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2011 - 100th Birthday of Kate Chapman.

Its not often that we get the chance to do something really worthwhile with our military vehicles but the opportunity came over the recent Christmas period to David Belcher in the form of an invitation to deliver a cake to a lady in Fairford Gloucestershire in his Austin K2 Ambulance.
Originally from the lady's niece, the request came via Graeme Sty, who keeps the K2 register and who was able to locate the nearest Austin ambulance to the lady's home for the surprise delivery of the cake.
The delivery was however, not just to any lady, or for that matter of any cake but was to mark the 100th birthday of Kate Chapman who drove a K2 for the Red Cross and whose work took her to Belgium and Holland in 1944/45 repatriating casualties back to the channel ports en route to the UK.
Making the occasion even more notable was the presence of the lady's sister Babs Brockway aged 97 who served in the same unit as her sister and who was also an ambulance driver during their period of service with the Red Cross.
Prior to the event David had mentioned the occasion to fellow members of the North Oxon and Cotswolds Branch of the MVT and a number of them volunteered suitable vehicles to 'escort' the cake to its delivery point which was in the market square of Fairford.
The ladies had both been strategically positioned in the bay window of the Bull Inn overlooking the square and their surprise and delight can be imagined when the road outside suddenly filled up with WWII military vehicles and a DR in full period kit brought the cake in from the ambulance and presented it to the aptly named Kate aged 100.
The small convoy had met previously outside the town and consisted of Mike Wiley's Bedford MW, Ian Lichfield's Austin K5 and RAF Jeep together with two other British marked Jeeps driven by Don Evason and Pete Dowler. All were led into the market square by Jon Small on his BSA M20, followed by David Belcher and Ian Bell in the K2 ambulance.
After the presentation all participants enjoyed a drink at the bar offered by the family grateful of such a fitting turnout to mark the occasion.
Not wishing to intrude too much on a very special celebration, some of the MVT contingent took the brief opportunity to look through a photograph album illustrating the two sisters remarkable exploits in Europe. This photographic account began with the collection of their new Austins from a UK depot and continued through the snowy and icy roads of Belgium and Holland to the eventual parting of the ways when the ambulances were handed over to the medical services of the newly liberated countries - the sisters K2s going on to Poland.
Both sisters were remarkably lucid in their recollections, describing with pride how they performed various mechanical tasks on their K2s and were able to pass on one or two useful tips on how to start a 3 ½ litre engine on a cold morning whilst preserving ones thumb intact and how a 10.50 x 16 tyre and wheel could be manoeuvred into position with the aid of a shovel by a girl of only 5 foot two.
Not all of their memories were good ones however especially when connected to the handling of casualties and included one particularly frightening account of being turned over whilst at the wheel of a K2 in a head on crash with a three tonner. More humorous recollections included the two girls introduction to swearing by their injured charges and an illuminating insight into an alternative use for the rear axle inspection hatch located in the privacy of the ambulance body!
Overall the two sisters admitted to having had the time of their lives and a favourite saying of Kate's (who still drives) is "I drove an ambulance in the war you know".
As the vehicles dispersed on a bright but chilly December afternoon the whole occasion was made worthwhile for the MVT participants by, the recollection of the broad grins on the faces of the two elderly ladies when sat once more with the engine running behind the wheel of a K2 for the first time in more than half a century.



 

For individual photographs please click right bottom corner of this slide show and follow the link to this album. It will open new window.



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