- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Stanley Wrigley
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 September 2005
This story was recounted by Bill Wood to a member of staff at Blackpool Central Library.
The story starts before the war about 1938 when Stanley Wrigley was in his twenties. He knew an awful lot about radio and wireless telegraphy, and the RAF at the time was very keen to train as many men as possible for Air Corps. He was recommended as an instructor to train these young men. They opened training rooms at the back of the Olympia, Winter Gardens where he used to train men to be RAF wireless operators. He lived in Leopold Grove just behind the Winter Gardens. He was more or less sleeping on the job! This expanded as the war progressed to thousands of young trainess and Stanley was commissioned to the RAF. All the roads in the surrounding area with hotels and guesthouses were the billets for all the RAF cadets. Stanley also trained Special Operations Executive(SOE), including many famous names such as Odette Sansom.
The training of the cadets lasted about 12 weeks and in that time they were passed out as wireless operators on aircraft. This involved being able to read Morse Code at 22 words a minute!!!
Most of these cadets were killed in the war doing their duty and the average life of an aircrew was very short. Stanley used to tell his nephew, Bill, that when he assigned young cadets to a squadron he would discover only two weeks later that many of them had been killed in action.
Blackpool at that time was electric. There were many members of the forces in Blackpool and it still remained a holiday resort and everybody lived for the day. There were many war-time activities in the town such as a munitions factory and a big firm called Armstrongs on Squires Gate Lane, who made mostly aviation parts. When I met my wife she was working in a munitions factory and we have been married for 63 years. She made carburettas for Lancaster Bombers. I often teased her by saying that that’s why so many Lancaster Bombers crashed!
Blackpool people were united during the war. It was like a village. There was no crime about in those days and everyone looked after each other. On a sadder note, everyone dreaded the arrival of a telegram which would bring terrible news of the death of a loved one.
The area surrounding North Station, which then came right up to Dickson Road, had about 6 bombs dropped on it. Compared to the thousands of bombs dropped on London this may seem puny, but it still had devastating effects.
People still enjoyed themselves during the war in Blackpool. I had two beautiful aunties, Nora and Mona, who took all their friends in showbusiness to my Grandma’s house to party. Big names such as Harry Roy and his band would cram into my Grandma’s house during the black out. There were great days as well as bad days during the war - the good outweighed the bad by far.
Even though goods were rationed, shops such as Marks & Spencer still opened every day. There was always enough food for everyone despite rationing. As well as food rations people could still visit restaurants and confectioners. Considering the rest of Europe was starving we did very well. You couldn’t get foreign fruit or any kind of sweets. The sweets we got came from the Americans. Everyone was very healthy after the war.
The airfield was a very important part of the war effort. It was a point from which aircraft flew over the Atlantic to search for submarines and a night fighter squadron was also there. The famous aviator Amy Johnson flew from Blackpool Airport to deliver aircraft to an airfield near London. Tragically, Amy ran into difficulties and disappeared near the Thames estuary.
Blackpool girls married many of these cadets, and sometimes these young girls were widowed two or three times (usually from the same squadron). Stanley progressed through the ranks of the RAF and became Pilot Officer and was involved in a lot of secret war-time activity.
The war finished on the May 8th in Europe in 1945 and Stanley was killed that afternoon of May 8th 1945 in Holland along with three other young men. It is possible that he was the last person to be killed in the RAF. He was married with two young children. One of his daughters died last year (2004) after many years of nursing service in the Middle East. Stanley’s other daughter lives down south.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.