April 23 2014 Latest news:
By DAVID BLACKMORE
Friday, February 17, 2012
A Tornado roared across the overcast sky ahead of the funeral service of the world’s last first world war veteran.
Florence Green was aged 17 when she joined the Women’s Royal Air Force in the late summer of 1918 to help the Allies push to victory against Germany in war-torn Europe.
At the end of the first world war, she was working as a waitress at RAF Marham – and although she never saw the front line, her service in the WRAF qualified her for veteran status.
The great-grandmother died in her sleep at Briar House care home in King’s Lynn earlier this month aged 110 – just two weeks before her 111th birthday.
Yesterday, members of her family including daughters May, 90, and June, 76, were joined by members of the RAF Association (RAFA), local branches of the Royal British Legion and representatives from RAF Marham in attending a funeral service at Mintlyn Crematorium, in Bawsey.
The hearse carrying Mrs Green’s coffin, which had a Union Flag draped over it, arrived at the crematorium just after 3pm. Walking in front of the hearse were standard bearers from the Royal British Legion’s King’s Lynn and Sandringham branches as well as the Gaywood branch of the Royal British Legion Women and the King’s Lynn branch of RAFA.
Then, at 3.13pm, a Tornado GR4 soared over the crematorium in a tribute before the funeral service, led by Rev Sally Kimmis, curate at King’s Lynn Minster.
Ms Kimmis said Florence’s death marked the end of an era in British history and added: “She enjoyed good health for the whole of her life and she was a very modest woman, particularly of her time at Marham.
“Florence’s family are very honoured by the Tornado tribute by RAF Marham. For me, it’s a privilege and a honour to have led this service.”
Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock, representing the Chief of Air Staff, said: “Florence was a very popular member of our community. I know personnel from Marham would go and see her at birthdays and take round Christmas cakes which just show the affection everybody held Florence in.
“She was almost one of our founding members and I think the affection she was held in was entirely mirrored for the affection she felt for the Royal Air Force.”
Mrs Green became the last surviving person to have seen active service in the first world war following the death of British-born sailor Claude Choules in Australia last year.
Mrs Green spent her war days working “all hours” serving officers breakfast, lunch and dinner and would often spend time wandering the base simply “admiring the pilots”.
Before her death she said: “I enjoyed my time in the WRAF. There were plenty of people at the airfields where I worked and they were all very good company.
“I would work every hour God sent but I had dozens of friends on the base and we had a great deal of fun in our spare time. In many ways I had the time of my life.
“I met dozens of pilots and would go on dates. I had the opportunity to go up in one of the planes but I was scared of flying. It was a lovely experience and I’m very proud.”
She married her husband Walter – a porter at King’s Lynn station – two years after the war. They had three children together, Mr Green passed away in 1970.
Mrs Green leaves behind three children, four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Mrs Green was only identified as a surviving war veteran in 2008, when a researcher of gerontology found her service record, listed under her maiden name, Patterson, at the National Archives.
The WRAF in which Mrs Green served was founded only months before she joined up. Its original intent was to provide female mechanics in order to free up men for service.
But the organisation saw huge enrolment, with women volunteering for positions as drivers and mechanics and filling other wartime needs.