Shelby goes walkies for war veteran Mary as she approaches her 100th birthday

A little white dog is putting its best paw forward for a family countdown to a World War Two veteran's 100th birthday this summer.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 4:55 am
Mary wearing the ATS 'duck cap'

Shelby, a two-year-old Bichon Frise, has taken up the mantle to celebrate Mary Hanson s marvellous milestone.

Mary, an ATS veteran from the war, will celebrate being 100 on July 2.

In the spirit of Sir Captain Tom Moore, Harry Billinge and other veterans, Shelby has set out to walk a total of 100 miles for Mary until that date.

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Mary wears her WW2 medals finally received in February 2018

Daily walks are posted on Facebook and donations will be for the new British Normandy Memorial - Normandy Memorial Trust.

Mary is currently a resident at Westwood Residential Care Home, Southport Road, Chorley.

She is the aunt of John Holland, of Whittle-le-Woods, who says Shelby - who belongs to his daughter Joanne Duncan and her family, of Chorley - has taken up the walking challenge as Mary, who suffers from alzheimer's, "is unable to mobilise these days".

"As she can't do what Sir Tom Moore did, we decided the dog would do a hundred miles, even though it's got very short legs," said John.


"It's a bit of fun, we're celebrating her life."

Born in Batley, Yorkshire, on July 2, 1921, Mary enrolled into the ATS. - the women's branch of the British Army - between 1942 and 1946.

Most of Mary's wartime service was spent at Overton-on-Dee on the Welsh-English border.

Although she was awarded the 1939 – 1945 War Medal and the Defence Medal in the years after the war she never applied for them and they were never issued.

At the age of 96 and with the assistance of John, Mary applied for her wartime service record and her medal entitlement.

And in February 2018, Mary finally received her wartime medals.

John, who originates from Whitehaven, says Mary, who never married, has fond memories from her wartime experiences.

"She recalled once going home on leave, missing her bus to the train station and a lorry stopping to ask if she wanted a lift," said John.

"She jumped in without a care and on asking if she liked chocolate, said yes, the driver then saying help yourself behind you.

"It was a wagon full of Cadbury’s chocolate. She took two bars and duly ate them, not saving any to take home.

"Mary also used to love dancing and has very fond memories of some of the American soldiers who occasionally attended local events."

He also recalled: "At Chester, she was stationed in a big house overlooking the racecourse, sometimes going over to a nearby Salvation Army shop for lunch which sold fish and chips.

"One of Mary’s jobs was to order supplies, during her time at Overton-on-Dee, Mary gained the nick name “Hammer” following a bit of a mix up with the quantity of hammers she ordered, a nickname her army friends continued to use after the war ended.

"Mary was glad, like everyone else when the war ended, and it was a matter of getting on with things as she returned to civilian life.

"She has lived an interesting and varied life, working in a variety jobs, including British Road Services, ERNIE and a short spell as a housekeeper to Benedictine Monks, putting her Army skills to good use.

"Mary enjoyed traveling home and abroad, during which she developed a love for the English Lake District, as well as classical music. She still watches the “Proms” on the TV but prefers the conductors to be male."

Money raised from Shelby's walk will go towards a British Normandy Memorial to remember those who died for our freedom.

A JustGiving page has been set up.