WHEN my lovely mum, Olive Crowther turned 90 in 2003, I had a chat with Sally Clifford, Features Writer at the T&A, who I had known for several years through my work at the University of Bradford.

When I mentioned that mum had been an Avro Girl at Yeadon - where, at a camouflaged plant, military aircraft including 700 Lancaster bombers were made during the war - it sparked an interest in Sally to do some research about the Avro Girls, a subject that she had been contemplating writing about for a while.

A fabulous two-page spread was published in the Telegraph & Argus in April 2014, much to mum’s delight. It also featured a book entitled Mum Was An Avro Girl.

This feature by Sally was the catalyst for many further exciting invitations to mum asking her to talk about her work during the Second World War, including an invitation from the BBC.

During the early years of the war, Mum received an invitation from the government to work at Avro along with several hundred thousand other women at the time. Mum would have been 16 when war broke out and was working at Albion Mill at Greengates. She always said that the Avro work was the best job she ever had.

Students at Leeds University saw the T&A feature and contacted Sally Clifford. The students wanted to interview Mum for their thesis exploring what happened to women after the war. They looked at World Wars I and II and created case studies of women who were invited to do jobs they wouldn’t normally have done during normal times.

The students presented their findings at a seminar in Leeds University’s Parkinson Building on International Women’s Day 2017, and mum was delighted to be a guest of honour. During the presentation a recording of mum singing the Avro Girls’ morale-boosting song was played - ‘We are the Avro Girls, helping to win the war’ - and mum started to beam with pride and delight when she realized what was happening. This was Mum’s turn to shine, she had always put others before herself, although a very strong woman in many ways she had never pushed herself forward, believing herself to be ordinary, but actually she was quite extraordinary.

So this was a new experience for her and as certain filters fade as we go through life, mum embraced this bit of fame! Sally would henceforth refer to her as “The Famous Olive” and Mum loved this.

After the presentation at Leeds University, many of the attendees gathered around Mum, who was in a wheelchair by now, to talk to her, she loved the attention and as we were walking back to the car she beckoned me, pointing to a group of students in the distance she whispered: “They’re talking about me!”

In the summer of 2017 Sally contacted me yet again following an enquiry from the BBC. They wanted to interview mum for a new series. We drove over to Media City at Salford Quays to meet the producer, Simon, who asked Mum about her experiences at Avro.

At one point, mum turned the tables and started asking the interviewer questions, then she started on the sound man with the boom mic sitting behind Simon...much to their bemusement.

One of her last engagements was to be a special guest at the launch of International Bomber Command in Lincoln, again thanks to the feature in the T&A.

One exceptionally cold April day in 2018 we set off by car for Lincoln, taking extra blankets to keep Mum warm. There was supposed to be a fly-over by a Lancaster Bomber, the very planes mum worked on, building the navigators’ panels. Her brother George, had been a navigator on the Lancasters.

But this day, it was too foggy for the Lancasters to fly by and there was a very chill wind. Nonetheless, the resilient nonagenarian veterans sat stoicially outside in the cold April wind wrapped up in their silver foil blankets to listen to the speeches and opening of the monument of remembrance.

Over lunch, Mum sat opposite a former Spitfire co-pilot, who had a twinkle in his eye. He took a shining to Mum, and asked what she did during the war. Mum took part in some audio recordings for International Bomber Command and these can now be heard on their website.

Mary Dowson from BCB Radio also interviewed Mum and invited her to appear on a special One to One programme.

Mum chose her favourite pieces of music, a bit like Desert Island Discs, and spoke about her life. On the morning of the interview, my brother Philip, who was Mum’s main and truly amazing carer, phoned me to say Mum was tired and not really up to it. “Rubbish” I said, “They’re all ready and waiting in the studio for us, we’re going.

We went and Mary was fantastic with Mum, who rose splendidly to the occasion. She loved it and afterwards said how much she’d enjoyed it and suggested we all go for lunch. We took her to The Olive in Saltaire, where they always made a fuss over her - Olive at The Olive.

Mum sadly, passed on December 13, 2018, just six hours before her 95th birthday. She was an amazing woman, strong and uncomplaining in her final years, despite severe pain, always with a smile.

She was a joy to be around and her lovely humour was never far away. She was cared for and loved by all, known as an Olive branch throughout her life and dearly loved and missed.

On the day mum passed, Sally put an announcement on the front page of the Telegraph & Argus, announcing this and shortly after she wrote a piece paying tributes to ‘Avro Girl Olive’...

Mum would have been really proud.