The Remarkable Life Of The British Army's Oldest Surviving Female Veteran

Date: Thursday January 21, 2021 at 12:54pm
Credit: Ena Collymore-Woodstock's family
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Ena Collymore-Woodstock is an extraordinary woman who, at the impressive age of 103, is the oldest surviving female veteran of the British Army.  Born in Jamaica, in 1917, the Second World War veteran, who went on to have an incredibly successful career in law, has inspired many generations of women to do what those around them considered at the time to be ‘men’s jobs’ such as a soldier or lawyer. Three of her four grandchildren took inspiration from their Grandmother and are lawyers.

Ena J Collymore Woodstock, Marguerite's daughter Amanda Rae and Marguerite's brother’s daughter Raisa St Clare on Raisa's call to the Bar in Barbados Credit: Ena Collymore-Woodstock's family

As a young woman, Ena was part of a group of local Jamaican women determined to prove they were capable and be an inspiration to others “despite there being no female role models at the senior level of society in Jamaica”. 

Making her way to Britain during the Second World War to join the British Army and play her part in defeating Hitler, had a powerful impact on her peers. She said: 

“There weren’t that many women in the Army at that time. Very few women of colour either. 

“My group was the first group of women to leave the West Indies to volunteer to go to war. I felt special.”

 The centenarian is proud to have encouraged others to aim high and achieve goals, whatever prejudices stand in their way. She said: 

“Once, on a trip to the USA, I handed my passport to an officer who told me that she’d done a project about me when she was at school – she was from Negril, Westmoreland." 

Ena was discovered as being the oldest female veteran of the Army after the death of 108-year-old Anne Robson, who had served as a physical training instructor in the ATS.

This prompted the Women’s Royal Army Corps Association (WRAC) to start a campaign called ‘Find Our OATs’, to find Britain’s oldest surviving female veteran. Colonel (Retired) Alison Brown, Vice President of WRAC, said:

 “We wanted to thank her, tell her story and reflect on her achievements, plus, those of other pioneering women of WW2, who pushed aside gender bias and spearheaded roles for women in society as a whole.