THEY did their bit for their country in troubled times.
Now two women from Golcar have made their mark in local history.
Betty France, 89, and Mary Kenworthy, 71, are the first women to join the Huddersfield and District Army Veterans Association – ending a men-only tradition after 112 years.
The move follows the news that Chelsea pensioners Winifred Phillips and Dorothy Hughes had become the first women to join that association earlier this year.
Mrs France and Mrs Kenworthy both served in the armed forces at different times.
Mrs France joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1939 for the start of the Second World War, after seeing an advert in her local paper.
Her official tasks were secretarial work and she recalled: “I did not get on well with machinery and considered that doing my own office work would be preferable and more useful.”
She completed her training at the Drill Hall in St Paul’s Street, Huddersfield, and did four years’ service.
After being demobbed she married Jack France, to whom she got engaged in June 1940, after he returned from his service in Dunkirk.
She recalled the day when the ATS formed for roll call on the first day of the war.
She said the Sergeant Major in charge was amazed by the number of women there and muttered: “Women, what am I supposed to do with bloody women?”
Mrs France said: “They all soon found out!”
After being invited to the Drill Hall to celebrate its centenary in 1999 she was aware there was no indication of the ATS’ contribution and she commissioned a plaque to be hung in the hall.
Outside her military endeavours, the 89-year-old has had a number of other achievements, notably gaining a BSc (honours) degree in social sciences at the age of 80.
“It was something I had always wanted.
“Before the Second World War I had been on line for a place at Oxford. So after the death of my husband I joined the Open University in 1994.”
Her fellow new recruit to the Army Veterans, Mrs Kenworthy, joined the Woman’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) in 1957.
She completed three years’ service, and underwent extensive training in artillery firing.
In the WRAC she also worked as a Radar Operator, based near Tenby, Wales.
When asked why she joined up, the 71-year-old replied: “I didn’t fancy college, the army was better for me.”
While in Wales she learned to sail and represented the WRAC at the sport.
Robert Sugden, secretary of the Army Veterans Association, said: “We are happy to welcome our first female members.’’