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Boy's love of aircraft grew into war role

By Western Gazette - North Dorset  |  Posted: September 15, 2012

  • WAR WORK: Stanley Sharp operates a German lathe acquired en route.

  • ENEMY BUSINESS: One of the photographs taken by Stanley Sharp captures German airmen planning the day's operation.

  • RARE INSIGHT: German officers and band.

  • ATTACK PREPARATION: German soldiers appear to arm an aircraft in one of the pictures taken from a hotel in Bad Eilson by RAF man Stanley Sharp.

  • TOP SECRET: A German map of Yeovilton above.

  • NAZI LEADER: Hitler appears in one of the German photographs which lay hidden in Mr Sharp's attic for more than 60 years.

  • FRANCE BOUND: Mr Sharp's landing craft en route to the Jig section of Sword beach.

  • french life: Mr Sharp took a photograph of local people queuing at a kiosk in the city of Lisieux. On right is 'Lofty' Cox.

  • CRASH SCENE: A German picture of a smashed aircraft.

  • ALL SMILES: A German photograph of German airmen.

  • DOWN TIME: An old steam train on the Melsbroek Airfield that one of the RAF squadrons managed to get going.

  • SWORD LANDING: Mr Sharp's landing craft LC T942 on Jig beach. A truck with the photo processing unit on board is being driven down the ramp onto the beach.

  • EN ROUTE: One of the other landing crafts LC T959 which travelled with Mr Sharp's unit from Portsmouth to France.

  • HISTORIC PICTURE: A German gunner's view was among the hundreds of photographs Mr Sharp brought back to England with him after the Second World War.

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STANLEY Sharp's interest in aircraft developed from an early age. On leaving school in 1937, aged 14, he joined Westland Aircraft Factory as an office boy before being accepted on an engineering apprenticeship.

Born in Queen Camel on March 1923, Mr Sharp was the only child of Harry and Elsie Maud Sharp.

He was educated in Queen Camel Primary School and was an active member of the Boy Scouts and a bell-ringer at the parish church.

When Mr Sharp, now 89, began his apprenticeship at Westlands, the company was designing and building aircraft for military use during the Second World War.

He said: "As the war with Germany became a reality, I also joined the local Home Guard and in my spare time became skilled at spotting and plotting aircraft that would fly overhead. Although men all around were being called for active service, my job at Westlands was categorised as essential war work and it was not until March 1943 that my apprenticeship was interrupted and I was released and 'called up' to join the RAF."

After training, Mr Sharp's first posting was in RAF Culmhead, on the Blackdown Hills near Taunton, where he was assigned to 9MFP (Mobile Field Photographic) Section.

It was here he was asked to accompany the pilot of a Bristol Beaufighter over Weston-super-Mare to get rid of a rocket in the bay.

He said: "On the way back with the engine cleared, he decided to 'shoot' up the control tower.

"He did this three times and I said if you do that once more I will be sick all over your aircraft. I couldn't wait to get on my bike and get back to our billet."

After 12 months in Somerset, Mr Sharp was posted to the 2nd Tactical Air Force at RAF Northolt which was the base of the 34th Photographic Reconnaissance Wing.

Unknown to him at the time, they were being prepared to follow the D-Day landings.

Don't miss next week's Western Gazette where we will publish more of Mr Sharp's photographs and find out what happened to him after his unit crossed the English Channel.

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