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Obituary: MARGARET GROZIER PAWLEY

by
28 March 2014

War and peace: Margaret Pawley in retirement; and in FANY uniform

War and peace: Margaret Pawley in retirement; and in FANY uniform

MARGARET PAWLEY, who died on 28 February, aged 91, saw active service with the SOE during the Second World War; accompanied her husband to Rome when he was the Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative to the Holy See during the Second Vatican Council; and became a prolific author in her widowhood.

Born Margaret Herbertson in 1922, Mrs Pawley spent her early childhood in Koblenz, Germany, where her father had been posted with the Control Commission after the First World War, and attended school in England. After war broke out in 1939, she went to work as a secretary at the New Zealand Air Force Headquarters, but in 1943, after it had become known that she spoke German fluently, she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and was sent to join the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) - whose wartime headquarters were at the vicarage of St Paul's, Wilton Place, in London. There she learned the nature of SOE's clandestine work with resistance movements in occupied Europe, before being trained as an intelligence officer and sent on active service to Egypt and, later, Italy.

Conditions on SOE missions ranged from uncomfortable to life-threatening, a fact amply illustrated in her 1999 book, In Obedience to Instructions. The names of those who did not return appear on the FANY memorial at St Paul's, Wilton Place.

After the war, Mrs Pawley won a place at St Anne's College, Oxford - an institution to which she was to remain devoted - to read modern history. She had led courses of study for her messmates in Siena while they waited for demobilisation, and after graduation she worked in adult education, first in London, and then in Malaya and Cambridge.

It was at a fancy-dress dinner party at Cambridge that she metthe Revd Bernard Pawley, soon to become a Canon of Ely Cathedral, and 11 years her senior. They were married in 1958, the year of Pope John XXIII's election, and when,in 1961, the former Cardinal Roncalli announced his intention to call an Ecumenical Council, Archbishop Fisher appointed Bernard Pawley his Representative to the Holy See, and sent him to Rome as an official observer to the Second Vatican Council.

At Rome, the Pawleys, with their two small children, lived in a modest apartment belonging to the American Church, St Paul's, on the Via Napoli, where the kitchen doubled up as the bathroom, and the table was the top of the fridge. Nevertheless, Mrs Pawley managed to cater for weekly dinner parties for bishops attending the Council, diplomats, journalists, and the other ecumenical observers.

As the wife of a clergyman attending the Council, she was something of a Roman anomaly. Once, before the Pawleys' arrival at a dinner party, their hostess warned the Italian maid that they had an Anglican priest coming to dinner with his wife. "They have a little girl," she added. "Plenty of our priests have little girls too," the maid responded wryly, "and they're not married."

The Pawleys' other friends in Rome were many. Perhaps most significant, however, was their friendship with Princess Orietta Doria Pamphilij, as it was this connection that led to the establishment of the Anglican Centre in the historic Palazzo Doria Pamphilij in 1966.

When Pawley was succeeded as Archbishop's Representative in 1965 by John Findlow, the family returned to England. After a spellas a Canon of St Paul's, Bernard Pawley became Archdeacon ofCanterbury in 1972, and in 1974 he and his wife published their history of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, Rome and Canterbury through Four Centuries. A revised second edition appeared in 1981, theyear of Archdeacon Pawley's death.

In widowhood, Margaret Pawley flourished as a writer and a teacher. She taught for the Open University, led pilgrimages to Bec, and visited former FANY servicewomen at home and abroad. She published books on historical and ecclesiastical subjects, and kept up with a world-wide circle of friends. Archbishop Carey awarded her the Cross of St Augustine in 1994. In recent years, she reviewed books for the Church Times.

Margaret Pawley's SOE training was never far away. Returning to England from Italy in 1996, at the age of 74, she found herself on the wrong train as it pulled out of Florence station. Realising that she would miss her flight home from Pisa if she stayed where she was, she opened the carriage door and threw her bags out. As the train picked up speed, she followed them, callingto mind the SOE instructions relating to the leaving of moving trains: "Keep your knees togetheras you jump." A younger person might well have been killed:Mrs Pawley picked herself up, dusted herself down, boarded the right train, and caught her flight at Pisa.

She is survived by her children, Felicity and Matthew, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, whose birth in 2013 delighted her.

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