Last week we sadly reported the death of W Bro Rex Statham, but at the time there was some confusion over his age. His masonic records put him at 86 years old, but his fellow lodge members told us he was 96 – and therein lies the tale of a long and fascinating life……
Rex’s friend and fellow member of St Peter’s Lodge No 6092, Lindsay Morgan, explains;
‘When Rex joined the Police Force as a Special Constable there was a mix up with the paperwork which put him 10 years younger than he actually was. Rather than correct the mistake, Rex decided to stay 10 years younger and use his ‘new’ date of birth from then on.
Other highlights from Rex’s life include;
- Playing the Piano Accordion in a band before WWII.
- He was an Indentured Apprentice when he signed up with the RAF during WWII – when he should have stayed and finished his Apprenticeship.
- Joined the RAF as ground crew, but volunteered for air crew as he didn’t want to be posted overseas. There was a 46% casualty rate in air crew, so he was taking a chance!
- One night whilst a bit under the influence, he and his mate were walking back to camp kicking what they thought was some scrap metal, but was in fact a rather nasty ‘butterfly’ antipersonnel mine dropped by the Luftwaffe.
- Rex was to be commissioned in the RAF, but went out to the coast with a friend when bad weather halted operations. Unfortunately the weather cleared and Rex and his mate were nowhere to be seen. On his return his punishment was to have his commission torn up, so he remained a sergeant for the duration.
- Survived a crash landing after his Halifax bomber was struck by a Lancaster when it was attacked by German fighters, losing an engine. They had to head for home and only managed to jettison their final bomb into the sea shortly before crash landing in woods near Woodbridge airfield.
- After the war Rex could not settle so re-enlisted in Air Sea Rescue on Boats.
- After demob he trained as a chiropodist because when accompanying visit his late wife on an appointment he thought it looked like ‘money for old rope’!
- Joined the Freemasons and played the Organ in several Lodges for many years.
- As a veteran Rex loved to go to the Aces High Gallery to sign books and pictures with other RAF veterans.
- Rex was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French Government for his part in the liberation of France.
Rex never liked to talk about his War service as in his words ‘I was only doing my job’! He told me once why he preferred not to talk about being in Bomber Command. He was talking to a group of friends and when asked what he did in the war one of the guys said ‘well you were a bloody murderer’ – he took the comments badly so rarely spoke about the War after that.
Rex was a humble and lovely man and I was privileged to call him friend.’
Rex recorded an interview of his experiences during WWII for the International Bomber Command Centre Digital Archive, a resource to ensure the memories of serviceman like Rex are preserved forever. You can listen here.