Death of Sir K M Stoddart KCVO, AE, JP, LL D DL

Born 26 May 1914. Died 26 December 2008

Kenneth Maxwell Stoddart was one of the very first officers to serve with 611 Sqn and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the Auxiliary Air Force with 611 Squadron at Speke on 18 December 1936.

Initially he learned to fly in Avro Tutors then graduated to Hawker Harts and later Hinds before converting to Spitfire Mk I’s in May 1939. He was at summer camp at RAF Duxford, Cambridgeshire when war was declared and 611 was immediately incorporated into the RAF for the duration of WWII.

By January 1940 he was a Flt Lt and Commanded B Flight at Digby

He took part in the Dunkirk Campaign in June 1940. Flt Lt Stoddart, for example, was flying Spitfire I N3058, which was hit by a cannon shell in the fuselage just behind his seat, which tore a large hole in the side of the fuselage, blew the canopy off and left the other side like a sieve. The recently-installed armour plating was hit, and control cables were in some cases almost severed. This wreck Flt Lt Stoddart managed to land at Martlesham Heath for collection by a recovery crew.

611 was frustratingly held in reserve for much of the Battle of Britain but was finally unleased on 11 September when Flt Lt Stoddart attacked a Bf109 at long range, firing 1784 rounds without observed result. He then returned to base at Digby. He made no claims with 611 Squadron and his subsequent career in the RAF is not known except he reached the rank of Wing Commander.

He married Jean Young on 4 September 1940 the same day as Fg Off Hay married following an example set three weeks earlier by Plt Off Pollard and Sgt Shepherd, while Acting Flt Lt Jones was busily planning his wedding in the near future.

Extract from his Obituary in the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo: In a sense, he belonged to another age – public school, Clare College, Cambridge, distinguished service in the war, but those values, which might have seemed quaint to some, were admired profoundly by others.

Kenneth Stoddart was born in Cressington Park, Liverpool. From Sedbergh school, he entered Cambridge, before joining the family businesses, Caerns and Brown Ltd and the United Mersey Supply Company, chandlers and ships’ suppliers.

He flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain, becoming a wing commander, a glamorous figure with an aquiline nose, whose insouciant manner and casual references to “prangs” and drinking Pimms, while waiting for comrades to return, masked his true heroism and steely resolve.

In 1940, he married Jean Young and they had two daughters, Jennifer and Charlotte. Stoddart, the family man, was also a dedicated public servant. In 1958, he became a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire, and in 1974 he was appointed High Sheriff of Merseyside.

From 1979 to 1989, he was Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, always looking splendid in the blue uniform with the long sword and his row of medals. Yet, even as the Queen’s personal representative, he had time for children, who were fascinated by his regalia.

“It was the man who made the office, not the office which made the man,” said a friend, offering the tribute that would have been appreciated by Sir Kenneth, knighted in 1979.

A Memorial Service took place at Liverpool Cathedral on 12 February. The Squadron was represented by Ken Reeves, Sam Prince, Stan Lawrence and Alan Pimblett. The RAF was represented by Air Marshal Sir I D Macfadyen, Hon Inspector General, Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

Pilots arriving at Duxford for summer camp 1939 Pilots at Digby 1940 Pilots at Digby 1940 Pilots arriving at Duxford for summer camp 1939