5th Dec, 2016

Veil of secrecy lifted to reveal heroines of war

Aaron Wise 31st Jan, 2016 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

A NEW exhibition at Croome has brought the ‘forgotten heroines’ of the Second World War back into the spotlight.

The women of the wartime airbase of RAF Defford feature in the new National Trust exhibition, currently on display at the historic venue near Pershore, to highlight the vital role they played helping their country during the war.

Croome’s visitor centre was once part of a top secret wartime airbase, where the base’s technical activities were cloaked in secrecy – until now.

The airfield, with buildings in the parkland of Croome, was the centre of the British development of airborne radars. They were tested, developed and proven by flying trials, during the Second World War at the airbase and after.

The outcome was a series of remarkable achievements which played a crucial role in victory for the Allies in the war, and the defence of the West in the Cold War which followed.

By 1945, there were more than 2,500 people at RAF Defford and of these, up to 600 were women. They played a vital role in the fight to stay ahead of the enemy, often in dangerous and demanding circumstances.

The women included WAAFs, Wrens, distinguished female scientists who flew on radar trials, technicians and other female civilians in essential roles.

WAAF Wilson was posted to RAF Defford in 1943 to become the secretary to the senior medical officer, based in the building which now houses the National Trust visitor centre. During her time there, she was given a screened-off bed in the Airmens’ Ward to complete her work – where her picture now proudly hangs.

Pamela Walker, who unveiled the newly hung picture of her late sister, Doreen Boller (formally WAAF Wilson) said: “We never knew what Doreen did here at RAF Defford at the time and she would only say when she came home, ‘everything’s fine’ or ‘it’s a bit harrowing at the moment’.

“Only when she was in her seventies did she elaborate a little and I was so upset, but proud, to hear of the things she experienced in the sick quarters and morgue when young men were brought in from plane crashes.

“She had to deal with all of their belongings and send them to their poor families, and she took notes during their post mortems which must have been dreadful for her. This exhibition is such an important part of sharing the role women played in the war, which I hope is never forgotten.”

The exhibition is open every day from 11am to 4pm, and a lecture titled ‘Women of RAF Defford – Heroines of Croome at War’ will take place on Monday (February 1), from 5pm to 6pm.

Tickets cost £15 per person.

Call Croome on 01905 371006 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk for more information.