Armistice 100: Aberdour women’s war project earns them place at Westminster Remembrance service

Diana Maxwell and Alison Chapman on the site of the former Admiralty station. Pic by Euan Maxwell
Diana Maxwell and Alison Chapman on the site of the former Admiralty station. Pic by Euan Maxwell

Two Fife women have been recognised for their efforts in recording the remarkable events that took place in their community during World War One.

Diana Maxwell and Alison Chapman from Aberdour Cultural Association will attend the Remembrance service at Westminster Abbey on Sunday after their names were put forward by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The work which went on in Aberdour during the First World War earned its place in history

The work which went on in Aberdour during the First World War earned its place in history

Diana, former superintendent radiographer for nuclear medicine at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital, wrote the book Listen Up: Memories of The Hawkcraig Admiralty Experimental Establishment Station, Aberdour, Fife 1915-1918.

The book uncovered a part of World War One history which was almost completely unknown as it was kept a tightly guarded secret for years. It looks at the innovative work carried out at the station which achieved major technological advances of national significance.

The Aberdour Cultural Society published the book in August 2014 and a new edition two years later, after more information surfaced. It received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to publish the book, produce leaflets for schools, put on an exhibition and pay for an information board. It was for this that the women were nominated.

“We are honoured to be asked to take part in such an important occasion, marking the centenary of the end of World War One,” said Diana.

“The Queen, as well as members of the armed forces, religious and political leaders will be attending and it is wonderful to have our work recognised in this way.”

By a remarkable coincidence Diana now lives in Hawkcraig Cottage, the very house where Captain Cyril Ryan, who was in charge of the base, lived and where experimental work was carried out.

“I was compiling a people’s history of Aberdour when someone pointed out that the deadline for the secrecy act had passed and that it would be worth looking into the work carried out at the station,” explained Diana.

“A villager I met many years ago remembered coming to my house and seeing a remote controlled toy dog run round. This was one invented by Captain Ryan, which he patented after the war. He also developed the first remote controlled boat which was attached to the base.

“The hydrophone – which could pick up the sound of German U-boats underwater up to 12 miles away – was also developed here, saving many lives, and they developed a mine which could pick up vibrations from German submarines and was used to sink at least three, including the last one to be sunk at Scapa Flow in September 1918. Aberdour played a major part in World War One history.”