Flight Lieutenant Stanley Wilbur Matthews
Stanley Wilbur Matthews was born on 29th November 1918 in Winnipeg, Canada. He was the son of William Herbert Matthews, a supervisor at T. Eaton’s department store, and Ethel Rose Johnson. He had a teenage sister called Joyce.
From 1935-1938, Stanley studied at the University of Manitoba, doing one year of Arts, followed by one and a half years of Civil Engineering. It isn’t clear why he left. He enlisted in the RCAF on 21st October, 1940, and gave his occupation as “clerk” at T. Eaton’s department store, where his Dad worked.
His medical report says he was 6’1″ tall with a ruddy complexion and, although his physique was “athletic”, he was showing “too much fat.” His height precluded service as an Air Gunner or Observer, but he was accepted for pilot training.
On 24th December 1941, he commenced his his Initial Training at No.2 ITS, Regina. Having completed that successfully, he moved on to No.2 Elementary Flying Training School, Fort William, where he was considered “alert” and “cautious,” with a keen competitive spirit. He continued to make steady progress and received his ‘wings’ on 20th June, 1941, having completed Course 25 at No.7 Service Flying Training School, MacLeod.
Four days later he married Rae Lillian Bull, at St. Aidan’s Church, Winnipeg, and the couple appear to have moved into a house in the same street as Stanley’s family home.
More training followed, with a short navigation course at Rivers, Manitoba.
On 18th April 1942, Stanley became a Father to a baby girl, Meredith Lynne.
Records are unclear at this point but he seems to have spent some time at No.11 SFTS, Yorkton, flying multi-engine aircraft.
Stanley was posted overseas and disembarked in the UK on 6th March 1943. While stationed at 17(P)AFU, he lost the tail wheel of the Miles Master he was flying (W9092) on 19th April, when he hit a Drem lighting cover on landing at RAF Watton, but the accident was considered unavoidable and Stanley was exonerated of any blame. On 25th May, he was posted to RAF Grangemouth and on 10th August, he moved south to join No.403 squadron and reported for duty at Kenley on the 14th.
His final sortie was Ramrod 315, on the 18th November. 403 squadron had the role of fifth fighter sweep in this operation and were initially led by Wing Commander Godefroy, until his radio failed and Squadron Leader Magwood took over. Matthews and Pilot Officer Claude Weaver were both hit by the heavy flak in the St. Omer area. Weaver managed to make it back to England, but Matthew’s Spitfire (MH361) was emitting smoke and flames. He gave a “mayday” 15 miles west of Boulogne and intended to glide down to 5000ft and bale out. No more was heard from him, but his estimated position coincided with a pilot seen in the water without a dinghy, some miles off the coast of Dungeness.
The 403 squadron diary records Stanley’s demise:
“Our usual rodeo this afternoon, a bit of a tragedy occurred when we lost Stan Matthews. He was hit by flak over St. Omer and glided to mid-channel about three quarters of an hour before dusk. ASRS found him and the Walrus dropped a dinghy which did not open. He was floating in his ‘Mae West’ when last seen so very little hope was held out to him to last the night in the icy channel. His wife and child make this a sorrowful business.”
His widow, Rae, re-married sometime before 1951, to Dr. William Grant, the superintendent of a Childrens’ Hospital in Winnipeg.
Flight Lieutenant Stanley Wilbur Matthews, having no known grave, is remembered on Panel 172 of the Runnymede memorial.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.
Photo from Rick Anthony, cousin of F/Lt. Stanley Wilbur Matthews.
From Pierre Lagacé’s 403 squadron blog:
403 squadron records