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From Behind her Lens!

Mrs Celia Pemberton recently travelled from Kibworth to the Orkneys for a Monument Marker unveiling ceremony some 73 years after being stationed on the island during World War II. She, along with her friend Walter ‘Bing’ Crosby were guests of honour of the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust and Birsay Heritage Trust. The Monument is at RNAS Twatt airfield - known as HMS Tern - which opened on 1 April 1941. Our photograph shows the two guests standing either side of the Monument during the ceremony whilst the bagpipes played.


 In 1943 when only 18 years of age Celia worked for WRNS Fleet Air Arm at Lee-on-Solent as a messenger. Bored she signed up for a photographic course and this resulted in Celia being posted to the Orkneys - a very small remote station but vital as it was classed as a Fleet Requirements Unit. During training she would lie on the floor of aircraft with her special F24 camera taking aerial pictures - she had never flown before! Later when in the Orkneys she would develop and print the pictures as part of the daily reconnaissance. The planes would daily fly over Scapa Flow, a major harbour during the War.

Celia stayed in the close-knit community for 18 months and at one time they were snowed in for 14 days! There was an onsite cinema and occasional dances to go to. Lots of fun! The girls used to score boyfriends depending on each boy’s rank!


Being a life long subscriber to The Wren Magazine, 29 years ago, she saw a photo that she had taken asking for the names of the people in the picture. Celia remembered the photo, where she had taken it and all the people in it, so contacted the magazine. Through various contacts she met up with her friend Walter ‘Bing’ Crosby who was also stationed in the Orkneys. They were flown from Edinburgh free of charge to Orkney for the ceremony and also interviewed by Radio Orkney and had several photographic sessions where this time they were in front of the lens!


Many of Celia’s pictures appear in Gregor Lamb’s book ‘Sky over Scapa’ which was published in 1991.

Thank you, Celia.

(Celia was in conversation with Julie Clark. October 2017)


Celia with her camera

Issue 395

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