From helping British POWs to braving explosions - Burnham woman's incredible 70 years with Red Cross (From Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News)
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From helping British POWs to braving explosions - Burnham woman's incredible 70 years with Red Cross
SHE has helped people in desperate situations across the world, including prisoners of war and a group of British servicemen captured in East Germany.
Now, after an incredible seven decades supporting the British Red Cross, 92-year-old Pegeen Hill has been given a special honour in recognition of her service.
Pegeen, who is also an MBE, was awarded the charity's 70-year badge-of-honour by Red Cross Somerset president Phil Rowe and chair of the Somerset Red Cross volunteer council Norman Wood.
Having originally signed up with the Red Cross as a volunteer aid detachment (VAD) nurse in Bristol in 1941, Pegeen went on to represent the charity in numerous war-torn countries including newly-liberated France, Singapore, Japan, Ghana and Cyprus.
In 1953, she was involved in the exchange of prisoners of war during the Korean War.
She said: “I was the senior welfare officer at the British Commonwealth Hospital in Japan when I was asked to help with the exchange of Commonwealth POWs in Korea.
"I was the only British woman at the exchange point, meeting hundreds of POWs as they came through. "Listening skills were terribly important. The servicemen really did want to talk. They wanted to know what was going on in England, what the football results were, that kind of thing. I also wrote to every single family.”
Pegeen spent two terrifying years in Cyprus during the sectarian conflict.
She said: “We were based in an officers' mess, and heard all these huge explosions. It really was scary.”
In 1959, she helped secure the release of a group of British servicemen, who had been captured in East Germany after having apparently fallen asleep on a train and ended up on the Communist side of the border.
Pegeen returned to the UK in 1968 and worked at the Red Cross headquarters in Taunton as a county welfare officer.
Since retiring in 2002, she has continued to volunteer locally.
She said: “I so admire the principles of the Red Cross. It was respected by everyone, everywhere. I would do anything for the Red Cross. They have been my family for so long.”
Mr Wood said: “It's unbelievable the service Pegeen has given to the Red Cross all over the world and in Somerset. We were delighted to be able to go to Pegeen's home and present her with her 70-year badge-of-honour. It's quite an achievement."