicester, but moved to Sleaford in the early 50s where Betty became a cook at the primary school in RAF Cranwell, eventually rising to head cook.
“While mum and dad were away abroad granny looked after me and my brother for a few months. In that time I remember her working in the kitchens at Cranwell School we would try and see her at lunch times and after school we used to sit in her office while we waited for Granddad to pick us up,” Donna said.
“She was also a very dedicated wife to our grandad, ensuring his every need was met.
“When he passed away, she became very independent living in her own home, refusing to go into sheltered housing or a home until she was completely incapacitated by a stroke.”
“It is with pride that Betty worked for the Royal British Legion for over 50 years Ken and Betty dedicated their retired years to the British Legion.
“Betty became vice president and then president of the women’s section for an extensive period until it closed it was a title that she and her family were very proud of.”
Jean French, secretary of the Sleaford and District branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “Betty served the legion as member, poppy seller, chair and president of the women’s section for over 50 years. I can only applaud her example and say that this is characteristic of the dedication of legion members and volunteers who give their time and energy to support all who have served in the armed forces and their families.”
Clive Candlin, chairman of the Sleaford and District branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “For many years Betty had been president of the women’s section of the Royal British Legion in Sleaford. She was very well-respected and had been a very prominent member of the branch.”