Article taken from the Morrow County Sentinel dated February 24, 1993
Beryl Schrack was recently awarded with a medal for the service she gave to her country in wartime – nearly 50 years after the fact.
She was a member of the Royal Corps of Signals, Auxiliary Territorial Service, in her native England during World War II.
She received the honor, called the Campaign Medal, through the mail on Feb 10, 1993. There is a picture of King George VI on one side and a lion and dragon on the other.
“I was called into service in October 1942,” she reflected. “The was was still going on and we had just been through the Battle of Britain.”
She was 21 years old at the time.
“Everybody had to do their duty.” Schrack, whose maiden name is Barber, explained. “It’s like the draft over here, only women were drafted, too.”
During her four year tenure in the army, Schrack worked in communications, mostly sending and relaying messages to teletype, telephone and radio.
She met her husband, an American stationed with the Medical Corps in England, in 1943, married him in 1946 and moved with him to Mt Gilead in 1948, where they have lived ever since.
“I used to see all these Americans with their war medals and I always wondered why I never received one,” she recalled. “I was in the army for four years and I couldn’t understand it.”
It was about a year ago that Schrack decided to inquire about the situation and then called Britian’s Ministry of Defense. “They said I absolutely should have received a medal, but because I had moved to America, they had lost track of me.” After glancing at the medal now in her possession, Schrack said many of her experiences during the war are still quite vivid.
“The bombing started in 1939,” she said. “The Germans bombed us every single night. I was 19 when that started.” The nightly raids known as the “London Blitz” lasted from September 1940 through May 1941 and the Germans dropped over 190,000 tons of bombs over Britain during that period. “People barely had time to get home from work when the sirens would start going off and we’d have to take shelter.” Several homes on the street where Schrack lived were destroyed by the bombs and her sister’s bedroom windows were blown out by machine gun fire.
When she was given her orders to serve with the ATS, Schrack was stationed all over England, including Birmingham, where she was born and raised, Yorkshire and London. “We relayed messages and worked with all nationalities, Americans, the free French, Polish, Canadians,” She explained. “It was all secret code, we had to be very exact and there could be no mistakes, because one wrong word could change the whole meaning of the message. It was so fast-paced, we had to be able to send a message a minute.”
During her service, the communications headquarters would be in an old stable or in a cave that was six feet underground. “It had to be secret and not easily spotted,” she said. We also had to be down low to protect us from the bombs.” Schrack and the rest of the women in her unit would walk two miles to the site and work from 8 am until noon on a typical day. Then they would break for lunch and have some time off, before having to go back on duty from 6 pm until 8 am the next day.