We have been informed by family of WAAF veteran Vera Organ that Vera has passed away. Vera is pictured above when she visited the Museum in 2015 for an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Fighter Control Association.
Vera Organ joined the WAAF in 1941 when she was just 21 years old. Vera was posted to RAF Bentley Priory early on in her WAAF career and spent 8 months working as a Plotter in the Filter Room.
Vera later moved to Rudloe Manor where she worked as a Teller. This was particularly busy work as they were plotting shipping as well as aircraft and she was working there during events in the war, including the D-Day landings.
When interviewed about her time at RAF Bentley Priory, Vera recalls that they would only be allowed in to the mansion house when they were “on a charge”, in other words reprimanded. This means that Vera did not enter the house until 2013, when she was invited here as a Veteran.
Vera is pictured below, standing to the right of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, at the opening of Bentley Priory Museum in September 2013, also attended by HRH Prince Charles and WAAF veterans.
We have been informed by The Association of RAF Fighter Control Officers that veteran Joan Fanshawe passed away at the end of December whilst visiting family in New Zealand. Joan is pictured above with Group Captain Tim Willbond and Chief of the Air Staff, ACM Sir Stephen Hillier at event at Bentley Priory Museum in April 2017.
Joan Fanshawe was a Clerk Special Duties and was one of the first WAAF personnel to be employed on duties in the Dowding System. Her first tour was at HQ 11 Group where she was employed as an Operations Room plotter from July 1940 to January 1942; this period covered both the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. Joan was on duty on the morning of the 15th September 1940 and witnessed Churchill’s visit on that momentous day.
In January 1942 she was commissioned as an Assistant Section Officer. On D-day she was serving at the Sector Operations Centre at Tangmere from where squadrons were controlled until they crossed the French coast.
Joan is pictured below, on the right-hand side, with TRH Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall and fellow WAAF veterans at the opening of Bentley Priory Museum in September 2013.
The family of former WAAF Elisabeth Stewart (nee Brewster) have informed us that Elisabeth sadly passed away at the end of 2017.
Elisabeth joined the WAAF in 1940 when she was just 18 years old and was posted to RAF Bentley Priory early on in her career. Whilst based at RAF Bentley Priory, Elisabeth worked as an Operations Room Plotter. She remembered that they were often joined by senior officers watching them from the balcony above and on occasion, Winston Churchill would also be observing.
In December 1944, Elisabeth was the first to hear the message that Glenn Miller’s plane had gone missing. Just four months earlier Glenn Miller and his band had played at RAF Bentley Priory.
Later, Elisabeth was commisioned as a Codes and Cipher Officer and was posted to the Orkneys. There she met her future husband who was serving in the army. Their daughter went on to join the WRAF.
When sharing memories of her time in the WAAF with us, Elisabeth noted that there was “a great sense of community and belonging”.
We have been informed by the family of Joan Arundel (nee Grogono) that Joan sadly passed away earlier this year, aged 100.
Joan joined the WAAF at the very beginning of the war and learnt much of what she was doing on the job, whilst based at RAF Bentley Priory. It was all such a new venture when she first started that initially she didn’t even have a uniform – she wore her own clothes and an armband she was given with “WAAF” written on it.
Joan features as one of the bronze models in our Filter Room gallery, where started as a plotter, then moved to teller, then Corporal in a matter of weeks. She did almost every job there was in the Filter Room.
We have been informed by the family of Georgie Pearce (Caudwell) that Georgie sadly passed away on 11th October 2017.
Her family have said, “Georgie really valued having the opportunity to contribute her stories to the museum development, and felt it would be helpful for you to know that at the great age of 98 she has used her wings for a different flight”.
Georgie is pictured here, third from the left, with TRH Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall and fellow WAAF veterans at the opening of Bentley Priory Museum in September 2013.
Nigel Rose joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in December 1938. Upon the outbreak of war in September 1939, he was drafted into full time pilot training.
After completing training in June 1940, he joined 602 squadron at Drem, flying Spitfires. He and his squadron were engaged in combat from August 1940. He was wounded a month later, putting him out of action for a month before returning to duty.
Later in the wat he was posted across the UK and then to the Middle East in 1944. He was released from the RAF in February 1946.
