The Amazing Stan
Veteran’s Day is a time when we honor those who have served our country and all too often, paid the utmost price for the freedoms we treasure. Every Veteran’s Day for years though, a small group of elderly yet spry British gentlemen journey across the pond to come back to a place they trained as young teenagers to pay tribute to those who did not return. In that training, some of those young men died and at a time of war, they were buried where they trained, Phoenix, AZ. This group of British veterans, most in their nineties now, fly over the cemetery on Veterans Day where their comrades lay to pay tribute to their sacrifice. They are not forgotten. We’ve been moved by this remembrance and tribute for years but noticed the numbers of gentleman coming here from England getting smaller each year. This year, only Stan was able to make the journey.
In 1944, Stan Whalley was 18yrs old when he left England and came to the US to train as a pilot at Falcon Field, Mesa, AZ. Hundreds of British pilots came to the US for training during WWII and Falcon Field was a buzz. There were just two hangars back then, both still standing today amongst all the rest. Wings of Flight is in one of those hangars which is where K&M AirAdventures bases out of. Our hosts Dale & Brian are very active with vets so when Brian saw Stan, he brought him to the hangar for the afternoon. As soon as Stan entered the hangar he seemed to have gone back in time and the stories just started to pour out. It’s afternoon I won’t forget!
“I was here for seven months and flew 250 hours” Stan said. “I went back to England to fly Tiger Moths” he said in a dejected way which was a come down from the Stearmans and AT-6s he flew at Falcon. “I was here in the summer and it was hot up to 108” he went on to say. “There were 300 of us here, 3 classes of 100 with a 40% was out, but we went back in style aboard the Queen Mary.” With the great light coming in the hangar, I asked Stan if I could take his portrait. I grabbed the D750 / 24-70VR and started clicking, showing him around the hangar. He went to the wall with the historic Falcon Field photos from the 1940s where he paused and reminisced. After lunch, Brian asked, “Would you like to …” and before Brian could say, “…fly,” Stan was out of his chair heading for the ramp. Forty minutes later Stan landed after having some stick time, hooping out of that cockpit with the biggest smile you can imagine. After it was all done, Stan asked if I would mine sending him photographs, “It’s a day I will treasure.” It was for all of us who spent time with the amazing Stan!
12.14.15 As per Stan’s request, I’m quite pleased to add this:
I have just seen the excellent account of my visit to Falcon Field in November, for which I thank you sincerely. However, I wondered if you could add to your account my later flying in Europe, following my return from Falcon. After flying inTiger Moths I flew P51 Mustangs and found myself in Germany after WW2 ended. I toured a ruined Germany, all the best big cities, in Berlin I entered the ruined Reichstag parliament building and viewed the big hole, outside Hitlers Bunker, in which Hitler and his new bride, Eva Braun, were thrown and burnt.
I left the Royal Air Force in 1947 and followed a career in Banking.
I have been retired 31 years and since travelled the world, but never miss a trip to Mesa cemetery in November where 23 of my colleagues are buried, not forgetting two USAAF cadets and four US Instructors also lost their lives and are buried near their homes.
Stan Whalley, and thank you again for your help .
Sent from my iPhone