The 97-year-old, who lives in Northam, was given the Queen’s nurse award in 1945.

The ever first person to be awarded as a Queen’s nurse has been reminiscing over her long and eventful career.

Berenice Pridham, who lives at Cheverells Care Home in Northam, was given the Queen’s nurse award in 1945.

Mrs Pridham contacted the Gazette to tell her story after reading about a recent Queen’s nurse recipient from Bideford.

The 97-year-old had to have a three hour examination before being awarded with her badge, which she wore on her cap, at the age of 22.

Mrs Pridham worked at Jarvis Nursing Hospital in Guildford at the time, and at Birmingham General Hospital during the war.

In 1954 she travelled to Africa with a family who were looking for a lady to go on a world trip with them to cope with hygeine, immunisation and nursing duties.

But the family ran off and Mrs Pridham was stranded in Morroco – something which led her to appear on the front page of the newspapers.

She was rescued by two men in uniform from an American Aerodrome, who had read about her plight.

They took her to their base to help a young pilot who had fallen ill, and after that Mrs Pridham ended up spending a decade in Africa nursing.

Mrs Pridham said: “I dealt with a leprosy colony, which was absolutely horrendous.

“But I did have some fantastic times. I got very close to lions and have driven across deserts.”

Mrs Pridham retired from nursing in the 1970s, when she went on to become a health visitor.

She married her childhood sweetheart, Arthur Pridham, when she was 55, on October 7, 1972, and they had 10 happy years together before Arthur passed away.

“I knew him when I was 13 and he always told me, ‘I’m going to marry you’,” said Mrs Pridham.

“I’ve been very happy in my life and what I’ve achieved, and being the first Queen’s nurse has meant an awful lot to me.

“I’ve worked very hard; I’ve nursed a lot of people and they’ve recovered and that is the best thing for me.”

Click here to return to our homepage for more North Devon news.