AN Army major who lost her leg and trekked across Antarctica with Prince Harry has spoken of her shock after it emerged her former school was to close.
Former St Mary’s School pupil, previously known as St Mary’s Convent, Kate Philp, of Knightwick, near Worcester, said the reason she joined the army to fight the war in Afghanistan, where she lost the bottom half of her left leg, was the experience and education she got at the school.
But, she said because of the school other ex-attendees, parents and staff had also gained the same way of thinking and attitude as her, and were using it to fight the war against closure.
“I was shocked and saddened to hear that St Mary’s faces closure but not at all surprised that there has been such a rallying of the troops by those determined not to be defeated,” she said.
“Old girls, staff and parents of current pupils have, in a short space of time, garnered huge support and are exploring all of the options in a bid to keep the school alive. This steadfast loyalty is one of the key traits that St Mary’s developed in me and one which has been pivotal in my choice of career – serving in the army demands loyalty to my troops and to my country; wearing my army uniform makes me as proud as I was to wear my school uniform.
“St Mary’s furnished me with the academic and life skills I needed to graduate from Oxford and become a confident female leader in a male-dominated workplace.”
Major Philp, aged 36, was the first woman to become an amputee while on the front line in Afghanistan in 2008 when the armoured vehicle she was commanding was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
She had to have her left leg amputated just below her knee, but despite this, she went on to take part in Virgin Money’s The South Pole Allied Challenge 2013 and walked with others who had been wounded in the line of duty alongside Prince Harry.
The servicewoman is now the latest person to join the rallying Parents Action Group that is trying to raise the money to stop the Battenhall school from closing.
“My memories of school are of a caring, supportive environment that gives every girl the belief and ability to achieve whatever she puts her mind to,” she added.
“It would be nothing short of tragic to see 80 years of excellence and the last independent girls school in Worcester disappear.
“I appeal to anyone who can offer us financial support to help us save St Mary’s and give future generations of Worcestershire girls the opportunity to enjoy the success and happiness that I and so many others have achieved.”
The group need to either raise £700,000 by the end of August, when the school is due to close, to pay off the school’s debt or submit a business plan which would make it possible to run the school and pay this amount over time.