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Hilda Smith from Watton presented with Defence Medal in a secret ceremony arranged by her family

PUBLISHED: 15:49 19 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:52 24 July 2017

During a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian Burt

During a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

Almost a year ago, 93-year-old Hilda Smith made a fleeting comment to her granddaughter about being in the Home Guard during the Second World War. Today, she was presented with a Defence Medal.

During a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian BurtDuring a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian Burt

In a surprise ceremony, organised by Watton Royal British Legion and the Lord Lieutenant office and Watton Town Council, Mrs Smith was overcome with emotion when granddaughter Katherine Smith revealed the secret plan to get her a medal to honour her efforts during the war.

Miss Smith, 34, from Windsor, said: “It was wonderful, she was totally shocked and very humbled.

“When we ask her about the war she says it is not a big deal and it was normal. She said she did not deserve it but she so does.”

It all began with a family trip to the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford in August last year, when Hilda Smith talked about her time during the war.

During a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the (R) Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Here pictured with family members (from left) Pauline Smith, Geoff Watts and Katherine Smith. Picture: Ian BurtDuring a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the (R) Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Here pictured with family members (from left) Pauline Smith, Geoff Watts and Katherine Smith. Picture: Ian Burt

As an 18-year-old she worked as a receptionist during the day and as a fire-watcher, along with her father, during the night, looking for fire bombs and those devastated by the Blitz in London.

In the Land Army she looked after 100 girls in Somerset and joined the Home Guard, where she eventually spent three years before the end of the war and learnt how to use a rifle.

Mrs Smith spent 40 years living in Great Hockham before moving to Watton.

Katherine Smith was so impressed by her grandmother’s story that she wrote to the Queen asking for her to write to her grandmother to recognise her efforts for her country.

During a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian BurtDuring a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian Burt

Miss Smith added: “That is how it started, the cabinet office replied and asked for more information on her work in the war and what she has done.”

Hilda Smith’s role in the Home Guard made her eligible for a Defence Medal, and so Miss Smith arranged for a secret ceremony to surprise her grandmother.

On the way to the ceremony, on Wednesday, July 19, Miss Smith told her grandmother to dress in her best for a lunch in the pub.

“I just could not wait until today.” Miss Smith said.

During a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian BurtDuring a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian Burt

“We told her before we went in, we did not want her to get such a shock.

“We are just so proud of her and we wanted to celebrate what she has done.”

Mrs Smith was presented the Defence Medal by Norfolk Lord Lieutenant Richard Jewson and a bouquet of flowers by Watton deputy mayor Tina Kiddell, on behalf of the people of Watton.

Also present at the ceremony were her family members Katherine Smith, Pauline Smith and Geoff Watts.

During a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian BurtDuring a special service, Hilda Smith was presented with the Defence Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson. Picture: Ian Burt

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