Only one airwoman received the coveted Caterpillar badge during the war – Corporal F.H. Poser, who jumped from 600 feet while serving with a meteorological unit in the Middle East. This is Corporal Felice Helga Poser 2025650 who was originally from Austria.
She was pax in Anson NX592 which developed problems at (or near) Deversoir. Another airwoman in the same aircraft was 2992592 LACW Lili Bankier who also had to jump from the a/c.
The aircraft was bound for Shallufa, having departed from Aqir , there were five on board the Anson; the pilot W/O Joseph Turvey (RNZAF), an un-named WOp, LAC(W) Bankier, Cpl(W) Felice Poser and an un-named RAF Sgt. Felice Poser was also a Met WAAF and was returning to her unit at Heliopolis after a week’s leave in Palestine.
On the way out to the aircraft Poser asked the pilot how the parachute worked, and he replied that in the unlikely event of her having to use it she was to pull the ripcord immediately. That ‘briefing’ saved her life.
In the confusion of the incident (the Very cartridge the pilot tried to fire to warn ATC the aircraft was in trouble, ignited in the cockpit), the WOp mistakenly thought he heard Turvey give the order to abandon the aircraft. He jettisoned the door, which ripped fabric from the top of the fusulage, which in turn streamed over the tail-plane, and that in turn began to disintegrate. Bankier was the first to jump (at approx 700-800 ft) but, although holding the release ring, she failed to pull it and died as she crashed through the roof of the Station Guard Room.
Poser went second, pulling her ripcord immediately, and she was followed by the WOp – both landed safely.
In the meantime the minor fire started by the Very cartridge had died out, and as the smoke cleared Turvey was horrified to see the WOp leaving the aircraft. The remaining passenger, the Sgt, was still on board and went to sit next to Turvey as he landed the aircraft safely.
Lili Bankier’s body was returned the following day to her base, Lydda, for burial. Being of the Jewish faith she was buried in Jerusalem, but after her grave was lost a memorial stone was placed in the Ramleh cemetery.
Of the 23000 caterpiller pins awarded during the war, only one went to a woman – Felice Poser.
Sources: AIR28/200 (Deversoir ORB) and ‘Jump for it’ by G Bowman (1957).
Courtesy: Peter Davis, Lyffe (Brian) and Paul McMillan