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Love at first sight and a secret marriage!

John Burnapp was so smitten with his girlfriend Alice he proposed just a month after meeting her.

And in a romantic twist Alice waited until Valentine's Day to give her beau her answer – yes!

Alice and John BurnappAlice and John Burnapp on their 40th wedding anniversary

John and Alice met when John was serving with 39 Squadron, based at RAF Wyton. Rather short of female company at Christmas time, the Squadron had invited trainee nurses from the local hospital along to their mess party.

John said: "She walked in through the door and I said to my friend 'I have just seen the girl I am going to marry'. There was just something about her demeanour and when we got talking even more so. She looked very pretty too."

That was 30 November 1973. John proposed on New Year's Eve just a month later but Alice, a little surprised at his proposal, left him on tenterhooks until giving her answer on 14 February 1974. The couple were married, in secret, five months later.

John explained: "Alice was still a Malaysian national at that time, and back in Malaysia a young boy was sweet on her. He wrote to Alice, telling her he was going to ask her father for her hand in marriage. So I said he cannot marry you if you are already married so we brought our ceremony forward!"

Two years later the couple ‘married’ again, holding a marriage blessing, without letting on to friends and family they were in fact already wed.

And so, after a whirlwind beginning, John and Alice have enjoyed a long and happy marriage, celebrating their 40th anniversary two years ago.

John's 23-year career in the RAF took him around the country, from Wyton to Kinloss to St Mawgan. During that time he worked as ground crew on a number of aircraft, Nimrod, Canberra and Varsity before he was accepted to train as air crew. He spent the final years of his career at St Mawgan, flying in Nimrods.

John said: "I thoroughly enjoyed my RAF service. The moving around was a bit of a pain, especially when we had six moves in five years – that got a little bit hectic! Alice enjoyed the military life as well, the mess functions and the community. We still have friendships which began in the air force.

"And of course, if it wasn’t for the RAF I would not have met Alice. Our paths would never have crossed."

John and Alice are now supporting the RAF Benevolent Fund’s campaign to encourage RAF veterans and serving personnel and their families to ask for help. The Fund's mission is to repay the debt we owe and offer help to the RAF family in their hour of need.

He said: "We were lucky enough not to need any help but I know about the good work the Fund does. I have known friends who received fantastic assistance from the charity so it’s something I am always happy to support."

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