The Women of Thorpe Abbotts
Although the majority of personnel stationed at Thorpe Abbotts were men, women played a vital role in the war effort in general and at Thorpe Abbotts in particular. Perhaps the most remembered women from Thorpe Abbotts were those associated with The American Red Cross. Among them Betty Hardman, Hilda Purse and Dorothy Durang, known as Dot, served at the base. Betty in particular made an impression on 2nd Lt. Tony Pecyk, a co-pilot on the David W. Wood crew. Pecyk danced with Betty at an Officer Club dance on 26 November 1944 and described Betty in his diary as ‘a marvellous dancer.’ He exclaimed that; ‘It was a pleasure to be with her. She in my opinion was the essence of American femininity – poise, clothes, looks, and popularity – too darn popular if you ask me.’ Pecyk was captivated by Betty and was apparently one of many suitors. Hilda Purse later donated her uniform to the museum. She would also go on to marry war-hero Capt. Emory C. Kinder, a well-known Flight Surgeon with the 100th Bomb Group.
There was also a relatively large cohort of local civilian women and those from the Women’s Voluntary Services. These women undertook a number of roles at the base, including preparing food, serving drinks and laundering clothes, among a number of roles.