View Full Version : A FANY gets her wings at last.

09-29-2007, 02:54 PM
from another site.


Long awaited Royal Air Force Parachute Wings Ceremony

After a slightly longer then traditional wait, on 9 Aug 07 Mrs Odette de Strugo, ex of F (France) Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was finally presented her RAF Parachute wings at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina having earned them 63 years ago on 12 Apr 1944 when she dropped into enemy occupied France.

Odette’s story is a captivating one but like so many others of that time is told in a matter of fact and unassuming manner. An early WWII (and still current) member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), she had been married to a Finnish volunteer RAF pilot instructor who died in a flying accident. Later, she helped train and then volunteered to be an SOE agent and was one of more than 400 (only about 30 were women) sent to occupied France by SOE. Many did not return including nearly 20 of the women and in addition her then fiancé was betrayed on a separate mission, captured, tortured and killed.

Odette, whose operational name was ‘Waitress’ was originally sent to act as a wireless radio operator for the STATIONER Network. Later she moved to be courier to the LABOURER Network but shortly thereafter, with the network compromised and its head (her fiancé) captured she had to escape back to the UK. This she did through a well organised but nonetheless dangerous network including a memorable bicycle ride down the Champs D’Elysee in Paris escorted by the 13yr old son of a friend of her fiancé’s. Odette eventually crossed the Pyrenees into neutral Spain before being repatriated to England via Gibraltar. It was during this crossing the head of the Spanish escape network (Santiago Strugo Garay) met Odette. Despite having only known her for 3 days, when the war ended he travelled to London, found and married her.

A remarkable woman, full of vigour and a love of life, Odette had casually lamented to Wg Cdr Simon Dowling, the Air Attaché in Argentina where she lives that it was a great shame she had not completed the requisite parachute jumps in order to qualify for her wings. She jumped only 4 times, all with the RAF (including a particularly ‘hairy’ one she remembers at night from a balloon). The final jump was her operational one on 12 Apr 1944.

Thankfully for Odette the regulations permit wings to be awarded to personnel who:
‘have made a parachute drop on operations against the enemy’
and as such CAS ACM Sir Glenn Torpy wrote to Odette to formally grant her permission to wear her wings. The ceremony was presided over by the British Ambassador in Argentina Dr John Hughes in front of select number of Odette’s family and friends, many of whom were also WWII veterans or the family of veterans. Following the Ambassador, Wing Commander Simon Dowling presented her with a silver parachute wings brooch she can wear daily with pride.

That is only a small part of Odette’s story but it should be enough to remind us all how much we owe those who serve their country during the most difficult of times.

about time too congratulations Mrs de Strugo