Aircrew Association
Surrey Branch

Eulogy - Cyril Pearce 1917-2006


We gather here as is the custom of mankind to pay respect to the passing of a man, our relative, our friend and our comrade. It is also the custom to remark upon what sort of man he was. Perhaps to recognise, to be inspired by his contribution to the good of other people.

Some knew him as a Bow Street police officer, others as a bomber pilot and others as a school master who served his country honourably and well.

Cyril Denys Pearce was born in Shrewsbury on 6th September 1917. He was the eleventh of twelve children, eight sisters and three brothers. His father was in the Territorial Army, The King's Shropshire Light Infantry, and had fought as a Colour Sergeant in the South African war and as a Company Sergeant Major in the First World War. His father died before Cyril's fourth birthday, leaving a widow and her six children all under the age of fourteen.

At the age of eleven Cyril was awarded a scholarship at the Priory Grammar School. He played rugby for the school and was the school cricket and swimming captain. He was the town's one hundred yards schoolboy swimming champion. He sat for the School Certificate Examination and matriculated in 1934.

He got a job as a junior clerical assistant with Shropshire County Council at the magnificent salary of 40 per annum.
He became a veritable athlete, taking up gymnastics and boxing in addition to swimming and playing soccer, rugby and cricket. At eighteen and a half (the minimum age) he applied to join the Metropolitan Police Force. He was accepted, completed the thirteen weeks training and was sworn in as a police constable on 14th December 1936. He was posted to Bow Street Police Station and within one month he was on the beat on his own. He played rugby and water polo for the Metropolitan Police first teams.

From 17th September 1940 he was on duty for most of the consecutive nights that London was bombed and most of the other heavy air raids. Police officers did not go into the shelters, they stayed out on the streets. On 10th May 1941, the night of the last of the very heavy air raids he was on the beat that housed St. Clement Danes Church and he watched it burn to the ground.

In March 1941 police officers were given permission to apply for service in the R.A.F as pilots or observers only. He applied , was accepted as a pilot and was called up in August 1941. He was trained in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with the United States Army Air Corps under the Arnold Scheme. He graduated on 6th September 1942 (his 25th birthday) and was presented with his R.A.F wings and the pilots wings and a diploma of the United States Army Air Corps and was promoted to sergeant pilot.

On return to England he was posted to No.6 Pilots Advanced Training Unit at Little Rissington. This was the best possible posting that he could ever have had. For one Saturday night in November he went to the weekly dance at Cheltenham Town Hall and met Doreen who was in the W.A.A.F. They fell deeply in love with each other and have remained so ever since. They courted with great difficulty during the hard winter on 1942/3. He would catch the station bus from Little Rissington and she would hitch hike from Gloucester.

In February 1943 he was posted to No. 22 Operational Training Unit at Moreton-in-Marsh, which fortunately had a station bus that went to Cheltenham. He knew that all air crew being trained to fly Wellington bombers at 22 O.T.U would be posted to the North African desert for operational duties.

Knowing that he would be separated from Doreen for many months, he made up his mind that he would move heaven and earth to persuade her to marry him before he was posted. Despite quite understandable opposition from her family, she agreed. They were married on 17th April 1943 at Merton on his embarkation leave. After their honeymoon, he reported back to the Ferry Flight at Moreton-in-Marsh.

Cyril flew from England to Kairouan in Tunisia where he was posted to No.142 Squadron. He was heavily involved in the invasion of Sicily and Italy and completed his first tour of operations (38 sorties in all) in October 1943.

Instead of coming home he was posted to Palestine to train aircrew to operate Wellington bombers.

In September 1944 he was sent to Italy for his second tour of operations where he was posted to No.70 Squadron. The winter of 1944/5 in Italy was the worst in living memory and Cyril lived under canvas up to his neck in snow and mud.

Still on Wimpies, by January 1945 Cyril completed a total of 60 sorties. This enabled him to sail home to England to be reunited with Doreen.

He was offered a Class B release from the R.A.F to rejoin the Metropolitan Police and was demobilised from the R.A.F in August 1945. He rejoined the Metropolitan Police at Bow Street in September 1945. He passed the sergeants' exam in December 1945. Promotion was slow so he applied for a place on the Emergency Teachers' Training course and was accepted.

He was very proud of the fact that he had been a police officer at Bow Street, the oldest and most famous police station in the world. Police officers were respected and the general public did as they were told simply because policemen spent all their eight hour daily tours of duty on the streets where they should be these days.

He started training as a teacher in March 1948. It was a thirteen month very intensive course and he graduated in April 1949. He taught in schools in Southwark, Mitcham, Nork, Chessington and Leatherhead: he went to the Leatherhead County Secondary School in Kingston Road as Master in Charge in 1971. When the Dilston Road extension was built he moved to there. He retired from teaching in August 1977 as head of the Lower School of Therfield Comprehensive School, Leatherhead.

He joined the Aircrew Association in 1981 and was one of the first members of the Surrey branch after its formation in April 1983. He had made many new friends in the A.C.A and enjoyed their companionship. Up to his late illness he had missed only two branch meetings and one pub lunch.

He considered himself to be one of the most fortunate men in the world to have had his beloved Doreen as his wife for 63 years and four very fine daughters, nine grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.

Summarised from Cyril's own notes. If you have any anecdotes or recollections of Cyril to add to this page please contact the editor - see Meetings link for address.

page last updated 9 Sep 2011