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Former journalist turned defence volunteer dies aged 91

A former journalist who spent every Wednesday night in an underground bunker for two decades as part of the UK’s plans to deal with a nuclear attack has died aged 91.

Marie Thomas joined The Herald, Glasgow as a trainee journalist before the Second World War at a time when there were very few women in journalism.

Decades later, she joined the Royal Observer Corps, a group of civilian volunteers who took part in weekly training exercises on how to respond to a potential nuclear attack by Russia.

Each Wednesday evening between the mid-70s and early 90s, she would put on battle dress and join her crew in an underground bunker, plotting the likely location of nuclear bursts and the resulting radioactive fallout.

Marie Thomas in her wartime WRNS uniform

Marie Thomas in her wartime WRNS uniform

Born Marie Douglas in Kilmarnock in 1925, she became a journalist after a brief spell in secretarial work, working on the Herald’s women’s page and producing wartime recipes.

Towards the end of the war she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service – the ‘Wrens’ – as a volunteer based in Ayrshire, where she met her future husband Vivian, an RAF pilot.

In 1946 she joined the Ayrshire Post, becoming a senior reporter in 1949 at what was then the top union rate of £7 a week.

However after marrying, she gave up her career to be a housewife and moved to Swansea with her husband, although they returned to Scotland in the 1960s.

Marie is survived by five sons and four grandchildren.