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15 October 2014
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Surrender in the Name of the King!icon for Recommended story

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mary Lees, Audrey Hirst
Location of story: 
Tangmere
Article ID: 
A4397448
Contributed on: 
08 July 2005

This story was submitted to the people’s war site Alan Gammon from Littlehampton Learning Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Bruce Lawrence with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

SURRENDER IN THE NAME OF THE KING!

Mary Lees was a WAAF stationed at Ford and her best friend Audrey Hirst a WAAF stationed at Tangmere.

On D-Day June 6th 1944 Audrey was on duty in the control tower at Tangmere. During the morning while they were watching the D-Day invasion forces going over, the door flung open and a number of Grenadier guards in battle gear rushed in with Bren guns and demanded that the airfield be surrendered in the name of the king. They thought they were capturing a German airfield in France. This mistake happened because they travelled in gliders that were being towed for an assault on France. Their mission was to attack the Germans from the rear.

Their glider was slipped too soon, straightway turned around and landed in an English cornfield that they thought was French. They crept up on the control tower and burst in to capture the airfield.

The commanding officer was over come with emotion by what they had done and burst into tears. He was overcome by what they had done because they could have easily had opened fire.

They were quickly taken back into action and completed the assault on France.

Mary Lees who was born in Pembury near Tonbridge Wells and grew up in Brighton. She attended Varndeane School. Later to work at Thomas Eggers Solicitors in Brighton.

In 1940 she joined the WAAF. Her fiancée was a fighter pilot who survived the Battle of Britain. He was killed in action in Burmah. She was appointed Meteorologist at Ford Airfield. She survived a Messerschmitt attack on Littlehampton High Street.

In August 1942 she married Leonard Lawrence RAF Bomber Command who served on Wellington and Lancaster Bombers at St Margaret’s Westminster, London.

After the war, she immigrated to Australia in 1950 and carried on her career as Meteorologist with the CSIRO in Melbourne. She helped to develop the Parkes Radio Astronomy telescope.

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