Stanley Kevin BLACK

Poppy

BLACK, Stanley Kevin

Service Number: 418790
Enlisted: 19 June 1942, Melbourne
Last Rank: Flight Sergeant
Last Unit: No. 106 Squadron (RAF)
Born: North Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia , 12 March 1923
Home Town: Fitzroy, Yarra, Victoria
Schooling: North Fitzroy Central University High School, Melbourne Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Insurance Clerk
Died: Ground Battle, Graignes, Normandy, France, 11 June 1944, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Bayeux War Cemetery, Normandy, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

19 Jun 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, SN 418790, Aircrew Training Units, Melbourne

World War 2 Service

20 Jun 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2, SN 418790, Aircrew Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
3 May 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, SN 418790, No. 106 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

Help us honour Stanley Kevin Black's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

This story is extracted with permission from a blog by John Knifton - https://johnknifton.com/tag/avro-lancaster/ (johnknifton.com) and from a Channel 9 story in July 2015, by Kerrie Yacksley.

The story of Stanley Black's death in WW2 is remarkable.  He had enlisted in the RAAF and undergone flight training.  Assigned to the UK he was eventually posted to No. 106 Squadron he flew in Lancasters over occupied Europe.  The RAF flew a large number of raids in support of Operation Ovelord and Neptune, the D Day Landings.  Stanley Black's aircraft Lancaster Z-NH, serial number ME150, was shot down on the night of 9/10 June 1944 over the village of Lison in western sector of the Normady hinterland.

“For sixty years his family had thought he died on D-Day in a relatively straight forward situation when his plane was shot down over occupied France by enemy fire. “We knew that he had been in a crashed plane and we always thought that he died there and then,” his great niece Elissa Liggins said. But Sergeant Black survived the crash, and was taken in by a brave French family for the night.

After a good stiff drink and a sleep Sergeant Black asked to be taken to the nearby village of Graignes where he met a group of American paratroopers. Their orders were to defend the village. Even after a plane crash, Sergeant Black was determined to help.”

“Aided by the villagers, the paratroopers with Sergeant Black set up a perimeter around Graignes.  After a couple of days, the Germans attacked. The allies successfully fought them off the first time but the Germans successfully attacked again.

The S.S. then executed many of the survivors. It is not clear exactly how Sergeant Stanley Black died but he was probably killed on June 11th. He was just 21 years old. The little village never forgot their “Australian hero”.

Decades later an English lady who lives in the village, Liane Ward-Cleaveley, felt frustrated his name was not on the plaque commemorating the battle. She contacted a Lancaster enthusiast in Australia, Graeme Roberts, who tracked down Sgt Black’s relatives.

“We got a phone call from a gentleman called Graeme who had read a message from an English lady living in France,” Ms Liggins recalled.
“She had a bee in her bonnet because this Australian who had battled hadn’t got his name on a memorial.”
Accompanied by members of the RAAF, Ms Liggins flew to France for the unveiling of her great uncle’s name on the village plaque.

“I don’t think any of us appreciated how big it was going to be for the family – certainly not for me – it’s quite life changing,” she said.
Flight Lieutenant Mark Schmidt describes it as “an amazing experience”.

“It’s an incredible story and then to go to the village and connect with the villagers there… he’s a hero to those guys they call him ‘the Australian who fell from the sky’,” he said.
Every single evening at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, a single Australian who died for his country is honoured. And recently, Sergeant Stanley Black was the chosen hero.
The Last Post was played and the Eternal Fame flickered. Ms Liggins and her family laid a wreath for their uncle. It was a poignant moment she will never forget:

“I sort of feel like I have a connection with him now, that just wasn’t there before, and I know his story intimately… it’s pretty powerful stuff,” she said.
A powerful story, to share with generations to come.

And what a story. The forces of darkest evil opposed by brave, brave men, women and children.

French villagers, French children, American paratroopers, British flyers and one very, very brave and determined Australian.

The church has been left exactly as the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division left it.

There is another excellent film on the Channel 9 News site. It is well worth watching.

If you are feeling brave, then try this website. It has a picture of Madame Marthe His, one of the only surviving witnesses of this Nazi war crime.

She watched what the SS did when she was only 12, and now, 73 years later, and a very young looking 83, she is determined that it should not be forgotten.

And don’t forget Flight Sergeant Stanley Black of the Royal Australian Air Force.

He didn’t need to do what he did.

But he did it nevertheless. A true hero.

 

John Knifton 2016

 

Compiled by Steve Larkins March 2018

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Biography

Born in the Melbourne suburb of North Fitzroy on 12 March 1923, Stanley Kevin Black was the son of George and Lillian Eliza Black. One of four children, the young Stanley Black attended North Fitzroy Central School before attending University High School.

A keen sportsman, Black played cricket, football, and tennis, and was also into dancing. After school he worked as an insurance clerk at the Australian Insurance Institute in Market Street, Melbourne.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Black enlisted as a reservist before volunteering for the Royal Australian Air Force on 19 June 1942. He began training as a navigator, then as an air bomber.

In May 1943 Black embarked in Brisbane for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Stanley Black was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined squadrons based in Britain throughout the course of the war.

After further training in England, Black was posted in May 1944 to No. 106 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. As part of Bomber Command, the squadron flew the four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. Black joined a crew of British airman, as an air bomber.

On his fifth mission with the squadron, on the night of 7 June 1944, Black and his crew were bombing targets near the city of Caen in Normandy, in support of the D-Day landings. Black’s Lancaster was shot down by heavy flak, and he managed to bail out, but four of his British crewmates were killed in the crash. Only the pilot would survive the war.

Having made it safely to ground near the village of St Jean de Daye, Black was assisted by a local Frenchman and managed to join up with a group of 180 American paratroopers of the US 82nd Airborne Division who had occupied the neighbouring village of Graignes.

On 10 June the German 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division launched an attack on Graignes. Outnumbered by as many as ten to one, the Americans inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers before they were overwhelmed and forced to withdraw. On entering the town the Germans rounded up the executed each of the American wounded, and in reprisal attacks also murdered two French priests and more than 40 local villagers accused of assisting the Allies. They also set fire to the town, razing much of Graignes to the ground.

At some point during the fighting for Graignes Flight Sergeant Black was killed. His remains were buried in the Bayeux War Cemetery. He was 21 years old.

In a letter home to his parents, the commander of No. 106 Squadron wrote that all in the squadron were greatly appreciative of the motives that had brought Flight Sergeant Black so far from home “to help us in our great fight”. His loss would never “be forgotten”.

Black’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 other Australians who died in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. 

 

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

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