Christmas came early for a Chacewater servicewoman who won the chance to sing with international heart-throb and superstar, Gary Barlow.
RAF Flight lieutenant Collette Knill became the envy of fans across the world after she won an armed forces competition to sing with the Take That and X Factor icon in a special morale boosting concert at Camp Bastion.
Mr Barlow flew the UK’s military base in Helmand Province last month to film an ITV documentary exploring what life is like on the front line.
Alongside working in the air traffic control tower and driving a heavy equipment transporter, the “Back For Good” singer finished his two day visit by performing to more than 1,000 troops.
Before his arrival, all servicemen and women on the base were given the opportunity to apply to win the chance to sing with Mr Barlow on stage.
Gillian Knill, Collette’s mother, said: “Collette didn’t originally fill out a form, but someone dropped out and her boss told her to fill one in.
“Next thing she knew they called her in for an audition and asked her to get involved.”
After some vocal training and performance tips, Miss Knill and the three other lucky winners joined Mr Barlow on stage to perform songs including Michael Buble’s classic “Home” and the poignant “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother” by The Hollies.
Miss Knill said: “Singing with Gary Barlow was a wonderful opportunity and the last thing I expected when I commenced my operational tour of Afghanistan.
“The experience reminded me how much fun performing can be and hopefully put a smile on a few faces at Camp Bastion too.”
The concert was also described by Mr Barlow as the highlight of his trip.
He said: “You didn’t believe these people were going to learn so quick and work together as a band so quick and that ultimately, we would get this on a stage!
“There was a real mutual respect, they were thrilled to be working with me and I was thrilled to be working with them. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever done.”
The singer added that he has an incredible respect for all the servicemen and women in Camp Bastion and that the camaraderie on display at the gig left him “with a warm heart”.
Now back from her first three month tour of Afghanistan, Miss Knill is currently taking a well-deserved holiday in Australia.
The 26 year-old former Truro High pupil will appear on the ITV documentary “Gary Barlow: Journey To Afghanistan”, which will air on Monday December 23 at 9pm.
Proud mum, Mrs Knill, said: “We have family staying for Christmas, so we will watch the show with them. I will probably get quite emotional.
“It’s all a bit overwhelming, we thought she was just out there to mend helicopters!”