Former WRAF member on cloud nine thanks to Bovis Homes

06 April 2017

Rich Devine and Cecilia Collier

The redevelopment of the former RAF base at Upper Rissington by Bovis Homes has put Gloucester mum Cecilia Collier on cloud nine - after a chance conversation with her designer son.

Her son Rich Devine, a 3D Visualiser at Bovis Homes' Graphic Design Department mentioned to his mum how he was helping prepare a brochure for the Officers' Collection of new Bovis Homes at Upper Rissington, a former RAF base in the Cotswolds.

She then dropped the bombshell - that she was a respected member of the Women's Royal Air Force working at that very same air base nearly 50 years ago!

Cecilia, 69, of Churchdown Gloucestershire, was stationed at RAF Little Rissington for a year from 1967 - 1968 and knew the Officers' Mess , Building 42, the Medical Centre, and regularly popped into Building 41, Station Headquarters.

Now, 49 years on, Rich, 40, from Cheltenham, is using 3D computer graphics to show customers how each of those buildings will look after being redesigned and built into an array of one, two, three and four bedroom houses and apartments.

Rich said: "It was just a chance conversation.  I mentioned I was working on visuals for a new development at the old RAF base at Little Rissington and my mum's ears pricked up.  It then all came pouring out!

"I had no idea she was stationed there and it turns out she actually used many of the old RAF buildings we are now redeveloping. I am now working on 3D visuals of the HQ building where she picked up her pay each week and the Officers' Mess where she ran errands and did bar work at Officers' functions. It's quite amazing. I couldn't believe it."

When Bovis Homes heard of Rich's family connection they organised a VIP visit for Cecilia to the Victory Fields development and a guided tour of the Officers' Collection of former RAF buildings now under construction by specialist sub-contractors Speller Metcalfe.

Cecilia, a Senior Aircraftwoman specialising in Air Radar Mechanics, was one of just 20 WRAFs at the base. She was literally on cloud nine as she toured the site and recalled unofficially learning to fly Jet Provosts, socialising in the NAAFI cafe and watching films at the base's Astra cinema.

She remembered lining up outside the former HQ building each week and giving a smart salute followed by her name, rank and number to collect her pay. "It wasn't very much, but it was all pocket money as our accommodation and uniforms were free. Quite honestly, there was nothing much extra to buy in those days anyway!" 

Cecilia said: "This was the RAF's Central Flying School and there were planes taking off and landing here every day, it was a busy base. When I arrived my job was to remove any radar in the planes that were faulty and take them to 'second line' for repair. Soon after I was put on 'first line' duties which meant I was part of the team that would do all of the aircraft checks from the cockpit down, before take-off and after landing including marshalling in and re-fuelling.

Cecilia Collier Upper Rissington

"I was in my element and loved it here. It's fascinating to see it now. Some of the buildings have gone, but the control tower, the guard room and many others are still here and are being saved and converted into new housing by Bovis Homes.

"It's good to know the RAF's heritage is being maintained and the road names and local facilities reflect RAF life back in those days. It's already turning into a lovely development and I am so thrilled to have had this opportunity to go down memory lane and see this exciting transformation. It is breathing new life back into a redundant site which can only be a good thing."