W/O WB " Bill"Stack 749518 RAFVR
Figures in the mist
When I first found The Sphere articles on 211 Squadron, they included a misty shot of two unidentified aircrew. By good fortune, Hugh Clutterbuck’s nephew saw that photograph and was able to identify his uncle from the family’s official print of the original 3-man shot, and I was then able to tentatively identify the others from my father’s account. Then, from Middlesex, came a note from Alan Stack confirming that his own father was the third man, the Sergeant Observer on the right. Alan kindly offered a copy of his father’s Log Book and a selection of family photographs, from which it has been my pleasure to compose this page.
F/O JDWH Clutterbuck and crew (RAF official)
WOp/AG (probably Sgt Duffy) left, Hugh Clutterbuck (pilot) centre, Sgt Observer Bill Stack, right, in the official photograph probably taken at Menidi in late 1940.
When Bill Stack started his RAF aircrew training in early November 1939 at 1 Air Observer and Navigation School, RAF Prestwick, the School had been in existence for just eight days, formed out of 1 Civil Air Navigation School. His training began with local flights in the rather handsome civil 4-engined Fokker F.XXXVI G-AFZR, later impressed into RAF service as HM161. Two Fokker F.XXIIs, G-AFXR (later HM159) and G-AFZP (HM160) also operated out of Prestwick, their training duties being shared between 12 Elementary & Reserve Flying Training School (operated by Scottish Aviation Ltd, owner of the Fokkers) and 1 AONS. In the early war years, many RAF Navigators took their air training in these aircraft, and Bill Stack flew in all three.
Soon Stack was moving on to Air Navigation exercises in the School’s Avro Ansons. By 7 February 1940 he had passed out of 1 AONS, having flown 50:10hrs, 31:50hrs in the Fokkers and 17:30hrs in Ansons. Typically of those early days, he had accumulated just 50mins experience in night flying.
Training Group 1940 (Stack family collection)
In this undated, sunny shot there are no airmen above the rank of Corporal and no aircrew badges in evidence. Presumably an early training shot, with AC2 Stack 6th from the left in the back row. Probably 1 AONS Prestwick.
Qualifying as LAC Air Observer at 4 Bombing and Gunnery School West Freugh wef 18 April 1940, Stack would have been promoted to Sergeant almost immediately. In completing his 4 BGS course in Fairey Battles and Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys, his flying had reached 64:30hrs by day.
With 211 Squadron in the Western Desert
Sgt Stack was posted to the Middle East and 211 Squadron immediately on qualifying, joining them in the Western Desert late in the dispiriting period known as the Phoney War. The Squadron then amounted to some 360 officers and airmen and 12 serviceable aircraft under the command of S/Ldr JWB Judge.
Sgt WB Stack Cairo 1940 (Stack family collection)
His first flight with the Squadron, on 29 April 1940, was a three hour navigation and map reading exercise from Daba to Bir Hooker, El Fayum, Damanhur and return with F/O George Doudney in Blenheim I L1496. George at that time was OIC ‘B’ Flight, giving the new lad a check and familiarisation run.
In June 1940 the balloon finally went up. Starting with a 3:25hr reconnaissance sortie on 11 June with P/O “Duke” Delaney in L6634, Bill had gathered much valuable experience by the end of July. By then he had recorded 8 operations against Italian forces in the Western Desert, with familiar characters of the Squadron like Delaney, P/O Ken Dundas and P/O Ritchie.
Sgt WB Stack Cairo August 1940 (Stack family collection)
From August onwards, the workload increased. Crewing regularly with P/O “Buck” Buchanan and either JG Sharratt or Pattison in the turret, Sgt Stack had accumulated 24 operations to his credit by the time 211 Squadron left the sands of Daba for Greece at the end of October 1940.
With 211 Squadron in Greece
Acropolis, Athens, February 1941 (Stack family collection)
Bill Stack, right, with another, unnamed, Sergeant Observer.
In Greece, he flew mostly with Buchanan, now ‘B’ Flight commander, and Pattison as WOp/AG until the end of January. By February, F/O Clutterbuck, Sgt Stack and Sgt ”Tubby” Taylor were flying often as a crew.
The airmen’s quarters, apparently. Sgt Stack in the left photograph.
Menidi, Winter 1940—41 (Stack family collection)
Menidi (Tatoi) Greece Winter 1940—41 (Stack family collection)
The familiar view across the airfield at Menidi, with Parnes in the distance. These three miniature shots have come up quite well. For a modern view see Tatoi today.
That winter in Greece, Sergeant Observer WB Stack completed a further 38 operations, 25 of them with Hugh Clutterbuck as pilot. Stack was evacuated from Greece on 21 April 1940, flying out in Short Sunderland N9029 of 230 Squadron with F/Lt Lywood in command. Aboard the same aircraft: Sgt CFR Clark.
Relaxing on the beach at Tel Aviv around May 1941 (CFR Clark)
The three men are (L to R) Sgt "Willy" Shimmin (WOp/AG); Sgt Doug Davis and Sgt Bill Stack, looking remarkably similar to Alan’s younger brother when he was in his twenties. My father kept this photograph in his copy of Wings Over Olympus. JG Sharratt kept a fuller set of snaps of the occasion. Davis, a pilot, was shot down with his crew Sgts Stalder and Trenholm over Syria 28 May 1941, the Squadron’s last Middle East losses in action.
Sgt WB Stack Tell Aviv 1941 (Stack family collection)
At the beach again, surrounded by deck-chairs.
Re-established at Aquir, the Squadron resumed the offensive, this time against the Vichy French in Syria. Bill clocked up 4 more sorties with Clutters in this awkward period, until 211 Squadron was withdrawn to The Sudan for training duties that June.
With the Scorpions
Bill Stack and Hugh Clutterbuck were then posted to 84 Squadron, another experienced Middle East Blenheim unit with much in common with the 211s. He completed a further 8 raids and offensive reconnaissance sorties with the Scorpions, for a count of 74 operations in the Middle East. Quite a record.
It is apparent from his Flying Log that some of his work with the Scorpions was in the form of training exercises. By the end of September 1941, Stack had accumulated 354:50hrs flying by day and 22:15hrs flying by night. By then, he must have well and truly been due for a rest in a training unit.
Sgt WB Stack 70 OTU Nakuru July 1942 (Stack family collection)
At last he was indeed screened, off to Nakuru in Kenya and 70 OTU. From 1941 they were training EATS crews on Blenheims, taking on Martin Baltimores from June 1942.
And home safe
Later serving in Burma, Bill Stack advanced to Warrant Officer. Returning to the UK in 1944, he qualified as an Air Bombing Instructor through the Empire Air Armament School RAF Manby wef 27 January 1945. Like other well-travelled ex-211 Squadron men, Bill was entitled to a rich haul of campaign medals: the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Burma Star, and the Defence Medal and War Medal.
WB “Bill” Stack passed away in December 2003, survived by his wife, his son Alan, and one grandson.
211 Squadron Operations Record Book RAF Form 540, Form 541 1940, 1941 (TNA AIR 27/1302)
Stack WB Observers and Air Gunners Flying Log Book RAF Form 1767
Clark family photographs
Clutterbuck family photographs
Sharratt family photographs
Stack A correspondence and family photographs
Sturtivant R RAF Flying Training and Support Units Since 1912 (Air Britain 2007)
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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 12 Sep 2021. Page created 23 Jul 2005, last updated 8 May 2020
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