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‘Indomitable’ veteran Lilian, 97, died on Remembrance Day

15 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Lilian Reeve at Islington War Memorial with Cllr Gary Poole

FAMILY and friends have paid tribute to a 97-year-old veteran of the Second World War who died on Remembrance Day.

Lilian Reeve, who lived just off Upper Street, told friends she had never missed a Remembrance Day parade.

She had served in the Second World War as a nurse in the female corps of the Royal Air Force (RAF) known as the Women’s Auxillary Air Force (WAAF).

At the age of 91, the Barnsbury resident contacted the Tribune in distress because she had become wheelchair-bound after falling over and she didn’t have anyone to push her along the march.

After an appeal in the paper, Finsbury Park resident Sandra Gruescu took up the offer and ensured Ms Reeve was able to join her fellow WAAF veterans.

St Mary’s ward councillor Gary Poole, who became a close friend of Ms Reeve’s after knocking on her door when canvassing, said: “Lilian was a prodigious letter writer. She had strong opinions about things that she was happy to share with anybody from prime ministers to the EU commission.

“She had a very sharp mind, she read the papers and watched the news. She felt like the war generation needed to be listened to more.”

He added: “She had an indomitable spirit and a real zest for life.”

A former pupil at Thornhill Primary School, Ms Reeve left school at 14 and worked as a seamstress before joining the Red Cross, where she was taught nursing.

She joined the WAAF and served between 1942. She did her training at RAF Bridgnorth in Shropshire before working in various hospitals including St Mary’s at Highgate, which later merged to become the Whittington.

She was married briefly after the war.

“She was fiercely independent and a born and bred Islington woman,” Cllr Poole said.

Peter McCafferty, Islington’s pageant master who directs war memorial parades, said: “I think she is an inspiration, to keep going to 97 and she would always be there for people.

“I think, for her to die on Remembrance Sunday shows here esprit de corps. She was a proud veteran and she will be missed dearly.”

Ms Reeve in her WAAF uniform

Ms Reeve was known to be a prolific painter and sketcher.

The King’s surgeon commissioned her to sketch scores of drawings during her work nursing injured soldiers. Later in life, she turned this skill to the natural world and would post sketches and paintings to friends and family.

Elizabeth Roberts, who lives in Australia, said: “Auntie Lil was the best friend of my Bomma [Flemish for grand­mother].

“They met in 1946 in Germany when my Bomma was in the British Army in the occupational forces. Auntie Lil came to Australia many times and stayed with my Bomma and Bompa [grandfather].

“Auntie Lil was funny and sweet and loved visiting Australia, she loved the warmth. She would always remember our family’s birthdays and her birthday card was the first one in the mail every time.

“She would often write to me and tell me little stories about meeting the Royal Family and having a chat with them at events. She would send me little sketches and drawings she did.”


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