RAF Defford a wartime romance
The Mosquito night fighter, equipped with radar tested and proven at RAF Defford, was one the deadliest weapons in the armoury of the RAF. For its true effectiveness it depended on the very close working relationship of the crew of two, pilot and navigator packed tight together in the cramped cockpit of the Mosquito. The two crew members tended to become trusted friends, staying together on and off duty.
So it was with the pilot Flight Lieutenant George Hogarth and his regular navigator, Flight Lieutenant Norman Underdown, when they flew operationally over north-west Europe with 25 squadron.
At the end of their tour of operational duty, both were posted to Defford, where they teamed up again to apply their experience to the testing of radar developments for the Mosquito and other aircraft.
At Defford, Norman met Rachel Eastment, the daughter of the Croome Estate subagent, who lived at High Green. Norman and Rachel were marred at the church of St Mary Magdalen in Croom Park, in February 1944. Norman’s best man was his pilot, George Hogarth. Rachel’s bridesmaid was her best friend Leading Wren Wendy Jones, one of the small elite group of Wren radar specialists with the Royal Navy section at RAF Defford.
Wendy and George had not met before the wedding of Rachel and Norman. But in the best traditions of rom-com films, they fell in love and were married six months later, by which time Wendy had been promoted to the rank of Petty Officer.
Being a wartime service wedding, Wendy and George were married in uniform. The very uniforms in which they married, together with photographs of the two weddings, are on display in the RAF Defford Museum as part of the exhibition ‘Women of RAF Defford – Heroines of Croome at War’. The complete uniforms are on loan to the Museum from Wendy Hogarth, who has lovingly preserved them.