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War veteran Betty, 96, keeps up morale

By Toby Neal | Craven Arms | Coronavirus | Published:

With women service veterans being "confined to barracks" due to coronavirus, a Shropshire-born 96-year-old is playing a key role in a buddy-buddy network to keep up morale and provide support.

Betty Webb, 96, is doing her bit to boost morale among older servicewomen

Mrs Betty Webb is the president of the Birmingham branch of the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) Association, and is taking part in the scheme which is the brainchild of 68-year-old area secretary Barbara "Babs" Anderson.

The scheme aims to make sure that no branch members feel cut off and that self-isolation does not become total isolation.

Babs has been spearheading the creation of the network for association members in Birmingham and surrounding areas, with her idea being to link up those who are more active with those who are less outgoing, for regular phone calls and chats.

Betty, who lives at Wythall, near Birmingham, has signed up to be one of the callers to make contact with a couple of other members for an uplifting chat.

She served at the top secret Bletchley Park codebreaking centre during the war. She is herself coping well during the current crisis, but is keen to do her bit for others.

"People are being very kind. I'm confined to barracks. I'm used to being alone and it doesn't bother me, but it will bother a lot of ladies who are not used to being alone and these are things we will be able to help with, with this buddy-buddy scheme," she said.

Betty, whose maiden name is Vine-Stevens, was born at Aston-on-Clun, near Craven Arms, and moved to Richards Castle, near Ludlow, as a child. She joined the ATS – the Auxiliary Territorial Service – in 1941 and because, she thinks, of her good grasp of German, she was posted to Bletchley Park. Although not herself a decoder, she had a particular skill in paraphrasing decoded messages.

The Women's Royal Army Corps is the successor to the ATS, and the WRAC Association is the UK’s only charity that specifically supports and serves female army veterans.

In addition to the network being built up under Babs’ project, the association has teamed up with the Army Servicewomen's Network to launch an organisation-wide buddy-buddy scheme which will allow for its veterans to be buddied up with a currently serving woman.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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