Somerset

WWII Wren Beth Hutchinson, 92, honoured by Royal Navy

Beth Hutchinson
Image caption Beth Hutchinson was the only woman, among 300 men, to be awarded a medal at the 1944 ceremony

A former Wren who helped to rescue a reconnaissance observer from a crashed plane in 1943 has been honoured by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

Beth Hutchinson, 92, who served with the navy during World War II, was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1944 for her bravery.

RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset invited Mrs Hutchinson to the base to "recognise her achievements".

It said she "paved the way for women with successful naval careers".

'Burning debris'

Mrs Hutchinson recalled the day when she was the only woman - along with 300 men - to be awarded the medal by King George VI.

She said: "They said I had to curtsey and I said 'I don't know how to curtsey'. So they all [the men] tried to show me how to curtsey. It was good fun."

Image caption Beth Hutchinson was awarded the British Empire Medal by King George VI

An official report written after the crash, which happened on 18 November 1943 in Scotland, described what Mrs Hutchinson, whose maiden name was Booth, did to help save the man.

It said: "With complete disregard for her own safety, Wren Booth drove with an officer to the scene of the accident and assisted in dragging the observer clear of the main wreckage while explosions inside the aircraft scattered burning debris and petrol all around them."

During her visit to RNAS Yeovilton, Mrs Hutchinson was introduced to Lt Cdr Polly Hatchard, 37, who joined the Royal Navy in 1998, and became the navy's first female Air Engineering Officer.

Lt Cdr Hatchard said: "Beth, 70 years ago, just got stuck in. She saw the crew had been thrown from the aircraft - they were on the ground.

"She just went straight into life-saving mode - she didn't even think about herself."

Mrs Hutchinson was also shown an original Swordfish aircraft - similar to the one involved in the crash she attended in 1943 - which is currently being refitted to be made airworthy.

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