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                                         Mary Pratt Crushed by Barrage Balloon 1942


          On 25th May 1942, 19-year-old, Corporal Mary Pratt from Allesborough Hill, Pershore was in charge of

     a balloon crew in Wakefield Yorkshire. The balloon was being hauled down but had decided to misbehave and 

    began to yaw. Her attention was diverted to the winch driver to whom she was shouting commands, but it was 

    too late. Suddenly she felt a massive blow to her head and collapsed onto the ground. The crew rushed to help

     her. She had been struck on the head by the balloon as it literally fell out of the sky. Mary got up very slowly 

    and sensed that there was something not quite right with her neck. She crossed her arms over her chest and 

    placed her hands either side of her cheekbones and held them as stiffly as she could. She was taken to hospital 

     and an X-ray revealed she had broken four cervical vertebrae. They had been compressed by the weight of the balloon on her 

     head. She was rushed to Pinderfield Emergency Hospital, Wakefield for Specialist Treatment. Treatment involved being encased 

     in a plaster cast from her head to her hips to take stress off her neck. This resulted in her being given the name “Queen Bess” 

     because the cast looked like some form of rigid ruff, from Elizabethan days. Her parents rushed from her home in Pershore to

     see her on the ward at Wakefield. They felt quite despondent at seeing their daughter laid up in a hospital bed but on their 

     second visit in August she was reported to be doing well. Mary was given a series of rehabilitation exercises and an X-ray on

     15th August showed that all four vertebrae had healed and at the end of September, after sixteen weeks, she was declared fit 

     to leave hospital and rest at home. She recuperated at home and the R.A.F. reassessed her and were considering invaliding her 

     out of the service but Mary told them that was not a wise idea. She told them: ” If I don’t go back people will think balloon work

     is dangerous and will not join the service”. She continued to serve throughout the war. 

    Before the war she was in service and  joined up in September 1941.                            Peter Garwood 2021



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