After the war he continued his training to be a Chartered Quantity Surveyor in June 1948, which he had started before joining up.
Rose was a regular supporter of the Museum and very pleased that the aspirations of the Few were met when the museum opened. He is pictured below (back row, far right behind chair) at a dinner at Bentley Priory in 2012, joined by other Battle of Britain veterans.
Ken Wilkinson joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in March 1939, aged 20 and was called up on the outbreak of World War II.
During the Battle of Britain, Ken flew Spitfires with 616 Squadron, later moving to 19 Squadron in October 1940. Ken continued to serve in the RAF until 1945, followed by a further two years in the RAFVR.
Later in life, Ken became a Quantity Surveyor and one of his projects was Birmingham’s New Street Station.
Ken was a keen supporter of the Museum. He is pictured below (back row, second on the left) at a dinner at Bentley Priory in 2012, joined by other Battle of Britain veterans.
In September 2013, Ken was also a guest of honour at the Royal opening of the Museum. He joined fellow RAF and WAAF veterans at a reception with the Battle of Britain Trust’s patron, Prince Charles, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Patricia Clark (nee Robins) joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) aged 19 in 1940. She was selected for Clerk Special Duties and trained as a Plotter/Teller. She was posted at both RAF Rudloe Manor, Headquarters No. 10 Group and later RAF Watnall, Headquarters No. 12 Group.
Later on in the war, Patricia was posted to Stanmore, where they were tracking incoming V2 bomb attacks on London.
Following the war, Patricia followed in the footsteps of her mother, the romantic novelist Denise Robins, and became a novelist herself, under the pen name “Claire Lorrimer”. She wrote over 80 novels, but also wrote her autobiography, “You Never Know” which includes her life in the WAAF.
Patricia was very supportive of Bentley Priory Museum and was a guest of honour at the opening of the Museum in September 2013 where she was able to show Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, a new bronze statue of her wartime self and others in a replica Filter Room.
At the age of 19, Eileen Younghusband (nee Le Croissette) volunteered for service with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She was trained as a Filterer Officer, sent initially to 10 Group and later transferred to Headquarters Fighter Command at RAF Bentley Priory. As required at the time, Eileen signed the Official Secrets Act and did not speak of her wartime work for 30 years.
Eileen became an incredible advocate for her generation, highlighting the remarkable contribution of ‘ordinary’ men and women who worked within The Dowding System. Eileen’s book ‘One Woman’s War’ gives an invaluable insight into the work that was undertaken, and in 2016 a revised version was written and published for children – to engage younger generations with this important history.
Eileen was also a vocal supporter of Bentley Priory Museum, and supported its creation in 2013 – particularly the recreation of The Filter Room. A bronze cast model of Eileen stands proudly in this gallery within the Museum. Her story and contribution will not be forgotten.
Flight Lieutenant Owen Valentine Burns was a air gunner on Bristol Blenheims during the Britain of Britain.
Born in 1915, Burns volunteered for the RAF at the beginning of October 1939. He became an air gunner and in May 1940 was posted to 235 Squadron at Bircham Newton in Norfolk, which was part of Coastal Command and was equipped with Bristol Blenheims.
235 Squadron was assigned to Fighter Command to replace losses during the Battle for France. Burns flew with 235 Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain, either from the Squadron’s base or on detachment at St Eval in Cornwall or Thorney Island near Portsmouth.
Because the Bristol Blenheim lacked the speed of single-engined fighters, Squadron duties were mainly aerodrome protection and fighter escort to aircraft crossing the Channel.
Returning from a dusk patrol over the North Sea on 14 February 1941, Burns was caught in an enemy raid. The aircraft crashed on landing as the flare path had been extinguished. The navigator was killed and the pilot spent a year in hospital, but he escaped with a broken collar bone.
He was later with 279 Squadron, and was commissioned in 1943. In January 1945 he was appointed Gunnery Officer for 19 Group, Plymouth and a month later he became PA to AOC, AVM CBS Spackman. Burns left the RAF in 1949.
Owen Burns was a great supporter of the creation of the Museum at Bentley Priory.
The photograph shows Burns with fellow Battle of Britain Veteran William Walker at Bentley Priory, during the restoration works.