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Remembrance Sunday: Newbury WWII veteran to honour fallen comrades and lead Remembrance Parade

A Second World War veteran will honour her fallen comrades this Remembrance Sunday.

Mary Cholwill, 99, is taking pride of place at the front of Newbury’s Remembrance Parade on Sunday, November 12 to remember those she served with in the Second World War.

She shared her recollections of how she was dispatched all over the country at just 17 years of age.

99-year-old war veteran, Mary, with her medals
99-year-old war veteran, Mary, with her medals

Speaking about why she thinks Remembrance is important, she said: “I think we need to commemorate all the young squaddies, sailors and airmen who were lost, all because of one awful, awful man.

“That’s the trouble. These people in history who fought for something that wasn’t theirs, like Napolean and Hitler did, these people don’t win; they can’t win; they’re not allowed to win. But they do so much damage whilst they’re doing it.”

Born in Reading, Mrs Cholwill moved to Spencers Wood with her family when she was six years old.

“My home was filled with song because my mother sang and played the piano,” she recalls.

But then the war arrived and, like the rest of the nation, Mrs Cholwill stepped up to do her bit.

She enlisted in November 1941 and completed her training in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) at Aldermaston.

She served in the 2nd Search Light Regiment, Royal Artillery where she operated telephones and plotting boards, monitoring and coordinating artillery fire against incoming enemy aircraft.

“The RAF would get warnings of aircraft coming over and so we used to get a plotting number from them and then our searchlights would go up and follow them [enemy aircraft]. You had to be very quick.

Mary inspecting her wartime medals
Mary inspecting her wartime medals

“I don’t know how many aircraft we shot down.

“But we were always getting thanked by the RAF because if we had any bombers coming back that were damaged, they used to have three searchlights go up from different sites and where they came together was where the aircraft would land safely.

“So, we saved quite a lot of aircraft from crashing.”

She continued: “Suddenly, one morning we woke up and everyone had gone. That was June 6, 1944.

“We all went to a holding unit up near Northampton and then after that, I got into driving and spent my time driving staff cars with the officers.”

Mrs Cholwill was demobbed in 1946.

She worked as a civil servant after the war and later married and started a family.

She has lived in Newbury for the past 20 years.

“It’s been a good life, so I can’t grumble,” she added.

And sharing her advice for what makes a fulfilling life, she concluded: “Do things you like to do that don’t cause upset to anybody else.

“Always be happy. And if you’ve got a voice, sing, even if it’s only to yourself because it lifts you.

“Make sure you’ve always got friends and that you’re kind to them.

“Be kind to everybody no matter who they are or what they look like.”

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