Published: 12:53, 11 October 2021
| Updated: 17:29, 11 October 2021
A remarkable woman who served during the Second World War and fought off Covid last year has turned 102.
Kathleen (Kay) Carey lives on the Royal British Legion Village at Aylesford and is one of the few remaining people who signed up during the conflict who is still alive today.
Born Kathleen Googe in 1919, one of four children, in the small community of Little Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, she lost her mum, who died in giving birth to Mrs Carey's sister Barbara, while she was still a toddler and was largely raised by aunts.
She left home at 14 to go into service as a maid, but soon graduated to looking after the children of the house. Her mistress encouraged her take her nursing exams, which she passed, but she was unable to join the profession because her family didn't have enough money to buy her uniform and equipment, which then was still down to the nurse to supply.
When war looked imminent, Mrs Carey was one of the first to sign up for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) two weeks after war was declared in 1939.
When she arrived at RAF Halton, she was disappointed to find that at first the Government didn't know what to do with the flood of female recruits, who found themselves doing all the menial jobs like scrubbing the floors.
Later however, she was able to transfer to the nursing side within the WAAF and ended up assisting the airmen who had suffered horrific burn injuries and who were being treated with revolutionary plastic surgery techniques being developed by Sir Archibald McIndoe at East Grinstead. They were later known as The Guinea Pig Club.
Mrs Carey's daughter, Ann Butterworth, 77, said: "In a way , the war helped mum, by allowing her to become a nurse, which was what she always wanted to do."
During the war, Mrs Carey met her husband Douglas Carey, who was also in the RAF. They were married at Eddlesborough on July 26, 1941, with Mrs Carey petitioning her CO for some extra clothing coupons so that she could marry out of uniform - as a Sergeant in the WAAF she out-ranked her groom, and she didn't want to embarrass him.
After the war, Mr Carey's job in personnel took them to various locations across the country, and to Belfast, before they landed in Kent, initially at Penenden Heath.
The couple had three children.
Mr Carey died in 1983 three weeks before his 65th birthday.
'She's a very determined lady'
In 2016 Mrs Carey moved in with her daughter Ann at a house in Howick Close on the RBL estate.
She had continued her interest in the WAAFS and had been a founding member of the Wartime WAAFs Association in Maidstone.
In March last year, Mrs Carey caught Covid, and though she was very ill for three weeks, she recovered and is today in good health.
Her daughter said: "She still goes out to her Rummy Club and her coffee mornings. She's always been a very determined lady."
Her birthday is today. .