This year is not only the centenary of the end of the First World War but also the 100th birthday of the Royal Air Force.
The war memorial in Granville Square includes the names of 18 airmen from Stone and the surrounding district who died on active service. Behind each of those names lies a poignant and heroic story which, courtesy of the Gazette, I hope to bring to you over the coming months to honour the memory of those brave Stone men. Of course, although we can see in those names that the casualty rates were often horrendous, others were fortunate enough to live to tell the tale. So I thought we’d start with the happier story of one of those lucky survivors, Paddy Morley.
Paddy was probably best known around the town as the supervisor of the glass blowers at Quickfit and Quartz (which eventually became Bibby Scientific). He was also a keen golfer at the Stone Golf Club and latterly became a familiar face at election time as a polling clerk. But, like many with wartime service, he always underplayed his RAF experience. Nevertheless, he was a celebrated member of the Stone Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association and he regularly laid the Branch wreath at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday.
He was actually a Man of Kent, having been born in Tonbridge. He volunteered for aircrew as soon as he was old enough to do so and was trained at RAF Sleap in Shropshire as a wireless operator/air gunner (pronounced “Wop-A-G”). In May 1943, after training, he found himself on Lancaster bombers with No 12 Squadron flying from Wickenby in Lincolnshire. Paddy’s daughter, Cheryl, who lives in Walton, has given me privileged access to his wartime memorabilia, particularly to his flying logbook.
Reading between those prosaic, factual lines is a tale of cool, undiluted courage. Paddy survived 30 missions on 12 Squadron, going at night to such places as Berlin (six times) the Ruhr, Leipzig, Turin (Italy, for a change) and, most famously, Peenemunde. Peenemunde was the vital, secret base by the Baltic Sea where the V1 and V2 secret weapons were being developed. On May 19, 1944, King George VI awarded Paddy the Distinguished Flying Medal to acknowledge the completion of his tour of operations.
Paddy was then sent to Hixon as an instructor on Wellington bombers. During 1944 it was at a dance at Sandon Village Hall that his eye was taken by Cynthia Purvis of Old Road. She invited him back home where his attention was arrested by the aroma of cooking bacon (Cynthia’s father was a butcher). In those days of wartime rationing that had a powerful and irresistible romantic impact, and Paddy married Cynthia not long after the war ended.
Cynthia had to wait until then because at the end of 1944 Paddy was sent to North Creake in Norfolk, flying Halifax and Stirling bombers on radio countermeasures and where he completed a further 20 missions. His final sortie was on April 15, 1945; by then he had flown a total of 557 hours (229 by day and 328 by night). He then came home to Stone where he raised his family and enjoyed a well-deserved long life until 2005. He is now at rest in Stone Cemetery.
from Stone Town Mayor Jim Davies