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Tenby: The remarkable life of WW2 teleprinter operator who helped win the war

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A 99-YEAR-OLD care home resident who regularly saw Winston Churchill during her top secret work at an intelligence base in the Second World War has revealed her unique role in history for the first time.

Grandmother-of-six Dorothea ‘Lilian’ Raymant, who lives at Woodland Lodge Care Home in Gumfreston, Tenby, was recruited as a teleprinter operator with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1940.

She spent four years sending encoded messages from the secret allied intelligence base at RAF Medmenham at Danesfield House in Buckinghamshire.

Alongside Bletchley Park, RAF Medmenham played a pivotal role in the war effort, housing a pioneering team of scientists, academics and inventors who together developed the then relatively new science of interpreting aerial photographs.

The information gleaned from the photographs, taken by courageous reconnaissance pilots across occupied Europe, was passed on in code to strategic departments and bases by specially-trained teleprinter operators.

Details of Lilian’s remarkable life are being revealed for the first time as part of this summer’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy.

Former teleprinter operator Dorothea ‘Lilian’ Raymant with grandson Andrew

“I was a just a small cog in a big team and everyone did their bit,” said Lilian, who has released some personal photographs for usmarking her extraordinary life.

“We were targeting a common enemy. There were so many officers based there that the WAAFs were told not to bother saluting or they would have their hand permanently glued to their heads. It felt very democratic with so many people of rank in the one place.

“At the time, we didn’t realise the impact of what we were doing. Everything was managed in great secrecy. We certainly didn’t know the scale of D-Day.”

Her special role in history has now been praised by Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of care industry champions Care Forum Wales.

“The work of Lilian and the wider team at RAF Medmenham is extraordinary and helped bring an end to the war. We all have so much to be grateful for,” he said

“I am delighted her special role in history can be finally revealed as the nation marks this important anniversary.”

Born in 1920 in Pembroke Dock, Lilian was the youngest of seven children and the daughter of Owen Hire, a well-respected former Mayor of Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. Her uncle John Hire was the captain of a large sailing ship who saved the crew of a Norwegian vessel in a storm and was later rewarded for his heroics by the King of Sweden and Norway, while her grandfather William Jones was a decorated war hero who fought in the Crimean War.

She spent her early childhood growing up on the family farm before taking on clerical work in Pembroke Dockyard. Later, she joined the WAAF to train as a teleprinter operator.

The work carried out at RAF Medmenham is considered as significant as that of Bletchley Park.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of all intelligence in the war originated from aerial photography and the team, which regularly welcomed Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Britain’s highest-ranking army officer, General Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was at one stage producing up to seven million prints a month and was the centre for photographic reconnaissance and preparations for D-Day.

Among many triumphs, the centre led the identification by Lady Babington Smith, who Lilian knew at the time, of the V1 ‘Doodlebug’ launch site at Peenemunde and the discovery of Hitler’s V-weapons rocket programme.

“Although no one knew initially what they were, we were later told that the rocket launch sites were quickly highlighted as a target by the aerial photographic reconnaissance team because it was evident the Germans had gone to a lot of effort in their construction,” explained Lilian.

The team also studied enemy movement of ships and trains, factories, shipyards and advised targets to the Allied bombers as well as assessed damage and whether sites needed to be bombed again.

RAF Medmenham was involved in almost every operation in the war, producing aerial photographs that were translated into models of the channel coast and providing detailed information on beach gradients, tide levels, currents, typical waves and beach exits in the case of D-Day.

In addition it advised the locations of the Atlantic Wall German gun emplacements, pill boxes, wire entanglements, trench systems and every radar installation to a distance of 20 miles inland was noted.

Lilian was stationed alongside Churchill’s daughter, Sarah, a photographic interpreter, and has fond memories chattering with her on the beds in their barracks.

“Sarah would be clattering about in wooden clogs to protect her feet against the corrosive photographic developing chemicals,” remembered Lilian, who met Churchill’s daughter again many years later at a public event.

“You’d often see the Prime Minister arriving in his car although I never spoke to him.”

Lilian and the other girls would sometimes shin down the drainpipes at night to go off to the dances.

“It was all good clean fun” says Lilian, although after one such foray she was chased by the police for not having lights on her bicycle, and was put on ‘Jankers’ as punishment.

Sometimes they would dance with the American Airborne troops based at nearby White Waltham.

