Gidea Park woman’s moving tale of wartime friendship and tragedy

An Australian author is searching for a Gidea Park woman whose sad wartime letters tell of a friendship with two RAF pilots that was cut cruelly short.

Jacqueline Bush, from Beaumont Close, was just 18-years-old in September 1940, when she became firm friends with Australian pilot John Crossman and Chilean-born pilot Billy Pattullo.

The young men had been posted to 46 Squadron at Stapleford Tawney, in Essex, in the run-up to the Battle of Britain.

The trio would travel the countryside in John’s car - all squashed in the front seat - with Jacqueline feeling “proud as a peacock” between her handsome escorts.

Then, on September 30, John, 22, was killed in battle, when his Hurricane crashed in flames in Sussex.

Jacqueline was still grieving when 21-year-old Billy’s Hurricane was badly damaged on October 25 and while attempting to land, he struck a house in Harold Park.

He died from injuries the next day.

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Jacqueline had known the hero pilots for little more than two weeks but greatly missed her “charming, attractive and gallant” friends.

On the first anniversary of John’s death, the heartbroken girl wrote to his family and told them about the great friendship the three had shared.

“We didn’t have much time together but what we did have was glorious,” she said. “What fun we had. We used to tear around and just shriek at the most idiotic things — just like three kids.”

She kept in touch and years later told the Crossmans, from North Queensland, that she could “still see [John] standing there in the moonlight [on his last night]. Smiling and looking really happy.”

Now author Kristen Alexander, from New South Wales, is writing a book about John and would like to get in touch with Jacqueline if she is alive, or anyone who knew her.

Kirsten said: “Jacqueline spent a lot of time with John in the last days of his life and wrote to his family to tell them of those times, offering great comfort to them. She played an important part in John’s last days.”

Kristen, who has written a number of other accounts about Australian pilots in the Second World War, believes Jacqueline’s married name was Field and she had a twin sister Jeanne.

If you can help, contact the Recorder on: 0208 477 3878 and Kristen by post: PO Box 746, Mawson, ACT, Australia, or by email: