FIRST NAMES: Alan William

NUMBER: 1672882

RANK: Sergeant

UNIT: 87 Squadron RAF

OCCUPATION: Laboratory Assistant

STATUS: Killed in Action

DATE OF DEATH: 22nd April 1945

WHERE BURIED: Padua, Italy

MEDALS: Italy Star, 1939-45 Star, Victory Medal, Defence Medal

Photo of Alan Ward in his Spitfire
Photo of Alan Ward (left) Sgt. Alan Ward (rear left) with two fellow pilots. Sgt. Alan Ward seated in his Spitfire.

Alan Ward was born in Guisborough on the 27th of February 1924 and was the second son of Frank and Elizabeth Ward and brother to Peter, Molly, Ian and Frank. The ward family moved to Thirsk Road, Northallerton when Alan was two years old, when his father became head of the labour exchange in Northallerton. Alan won a place at the Grammar School where he excelled at sport, especially football and cricket and in 1940 was awarded the Victor Ludorum as best all round sportsman. While at the Grammar school he joined the Grammar School Scout Troop, becoming a patrol leader. Later he joined the Air Training Corps, helping the squadron to win the ATC Football Cup.

In 1940 he left school and joined the Merchant Navy as an apprentice officer but the job only lasted a year. He returned to dry land because. in his own words. "I missed the open countryside and I wanted to play football, and that is just not possible on board a ship." He returned to Northallerton and worked as a lab assistant at the Cow and Gate baby milk factory in Romanby, and for a brief spell at the Meat marketing Board and County Hall. In 1941, the family moved once again, this time to Richmond. In 1942, along with his best pal Maurice Rowland, he volunteered for the armed forces. Maurice joined the Seaforth Highlanders and Alan the RAF and was accepted for pilot training.

He went first to Newquay in Cornwall, as an Aircraftman 1st Class, for basic RAF training and then to Heaton Park Manchester. After a series of tests, Alan was promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC) and began his training for pilot. After several months he boarded a ship at Liverpool, bound for South Africa, to No. 25 Empire Air Training School at Standerton, Transvaal. The weather in South Africa was ideal and there was no interference from the enemy, which meant flying could go on from dawn to dusk. Unfortunately Alan contracted malaria en-route and was sent to hospital in Cape Province. Judging by his letters home he had an excellent time in hospital and soon recovered.

Alan qualified for his wings and was posted to Ismalia in Egypt as a fighter pilot. He joined the Desert Air Force for further training and then was posted to No 87 Spitfire Squadron in Italy, as part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF). After more advanced training with the squadron he was qualified to fly operationally.

It was now February 1945 and the Allies were advancing up the peninsular of the Italian mainland, harrying and chasing the Axis forces. At times is was not possible to fly to the next forward base during the advance and sometimes a long trip by road was the order of the day, along shell cratered roads. Alan and two of his pals decided to hitch hike to the next base which was Pontedera. They arrived ahead of the rest of the lads and were immediately put onto operational flying with the Spitfire Mk IX, which suited Alan immensely. Some weeks after arriving at Pontedera, Alan discovered that the lads who arrived after him had been given much longed for leave to England. Alan showed disappointment, but no bitterness, in his letters home and just got on with operational flying. He wrote scores of letters to his family and friends and they were always full of hope for the future. He did his utmost to shield his Mother from the obvious danger that he faced, always saying how much he looked forward to coming home, to have a drink at the local and to walk the hills around Richmond. By March 1945 the German forces were on the run and No 87 Squadron took part in dozens of offensive sweeps against German positions and aircraft bases. Flying Spitfires fitted with 2x2,000 bombs, known as Spit-Bombers, Alan flew interdiction raids strafing and bombing the retreating German army and on occasion acting as fighter escort for C-47 Dakota transport aircraft. On the 22nd of April 1945, just three weeks before the end of the war, Alan was on patrol with his squadron in the area of Bondeno, when they came upon several American P47 Thunderbolts attacking a German transport column consisting of half tracks towing guns, lorries with large trailers and staff cars. The Spitfires joined in the attack but were opposed by accurate and heavy 20mm cannon fire. Alan's Spitfire was seen to dive away from the action. His colleagues circled the area, looking for him, but his aircraft was never seen again. Alan was found by local Italian peasants and buried in a local grave. He was later re-interred into a military grave.

Alan lies buried in a Commonwealth War Grave at Padua Italy, Plot 6, Row A, Grave 15. He is also remembered on the Grammar School Memorial Plaque, the All Saints Church Memorial Northallerton and in the Church of the Royal Air Force St. Clement Danes, London.

Alan was aged 21 years.