He fought Zeppelins, German planes and evaded capture for three months - now a Sunderland war hero has been remembered in a new album

A Sunderland war hero has helped to inspire a hit single - and hopes are high that it will be the same with an album.

Wednesday, 13th December 2017, 11:06 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th December 2017, 11:10 am
The cover of the new album which includes a tribute to Sunderland-born hero Claude Ridley.
The cover of the new album which includes a tribute to Sunderland-born hero Claude Ridley.

Claude Ridley featured on a track which was recorded earlier this year by musical trio Stuck In The Middle.

It was all about Stow Maries Aerodrome, near Maldon in Essex, which Claude was sent to command after the First World War.

The band at Stow Maries Aerodrome.

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Stuck In The Middle consists of Jon Greaves on guitar and vocals (as well as keyboards on the recording), Julian May on guitar and vocals and Angela Gardner on percussion and vocals.

Jon contacted us to say: “The single was very successful and sold a large amount of copies and it is now part of our new album which was launched a week ago called Fun Flight & Music.

“The album has taken over a year to complete and follows on from our debut album Picture This that was released in 2016.

“In general, this collection of 13 songs has an aviation theme running through it and has a photograph of Claude Ridley (among other aviation heroes of ours) in the inner sleeve pictured in his officers uniform as a tribute to him.”

Claude Ridley.

Claude was a hero in the First World War before he went to Stow Maries.

He served with distinction on the front line in the global conflict.

Born in Sunderland in 1897, CA Ridley was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers, who was attached to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1915.

He was a Wing Commander in the RFC and was awarded the Military Cross for action against Zeppelin raids on the Home Front, and the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for conspicuous gallantry and resource in the execution of a special mission behind enemy lines.

The band at Stow Maries Aerodrome.

He once evaded capture on the German side of the lines for three months.

After the war, he was sent to command Stow Maries Aerodrome, near Maldon in Essex, which to this day is the largest surviving First World War aerodrome.

The band said that upon reading about his heroic deeds they became aware of just what an amazing person he was.

It led to the recording of the single and Jon told us earlier this year: “We decided that although the song was predominantly about the air base, he should have a special mention. He survived the war but died of natural causes in 1942.

Claude Ridley.

“He always recalled happy times at Stow Maries, and upon his request was buried in Stow Maries church yard.”

Claude Alward Ridley, who grew up at Mere Knolls House in Fulwell, won a Military Medal and Distinguished Service Order for his ‘conspicuous gallantry’ during the conflict.

Claude, the second youngest of seven children, was born in Sunderland in 1897 to solicitor Louis Ridley and his wife Eleanor and spent his early childhood in Fulwell. By the time of the 1911 census, however, the family had moved to a plush 10-room home in Notting Hill, London, where Claude attended the exclusive St Paul’s School.

After completing his education, the Wearside youngster enrolled at Sandhurst College as a cadet – until war saw him temporarily commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps.

During a dramatic period of service, he engaged in battles with the Germans, was injured during a brutal fight with two German planes, and later - after convalescing - he fought off Zeppelins during raids on the capital.

Later, he flew spies into German territory at night and once had to flee for his life after his plane’s engine died in a field near a German airbase.

He successfully eluded capture for three months on the German side of the line, and eventually worked his way via Brussels to the Dutch frontier and escaped.

But his amazing exploits went even further as he collected notes on all of the enemy action he had seen during his time on the run. It proved to be useful information to the British forces and just weeks after returning home, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order.

Still just 19, he was sent home to help defend London once again – and given command of 37 Squadron at their new base at Stow Maries.

Sunderland Echo readers wanting more information on the new album Fun Flight & Music should email Jon Greaves at [email protected]