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Heroes Of Our Time

453274 A.C.W. 2nd Class

Phyllis M. Duffield

Women's Auxiliary Air Force

2nd March 1942 Age 37


More images and information relating to P M Duffield below





August 2013


Why is this Name on a slate?


As many of may be aware that the Church of St Mary The Virgin, Brancaster is having the roof re-slated and for a donation you can have your name on a slate.


A great idea for raising funds. But why have I chosen Phyllis Duffield.


A month ago I had never heard of Phyllis Duffield and had rarely visited Brancaster.


I have an avid interest in the history of WW2, not only the Brave, soldier’s sailors and airmen who went out and did brave heroic deeds, but the many people who made up the vital services which had to be carried out at home.


As I live in Norfolk my interest was raised when this question was posted on an internet forum.


ACW2 453274 Phyllis Mary DUFFIELD 2 March 1942


During the course of wholly unrelated research I chanced across burial details of the above named WW2 casualty which led me to investigate the background to this person.


This casualty is recorded on Panel 291 of the Runnymede Memorial for RAF personnel who have no-known-grave (although she is not shown in the published registers) but is in fact buried in the churchyard of, Norfolk. She was buried there on 7 March 1942 although her grave is unmarked. She is shown in the burial records, and on her death certificate, as being 37 years of age. She died of natural causes.


In May 2011 I wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission asking that they investigate this discrepancy in the records (ie recorded as 'missing') and why she had no headstone.


Today the CWGC have replied to another prompt from me saying the case is still 'pending'. I recognise what good work they do, and their terrific workload, but this is really too long. Time for a letter to my MP.


Today I thought I would have a look to see if I could find Phyllis grave, so went round the church yard  at St Mary’s at Brancaster, the church was in a bit of a mess and covered with scaffolding as they are reroofing it.


The grass in the graveyard is well trimmed and tidy so could walk round with ease,  but there were only  old graves from pre 1800s, then along the north wall I  found about a dozen 2ft square tablets with the names of people who have died in recent years.


The lack of graves made me think that with the size of Brancaster there must be another burial plot somewhere, so wandered into the church to see if any of the workmen knew of anywhere else, inside there were roofing slates everywhere, I was then greeted by a nice couple who said  “Have you come to sign a slate.” “Eh No” I said not having a clue what they was talking about.


I then explained what I was enquiring about, and they showed me a brass plaque on the wall, with Phyllis name on it, with all the others that are on the memorial outside.


They then said that across the road, years ago there was a grocery shop ran by people called Duffield.   (Had already researched on that aspect and had already found a John Duffield, but his wife was  called Eve. Could have been her brother but no Phyllis Mary Duffield in the 1911 census  plenty of Phyllis Marys from Norfolk in that census, was Duffield her married name or did she come from another part of the country?)


They then told me that there was a cemetery for the church just up the Docking road on top of the hill. I thanked them for the information and said I would look up there.


(A tip for people doing the same as I, Ask for precise directions on how to accesses cemeteries.)


I was about to leave when they said “How about a Slate?”


How could I refuse, £5 to put a name on a slate. Now Phyllis name will be up in the Roof.




Now you would think you would easily spot a cemetery on top of a hill, no not this one.


Eventual saw it, it was only half way up the hill but surrounded by iron railings hidden by trees and padlocked gate looks like it has not been opened for years.


Guess there must be another entrance around the back, so back down the hill took left turn through a housing estate to the end another left turn up a small track, if a bicycle had been coming the other way we could not have passed. Spotted a gap in the bank, there was just enough room to get the car in before I was faced with a five barred wood gate. (At least I could climb over that.) about fifty yards away I could see lines of headstones.


Upon reaching the head stones I noticed that they were all recent ones, the further I walked the earlier years were  1990s 80s 70s this looked promising, 1950s then a small line of trees, just through the trees 1945, I walked till I reached 1939s, then turned around and took this shot.




All the graves in front of the three in the centre and up to the trees are between 1939 -45.


So in theory Phyllis grave should be in this area, several have concrete surrounds but no names on them (wait for it) all the others a local people who have lived full lives.


Now if we know the plot number of Phyllis grave we can determine the exact spot.


As you have all spotted the CWGC headstone in the centre.


Which is Plot C. Row 8. Grave 5.  



On returning home, and more research. I have discovered from the 1911 census, that the Duffield family were living in Brancaster.


