AUTHOR James Skinner,who has written many books about Uxbridge and West Drayton, had a fascinating meeting with a reader who wrote to the Gazette following the publication of a Memory Lane story about the World War Two operations room at RAF Uxbridge. ALEXANDER CLARE finds out more.
LAST year, a letter in the Gazette from Pamela Holden of Grantham came to the attention of local historian James Skinner, who was researching his book Growing Up In Wartime Uxbridge.
After Mr Skinner contacted Mrs Holden, 87, she agreed to visit him at his home in Hunstanton, Norfolk, and what emerged was a fascinating trove of memories of her time as a civil servant attached to Number 11 Group of Fighter Command, Uxbridge.
Mrs Holden was four-year-old Pamela Foster when she first moved to Cowley, to live in Chiltern View Road with her family.
She attended what was then Whitehall Elementary School, now Whitehall Infant and Junior School, in Cowley Road, where she was scolded by her teacher for writing left handed, and later attended Uxbridge College in Park Road, where she learned shorthand and typing.
In 1938 the family moved to The Greenway, and Mrs Holden started her first job at Hillingdon House on the RAF camp just a stone's throw away in Hillingdon Road, working for Bomber Command.
She spent her war years in a hut next to the bunker, which she always called 'The Hole', and recalls the time Winston Churchill, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth paid a visit.
Defying orders to stay away from the windows when VIPs were there, Mrs Holden saw how the Duke of Kent 'looked very striking in his RAF uniform'.
She also recalls meeting the secret agent Yvonne Baseden, who worked for the Special Operations Executive, and being confronted with Squadron Leader Douglas Bader's tin legs.
These had been left in the corner of an office, and were due to be air dropped to Mr Bader, detained in a German prisoner of war camp.
His original tin legs had been damaged when he was shot down.
He had learned to walk on them in Uxbridge, at the RAF hospital before the war.
In the hut, some of Mrs Holden's fellow workers included Lord Willoughby De Broke, senior operations room controller at the Battle of Britain's climax in September 1940, and Lewis Gilbert, who later directed the films Reach For The Sky - about the life of Douglas Bader - and also Alfie and The Spy Who Loved Me.
In April, 1944, Mrs Holden was posted to RAF Quedgeley, Gloucestershire, and on the Whitsun Bank Holiday of that year she visited her parents in Uxbridge. It was the last time she saw them.
At 7.10am on June 22, a V1 rocket demolished number 9, The Greenway and three other houses. The blast killed Mrs Holden's parents and five other residents. Among the ruins lay the young Pamela's 21st birthday present, a Concise Oxford Dictionary. She uses it to this day.
Postings to the RAF records office in Ruislip and the US Air Force bases at South Ruislip and Burtonwood, Lancashire, followed, and Mrs Holden ended her career at what was then an office of the Air Ministry, in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
She raised a family and, now widowed, leads an active life and enjoys travel.
Recently she went to Tuscon, Arizona, where she was reunited with former colleagues from the Burton-wood USAAF base.