Her son, Andrew, who lives in Norfolk, a management consultant for logistics and supply chains, said: “I always thought as a young man my father had the more interesting war as he completed two tours of duty, one of the Eastern Mediterranean targeting Italian and German convoys and one as part of the Coastal Command at Pembroke Dock. But as more information came out about Bletchley and people talked about RAF Medmenham it became clear mum had been at the centre of some very interesting history indeed.

“Mum never really talked about it growing up. She had also signed the Official Secrets Act. She always felt the real heroes were the ones on the battle field who never came back.

“It was a time of great trauma for them. They didn’t really have a clear picture of what was going on but sometimes the results of the bombings would be fed through.

“When the aerial photos came back from D-Day, they saw lots of little black dots in the water which of course were the bodies of those who didn’t come back from the beaches.

“It would’ve been very difficult to see it as just an administrative job although it is only later on that they would’ve understood the reality of what had happened.”

Later in the war, in 1945, Lilian was posted back to Pembroke Dock and the RAF Coastal Command Station in the dockyard. During WW2, Pembroke Dock became the world’s largest flying boat station and it was here Lilian met her future husband, Frank ‘Ray’ Raymant, who was taking part in Sunderland Flying Boat search and destroy missions against the U Boat threat, both during the battle of the Atlantic and the build up to D-Day.

The couple went on to have three sons, Michael, 60, and Andrew, 56, and David, who sadly died in his teens, but not until Lilian had established a successful career in civilian communications.

Wedding photo with husband Ray

After the war, highly-trained Lilian was recruited by Dutch airline KLM and later food exporters AJ Mills & Sons.

“The whole family is very proud of mum and for who she is,” said Michael, who is head of Welsh Language Service for North Wales Police.

“She was around during a remarkable part of history. The grandchildren, Hefin, Branwen, Siwan, Meirion, Brychan and Heledd, are very proud of all her achievements then and also for what came afterwards.”

Olivia Etheridge, deputy manager of Woodland Lodge Care Home, described Lilian as a charming and “marvelously knowledgeable” lady.

“We all love to hear her stories about her life, from make-overs in Bond Street to befriending Winston Churchill’s daughter,” she added.

“Lilian is a kind, polite and glamourous lady who deserves recognition for all of the fantastic things she has done in the 99 years of her life.”

Community

Lottery win for local neighbours

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Five people in Manorbier are celebrating today after winning £1,000 each thanks to their lucky postcode.

The Wheelers Way neighbours netted the windfall when SA70 7TU was announced as a Daily Prize winner with People’s Postcode Lottery on Monday 24th February 2020.

People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador Judie McCourt sent her well-wishes to the winners. She said: “What brilliant news to start your week! Congratulations to our winners.”

A minimum of 32% of ticket sales goes directly to charities and players of People’s Postcode Lottery have raised over £500 million to date for thousands of good causes in Britain and beyond.

This draw was promoted by the Wildlife Trusts which have received over £11.3 million in funding from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The Wildlife Trusts look after more than 2,300 nature reserves and operate more than 100 visitor and education centres across the country. The Trusts work to make life better for wildlife, people and future generations.

Many good causes close to the winners have also benefitted from players’ support, and local charities can next apply for funding in August.

For more information on People’s Postcode Lottery, please visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk or Facebook and Twitter.

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Business

Young Tenby-based currency trader making £8k a day

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BBC ONE Wales show ‘Young, Welsh and Pretty Minted’ will feature Pembrokeshire-based currency trader Ashley Richards this week.

The successful young entrepreneur, who lives in Tenby, fuels a life of fast cars and expensive watches by making thousands of pounds per-day with just a few simple phone calls.

Ashley, 20, has been trading online for 4 years and discovered that he’d failed his GCSE exams on the same day that he also made £470 trading currency online.

“That’s the day I first found out that I could make money without any GCSEs or qualifications,” says Ashley confidently.

“I’ve always thought that I would want to do business at university and I was thinking to myself, ‘What’s the point of learning how to do business when you can do it and learn on the job?'”

From there, Ashley launched into a risky career that has given him an incredible £200,000 a year since.

Ashley spends his money on cars, he currently owns 4 including a BMW i8 that cost a staggering £115,000, but never forgets the Pembrokeshire council estate he grew up on, returning to visit regularly so he never forgets his roots.

