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  • Courtesy of Gillian Clarke.
Person Details
15 Sep 1889
Attenborough, Nottinghamshire
Stan Roadley was born in the Ferry House, Attenborough, Nottinghamshire. Between 1774 and the late 1950s, a rowing boat ferry operated across the Trent between Barton in Fabis and a terminal close to the modern Attenborough Nature Reserve Visitors’ Centre. In addition to farming forty six acres, Roadley’s father doubled as the boat man until his departure for a larger farm at Stanford Hills near Loughborough in 1910. Roadley’s mother, Alice, died in 1895 aged 43. Stan had two brothers, Walter and Harry and two sisters, Alice and Mabel.
Educated at Mundella School and University College Nottingham, where he joined the OTC, Roadley was teaching at Haydn Road Council School, Nottingham in August 1914 having previously worked at the city’s Old Radford School.
17 Aug 1917
486431 - CWGC Website
Flight Commander
4th Bn South Staffordshire Regiment
Roadley enlisted in April 1915 serving initially with 4th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, an Extra-Reserve unit. However, he was deployed to that regiment’s 1st Battalion following its mauling at Loos in late September 1915. In early 1916, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Following training, during which he broke a leg in a 'landing incident' which put him out of action for seven weeks, he was posted to 57th Squadron in March 1917. They were dangerous times; during 'Bloody April' 1917, the RFC lost 151 planes with 316 airmen dead or missing as life expectancy for newly trained pilots fell to 17 days. During five and a half months with 57th Squadron, Roadley piloted twenty one aircraft, fifteen of them DH4s, and was accompanied by fifteen different observers on operations involving reconnaissance, co-operation with artillery, dog fights (he shot down at least three German pilots) and the bombing of enemy communications, strong points and troop concentrations. Towards the end of his service, Roadley established a partnership with 2/Lt CR Thomas and during the last week of their lives the pair took DH4 A/7461 into action on seven occasions. Then on August 17th, Roadley and Thomas joined a six DH4 flight from 57th Squadron setting out at 05.50 from Boisdingham aerodrome to attack German positions near Courtrai. The Flight was commanded by 28 year old Major Ernest Joy from Toronto, Canada whose observer was Lt Forde Leathley a 21 year old Irishman who had previously served with the Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers. Having released their 230lb bombs, the formation, flying at 12,000’, was attacked at 7am by a seven strong enemy patrol of Albatross D.111s from Jasta 6 commanded by Eduard von Dostler who had already claimed 25 kills and been awarded the Blue Max by von Richtofen. Von Dost damaged Joy’s engine, forcing the Flight Commander to leave the scene (Von D’s 26th victim). He managed to fly A/7563 back and both he and Leathley survived not only that operation but the war. Joy and Leathley's aircraft was von Dostler’s final success in battle; on August 21st 1917, 4 days after Roadley’s death, von Dostler attacked an obsolete British RE8 of 7 Squadron and its observer Lt. Norman Sharples shot him down and killed him. Sharples was killed a month later (September 20th 1917). Roadley’s aircraft was last observed diving steeply between Courtai and Ledeghem at 10,000’ and was not seen again. Early in 1918, the neutral Dutch government was asked to approach Germany for full details of the incident. The resulting Note Verbale revealed that enemy troops had witnessed A/7461’s descent and it was not only in a spinning nosedive but on fire. One crew member (Roadley) 'came down with the fallen machine, his corpse being burnt to a cinder', 'mutilated beyond recognition' and identifiable only by a 'ring with "M to S" engraved on it.' The other, Cecil Thomas, was seen to jump from the blazing aircraft presumably sustaining multiple injuries and dying as a POW two days later. Posted missing in the first instance, confirmation of Roadley’s death and burial reached his family only after six months. In late February 1918, the head teacher of Haydn Road School recorded 'more sad news. Mr. Roadley’s death with the RFC has been confirmed. A group of boys from his last Class 2 saw the announcement in the Guardian and have been in to express their sorrow. We have sent condolences to Mr. Roadley’s family.' NB: Parachutes were issued to crews of airships and balloons early in Great War. R. E. Calthrop a retired British engineer had developed the 'Guardian Angel', a chute for aircraft but pressure was applied not to publicise his invention by Royal Flying Corps commander Sir David Henderson. Calthorp broke ranks revealing details of his tests. Some and pilots were willing to buy their own although others were concerned about weight factors and problems of egress. Officially, parachutes were dismissed as too bulky and likely to affect aircraft performance but another factor underpinned their non-deployment. Britain’s Air Board believed ‘that the presence of such an apparatus might impair the fighting spirit of pilots and cause them to abandon machines which might otherwise be capable of returning to base for repair.' This view was refuted by at least one British pilot, Arthur Gould Lee, who asserted that the supply of parachutes would not only ensure that ‘every pilot would sacrifice a little performance to have a chance to escape from break-ups and flamers’ but would also be a ‘great boost for morale’. Pilots dreaded burning to death. Gould Lee noted ‘What a way to die, to be sizzled alive or to jump and fall thousands of feet. I wonder if you are conscious all the way down? I’d much prefer a bullet through the head and have done with it’. Mick Mannock VC, DSO & Two Bars, MC & Bar (61 kills) agreed. After witnessing one of his victims going down in flames, Mannock wrote ‘It was a horrible sight and made me feel sick’. Mannock was known to carry his service revolver with him whilst flying as he would prefer to shoot himself rather than die in a burning plane. Mick Mannock died in a flaming aircraft on 20 July 1917 although it is not known whether he managed to shoot himself. French, German and American Great War airmen were equipped with parachutes which had become standard RAF issue by 1923. Research by David Nunn
Sources: Britannia Calls, Nottingham Schools and the push for Great War victory by David Nunn (Knowle Hill Publishing, 2010) TS Roadley's service record (TNA AIR76/428) Haydn Road Council School headteacher's log (school's private collection)
Remembered on


  • Courtesy of Gillian Clarke.
    Photo David Nunn - Courtesy of Gillian Clarke.
  • The Ferry House Attenborough (now demloished) Roadley's birthplace. -
  • A DH4. Roadley flew many of these aircraft and was killed in DH4/A7461 -
  • An Albatross DIII of the type which shot down Stan Roadley and Cecil Thomas -
  • Eduard von Dostler, commander of Jasta 6. One of his patrol's Albatross DIIIs shot down Roadley and Thomas -