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Sailors meet with Britain’s oldest surviving World War Two veteran during Caribbean deployment

24 October 2023
Britain’s oldest surviving female World War Two veteran met sailors from Britain’s most advanced destroyer during a port stop in Barbados.

HMS Dauntless is patrolling the Caribbean Sea, hunting drugs smugglers and helping British Overseas Territories during the region’s hurricane season.

During a visit to Barbados – which also included a beach clean-up and community outreach – Dauntless’ Commanding Officer, Commander Ben Dorrington, Petty Officer Corinne Adams and the ship’s chaplain, Reverend Janice Honey Morgan visited 106-year-old Ena Collymore-Woodstock.

After seeing a recruitment advert in 1943, Jamaican-born Ena was one of the first women to sail from the Caribbean and join the Auxiliary Territorial Service – which tasked women with a range of vital roles in the war effort – to help defeat Hitler. 

Ena survived a torpedo attack during her Atlantic voyage to the UK and was posted in a clerical role at the War Office due to her background as a court typist at home in Kingston. 

But complaining “I didn’t come here to do what I was doing at home” in a letter to her seniors, Ena was transferred to an anti-aircraft unit and became a radar operator. She later served in Belgium.

After the war, Ena had an impressive career in law, notably becoming the first black woman to train at Gray’s Inn and, after returning to Jamaica, was appointed Assistant Crown Solicitor among other posts. 

Cdr Dorrington said: “To be able to visit such a remarkable lady who has lived through ten decades and served not only as a radar operator in World War Two, but also to pursue her career as the first female barrister, is testament to her determination and passion for her work.

 “Ena has been an inspiration throughout her life not just to the communities of Jamaica and Barbados, but also to women worldwide who should strive to look up to and follow in her passion for helping others."

Dauntless’ crew certainly embraced Ena’s ethos during their Barbados visit, hosting local schools and youth groups on board the ship and playing a football match against the Barbados Defence Force.

Sixteen sailors joined community group ‘Walk Fuh Yuh Future’ on a beach clean-up on the east side of the island. 

Barbados boasts some of the cleanest beaches in the Caribbean if not the world and, on a regular basis, communities come together to take part in the beach clean-up projects. 

Sub Lieutenant Kyle Hill said: “I feel very lucky to be in this part of the world, and to be able to offer our workforce to help the community and environment. Beach cleans like these are a simple but effective way to help reduce our environmental impact and show our commitment to the people of Barbados.” 

The ship’s visit to Barbados followed a four-day visit to the Dominican Republic’s capital Santo Domingo.
The ship’s company welcomed many guests and dignitaries of the island on board, including the President of the Dominican Republic His Excellency Mr Luis Abinader, His Majesty’s Ambassador to the Dominican Republic and key members of the island’s government and military.

The high-profile visit saw the President welcomed by a 12-man ceremonial guard on the jetty before greeting the ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Ben Dorrington, for a tour of the ship.

HMS Dauntless’ Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Aaron Revell, said: “I am incredibly proud of the exceptional show that the ship’s company have managed to put on for the many visitors to our ship during this port visit. They truly have allowed the Royal Navy and United Kingdom to stand out as a world class institution.”

The visit included an evening cocktail party with over 150 guests. The evening had live music on the flight deck whilst private tours of the ship were available. To close the night the ship had a Ceremonial Sunset, which is a Royal Navy tradition.

As well as hosting an array of guests onboard, members of the ship’s company had the opportunity to go ashore for a tour of the historic sites in Santo Domingo. They also helped a local community by restoring an old basketball court. Community work is a popular activity among the crew following a successful community project in the Bahamas.  

Petty Officer Greg Solkhon, who attended the community project, said: “It was great to engage with the local community including taking part in a short basketball match. Helping to redecorate their seated audience area in the basketball court enabled us to work alongside the children who were extremely keen on painting and subsequently they added a lot of their own artwork to the seated area.”

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