Monday, April 27, 2020

Flying Nightingales

A few nights ago I sat with my hubby and watched a movie called Midway.  

Its not normally my genre, but I've been doing a bit of research on World War II. If you've ever wondered what it was like during the raid on Pearl Harbor, the movie is a pretty good indicator of what those brave souls endured. It's not easy to watch. They were the definition of courage.  Period. 

There's a less known group from England I've become attached to. They were brave too. Really brave. The Flying Nightingales. And no, I'm not talking about the bird. These 200+ courageous women flew on missions weeks after Normandy to evacuate casualties. By the end of the war, it is estimated these women of valor brought back to England at least 100,000 wounded soldiers.

By late 1943, the serenity of the Cotswolds was shattered when Down Ampney, Blakehill Farm and Broadwell became transport hubs for the war.

The women volunteered, becoming nursing orderlies. Each spent six weeks learning how to treat burns, apply O2, injections, and how to cope with such horrendous injuries as severed limbs and head trauma.

One woman flew with an airmen crew of usually four. They would leave in the a.m. carrying supplies across the English Channel, returning in the p.m. with casualties. The flights were a huge risk. The camouflage Dakota planes were shot at numerous times. How afraid they all must have been.

Would this be the time we'd get shot down? A constant question I'm sure every time they flew.

One woman's flight log recorded, "under shell fire." "Shrapnel through window."

I can't even imagine the fear involved. These women risked their lives logging flight after flight, caring for wounded soldiers with such grace and comfort.
What peace each soldier must have felt as they were given tea and warm socks from the Nightingale. How relieved they must have been when they landed back in England.

Seven remaining Flying Nightingales were honored in 2008 for their courage. They were presented lifetime achievement awards at a ceremony at Royal Hospital Chelsea in London by The Duchess of Cornwall.

"It's wonderful but those who passed on needed some recognition. I do feel I'm receiving this on their behalf as well," states one such Flying Nightingale. 

I'm fascinated by these heroic women. How proud their families must be to know such gutsy women were a part of their lineage. Incredible stories of such spirit.

Every September,  a memorial service is held in All Saints Church in Down Ampney. The hymn Come Down O Love Divine to the tune Down Ampney by Vaughn Williams is traditionally sung.

What a privilege to one day be able to attend that service. It's become a lifetime goal. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this story! My all time hero (under Jesus Christ) is Florence Nightingale. I love the photos as well. A very interesting account. Thank you!