Corporal Betty Florence Shepherd

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The story of Corporal Betty Florence Shepherd who served at RAF TAIN in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during WW2.

Betty’s father, Alexander Shepherd of Gordon Highlanders, was injured in the WW1 trenches and was sent to Oxford England to recuperate, that was where he met Ellen Stacey whom he married.

After the war they moved to Liverpool, Alexander became a Policeman, Betty was born in 1921 but in 1924 the family returned to Scotland. Betty always considered Scotland as her home, particularly the Fife region.

Betty left school to enter domestic service, but in 1940 at 19 years old she joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), initially as a kitchen hand but was quickly moved to transport services and learned to drive a truck, along with other RAF vehicles for taking crews to the bombers. Apparently, some of the airmen were quite flirty as they were taken out to the bombers also, they did not all return from their mission.

(Whilst at RAF Tain) There was a latrine cart that the drivers were rostered on, it was always parked up the slope as far from the accommodation area as possible. In February 1944 the hand brake failed after Betty had parked it in its usual place.

Betty, who was walking down the slope, managed to leap onto the running board and through the open window steer the old truck away from the transformer and other critical structures only to get crushed between a wall and truck door as it came to a halt. It was 4 months before she hobbled back to duty, her main injury was the multiple fractures of her pelvic bone. She was not expected to walk normally again, or bear children so had been awarded a disability allowance for life. Her love of ballroom dancing and perseverance led to an almost full recovery.

In late 1948 on the assisted passage scheme, Betty travelled to New Zealand aboard the HMT Atlantis and met fellow passenger John Dilworth, they got engaged on the ship and married shortly after arrival in New Zealand, they settled in and had 2 children. Betty taught John to drive in 1959.

It is unusual to have a service woman in New Zealand with defence & victory medals, Betty often attended the ANZAC day dawn service and good-meaning men would quietly tell her she was wearing her husband’s medals on the wrong side, she would retort “they are my medals”. 

Betty lived until she was 94.