- 100th Birthday of Kate Chapman.
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.
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
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
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".
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.