Monday, 11 July 2016

Family at War: Part 5: Florence Victoria Batt

Queen Mary's
Army Auxiliary Corps
Cap badge
As far as I can tell from my family history researches to date this could be the last posting in my Family at War series and its subject is the only one of the five who I actually knew. My maternal grandmother, 'Nan Bowyer', christened Florence Victoria Batt and the wife of Norman James Bowyer, who was mentioned in Part 4. I was born in the front room of nan's house in Trethomas, lived with her for three years and, when I was growing up, she was ever and comfortably present. She died in 1984 and, as is so often the case with close relatives, I never once asked her about her time in service. In fact, I don't think I knew about her WW1 experiences until comparatively recently. The little I do know comes from my mother and, I have to say, most of this is anecdotal. But that's infinitely better than nothing.
As nan's Medal Roll, shown above, confirms, she was a worker in Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) engaged in Home Service. She probably enlisted in Caerphilly or Cardiff but we don't know exactly when. My mother says that she advanced her age because she "wanted to do her bit for King  and Country" and joined up when she was 14. I don't think that this can be the case because the QMAAC, or rather its predecessor, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was not formed until 1917. Nan was born in 1901 and I'm happy believing that, when she was 16 or 17, she said she was 18 (the minimum age of enlistment) so that she would be accepted ahead of reaching the prescribed minimum.

A little information about the QMAAC would give some context. By 1917, the third year of the war, the British Army was running short of men because so many had been injured or killed on the front line. The War Office had also identified that a number of jobs which did not involve fighting were being carried out by men who could have been in battle. It was decided that women could do many of these jobs instead and that they could replace male soldiers in offices, canteens, transport roles, stores and army bases. Many women volunteered to join the new Women's Army Auxiliary Corps which became known as the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps in 1918.

The only fact we know about nan's spell in the QMAAC is that she spent time at Bettisfield Park Royal Field Artillery training camp which was constructed in the Deer Park of a mansion called Bettisfield Park in Flintshire, North Wales. Here she seems to have acted as a servant to the officers. Apparently she 'had a crush' on one of them and decked his room with flowers. After the war and her demob, so that she could be near the officer in question, she went to work for his mother at their house, also in North Wales. His mother was not very nice and my nan described her as a 'right bitch'. And that's the way we'll all remember her. The officer's mother, that is, not nan.

We don't have a photograph of Florrie B in her QMAAC uniform, but here's one of her in her nan's uniform. It was taken in February 1948 and I'm the pudding on the left. The other baby is my cousin Philip, a couple of months younger than me.


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