War vet re­calls ter­ror air strikes

Macclesfield Express - - GARRY THE HAT WHAT’S ON - STU­ART GREER

AN RAF man who was among the first ser­vice­men to be at­tacked by Ja­panese sol­diers when the far east­ern coun­try en­tered the Sec­ond World War has cel­e­brated his 95th birth­day.

Bert Stan­way was serv­ing as an RAF air­craft me­chanic in Malaya when Ja­panese fighters and bombers at­tacked the air base on De­cem­ber 8, 1941 – the day af­ter its dev­as­tat­ing as­sault on the US naval base of Pearl Har­bour.

It prompted a ter­ri­fy­ing re­treat across South East Asia in the face of pro­longed Ja­panese at­tacks.

Luck­ily Bert, a mem­ber of the Burma Star As­so­ci­a­tion, sur­vived and now lives with his wife Doris, 94, at Ge­n­e­sis Care Home in Mac­cles­field.

Re­call­ing that fate­ful day, great-grand­fa­ther Bert said: “It was the day af­ter the at­tack on Pearl Har­bour.

“I was walk­ing across the air­field and asked my com­pan­ion what was the sil­ver air­craft in the sky. I was told not to worry, ‘they are ours’. The next minute we were run­ning for our slit trenches as we were bombed.”

Bert’s squadron re­treated into Sin­ga­pore and back to Burma where he fran­ti­cally worked on the few re­main­ing US and RAF planes to try to stem the tide of Ja­panese be­fore having to flee the air base.

He said: “It was a case of ev­ery man for him­self. I walked out of Burma, cross­ing the Ir­rawaddy River in what was to be­come the long­est re­treat in Bri­tish mil­i­tary his­tory and found refuge at the Bri­tish base at Im­phal, which also came un­der Ja­panese at­tack.”

The squadron re­grouped in Cal­cutta and fought back, and in early 1943 Bert was given leave home for two weeks. Dur- ing his break his par­ents – who had been against Bert’s plan to join the RAF in 1937 – re­ceived a let­ter from the War Of­fice stat­ing he was miss­ing fol­low­ing the with­drawal from South East Asia and had to write back telling Bert’s su­pe­ri­ors he was safe and well.

He also gave an in­ter­view to the Mac­cles­field Courier about his escape.

Bert was later sta­tioned at RAF Wilm­slow where he met Doris and they mar­ried in 1944.

He later joined the Al­lied ad­vance through Europe and re­turned home in 1945 to meet his son Peter who was born while he was away.

Bert later worked at Avro’s at Wood­ford help­ing build the V Bombers and Scraggs Tex­tile Ma­chin­ery Man­u­fac­tur­ers. He and Doris lived on Ar­ling­ton Drive for al­most 50 years.

Bert Stan­way; Bert pic­tured with pals on a boat from Sin­ga­pore in 1941; Top, Bert with his wife Doris


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