A spokesperson for the show told The Herald “Ashley is living the fantasy life from his seaside home in Tenby.

Armed with only his laptop and a mobile, he has been known to bring home £8,000 in one day by trading currency online. He supports his appetite for fast cars and designer watches working just two hours a day, but with his mates all working full time, it can be a lonely place to be.”

A high risk career like currency trading can involve losing money, something Ashley is more than aware of: “You’ve got to have it in the back of your mind that you can possibly lose money. I’ve lost money before, but how I look at it is that I’ve just profited less than I would’ve.”

Ashley also uses his new found wealth to help his mother out “It’s every son’s or daughter’s dream to be able to really treat their parents. It is really nice.

“My mum has definitely done her bit so it’s only fair that I reward her. That’s one of the main reasons why I work so hard because I just want to make sure my family has an easier life.”

Ashley’s amazing story is on ‘Young, Welsh and Pretty Minted’ which will air on BBC One Wales tonight (Feb 24) at 10:35pm

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Community

Trecadwgan farm to be sold by auction

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has decided to sell Trecadwgan Farm by way of public auction.
The Council’s decision has been made in order to bring the sale process to a conclusion and give interested parties a fair and transparent opportunity to purchase Trecadwgan Farm.

The property was originally placed with a local agent for sale by way of public auction in July 2019 after the Council’s Cabinet resolved to sell the Farm on the open market to create a significant capital receipt.
However, it was withdrawn from public auction at the request of the community group known as ‘Save Trecadwgan Farm’ to give them an opportunity to prepare a business plan and seek finance in order to purchase the same on the open market.

Due to the interest shown in the Farm and the offers being made by interested parties, the Council decided that having withdrawn the property from public auction, to conduct the sale by way of private treaty.

Offers were made via the Council’s agent who undertook a standard sales process up to the set date whereby any party who made an offer were advised whether or not the offer made was the highest received.

As part of the process a local charitable foundation made the highest offer by the specified date to purchase the Property and accordingly the Council issued the draft documentation to their solicitors.

It is understood that the foundation had agreed to allow the local community group to use the Farm.

Notwithstanding that the terms and conditions of the transaction were disclosed to all interested parties in the particulars of sale, the foundation would not accept the contract conditions and subsequently withdrew their offer.

Having taken the advice of its agent, the Council agreed that the parties who made unsuccessful offers should be contacted to confirm whether they were still interested and if so to confirm the value of their offer.

At this time a third party who had not been part of the original offer process made the highest offer which again was accepted by the Council subject to contract.

Although the third party was not a party approached by the Council’s agent, as the third party had not previously made a bid, the offer was accepted on the basis of the Council’s duty under section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972 to obtain the best consideration which can reasonably be obtained. It is understood that the third party also intended to allow the Community group to occupy the Farm although the terms and conditions are unknown to the Council.

However, the statutory duty and supporting case law relevant to the sale of property by local authorities indicates that the Council has a duty to give consideration to any offer made to the Council.

The Council has now received a number of further higher offers to purchase the Farm.

“Having originally taken the property out of the auction at the request of the Community Group, the Council has, due to the statutory provisions found itself in a difficult and time consuming sales process,” said Cllr Bob Kilmister, Cabinet Member for Finance.

“Therefore to ensure that the sale process can be brought to a conclusion and ensure that all interested parties are given a fair and transparent opportunity to purchase the Farm, the Council has decided to sell the Farm by way of a public auction.”

Cllr Kilmister went on to explain that it is sound practice that local authorities should dispose of surplus land wherever possible.

“Generally it is expected that land should be sold for the best consideration reasonably obtainable,” he said.
“However, it is recognised that there may be circumstances where an authority considers it appropriate to dispose of land at an undervalue. Authorities should clearly not divest themselves of valuable public assets unless they are satisfied that the circumstances warrant such action.

“The General Disposal Consent (Wales) 2003 which enables the sale at an undervalue gives local authorities autonomy to carry out their statutory duties and functions, and to fulfil such other objectives as they consider to be necessary or desirable. However, when disposing of land at an undervalue, authorities must remain aware of the need to fulfil their fiduciary duty in a way which is accountable to local people.

“The Council has not resolved to use the general consent in this matter on the basis that the Farm will create a substantial capital receipt which is essential given the severe financial pressures the Council is presently facing.”

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