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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. S C Widdows


Stanley Charles Widdows was born at Bradfield, Berkshire on 4th October 1909 and educated at St. Bartolomew's School, Newbury.

He joined the RAF in September 1926 as an Aircraft Apprentice and passed out in August 1929 as a Fitter.



He was awarded a cadetship at the RAF College, Cranwell and entered as a Flight Cadet there on 20th September 1929. He had initially failed the required medical examination due to hearing loss but subsequent investigation revealed a piece of cotton wool embedded in one ear since his childhood. On graduation on 24th July 1931, Widdows was posted to 43 Squadron at Tangmere. In 1932 he served with 29 Squadron at North Weald.

On 28th February 1933 he went to 45 Squadron at Helwan, Egypt moving in November to 47 Squadron at Khartoum. Widdows was then posted to RAF Ramleh, Palestine on 14th August 1936. He returned to the UK in 1937 and on 1st September went as a test pilot to A&AEE, Martlesham Heath, where he carried out extensive performance tests on the first production Hurricane, L1547, and the first production Spitfire, K9787.

He married his wife Irene, known as Nickie, on the eve of the declaration of war in a small church in Woodbridge, Suffolk, on 2nd September 1939.

Widdows arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 6th July 1940 from A&AEE for a refresher course. He moved to 5 OTU, Aston Down on the 14th, converted to Blenheims and was posted to 29 Squadron at Digby on the 15th, taking command next day.

He destroyed a Ju88 at night on 13th March 1941 which crashed at Smiths Farm, Dovedale near Louth, Lincolnshire. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 4th April 1941 ). In the early hours of 7th May 1941 Widdows encountered a Ju88 over the English Channel. His Beaufighter was badly damaged by return fire and Widdows ordered his radar operator, Sgt. B Ryall, to bale out. He managed to get the aircraft back to base but a search found no trace of Ryall.

Widdows was posted away in June 1941 to command RAF West Malling. In 1942 he became Group Captain Night Ops at HQ 11 Group and 12 Group. He was SASO 85 Group in 1943/44 and Group Captain Organisation at Supreme HQ Allied Expeditionary Forces later in 1944.

Widdows held a series of appointments and commands in the post-war years. He was made a CB in 1959 and retired from the RAF on 29th December 1958, as an Air Commodore. He and his family later settled in Guernsey. They have two sons, Robin (who served on the monument committee) and Geoffrey, two granddaughters, Alice and Emily, and two great-grandchildren, James and Molly.




His 100th birthday on 4th October 2009 was marked by his family presenting him with a bronze statue commissioned from the sculptor Paul Day. The figurine is a scale replica of Paul Day’s central section of the London Battle of Britain Monument unveiled in September 2005 on Victoria Embankment in London. Mr & Mrs Widdows attended the unveiling which was carried out by Prince Charles.

It was revealed on his birthday that Charles Widdows is the oldest surviving pilot from the Battle of Britain. His reply - 'Well, it goes to show what a drop of whisky every day can do'.

Widdows died on 20th January 2010.

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