A QUARRY Bank woman who, during the Second World War, transported equipment which contributed to the success of the D-Day Landings, has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Mrs Gwen Chapman, who is now a resident of Redbrick Court Care Home, High Street, Wordsley, was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in which she drove ambulances and lorries.

In early June, 1944, she and a colleague had to drive a lorry containing tracking equipment from Birmingham to the docks in Folkestone.

“The equipment was for special types of guns,” said Mrs Chapman. “As we drove into Folkestone it seemed eerie, almost like a ghost town. At the time we were unaware that the D-Day Landings were about to take place and that the equipment was for them. It was all very hush-hush and when we did hear about them, it certainly gave us something to think about.”

Mrs Chapman was born in Sheffield Street, Quarry Bank, on November 11, 1921. Her parents were John and Lucy Genner, who ran a transport, coach and fishmonger business. She was their youngest daughter and the seventh of 10 children - five boys and five daughters; five born before the First World War and five afterwards.

Her birthday has always coincided with Remembrance Day. As a schoolgirl in 1932 she was told off by a teacher, who demanded to know why she had been smiling during the two minutes silence.

“Because it is the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and today is my 11th birthday,” she explained.

Mrs Chapman left Quarry Bank Secondary Girls’ School at the age of 14 and for a short time worked in the offices of a Cradley Heath bakery. From there, she moved to Stringers, which was then a well-known furniture store in High Street, Stourbridge.

“I worked in the office, doing book-keeping and learning shorthand and typing,” said Mrs Chapman. “ I also used to drive vehicles on errands for my father. My eldest sister’s husband taught me to drive.”

When she received her call-up papers in 1940, she hoped to join the Women’s Royal Air Force but instead was assigned to the ATS.

She remembers that her friends waved her off at Stourbridge Junction on a train heading for Droitwich. There, she had to report to the Norbury Hotel and this was followed by eight weeks of basic training - but at first, it was without a proper uniform.

“They couldn’t find one small enough to fit me!” she said.

Throughout the war, Mrs Chapman was based at a number of camps in the Home Counties. She passed a mechanics’ course with flying colours, was first promoted to Lance Corporal and then, Corporal.

She met her husband, Jim, from South London, in a NAAFI canteen and they were married at Christ Church, Quarry Bank, in January 1946.

Together, they ran a fish and chip shop in High Street, Quarry Bank, first with an aunt and uncle and then, very successfully on their own. The business was the one which Mrs Chapman’s parents had set up when they married in 1908.

For many years, Mrs Chapman was a member of the local Conservative Association and during the 1960s she was a governor of Quarry Bank Secondary Modern Boys’ School.

For 70 years, Mrs Chapman lived in Belle Vue Road, Quarry Bank. Her husband died in 1995 and she has two sons, David a former journalist, and John, who ran his own freelance commercial artist business in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Mrs Chapman also has a grandson, a great grandson and a great grand daughter.

Longevity runs in her family. Her two eldest brothers lived until they were 96 and 97, her elder sister was 92, and her youngest brother, Frank, who lives in Hagley, is aged 92.

What does she think is the reason for her long life?

“Hard work!” said Mrs Chapman, emphatically.