Born in 1907, Cicely Paget-Bowman embarked on an acting career in the 1920s and played opposite Rex Harrison in Charley’s Aunt to critical acclaim. In the 1930s she also had a number of small film parts in addition to her repertory work.
With the outbreak of World War II she put her acting career on hold and joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY). Her first posting was to Chester. After a couple of months a volunteer was sought to serve at Knutsford and Cicely agreed to go.
At the newly formed Central Landing School she assisted the Medical Officer Captain Brian Courtney (RAMC) as ambulance driver and nurse. She spent most of her time on the drop zone at Tatton Park with her “blood tub” (ambulance) and became a firm favourite of the men from the newly formed No 2 Commando (later to become 11 SAS Battalion). She later commented “I never fell in love with any one of them, but I loved them all.” Cicely developed a firm bond of comradeship with them over the next 18 months and would often go horse riding with some of the officers and socialise with them at the Royal George Hotel (the Officers’ Mess). This bond was to be broken with the unit’s re-location and re-designation to become the 1st Parachute Battalion of No 1 Parachute Brigade.
Later in the war she joined the troops’ entertainment service, ENSA.
After the war she continued her stage career and also appeared in a number of films most notably as Lady Queensbury in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) appearing alongside Peter Finch and James Mason. During the 1960s she moved into television and had parts in Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green, Danger Man, The Troubleshooters, Father Dear Father, Hadleigh and The Forsyte Saga.
She died aged 97 in 2005 after a career spanning 50 years but to the men of No 2 Commando and 11 SAS her best role was undoubtedly as their “blood tub” driver.
See also: Airborne Women
Compiled by Harvey GrenvilleRead More