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Admiral Zambellas presents a decanter to Peggy Caren

Yeovilton Tailoress for 50 years

Published: 05 Mar 2012

Peggy’s had Yeovilton sewn up for 50 years.

PEGGY Caren celebrated 50 years working as the tailoress at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton with a special presentation today by Commander in Chief Fleet Admiral George Zambellas DSC. 

Peggy started at Yeovilton in 1962 when she was 23, after learning her suit-making and tailoring skills at Parsons & Shutes Tailors of Yeovil. She had applied for the Yeovilton job after seeing the advert for a “High-class tailoress”, and she still has her original contract. The tailors’ shop was situated in one of the original World War Two green Nissan huts that have long since been demolished. Back in those days, the skies around Yeovilton were full of carrier-based Sea Vixen fast jets, on which Peggy’s husband Malcolm was serving, training for operations world-wide. 

Her first jobs were uniform alterations, stitching medal ribbons and sewing on badges.

 “I charged thrupence for a badge and I would take about five pounds a week” said Peggy. Her husband would often advise about where the badges should go. “Sailors’ uniforms were called monkey suits; there were no fly buttons or zips back then, you had a hell of job taking it off over their heads”. Few sailors had a chest full of medals when she started. Nowadays they could have three or four and some have as many as 10 or 12! 

It doesn’t matter if they are a sailor or an admiral, marine or general; everyone is treated alike, and the shop is packed with uniforms of every rank and service.

“We can be so busy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world”, Peggy said, looking across at her fellow tailoress Brenda Purchase, who’s put in 27 years herself. “We have a laugh and a joke with all the lads”. 

One of her regular customers is Admiral Zambellas, Commander in Chief Fleet. Others come from military bases across the South West, all seeking the service and charm of Peggy’s little shop. “Peggy is part of the Yeovilton family, everybody is thankful to her dedicated service”, Admiral Zambellas said. 

Peggy’s fondest and most rewarding time was during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, when she prepared all of RNAS Yeovilton’s uniforms and medals for a big parade at the Air Station. She and Brenda were rewarded with front row seats in the main stand, and they watched the parade with pride and joy knowing they’d sewn all the medal ribbons and badges. “It was a wonderful day which I’ll remember forever”, said Peggy. She remembers also the long hours it took to prepare the uniforms, when she and Brenda worked late into the night and took extra work home at the weekends. 

Any suggestion of taking it easy or retiring her needle and thread is dismissed straight away. Peggy said, “I love working here and I would like to carry on for as long as I can.”


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