‘Aircraftwoman Avis Hearn was one of only six Women’s Auxiliary Air Force to be honoured with the Military Medal in World War Two. She was called “4’11” of courage.”
‘Hearn worked at R.A.F. Poling radar station, which was one of the premier radar stations on the south coast plotting high flying enemy aircraft.
‘Hearn was engaged in top secret work, vital to Britain’s war effort. It was important work; as Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas [See Harold Balfour, Signatory #13 who flew with Douglas on the Western Front in the First World War] said:
The radar system was called Chain Home, the ring of coastal Early Warning radar stations, which covered most of the eastern and southern shores of the island.
‘Hearn’s award came for her bravery during an air raid attack on Poling on August 18, 1940. Hearns later said: “We were bombed there. About 30 planes dropped about 90 bombs on us.” The building she was working in was close to collapse as 500 lb bombs fell nearby, but she remained at her work station. It was for this act of bravery, displaying “courage and devotion to duty of the highest order”, as her Air Commodore noted (see below), that she was awarded the Military Medal.
‘She received the medal from George VI himself, at Buckingham Palace. She was just 24 years old.
‘A former Girl Guide Acting Corporal Avis Joan Hearn, joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1939. She was selected for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a Radio Operator based at RAF Poling. On 18 August 1940, she received news of an imminent attack. Hearn remained at her post to receive vital messages. As the Receiver Block neared collapse, 87 bombs fell around her. For her brave actions and devotion to duty, she received the Military Medal. Avis Joan Hearn’s medal bar and uniform jacket are on display at the RAF Museum in Cosford.’
The Chain Home Radar System during the Battle of Britain (Poling bottom right box) (Radar Pages):