Former RAF Coltishall steward who was on the base during the Second World War revisits historic site
- Credit: Archant
She has supported brave Second World War fighter pilots and witnessed the despair of comrades after servicemen were killed in action.
And these poignant memories of the conflict were stirred up for a former RAF Coltishall steward who visited the historic base yesterday.
Joan Osborne-Walker, 92, from Hingham, who joined the RAF aged 18, worked in the officers' mess from March 1941 to November 1943.
She is now the oldest member of the 110-strong Spirit of Coltishall Association and was given a tour of the base, including the runway and officers' mess, by the group and staff from Norfolk County Council which owns the site.
Miss Osborne-Walker started at the base aged 19 and officers she worked alongside included Wing Cdr Roland Robert Stanford Tuck, Group Capt John 'Cat's Eyes' Cunningham, Wing Cdr Percy 'Laddie' Lucas, Colin Hodgkinson who was a legless fighter pilot, and Wing Cdr Howard 'Cowboy' Blatchford, all of whom were decorated airmen.
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She said: 'It was very busy. There were crowds of rumbustious young men that were good fun. There were sad days when some went away on missions but didn't come back.'
Her rank was LACW1 and duties included serving up breakfast and dinners; washing up; and checking which officers turned up for meals.
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She looked after Women's Auxiliary Air Force and RAF officers.
Dances and dinners were held at the officers' mess and Miss Osborne-Walker remembered looking after officers who had drunk too much.
She said: 'When people didn't come back from missions everybody was down. I remember when Wing Cdr Blatchford died on May 3 1943. There was a call over a loudspeaker one lunchtime to go on the intercept of German fighters. He and another fellow rushed off and he did not come back. I remember a hush over the place.'
Miss Osborne-Walker added: 'It was a very moving time. I was sad to leave RAF Coltishall.'
She said it was wonderful to return to the base and could visualise how the officers' mess used to be.
'It is very important to remember this era. These lads gave their lives and were a great lot.'
The 92-year-old, originally from Bedford, was always interested in aircraft and after leaving RAF Coltishall she worked at RAF Carew Cheriton in Wales between 1943-45, before being demobbed.
She then worked as a secretary for the Aeroplane Spotter magazine in London, as one of her many jobs, and moved to Hingham in 1981 after retiring.
RAF Coltishall closed in 2006 and was bought by the county council in 2013 for £4m.
The authority has put in an application to turn the officers' mess into housing.
Do you have interesting memories of RAF Coltishall? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.