Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 8°C

min temp: 8°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Orford: Exhibition tells of driving ace who played key war effort role

13:15 30 July 2014

Constance Robson, the

Constance Robson, the 'girl who would drive to hell backwards', working on a vehicle while her male colleagues watch


The tale of a home front heroine dubbed ‘the girl who would drive to hell backwards’ will be among the stories told as part of a village’s First World War commemorations.


Constance Robson was a teenager when war broke out in July 1914 but would build a reputation in Orford as a skilled mechanic and gutsy driver.

She worked at a vehicle depot - now Friends Garage in Front Street - repairing vehicles and winning acclaim for her motoring skills.

According to organisers of a three-day exhibition marking 100 years since the beginning of the war, Constance had driven her father, a doctor, on his rounds when she was just 16. She went on to fill one of the vacancies left by the men who had been called up, driving a taxi in Newcastle, where she honed her skills and eventually joined the Women’s Royal Air Force as a driver.

Posted to Orford, she worked as a driver and mechanic, and may have also driven at Orford Ness, a large part of which was acquired by the War Department for airfields.

Jennifer Hall, curator at Orford Museum, said: “She drove all types of vehicle, including ambulances and heavy lorries, and because of her skills was known as ‘the girl who would drive to hell backwards’.

“When the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the Royal Air Force, the need for a separate women’s air service led to the formation of the Women’s Royal Air Force. These women became known as the most professional and disciplined of all of the women’s services.”

The exhibition at Orford Town Hall will feature accounts of people living or based in the area, including a Royal Flying Corps’ captain who signalled his return from battle by lighting a flare which accidentally set light to a shed on top of the castle.

The exhibition, from September 12-14, is part of a community project which has received financial backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Local schools are being encouraged to get involved by finding historical facts in primary resources and sharing the results of their own work through art, literature and drama.

Maggie Livingstone, who is leading the educational side of the project, wants local youngsters to draw comparisons between their own lives and those of children during the war.

Saxmundham Free School recently visited Suffolk Record Office, where pupils found clues about life in the village during wartime.

Merlyn Mitchell Cotts, who joined the pupils on the visit, said: “They all had a wonderful time and were fascinated to read about a zeppelin being spotted above the primary school.”



Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other East Anglian Daily Times visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by East Anglian Daily Times staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique East Anglian Daily Times account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Woman conned by bogus caller (Stock photo)

A Hadleigh woman who lost £2,500 in a police scam has warned others to be alert to the crime.

The Essex and Herts Air Ambulance

A man was air lifted to hospital with chest pains after he was involved in a two-vehicle crash in Essex.

She was last seen in the area of Downside Close in Ipswich.

Concern is growing for a 49-year-old woman who has gone missing in Ipswich.

Essex police are investigating a robbery at Jaywick.

An 88-year-old Essex man suffered a broken hip when he was knocked to the ground by robbers who burst into his Jaywick home.

Members of the nursing team at Ipswich Hospital.

Carers and visitors of people being looked after at Ipswich Hospital will next month be able to spend more time with patients as new extended visiting hours are introduced.

Part of Sue Brooks' photograph of pupils and staff at Fonnereau House School, Ipswich, in 1952. Are you in the picture?

I recently asked readers if they had memories of Fonnereau House School, Ipswich, which was in Fonnereau Road, close to High Street.

Doors reopen on the new look East of England Co-op Daily store in Woodbridge Thoroughfare. Staff members, left to right, Chloe Williams, James Buckles, Shirley Pierce.

Shoppers were greeted by the sight of a new-look Co-op on their high street yesterday, when a Suffolk branch of the store reopened following three weeks of refurbishment.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder

Property search

e.g. Oxford or NW3
Powered by Zoopla

Digital Edition

Read the East Anglian Daily Times e-edition today E-edition

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24