Nurse’s 50-year wait for secret mission medal

Ann receives her medal from Air Commodore Mark Gilligan
Ann receives her medal from Air Commodore Mark Gilligan
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An RAF nurse who carried out a top secret mission to build a hospital thousands of miles away has finally been awarded a medal for her incredible work - 50 years after completing the task.

Former WRAF nurse Ann Simons’ secret mission to Dhofar in Oman was so covert she had no idea her service meant she could be awarded a medal.

Ann during her RAF days (second from right, front row)

Ann during her RAF days (second from right, front row)

The honour came to light when Ann (68) finally spilled the beans about the top secret trip to lifelong friend and former RAF colleague Squadron Leader Trishia Welsh.

Trishia investigated further and discovered Ann should have been presented with the General Service Medal, with the Dhofar Clasp.

She received the medal at a ceremony at RAF Wittering.

Now Ann, from Farcet, has told her story - including revealing how she was given machine gun lessons in the Sultan’s palace.

She said: “I had no idea about the medal. I was so proud to receive it from the Station Commander at RAF Wittering. I am very proud of it now.

“We could not even tell our families where we were going, although my dad guessed as he was ex-forces.

“We were there to set up a new civilian hospital. It was still being built so we had to run the hospital from two bungalows where there was only one air-conditioned room in each.

“They did not even have accommodation for female personnel, we had to stay at the Sultan’s palace eight miles away. While I was there the Sultan’s staff decided I needed to learn how to defend myself so they taught me to fire a Stirling machine gun. It was quite frightening.”

Ann was able to wear the medal during a week-long celebration of the centenary of women in the Royal Air Force at Princess Marina House in West Sussex. WAAF and WRAF veterans gathered to mark the milestone and enjoy a week of special activities and sharing stories of their service.

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Ann joined the WRAF aged just 17 and a half in 1965, determined to serve as a nurse as the WRAF would provide the necessary training. She applied to join the Princess Mary Royal Air Force Nursing Service and, after completing her training, was sent overseas in July 1970. In those days women were forced to leave the Service once they married and Ann did just that after six years.

She went on to nurse for more than 30 years.