Camborne woman meets Prince Charles during opening of new museum
A great-grandmother who helped save thousands of lives spying enemy aircraft during the Second World War was guest of honour at a new museum opened by HRH The Prince of Wales.
Prince Charles opened the new £9.5million Bentley Priory Museum, in Middlesex, which features sound recordings and images of Kate Orchard, 91, from Camborne.
Mrs Orchard was one of nine surviving plotters of the Womens' Army Corps who were tracked down by The Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust and invited to describe their war time experiences for the new museum.
Warrant officer, Mrs Orchard, who was 20 years old when she joined the corps in the port of Madras, was in command of the plotters including her two younger sisters at the time.
Buy one get one free on main course and specials excludes fillet steaks and beef Wellington
Must book to qualify 01209 860332 and present voucher on arrival
Mon- Thur 6-9pm
Contact: 01209 700617
Valid until: Saturday, December 21 2013
Life size bronze figures, costing £2,000 each, showcase their role within a replica top secret filter room at the museum.
They depict the women using coordinates and marking aircraft positions on a giant grid.
Mrs Orchard’s job was to track Japanese fighter planes threatening the Indian port and identify friendly aircraft.
She said she was “extremely proud” that their role has been recognised and that it was an honour to meet Prince Charles and the other veterans.
“Many plotters survived the London blitz and could hear the bombs dropping as they worked. We were all in our 20s. We were young and didn’t have any fear, we were just doing our job.
“The Bentley Priory will be a museum that will be a lasting memory to all of those who did the plotting during the war. It's now I realise what an important job we were doing. I feel very proud to think that I was part of it.”
Her war time recollections in India can now be heard in the museum featuring her photograph and a telephone for visitors to pick up and listen to her story.
She said: “My voice will now live on forever. My two sisters, who now live in Brisbane, sent their congratulations on the museum. I haven’t seen them for 25 years, I’m glad that our experiences have been captured especially for the young generation who need to know the important part plotters played in the war in keeping their country safe. If it wasn’t for us many people would have been bombed.”
Bentley Priory was home to Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding's Fighter Command and was command centre for the Battle of Britain. The rooms of the Grade II-listed mansion house are now open to the public for the first time in 80 years.
The royal couple were given a guided tour of the new museum, where they spoke to the veterans. The Prince and Duchess then joined veterans in the ballroom for a cup of tea.
Mrs Orchard said: “We shook hands and he asked me what I did, I explained that I had worked as a plotter in Madras and Camilla said that they were going off to Sri Lanka.”
To end the day a Hurricane and Spitfire flew above the museum. The following day Mrs Orchard, accompanied by her son Ben, was invited to Westminster Abbey for the re-dedication of the Battle of Britain.