Stan Hope was born in 1916 in Dublin, to English parents. Before the war he tried unsuccessfully to join the RAF but after the outbreak of the Second World War Stan volunteered and this time his application to the RAF was accepted. From July 1940, he undertook training as a wireless operator and navigator and started his service life on Blenheims, progressing to Beaufighters. A transfer to operations in the Middle East was cancelled when Stan’s pilot crashed on take off. He was subsequently transferred to the Mosquito photo-reconnaissance unit and during his tape-recorded interview he speaks of this aircraft’s tremendous speed. He photographed enemy airfields, marshalling yards and post-raid damage from 18,000-20,000 feet, flying from speeds of 250 mph when photographing, up to 400 mph.
A mission in December 1942 went wrong when first one engine failed over Austria and then the other started to show signs of failure over Belgium. Stan was ordered to bail out, having never parachuted before and remembers the silence as he descended. He landed gently, in a field of cows and managed to evade capture until 15 January when he and his companions were caught in the last stage of arranging a guided crossing of the Pyrenees. He spent months in prison, mainly at Fresnes prison in Paris, often in solitary confinement and subjected to physical and mental punishment by the Gestapo. In May 1943 he was moved to the first in a series of POW camps, enduring an horrendous ‘run up the road’ en route to one camp when the POW’s were set upon by dogs and had their kit stolen. Stan was a POW for the remainder of the war and was one of those involved in the ‘Black’ March to the West. His meticulous notes and drawings of life in the camps started when he was given a notebook by the Red Cross and form an invaluable record of the daily life of a POW.
We are delighted to report that on visiting the Centre in September 1999 to be interviewed on tape by Peter Liddle, Stan became interested in the Centre’s work and offered his services as a volunteer. He came to the Centre every week for several years to study and catalogue papers in the RAF section of the archive. Stan Passed away in 2014. His Red Cross book featuring autographed illustrations of fellow inmates, sketches, poems, songs and details of camp life, was featured in the first issue of the Centre’s journal, Everyone’s War. This unique original document is preserved at the Centre alongside aerial photographs and Stan’s RAF service book and flying log-book.
The 8th November 1942 was the only time when Stan Hope’s aeroplane was fired at. His Mosquito was so fast that it gave the enemy no chance to target them. On this particular occasion, however, another aircraft had just been spotted in the vicinity and so the gunners were already set up when Stan’s Mosquito appeared.
Transcript of Audio Clip
The Mosquito exit was very small but fortunately I’m fairly small myself, so, I remember Mac. . . I sat on the . . . kicked the door open, sat with my legs hanging out, shook hands with Mac, he kicked me on the shoulder and out I went. I was told to count to ten before I pulled the cord. I counted “one, two, three” and that was it, I pulled it! ‘Cos we weren’t very high – I’d say we were about 2,000 feet.
[Peter Liddle: Had you ever jumped before?]
No, never, no. We’d had lectures on it but never jumped before. No, we never did a practice jump, so it was a bit of a new experience. It was quite thrilling actually because I saw the plane disappear – just a glimpse of it, the ‘chute opened with a jerk and the next thing I noticed was this eerie silence. After the plane engines everything was so quiet: I could hear a dog bark, I think I heard a train whistle somewhere in the distance and I was floating down in complete silence and it was dusk, there was no cloud about and I landed very gently in a field of cows who came over to see what this white thing was floating about. Anyway, I buried the parachute, stuffed it in a hedge and started exploring. I saw a light in a farmhouse, I was in Belgium. Now this is extraordinary. I landed not far from where my grandmother was born. She was born in Belgium and she was born in a place called Hal in the country and I finished up a few miles from Hal. The first signpost I saw was Hal and as soon as I saw that I knew where I was. I had no idea up ’til then.
– A Page from WO Hope’s Flying Log –
Inventory of the Donation
- Tape recorded
- Yorkshire Post Kriegie Edition (POW magazine)
- RAF service book
- POW log book
- Flying log book
- Booklet, ‘The Royal Air Force School for Prisoners of War’
- Letters from Comtess Andree de Jongh, G. M., Comet Line founder
- Articles about the Comet Line and its founder
- Photographs of people connected with the Comet Line
- Aerial photographs