952429 Sgt Stanley Winyard Hartill
Stan Hartill, a Wolverhampton lad, was a newly trained Airframe Fitter, aged 19, when he joined 609 Squadron at Middle Wallop in mid-August 1940, the day after a heavy raid by the Luftwaffe. He saw the Squadron’s hangar in ruins, the wrecked aircraft and the casualties, including three fellow ground crew killed and many others wounded. He worked all day and sometimes through the night refuelling, rearming and repairing Spitfires, so there would be as many as possible ready for the next day. Stan was later posted to 41 Squadron at Hornchurch but was in the thick of the action throughout the Battle of Britain.
Stan next moved to Coastal Command at Stornoway and Wick, working on flying-boats and the twin-engined Lockheed Hudson, but he didn’t much like it – too far north, too cold and too wet!! His next posting was near Coventry where he worked on training aircraft at a Flying Training School, where the student pilots ensured he had plenty of work to do. Following this he was seconded to the Rolls-Royce factory in Wolverhampton as part of a team developing a new engine for a new British tank – the engine was the Meteor (a downgraded Merlin) and the tank was the Cromwell.
By now it was 1943 and Stan was yearning for a bit of excitement, so he readily responded to a call for volunteers for a new unit that was forming. This was the RAF Servicing Commando, a specialist unit of highly-skilled technicians required to maintain aircraft on the Continent following D-Day. They wore khaki battledress with blue RAF badges, they were trained to work on many aircraft, especially those of the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force and they wore the coveted Combined Operations Badge.
Stan joined 3205 Squadron of the RAF Servicing Commando and went ashore on Juno Beach in Normandy the day after D-Day. The Squadron travelled inland to airfield B3, at St Croix sur Mer, and made preparations to receive their first aircraft, all done in two days despite German artillery and snipers. The first aircraft in on 10 June were those of Johnnie Johnson’s Canadian Wing and all 36 Spitfires were refuelled and rearmed and on their way in 20 minutes. On that first day of operations 180 aircraft were handled and in subsequent weeks hundreds more. 3205 Squadron were eventually withdrawn from France in mid-July 1944 and sent to Burma, but not Stan.
He was posted to Italy and served around Naples and Taranto. Next he moved to the Middle East and served at Port Said, the Suez Canal, in Palestine and at another Flying Training School near Nazareth. He returned to the UK and was mothballing Boeing B17s and other aircraft near Lichfield when the war ended. He was demobbed in 1946 and ran successful businesses during his working life, eventually retiring to Bournemouth; and that is where he passed away in July 2018, aged 97 years.