Duffield Herbert    38   Grocer and Draper                                 born Tasburgh

              Sarah      wife   46                                                         Gt Massingham

              Phyllis    Daughter    6                                                   Gt Massingham


And a possible brother


Duffield Stanley John aged 8 Boarder at Thoresly  College Kings Lynn, born Massingham.



If you were to ask me why I am putting so much time into the research of Phyllis Duffield, I cannot answer that.   I am usually a very private person and keep myself to myself, but something or someone is nagging at me to keep going and looking. What I am finding, may end up a bigger story than anyone can suspect.


Or just peter out to nothing. Why did Two people be in the same place at the same time? See my next post.


After leaving the cemetery, I thought I would have a look at the shop where Phyllis had lived, I Knew where it was as had seen it here




But because the ex- shop next door had some ornate tile work on it, I thought I would take some   photos of it, whilst I was doing that, I noticed a man with a phone, standing in Duffields driveway. My thoughts were, is he on the same mission as me and taking a photo of the sign, or is he checking me out, as a suspected burglar, casing out the joint. So I wandered over to explain what I was doing.


Then I was completely surprised by what happened next, the man was Ex RAF and owned Duffield’s  and he said that he had a photo of the shop, hanging just inside his door, but had no Idea when it was taken.


So with his kind permission he allowed me to take pictures of it, and to show on here.


Thank you, Scott.




Great I thought, now I have a pic of Phyllis parents, Herbert and Sarah Duffield. That was until I got home and transferred them to my pc.


When I looked at the close up shot I took, I could not believe what I was seeing, we know that in 1911 Herbert was 38 and Sarah was 46, but the ages did not match the photo, so I printed out a copy and took it to work with me and asked as many people, as I could to give me the age of the people in the photo. The answers I got for the man ranged from 40 to 60 and for the woman , 19 to middle 20s. I estimate that the pic was taken between 1925-35.


If so then is it Phyllis and her Father?




Looks like a cigarette machine in the back ground, but can’t find any info on that type of machine, might be players navy cut in the left hand side. Anyone else see anything to help date the photo?




Born July 1904 at Great Massingham Norfolk. Daughter of  Herbert (d 1936) and Sarah Duffield. (d 1928) (Grocer and Draper).


Moved to a shop near St Mary's Church,  Brancaster sometime between 1904 and 1911.


Educated:  Assume Brancaster School.

Known to have attended  Rhianva College Hunstanton Norfolk (closed 1940)

as music Mistress.


Awarded an L.R.A.M. in 1925, for piano teaching.

(Licentiate of the Royal Academy of music.)

Licentiate is the title of a person who holds an academic degree known as a licence or a licentiate.


She studied on a Teacher training course in 1938 and 1939 at R.A.M.


Piano was her first study, with Edwin York Bowen


(Edwin York Bowen (22 February 1884 – 23 November 1961) was an English composer and pianist. Bowen’s musical career spanned more than fifty years during which time he wrote over 160 works. As well as being a pianist and composer, Bowen was a talented conductor, organist, violist and horn player. Despite achieving considerable success during his lifetime, many of the composer’s works remained unpublished and unperformed until after his death in 1961. Bowen’s compositional style is widely considered as ‘Romantic’ and his works are often characterized by their rich harmonic language. He was one of the most notable English composers of piano music of his time.)

Aural and rhythm with Dr Frederick Shinn.


(In 1893 Dr Frederick Shinn, a recent graduate from the Royal College of Music, was appointed organist and choirmaster of St Bartholomew’s, a post he held until just before his death in 1950.There is a memorial to Dr Shinn near the organ in St Bartholomew’s. Lewisham.)


Music History with J.A. Westrup.


(Sir Jack Westrup (26 July 1904 – 21 April 1975) was an English musicologist, writer, teacher and occasional conductor and composer.)


There are other studies listed, which are abbreviated to a single letter, and I’m speculating as to what they might be:  D. (Divinity?/ Deportment?) with Mr Moore, P (physical education?) with Mr Radcliffe, D (again) with Mr Roberts and L.S., or C.S. (choral studies?) with Leslie Regan.


Her address at the time was Tortington Park Arundel Sussex.

Thanks to Kathy Adamson R.A.M. Library.


At some time attended.

