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This article is part of the Celebration of Bishopsteignton Women poster series in honour of International Women’s Day 2022! To find out more about this project, visit the project homepage.

Mary was born in 1922 in Buckfastleigh, Devon, and spent her childhood there. By the age of 20, while Mary was working for an accountant in Totnes, she was called up and joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Mary was posted to RAF Coastal Command St Eval, Cornwall, where they provided anti-submarine and anti-shipping patrols off the South West coast. There she was secretary for Squadron Leader Shackleton, son of the explorer Ernest Shackleton.[1]

Mary was then posted to the Air Ministry in the War Office in Whitehall. She worked as a typist for the Cabinet Cipher Office, which dealt with secret messages. This often involved typing up letters from Commander Lord Mountbatten, including letters to the King.[2]

Mary met her husband Richard Leonard Overill, at a dance during the war. When he went back to his ship, they wrote letters to each other. They were married in 1945 in Buckfastleigh church. After the war Mary followed Richard to Scotland, where he was posted for demob work, organising the pay for navy personnel. They lived in Scotland for about a year, then moved to Devon, finally settling in Barnstable. Here they ran a china and glass shop, then moving to Newton Abbot, expanded the business with a second shop. The couple had two daughters, Diane and Linda. Richard died in 2006.[3] Mary moved to Bishopsteignton in2009 where she still lives in Fore Street, near her daughter Diane. Mary has been an active member of the community, joining many of the clubs and groups the village has to offer, including being a long-term member of the flower group and WI. Mary celebrated her 100th birthday in March 2022!
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1 Yvonne Hellin-Hobbs, ‘Countdown to VE Day – 4 days to go – Women at War’, Bishopsteignton Heritage, (May 2020),

2 ‘Mary Overill’, LegaseeVideo Archive,

3 Mary Overill in conversation with Natalia Urry-Mackay, (11 February 2022)