Please see my 'Contact' page re email address.

A beautiful life in beautiful pictures

Her greatest gift is love

The last three photos show her aged 55, 74 & 80.
"My seconday school friends thought she was my big sister."

During World War II, Frances Huntly Ricketts worked in the Land Army, then in an office at Vauxhall Motors in Luton, Beds. One day, whilst working at Vauxhall, the air raid siren went off and she ran with her bicycle towards the air raid shelter; a German plane flew over and machine-gunned the girls as they ran. After the raid was over she noticed that one of the bullets had gone straight through her cycle frame, but completely missed her - she was just a girl about 20 years old. She became a St. John's Ambulance volunteer nurse.

She married Richard Bruce Drakes, whom she met at Vauxhall. After a few years, he left her and their two sons, eventually without any financial support, and started another family. She had to find work, and took a post as assistant cook at the Electrolux Factory in Leagrave, Beds., so that she could be at home with the boys during school holidays.

As soon as her sons were old enough, she trained as a State Enrolled Nurse at St. Mary's Hospital, Luton, Beds.; she was 'Nurse of the Year' there during her training. Then she became a State Registered Nurse, Staff Nurse, and eventually a Senior Sister at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital, alongside the then new M1 Motorway in Bedfordshire. She felt that she was being pushed towards becoming a Sister Tutor and thus away from direct nursing, which she loved.

When plans were in hand to take International Flights out of Luton Airport, she applied for a post in the new Port Health to be formed there. She was appointed as the Sister-in-Charge of the new unit, with four nursing Sisters under her, a budget, some empty rooms in the airport, and instructions to create a Port Health Department.

About 1968, she arrived the same day as Margaret Thatcher, who was then the Shadow Minister of Transport, to see the first International jet land at Luton. The airline then operating there was Court Line; later Monarch Airlines became the main airline there.

Over the coming months she bought all the equipment and furniture, instructed the staff, liaised with the Luton Airport & local Fire Brigades, the local Ambulance Service, the various airline staff, the Airport Director, and anyone else who might become involved in a medical incident on a plane or in the Airport complex. She laid down procedures for just about every medical emergency and minor incident and gave lessons to the relevant staff.

She arranged First Aid Training for all relevant airport staff, and set out procedures for recovering ill or injured passengers and crew from planes.

She made arrangements for regular information on medical requirements for countries around the world, and set up a system for inoculating passengers travelling to countries with current health warnings, and undertook numerous other necessary tasks.

She really enjoyed her time at the L&D Hospital and Luton Airport, until her retirement about 1986. A copy of her Biography of her days at Luton Airport is available for those who are interested at Luton Archives.

Her love of nursing had always been second only to her love for her two boys, whom she brought up on her own without help from anyone. All our school mates, especially those who had 'Nora Batty' Mums, thought she was our older sister. She was gorgeous and turned many heads as she walked by; she kept her figure for the rest of her life, always looking more like our sister that our Mum.

She sadly lost her elder son, my brother Rick aged 47, after an accident at work in 1991; she never recovered from the loss - no parent should see the death of a child, no matter how old.

At 76 years old she finally gave up doing 'Meals on Wheels' to the elderly in their 60s! But was still a voluntary worker at a local charitable respite-care home. She was Church Warden at her church when she died aged 81 in 2001, and had been due to cover a funeral at her church on the day she died. She was happy and active to the end.

I always wanted her to burn bright to the end and suddenly 'go out' just like a candle, which she did. She would have hated being dependent on anyone, and especially being a burden on her family.

She was, and still is, our 'hero'.

Her greatest gift is love.

Thinking about you and missing you all the time, XXX

"She is my life-time hero." Chris Drakes

Her Mum & Dad


Edwin John Ricketts (1888-1974) & Gertrude Elizabeth Huntly (1892-1974), my very dear maternal grandparents - how I miss them both.

                                                                                                                       Photos taken by Chris Drakes c1969

Edwin John Ricketts (1888-1974) & Gertrude Elizabeth Huntly (1892-1974)

                                                                                           Photo taken by Chris Drakes on 31.3.2012

Gertrude Elizabeth Huntly (1892-1974) attended Notre Dame Girls School, St. Georges Road, Kennington, London.

                                                                                          Photo taken by Chris Drakes on 31.3.2012

Her family attended St.George's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Kennington, where some were married.

                                                                                         Photos taken by Chris Drakes on 31.3.2012

St.George's has a beautiful sculptured shrine dedicated to St. Francesca Cabrini, the Patron Saint of Immigrants.
If only we could all remember that our own ancestors were once immigrants to these islands.

                                                                                           Photo taken by Chris Drakes on 23.3.2012

Their first rented home together from 1918 at 1, Rochester Terrace, St. Pancras, London NW.
It was the semi-detached house on the corner, with the front door at the side.

                                                                                           Photo taken by Chris Drakes on 23.3.2012

The communal gardens between their 1918 home and Rochester Road - see above.

Gertrude Elizabeth Huntly & Edwin John Ricketts with their first child, Edna, about 1917/8 during World War I.
He was almost 26 years old at the start of the War.

His Army Medical Service 'Red Cross' armband from WWI - front and back.

                                                                                           Photo taken by Chris Drakes on 23.3.2012

Their second rented home together from 1920 at 10, North Villas, Camden Square, Camden Town, London NW.
It was the house on the right behind the hedge, which was the middle of a small terrace of three houses.

                                                                                           Photo taken by Chris Drakes on 23.3.2012

The communal gardens in nearby Camden Square, where their young children used to play from 1920.
North Villas is a short street at the north west corner of Camden Square, Camden Town, London NW.

Corporal Edwin John Ricketts, RAF Medical Service; during WWII; he was 51 years old at the start of the War.


He served in the RAF Medical Service during WWII - obverse & reverse of his war medals.

Edwin John Ricketts with helmet and gas mask by an air-raid shelter at RAF Uxbridge during World War II.


Edwin John Ricketts by a sandbag-covered shelter, and in the laboratory, at RAF Uxbridge in 1940 during World War II.

Edwin John Ricketts and Gertrude Elizabeth Huntly with his father William James Ricketts (1865-1944),
probably at Weymouth, Dorset during the 1930s, before the outbreak of WWII.