Family of historic war hero visit site with dedicated area in his memory

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome welcomed family members of its first commander, Captain Claude Ridley, MC, DCO.

His family visited his former station at the site in Hackmans Lane in Chelmsford.

Claude’s Great-Neice, Sophie Stuart-Buttle, and her family brought newspaper cuttings of his exploits.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Touring: Claude's Great-Great-Neice DaisyTouring: Claude’s Great-Great-Neice Daisy (Image: Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome)

Sophie’s daughter, Daisy, aged 12, Claude’s Great-Great-Neice, is a member of Towcester 1875 Squadron Air Cadets – following in his “very large, and illustrious footsteps”.

Chief executive officer of Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, Ian Flint, said: “Claude’s family were especially pleased to see the museum’s exhibition, dedicated to 37 Squadron RFC, which tells the story of their famous relative – including the sword he carried on his Passing-Out parade.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Respected: captain Claude RidleyRespected: captain Claude Ridley (Image: Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome)

“The exhibition is open to the public as part of the permanent visitor offer at the museum, telling tales of the derring-do exploits of this very remarkable man.

“Claude, who transferred from the Royal Fusiliers after serving and being wounded on the Western Front, to 60 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, in July 1915, was decorated for home defence in Southern England, winning the Military Cross in 1916 for ‘downing’ a zeppelin.

“Not content to sit on his (injured) heels, he then transferred to 3 Squadron RFC, for secret missions into occupied France.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Sword: Claude Ridleys swordSword: Claude Ridleys sword (Image: Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome)Maldon and Burnham Standard: Exciting: the family looked around the historic siteExciting: the family looked around the historic site (Image: Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome)

“It was on a mission like this that, while ferrying a spy behind enemy lines in France in 1916, his Morane aircraft broke down, and he and his passenger were captured.

“Undeterred, and despite his injuries, Claude managed to escape, and spent several weeks on the run, trying desperately to get back to England via the Low Countries, gathering intelligence about the German forces.

“He delivered this intelligence to his superiors on his return. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for “…Conspicuous gallantry and judgement in the execution of a special mission.”

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Family Claude's great niece Sophie Stuart ButtleFamily Claude’s great niece Sophie Stuart Buttle (Image: Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome)

“Due to his daring and well-publicised escape, he was withdrawn from missions overseas – he risked being shot as a spy if he was captured -and sent to head up No. 37 Squadron at RFC Stow Maries. By this time, he was just 19 years of age.

“Claude is buried in Stow Maries Churchyard, as he requested, returning to the place he had loved and served so well during the Great War.”

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am until Sunday, December 17.