St Audreys School Somerset

St Audries Park Manor house at West Quantoxhead in the Quantock Hills of Somerset, The property was divided in 1934, when the house was sold and turned into St Audries School which remained in occupation until 1990. and is now owned and operated by Country House Wedding Ltd, specialising in weddings within country house settings


June 1941. Phyllis joined the WAAFs (Womans Auxillary Air Force)  at RAF Innsworth, Gloustershire.(now Army base Imjin Barracks).


(In December 1941, No 2 WAAF Depot was opened at Innsworth and from then on the Station became increasingly associated with the Women’s branch of the service. By the end of 1941 the strength of the Station had risen to well over 4000 including trainees).


As Aircraftwoman 2nd Class 453274 she died on Monday 2 March 1942 in hospital at RAF Kirkham Lancashire 2nd March 1942.


(In November 1941 Kirkham became the main armament training centre for the RAF, with 21 different trades and 86 different courses on equipment and weapons. Now H.M. Prison Kirkham).


Reason for Death.


1(a) Myocarditis


(Myocarditis is a disease marked by inflammation and damage of the heart muscle. . It is believed that 5 to 20% of all cases of sudden death in young adults are due to myocarditis. There are many causes of myocarditis, including viral infections, autoimmune diseases, environmental toxins, and adverse reactions to medications.)


(b) Lobal Pneumonia.


(Pneumonia is swelling in the lungs, it’s usually caused by an infection.


Lobal, bronchopneumonia and double pneumonia refer to same condition.)


2 Pleural Effusion.


(Excessive fluid in lungs).





ACW2 2006225 Phyllis Mary DUFFIELD 2 March 1942


Her number on CWGC site. Duffield  A C W 2 453274 WAAF 2nd March 1942 Panel 291.


This casualty is recorded on Panel 291 of the Runnymede Memorial for RAF personnel who have no-known-grave (although she is not shown in the published registers)


Then was buried at Brancaster on Saturday 7th March 1942.




Above image shows the funeral report in The Lynn Advertiser Friday 13th March 1942.


The below was published in the probate office


"Dated 18th Jan 1943

Phyllis Mary DUFFIELD Spinster on 2nd March 1942 on war service, John Stanley Duffield Lieutenant R.N.R. £666 14S 11d."


Then for some unknown reason the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. GWGC.  instead of erecting a headstone. Phyllis was Commemorated on the RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL, Surrey, United Kingdom. Panel 291. (a RAF memorial for personal, with no known graves).





I have since found out that she is listed in the ADDENDA. The following names received too late for inclusion in their proper order on the memorial were added to it after the original edition of the register had been published.


The cherry tree who put it there is still a mystery as to who planted it and why.


I can also confirm that the J S Duffield mentioned earlier is her Brother, who was present at her death.


Published by the probate office.


Dated 18th Jan 1943


Phyllis Mary DUFFIELD Spinster on 2nd March 1942 on war service, John Stanley Duffield Lieutenant R.N.R.  £666 14S 11d.


A piece of information about.


John Stanley Duffield Lieutenant R.N.R.  4th Dec 1902 – Sept 1971. On 6th jan 1923 received certificate for second mate for foreign steamships only.


Went to Canada sometime between 1920 and 1935


And to New York twice between 1920 and 1957 on passenger lists don’t know the dates as it costs to view them.


The shop pic I have enlarged it as much as I can and the only logo recognised is Daily Bovril.

Bovril came out in the early 1700s, the Daily Bovril slogan, maybe sometime in the 20s/30s and into ww2 , photo must be pre 1937 as Herbert Stanley Duffield died 1936 aged 68. (Age not tally with birth date, typo ??? he was 63)  and could be after 1928 as Sarah Duffield  (nee Barrett ) died Sept 1928 aged 64.



2015 - The GWGC is now in the process of erecting a headstone on her grave which for the last 73 years has only been marked by a cherry tree



Cherry Tree


In a cemetery by the sea, stands a lonely cherry tree, there's no rhyme nor reason why its there, until you've read what I have written here.


April 1921, In a grocer/drapers shop in a small Norfolk seaside village, a small six year old boy gazed longenly at the jars of sweets and bars chocolates, struggling to make up his mind which to spend his meager pocket money on.


Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by the young girl behind the counter. "Excuse me young sir, can I help you?" To which the young lad replied.  "I was just trying to make my mind up on which sweets I would like, and there are so many to chose from." Edith was taken aback by the boys voice,as it was an accent that she had not heard before, so she asked him his name and where he was from. He proudly stated that his name was Paul and that his mother,brother and sister came from Sydney, Australia, and had come to visit his grandparents, who lived near the harbour and had a big fishing boat. Once Paul had started to talk there was no stopping him, he told Edith all about his home and the sea voyage from Australia, and how each day he would stand on the Poop deck of the ship and pretend he was Admiral Nelson, fighting the French and Spanish navies, some days he would be capturing pirates and taking all their gold. Edith was enthralled by Paul's adventures and could have listened to him all day, but her father who owned the shop had entered and interrupted their conversation. As Paul left the shop clutching his small bag of sweets, Edith called out to Paul "From now on I'm going to call you my little Poop Deck."


For the next couple of months, Paul often popped into the shop to spend his pocket money and chat with Edith. Then in early July he told Edith that it would be the last time he visited as they were going home. Edith was saddened by this news as she had grown quite fond of Paul and loved his chatty nature. She got together a big bag of his favorite sweets for him to take on his journey, she then kissed him on the forehead and said "Goodbye little Poop deck, I don't expect we will see each other again, take care, I will miss you". "Miss you too" Paul bravely said as he turned and left.


Over the coming years, during quiet spells in the shop, Edith's thoughts often drifted back to her chats with Paul and wondered how he was doing. As Edith's mother had passed away in 1928, she continued working in the shop and looking after her father, then in 1938 he passed away, and she was left alone in charge of the shop.


In early 1940 with England at war with Germany and with the Battle of Britain raging, Edith decided at the age of thirty six and with most of those years spent in the mundane and dreary work of a shop assistant. it was time for a change.


So with the thought of adventure and the lure of the boys in blue, she joined the Woman's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) becoming Aircraftwomen 2nd class and was stationed at RAF Bircham Newton on General duties.


As Edith entered the commanding officers office to report for duty on 10th June, she noticed an RAF Officer looking out of the window, with saluting formalities done, the CO said "Edith, Pilot Officer Boyd has just been posted here to 224 sqd. Can you show him to his quarters and where the mess and general amenities are?" As the Officer turned round Edith gasped "Paul." and their eyes locked together for which seemed an eternity, until the CO's voice brought them back to earth. "Well get a move on you two, there's a war on you know." In unison they both replied "Yes Ma'am",  and quickly left the office.


Over the next six months whenever Paul and Edith had any spare time, they spent it together enjoying things that couples do, their friendship blossomed into a full blown romance, the age difference did not make a jot, they even talked of tying the knot, but once again they had to bid farewell and say their goodbyes, as to Scotland on duty, Paul did fly.


Then on a dark winters night, with snow falling and no moonlight. Paul with his crew flew out over the north sea on a mission of secrecy.  Mission completed time for home, either wind or error took them miles off course. As they approached the coast, what they did not know, that they were flying too low, and crashed into a hill, all covered in snow.

Two days later they were found huddled around the aeroplane, they had all died from the bitter cold.


From the lonely barren Yorkshire Moor, to the lovely Norfolk shore, Paul's body was brought, to be interred with honour in a burial spot. Upon his grave a headstone was placed and under the inscription, and at Edith's request the word "Poopdeck" was etched.


But the story do not end there, as Edith fell into deep despair, she had lost the love of her life, nothing could relieve her loss. Then after awhile she fell ill, and in a hospital bed she did lie, no medical treatment could help her revive, and it was there that Edith did die.


"A sad business". said the medical officer as he reported the death of Edith to the CO "I'm not sure what to put on the death certificate, as I can find no medical reason for her to die".

"The only thing you can put, is that she died a natural death" the CO replied. "The truth and reason that she did depart was that, she died of a broken heart".

"Mmm"  said the MO.  "A broken heart, there's no such thing, what made you think that".

After pausing briefly the CO replied "You did not see them when they first met, it was a sight I'll never forget, the office appeared so bright, at first I thought that it was just sunlight, but I had seen the fiery spark of true love ignite.

Then with Paul's untimely death I saw the flame in Edith eyes go out. Now when you have read her last request,you might just agree with me".


I've lost my love, and the will to live,

gone is the desire to survive,

now that Paul is no longer alive  

A ornate headstone I do not want or need

just plant a cherry tree, that is all I plead

So in the spring, When the blossom falls

Upon our graves like confetti, it will lày

And that will be our wedding day.