Irene Fennell: Received the Royal British Legion’s highest gold award

Civil defence volunteer Irene Fennell, who has died aged 94 at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, was given one of the highest awards by the Royal British Legion.

Her former colleagues at North Walsham's women's section kept the nomination a secret until the then chairman, Elsie Nash, presented her with the gold award in February 1989.

She was presented with the national gold award – the highest accolade the women's section can bestow – to mark her 22 years' service to the branch.

Born in 1917, she was brought up in Norwich, and became post mistress at Little Melton, near Wymondham, at the age of 19.

She married Harry in 1936.

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After the second world war, they lived at Worstead, where her husband worked at RAF Coltishall and she started at nearby Westwick Foods, later becoming supervisor of the packing department at what became Ross Foods.

She had joined the Civil Defence Corps and was trained in the signals section to help in the event of major emergencies. The work also involved her helping the police control traffic for the Queen's visit to the 1957 Royal Show at the Norfolk Showground.

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In 1961, she qualified as an instructor at the Civil Defence College, near Bristol.

The work of the RBL was central to her life, having joined the North Walsham branch in 1967.

As branch secretary for nearly 12 years, she also raised money by running stalls. Her husband had received the Royal British Legion's gold badge in 1979.

She leaves a son, James, seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at Earlham Crematorium tomorrow, Tuesday, January 17, at 2.15pm.

Michael Pollitt

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