Air force stalwart is honoured by the Queen in New Year's Honours List
PUBLISHED: 08:45 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:05 21 January 2019
A corporal who has dedicated her life to the RAF was made an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List.
Denise Boneham, from Leaden Roding, spent more than a decade tutoring RAF gunners, helping them gain qualifications, and has also worked as a gunner herself.
Watching TV on Boxing Day with a broken arm, her living room decorated with pictures and models of aircrafts, Denise received a call telling her that she had received the honour.
Now working at Stansted Airport as a border force officer, Denise said: “I just couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I am waiting for them to send a letter saying it was mistake.”
Denise has not only spent her career with the RAF, but also dedicates her spare time to the force. She has raised thousands for air cadets and interviews veterans for the Bomber Command Centre.
A lot of older veterans she knows have died.
“When you lose someone you got to know well it’s like losing a really good friend,” she says.
Denise adds: “I found the grave of a New Zeland pilot in my local church yard and its become a bit of an obsession.” After the discovery, she contacted the pilot’s niece and now attends ceremonies on behalf of the New Zealand Bomber Command Association.
Denise spent six months in Kuwait and, whilst there, a British pilot and navigator were killed, after accidently being shot down by Americans. “There was a huge sadness in our team. The Americans were on our base as well... blue on blue happens. It is a fact of war,” she says.
During her childhood Denise moved numerous times, as her father was also in the RAF.
“I am what they call an RAF brat,” she jokes, reciting the places she lived, including Singapore.
Although she now works at Stansted Airport, Denise wants to maintain her close links with the air force, explaining: “You can take the girl out of the air force but you can’t take the air force out of the girl.”