Croydon heritage reader recalls passion for flight
Our report on the first postal flights to India prompted Monica Stanyard to remember her uncle’s flights to Lisbon. She spoke to Kirsty Whalley about Crilly Airways and her passion for flying.
As a child Monica’s uncle would take her and his two sons for tea at the Aerodrome Hotel and the out for a flight in one of his planes.
The 88-year-old said: “The minute I stepped into an airplane I was hooked and I am still hooked. Back then my uncle had a Fokker FXII that we flew in, now I have a friend who is a pilot and we go flying at Biggin Hill.”
Frederick Leo Crilly invested about £12,000 in his airline and was the first to fly post to Lisbon. He operated the airmail flights using four Fokka FXII which seated 12 people.
The service opened on February 1, 1936. Crilly wanted to extend the service to Gibraltar and into West Africa but the Spanish government refused to allow him to fly over Spanish territory due to the civil war.
As a result his finances collapsed and he was forced to sell his company in September 1936 to British Airways Iberia Ltd.
Crilly also operated domestic passenger flights from 1928 and Monica has vivid memories of flying in these.
“I was there for the inaugural flight to Yorkshire,” she said. “I was 12 and I was one of the first to go. It was a very exciting thing, the lift off and going along in the air in a tiny vehicle was quite thrilling.”
At the time, Monica had no idea how privileged she was to fly in an aircraft. “We all took it for granted it was what my uncle did,” she said.
She jokes that she liked flying so much that she married a man in the Airforce.
Monica met Frank Stanyard when they were both working for Middlesex County Council. The bright young man had come down from Yorkshire to advance his career.
“There was an outfit travelling around the country offering people a flying experience for half a crown. Frank went on a ride and immediately captivated,” she said.
“When the war broke out it seemed only natural that he would join the airforce. Frank regarded himself as expendable, other men had responsibilities and he had none, he had no family. He joined bomber command.”
His crew was so successful that they were all awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation reads: “Flight Lieutenant Stanyard has now completed twenty-five most successful sorties against the most heavily defended targets including Berlin ... The excellent results obtained by his crew are largely attributed to his outstanding ability as a navigator.
“He has always displayed a fine offensive spirit and an unconquerable desire to reach his objective in the face of the heaviest opposition.”
Monica has been widowed now for 32 years but says that the years after the war were very happy.
The couple had four sons and Monica is now a grandmother of eight and a great-grandmother of one.
• Do you have any memories of the war you would like to share? Call the Heritage Desk on 020 8330 9559