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A friendly voice at the end of the phone on Christmas Eve

When 95-year-old Howard Battson's wife passed away two years ago, Howard's world was turned upside down. The Fund is proud to stand side-by-side with Howard and other RAF veterans in a bid to help combat social isolation and loneliness this Christmas and beyond.

Howard Battson, 95, joined the RAF Air Cadets when he was just 16 years old. In 1941 he went on to join the Royal Air Force as a bomb aimer, serving for six years with Bomber Command. He completed 52 missions and was also seconded to the Canadian Royal Air Force and the Australian Royal Air Force.

Howard still recalls some of those daring missions, most notably three aircraft crashes, two of which where he was the only crew member to survive.

He married his wife, June, in 1946 after they met at a dance and the pair shared 70 happy years together until she passed away two years ago.

Howard said: "I haven't got over it, not yet. When you sleep with the same person every night for more or less 70 years, that is such a lovely feeling. But now she isn't there but in my mind I think she might still be, so I pat the spot in our bed where she should be. I can't feel her warmth.

"One of the biggest regrets I have is not recording her voice before she passed away in my arms."

Living alone in the home that is stitched with memories of his wife, Howard began to feel lonely and that's where the RAF Benevolent Fund stepped in.

The Fund operates a Telephone Friendship Group service which helps older people access peer support and friendship through a weekly phone call at a set time, all from the comfort of their home. Topics of conversations can range from TV shows to daily life and current affairs. Participants are grouped according to their common interests and in Howard's case, all of its members have served in the RAF.

Howard Battson

He says: "When the RAF Benevolent Fund phoned me and asked if I would like to join the Telephone Friendship Group, I jumped at the chance. It was a wonderful idea because it meant it opened my horizons. Up until then I was a lonely old soul. This is a way of meeting people socially.

"This chap John, he lives up in Scotland. He has no legs, so he is totally dependent on his carer, he's a very cheerful, outgoing personality who I love to talk to. When my wife died, I was alone, I had nobody, so for them to come along and give me that spark of friendship, it's a very good thing."

If you know of someone who might be in need of some help, please do get in touch. For more information, please call 0800 169 2942 or visit our website at www.rafbf.org/help.

Please note we will be closed for Christmas from Friday 21 December. For enquiries or new referrals, please contact us from Wednesday 2 January 2019.

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