Hazel Lidwill, formerly of Dromard House, Clonmore, Templemore, Co. Tipperary, graciously sat down with this writer to discuss the war record of her husband, the late Colonel Robert Lidwill.
In the course of her interview it transpired she had actually served during the war herself, a remarkable fact she had humbly ‘not thought worth mentioning’.
Asked what inspired a young lady from Co. Laois to go over to England and get involved in the war, rather than stay at home she answered: “Well, I didn’t want to stay at home!” I was at school in England,” she added, “when the war broke out. I was taken away, brought home, because of the danger of travelling in those days.
Mrs Lidwill was born Hazel Strode Pim, in Eastholme, Rathdowney, Co. Leix, the only daughter of Capt. Alfred S. Pim, Military Cross, and Mona N. Pim. Her father’s obituary, which appeared in The Irish Times of November 3, 1953; details his remarkable life.
It read: The death has taken place, in his 63rd year, at Thurles, of Captain Alfred Strode Pim, of Eastholme, Rathdowney, Co. Leix, who was for 35 years managing director of Messrs. Robert Perry and Son, Ltd., brewers and maltsters.
The son of the late Mr. Richard Pim, founder of the Dublin firm of stockbrokers, Messrs. Richard Pim and Son, Captain Pim was educated at Cheltenham College and Oxford University, where he was a contemporary of the Duke of Windsor, then Prince of Wales. He was studying for the Indian Civil Service when the First World War began. Joining the Royal Irish Rifles, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion and took part in the retreat from Mons. Later, he was badly gassed at Ypres from effects of which he suffered for a great number of years. He was awarded the Military Cross and was reported ‘killed in action’ three times. In his younger days he was a keen Rugby player. He played for several Oxford touring teams and was also a member of Monkstown.
His wife died this year.” Referring to the era of the Second Would War, Mrs Lidwill said: “More people from the south of Ireland volunteered for the war effort, than volunteered from the north.” Words from a lady who herself made the decision to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service, popularly and officially known as the WRENS – the women’s branch of the Royal Navy.
“I had to get the train up to Belfast; I stayed with friends up there. We did our training in London at Mill Hill, everyone went there for about a month. Mill Hill was an army barracks set up.” “I started in Lancashire, I was with the Fleet Air Arm, I trained in Somerset, was sent up to Lancashire for a year, and then I was sent back to Cornwall, and was there for a year and a half.”
Mrs Lidwill smiled as she added, “I had a very grand title for my job – it was called ‘the Aircraft Direction’ which amounted to a ‘telephone to pilots’ in those days.”