Home front heroine turns 100
published on 19 May 2015
Brigadier Janet Fraser, born on 17 May 1915, moved to Arbroath with her parents when she was 5 years old. She commenced her birthday celebrations on Sunday at her home at Kendale Hall where she was presented with her birthday card from the Queen by Georgiana Osborne, Lord Lieutenant of Angus, and Councillor Helen Oswald, Provost for Angus. The party continued at Arbroath Salvation Army on Marketgate where they held a special service of thanksgiving for Janet. Divisional Commander Major Brian Slinn travelled to Arbroath to lead the service.
Janet has fond memories of her childhood home in Arbroath: “Our home was an old cottage with no running water and an outside toilet. No wall-to-wall carpets but wall-to-wall love.”
Her father taught her to play the accordion and as a member of The Salvation Army accordion band Janet would march down the streets of 1920s Arbroath.
“I thank God for the great privilege which has been mine of serving Him in The Salvation Army,” said Janet.
Centenarians seem to run in the family as Janet’s mother also reached 100 years old. Like Janet, her mother was a dedicated Salvationist and was awarded a British Empire Medal for her Christian service to the local community in Arbroath. Clearly there must be something in the water in Arbroath!
Janet is a much loved member of Arbroath Salvation Army. Church leader Territorial Envoy Roy Dainty said: “We are so excited to be celebrating Brigadier Janet’s 100th birthday, she’s brilliant. She continues to inspire and encourage the local community and church here in Arbroath. We’re very proud of all she has achieved throughout her long and varied ministry within The Salvation Army.”
Janet trained to become a Salvation Army officer (minister) at the age of 20. Her first appointment was to The Salvation Army’s Strawberry Field Children’s Home in Liverpool, the centre which was made famous by the Beatles. In 1939 Janet was appointed to a Salvation Army home for older people in London where she worked during the Blitz.
Anxious to look after the elderly residents during air raids Janet recalls going to bed fully dressed ‘just in case.’ While waiting for the bombing to finish Janet would provide entertainment in the shelters playing her concertina, leading singing and handing out food and drink.
“The ladies put their teeth in dishes at night,” Janet explains, “so when we took them down to the shelter one lady said ‘I could eat my bread if I had some teeth!’ So I dashed upstairs and grabbed what I thought might be her teeth. Anyway, they seemed to fit and all was well.”
“During one air raid,” Janet continues, “a blast sent a large plate of glass window out on top of me which landed me on the floor. I said to myself ‘I am dead’ while lying there but realised I was very much alive and so went on my way to see the old folk.”
After the war Janet was sent to a Salvation Army children’s home in Southport for children from bomb-blitzed cities. Later appointments included working with people experiencing homelessness in Salvation Army hostels in Glasgow, as well serving as a prison chaplain.
This year marks 150 years of The Salvation Army. Working in 126 countries worldwide, The Salvation Army is an international Christian church and registered charity offering friendship, practical help and support for people at all levels of need.