Thursday 27th October 2005 ~ 'A Lifetime Of Flying & Association With Ipswich Airport'
Stanley Ward ~ summarised by Steve Worsley
Appeared in Journal 491
Stanley Ward came to our October meeting to recall a lifetime of flying; locally he will be remembered as the figurehead of the Friends and Users of Ipswich Airport during the abortive fight to retain the facility. Stanley had held the post of Chief Flying Instructor at the flying school set up by Channel Airways in 1954 when they took over the running of the Airport. This post he was to hold for eighteen years, until the airline's collapse in 1972.
With increasing international tension in 1938, the 17-year old Stanley saw his chance to become a pilot and applied to join the RAF Volunteer Reserve. Unfortunately he was too young, and advised to return at the age of 18. On this occasion a medical revealed a possible defect in his right eye. It was suggested that he return after three months; if the eye had not deteriorated, he would be considered for training. A voluminous file of letters and replies which Stanley brought to the meeting showed his tenacity and ambition, and this eventually bore fruit when he was accepted for the RAFVR 'for the duration' on 10th May 1940. This date is not without greater significance as this was the day the Germans invaded the Low Countries. He was first sent by train to RAF Cardington, and was surprised to discover Ipswich Town footballer Jackie Little in the same compartment, with the same intention of joining up. Stanley was initially selected as an armourer, and sent to defend RAF Church Fenton with a 20mm Oerlikon. When ammunition eventually arrived (!) it was discovered that the gun jammed, so would not have provided much deterrent. He was later re-assigned as a fitter, and his skill in this trade was recognised when the authorities made him an instructor.
However, Stanley had joined the RAF because of his interest in aeroplanes - here he was at an RAF base with no aircraft. Accordingly he applied for aircrew training, was accepted, and shipped from Glasgow to Halifax, Nova Scotia, en route to Oklahoma. In the states Stanley was trained as a pilot on Stearman PT-17 biplanes, followed by the more advanced T-6 Texan. Stanley illustrated his talk with a large-scale model of a Stearman with which various points were enlarged upon, including the story of how he wrote one off on his second solo flight when the weather deteriorated and a blizzard blew up. Landing upside down, Stanley sustained only minor injuries until he loosened his lap belt, causing him to fall from the cockpit, trapping his leg and causing considerable damage on the way out. Five weeks hospitalization had its up side - every nurse in the hospital wanted to meet the 'brave RAF flyer'! After all this training Stanley was keen to climb into a Spitfire but the War Office had other ideas; having earlier been an instructor, he was now to be a flying instructor. He did manage 35 minutes flying time in a dual-control Spitfire 8 after the war, so his ambition was eventually achieved.
Having been accepted 'for the duration', Stanley was demobbed in 1946 following the war's end. Fortunately the RAFVR was re-activated in 1947, and, as an instructor, Stanley's flying hours were not restricted as they were for the average pilot. In 1954, the RAFVR was again wound up, just as Channel Airways were looking for an instructor at Ipswich. In eighteen years at Ipswich Stanley taught numerous fliers, and made many flights. He claims just shy of 3,000 hours in just one of the flying school's machines. With other pilots, he flew with the 'Silver Spinners', a display team of four Austers, and he also did stunt flying in an Auster until insurance costs increased (and Channel Airways got to hear about what one of their employees was up to!). With Stanley's help, the flying school won a Will's Cigarettes-sponsored competition to train the best pilot, winning for the school a £7,000 (£60,000 at today's rates) Piper Cherokee and £1,000 for its first year's running costs.
Stanley's connections with Ipswich Airport continued after the demise of Channel Airways, and as mentioned above, he was heavily involved in the fight to save the Airport. The lease to run the Airport changed hands several times in the 70s and 80s, but was held by Harvest Air when the M.D. of the Airport was killed in a flying accident. The death of the Airport's champion coincided with Ipswich Borough Council's need to raise money by the sale of one of its assets; what better than the Airport? IBC bought back the 14-year lease from Harvest Air and proceeded to run down the facilities. Statistics published to show the unprofitability of the Airport even included the cost of buying back the lease to inflate the debit column! As is well-known, the Airport duly closed, and today housing stands where the runways once were. Closure resulted in the opening of a number of airstrips in the surrounding countryside. Stanley continued to fly from Monewden, where he made the very first landing on the new strip with the owner's Jodel on its delivery flight.
A lifetime of flying brings with it a lifetime's supply of anecdotes, jokes, and memories which Stanley was pleased to share with an enthusiastic audience. With minimal props (Stearman model and file of letters aside), Stanley kept us entertained for two hours without the aid of slides, videos, or any other visual aid, a considerable feat for any speaker.
Attendances at our new venue are very encouraging; the chairs are more comfortable than most, and the kitchen facilities very good. If you have not yet sampled the Castle Hill Community Centre, why not come along to our next meeting?
Front Cover. Carters latest arrival is Northern Counties bodied Dennis Dart, L113 HHV seen here on the 19th November at Brettenham. Photo by Peter Horrex
Rear Cover Top. 20312 at Ipswich on 25th October having an 'A' exam in between water cannon duties. Photo by Martin Reeve.
Rear Cover Bottom. 321901 at Chelmsford on 5Z98 10.45 Witham - Ilford on 11th November. The Unit was on a test trip following C4 (underframe) overhaul at Ilford. Photo by Martin Reeve.