It is some months since long-term resident of Guildford Road, June McCullough, died and we could not let her passing go unmarked in the pages of The Whistler. These memories of June were originally written in 2003 by another West Hill stalwart, Pam Bean.
June grew up in Southsea and always knew that she wanted to work with dogs, helping out at a dogs’ beauty parlour while she was still at school. The business was bombed so the owners moved to Hove. June joined them when she left school. Just before she was 18, June went to the Oddfellows Hall in Queens Road, Brighton, to volunteer to join the RAF, but only if she could be a driver. The recruiting officer said she was too short, and she should come back in 2 years (having grown taller?). However, June’s persistence and enthusiasm persuaded the officer that she had grown three and a half inches, and the next week she as a WAF.
Despite her height, she handled large armoured trucks, articulated lorries, troop carriers and massive vehicles, known as Queen Marys, used to transport Spitfire aeroplanes. Enjoying her life in the RAF, June served at a number of operational stations, including Little Snoring, Norfolk. Her friend Valerie Moon, a famous ice skater, gave June a job on demob in her dog parlour in Surrey Street, which led to a 44-year friendship and partnership. Leading a very busy life, she always found time to deliver The Whistler as a volunteer.
June did welfare work and fundraising for the RAF Association in Brighton, and in 2003 she was awarded an MBE for her services. She visited one ex-WAF for 26 years and organised many street collections for Battle of Britain Day (Wings). June’s brainwave to collect from bikers meeting in Madeira Drive resulted in most generous contributions from them.
In March 2003 June travelled to London to receive her medal from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. She was accompanied by Valerie Moon, Valerie’s husband, and daughter, Neoli. June had strained a muscle behind her left knee; already suffering from arthritis, the vast staircases and long corridors of Buckingham Palace were daunting. Facing a very wide staircase with no supporting rails, June hesitated. A cultured voice said, “May I?” and she felt a supporting hand under her elbow. Later, she saw this charming gentleman receive his knighthood.
A pukka army-type, with a humorous manner, instructed the group of 109 awardees in etiquette. “Men will bow, ladies will curtsey,” he said. “May I suggest more of a bob, as it has been known that ladies making too low a curtsey have been unable to rise.” His approach calmed everyone’s nerves, and people began to practise their bows and bobs. As her turn came, all her pain disappeared. Saying to herself, “Come on girl, you’re an ex-WAF” she strode confidently towards Prince Charles. He was amazed when she told him she had personally raised £40,000.
We salute this great lady of West Hill.