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In the clouds with my dashing pilot.


PAMELA Wheeler met and fell in love with a pilot who came to eat and drink at her father's hotel in the Midlands during the war.

It was a forbidden love because her dad didn't approve.

She was just 17 and ran the cocktail bar of The Woodman Hotel, now The French Hen, in Clent, Worcestershire.

Dashing David was 23, a local boy from Quinton, who proudly wore his RAF uniform.

Little did they realise at the time that it was a love affair doomed to end in tragedy.

Pamela, now 88, has told her extraordinary story of love and heartbreak to her daughter Cherryl Vines, 64, and it has now been published in the poignant Pamela's War.

Cherryl, who lives in Stourbridge, recounts the story: "Pamela's strict father would not let her walk out with a boy so she prepared meals for him and his friends at the hotel, then the tables were pushed back and they danced. They kissed and he promised he would return to her as soon as he was back from the war."

In the book, Pamela recalls her thoughts at the time.

"In this lovely, handsome, charming man I have found the person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life," she writes. "No-one else will do. He feels the same, and says so.

"This is the boy that I will marry. We make a promise to take great care of ourselves and keep safe. I wave him goodbye, not knowing that circumstances are soon to prevent him from keeping his side of the bargain. But this is wartime and life can be so very cruel."

David was initially sent to Scotland for training. Before he left, he made a grand gesture to show how much he loved Pamela.

Cherryl, who has two grown-up daughters with her husband Roger, says: "David flew low over the hotel in a Spit-fire and did a loop-the-loop.

"Someone had already flown a bomber so low that they'd almost taken the chimneys off and my grandfather had gone berserk, so mum knew she couldn't stand outside and wave to the love of her life.

"She knew she had to be much more subtle so she went to the upstairs toilet, stood on a toilet seat and waved a teatowel out of the window."

ROMANCE: Pamela's Tragically, David was not to return.

Pamela had a premonition of his death - on the actual day he died - September 5, 1941.

"Mother said she was at a wedding when she had this terrible feeling," says Cherryl. "It was at that moment she knew he was dead.

"By the time she got home, a phone call had been made confirming that he had been killed in an accident in his Spitfire.

"She was told he he'd had to take evasive action to prevent him hitting another Spitfire. It's thought he stayed with the plane because if he'd have gotten out, the plane would have crashed onto the houses below.

"When he did get the plane away from the houses and tried to bail out, he was too low for his parachute to open. He died a hero's death.

"Mum's father wouldn't let her go to his funeral in Scotland. I don't think she ever really got over it."

David was first love. Pamela says in the book: "Numb with shock and grief, I concede that my final gift to David has to be delivered by proxy.

"I send him a wreath made up of twelve red roses, each one a symbol of my undying love.

"They are delivered to Scotland and placed on his coffin. I write a poem on the reverse of his photograph.

"His laughing smile and carefree way will live in my heart until my dying day. God bless you David. I think my heart will break."

Pamela met John Fellows, Cherryl's father, not long afterwards. He, too, was one of her customers.

As petrol grew sparse, passing trade disappeared and the family were forced to leave The Woodman, a place where Pamela had lived since the age of 11.

They moved to live in a mansion flat in Islington Row, Edgbaston.

"I think Mum was still suffering from post-traumatic stress but she had to just pick herself up and get on with it," says Cherryl. "One day, my father borrowed his brother's motorbike and came to see her.

"He'd had no idea a bomb was going to drop and that he wouldn't get home that night.

"When there was an air raid my grandfather told everyone to lie on the floor at the bottom of the flats. They couldn't find the key to the air raid shelter because the caretaker was in hospital with incendiary burns.

"It was a good job he did because the shrapnel came through at head height - and they would have all died.

"Incredibly, the air raid shelter took a direct hit but all the residents survived because they hadn't gone in there.

"John said to my mother 'We've made it through this together, will you marry me?'" They married quickly by special licence as he had recently joined the RAF, too, and was going to be sent to Canada for training. But medical tests showed he was colour-blind and he was dispatched to the Aden desert instead. He remained there for the duration of the war, coming home occasionally on leave.

The Wheelers' home had been destroyed by bombs that day so the family stayed with friends in Quinton and Hagley, while Pamela took a job at a factory in Edgbaston.

When the war ended and John finally returned to Pamela, she had a baby named Christine, the result of one of his home visits.

"They had a baby but not very much else," says Cherryl. "It was difficult for everyone. There were no jobs and no houses."

Cherryl was born a couple of years later, and John became a works manager for a rubber company in Edgbaston. He died at the age of 55, and Pamela remarried, this time to Harry Moore, who sadly died around 10 years ago.

"My mother is 88 now and still looking good, especially considering all the trauma she's been through," says Cherryl. "I would not have been here if David had lived. That's so strange to think, and yet the whole story is so tragic." | PAMELA'S War is published by History Press and available from Amazon. Cherryl is talking about her book at Bewdley Library on October 15 as part of Bewdley Book Week. Visit www.bewdleybookweek.


ROMANCE: David was Pamela's first love.

STORY: Pamela's War - a tale about Pamela Wheeler by her daughter Cherryl Vines from Stourbridge

HAPPY: Pamela and John's official wedding photograph, November, 10 1943.

EVENTFUL LIFE: Pamela, now 88, recounts her heartwarming story.

MEMORY: Pam's ID card from WWII and, below, petrol coupons that were distributed during the war.

GROWN UP: Far left, Pamela, aged 17.

YOUNG: Right, Pamela, aged four.

PREPARING THE BOOK: left, Pamela with her daughter, Cherryl Vines.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 7, 2012
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