Sanders Heroes

Below you will find our 13 Heroes and information about each including their qualities and characteristics which made them a nominee to be a House at Sanders.


The flying ace of WW2. A pilot whose courage and determination helped win the Battle of Britain

Eric Lock - The flying ace of WW2. A pilot whose courage and determination helped win the Battle of Britain

Eric Lock a RAF fighter pilot and ‘flying ace’ of the second world war.

Eric joined the reserve RAF in 1939 and trained as a spitfire pilot. He moved to RAF Hornchurch in 1940 where he was heavily involved and well recognised and known for his role in the Battle of Britain.

Lock was a distinguished pilot, he had extraordinary skill in chasing down the enemy and was known for his utter determination in protecting London’s airspace and the citizens who lived there. He was described as a ‘cool’ character, always calm, even in the face of adversity.

In 1940, Eric Lock’s spitfire came under heavy fire. He was hit and severely injured in his arms and both legs. Lock carried on operating the plane despite his injury and was able to land the plane safely. He was lying in his heavily damaged aircraft for 2 hours before he was found. When he returned he underwent 15 different operations to remove shrapnel from his legs. He still returned to RAF Hornchurch following this. He still went on to fight for his country.

Sadly, at the young age of 22, Lock was killed in an attack across France. During his short life he was awarded 3 different awards for bravery and gallantry.

Eric Lock was awarded the ‘distinguished flying cross’ by the King. This is awarded for:“an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy" arguably Eric Lock showed all of these qualities during WW2.

Teamwork and Hard work:

Both of these values were at the forefront of everything Eric Lock did. His dedication to his team, the RAF, ultimately ended in him losing his life. He was a committed and determined character who showed real bravery and courage. He epitomises hard work, returning to his role despite his heavy injuries in order to ensure that he could continue as a member of his team.


The pilot awarded the Distinguished Flying cross for bravery in action

Johnny Allen - The pilot awarded the Distinguished Flying cross for bravery in action.

Originally born under British Rule and protectorate in British East Africa, now Kenya, Johnny Allen moved to the UK and joined the RAF in 1937. Johnny’s start in the RAF was not the most straightforward. Whilst on a training flight, Johnny’s plane disappeared into fog and the next morning a wreckage was found by an RAF search plane. Johnny Allen was found next to the plane wreck, badly injured. Despite this, he showed true resilience to complete his training and following this he moved and joined 54 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch.

Johnny Allen, like the other pilots based in Hornchurch at the time, was heavily involved in fighting over the French coastline and the protection of soldiers in Dunkirk.They played an incredibly important role in defending the skies above Dunkirk which allowed the rescue of soldiers on the beaches

Johnny Allen was awarded the DFC (Distinguished flying cross) for his bravery during this period of time.

He was awarded this at RAF Hornchurch on 27th June 1940 by King George VI. Sadly, Johnny Allen died the next month in a crash due to engine failure. He was just 24 at the time. A reminder of the sacrifice made by so many during WW2.

Teamwork and Hard work:

Both of these values were at the forefront of everything Johnny Allen did and stood for. He showed real bravery and played a very important part in a wider team. Without working as a team, it would not have been possible for the RAF fighters to successfully support those who were evacuating soldiers from Dunkirk. This could have led to disastrous outcomes. They would have needed to use many features of effective team work including: good communication, trust and sharing a common goal.

Richard Hillary -

The pilot who overcame personal battles with resilience and determination.

Richard Hillary - The pilot who overcame personal battles with resilience and determination.

Richard Hilary was a RAF pilot based at RAF Hornchurch during the height of the Battle of Britain. He was a key fighter pilot during this time and was known to have been responsible for many successful flights. On one outing in his plane, he was shot down by enemy planes. This resulted in him suffering severe and extensive burns to his face and hands before he was finally able to struggle free to parachute into the North Sea. He was rescued by a lifeboat of the coast but would go on to suffer a great deal of pain due to the number of burns on his body and face.

Hillary’s burns were then treated by a famous plastic surgeon at the time. This pioneering surgery made him a leading member of the ‘Guinea Pig club’. This was a group made up of airmen who went through reconstructive surgery during WW2. Whilst he was receiving this treatment, he wrote his famous memoir - ‘The Last Enemy’. This documented the many battles and challenges that airmen faced. Richard Hillary suffered with his well being and was thought to have struggled with maintaining his mental health. He did not let this get the better of him. He refused to allow anything to get in the way of him making progress. Richard Hillary returned to his squadron in the RAF and despite his significant injuries and lack of mobility he went on to fly again. Sadly he was killed at the age of 24. He, like so many, gave his life to defend others.

Teamwork and Hard work:

Richard Hillary epitomised the qualities of teamwork and hard work. Ultimately sacrificing his life to return to support his team. He drew on the qualities of teamwork to support his friends and fellow airmen during what were incredibly difficult times.

Paddy Finucane -

The fearless and skilful pilot who became the youngest ever Wing Commander in the RAF.

Paddy Finucane - The fearless and skillful pilot who became the youngest ever Wing Commander in the RAF.

Paddy Finucane was born in Dublin Ireland and moved to the UK when he was 17 years old. Soon after he joined the RAF and trained as a pilot. Paddy was known to have struggled initially but despite this he continued to work hard to improve and soon became a qualified pilot.

His ongoing dedication, hard work and leadership led to him becoming the youngest ever Wing Commander in the RAF, all before his 22nd birthday. This was whilst he was based at RAF Hornchurch. He was both the leader of his squadron and an inspiration leader to his pilots and ground crew. He flew in his Shamrock crested spitfire and throughout his career was a very successful fighter. During his career in the RAF he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. This was given to those who for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy

Even whilst facing his death, after being hit by a machine gun over the coast in France whilst leading his team back to Hornchurch, he was a leader. Notified by his wing-man that he had been hit, Paddy acknowledged it with a ‘thumbs up’. He was undoubtedly scared and worried but instead remained calm and was recorded to have said over the radio to his fellow airmen: ‘This is it chaps’. Paddy showed real bravery and courage whilst facing terrifying circumstances. Even at this time he was able to skilfully glide his aircraft down to the ground. Sadly he died at the age of 21.

Teamwork and Hard work:

Paddy epitomised our school values of teamwork and hard work. Bravery . Even when facing his death, he valued the importance of his team and put them and their safety before his own. He was committed and determined and shows that anyone can be successful, despite their initial struggles with hard work, determination and focus.

Robert Stanford Tuck -

The highly awarded pilot who lead with skill and gallantry.

Robert Stanford Tuck - The highly awarded pilot who lead with skill and gallantry.

Robert Stanford Tuck was born and raised in London. Stanford Tuck was initially a member of the Merchant Navy but left to join the RAF and fly in 65 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch in 1936. Whilst at Hornchurch Tuck flew with the Squadron’s acrobatic team and on two occasions he flew in ‘near to death’ aerial collisions. Using this skill for flying, Tuck went on to become one of the highest scoring pilots during both the battles over Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain.

Stanford Tuck was recognised for his skilful piloting and devotion by King George and received the Distinguished Flying Cross medal in June 1940. Throughout his flights he was reported to have flown with ‘dash and gallantry’. In 1941, he was awarded with the ‘Distinguished Service Order’. A newspaper report stated it was given to Tuck as he ‘has commanded his squadron with great success, and his outstanding leadership, courage and skill have been reflected in its high morale and efficiency’.

During a fighter sweep in 1942 Tuck’s spitfire was hit forcing him to crash-land. He was captured by enemy Germans and placed in a Prisoner of War Camp. During his time here, Tuck was said to have been one of the leading participants in the planning of the so - called ‘Great Escape’, however he was moved prison camps prior to this happening. Eventually he returned to the UK in 1945. Following the war, Tuck continued to fly as a test pilot, working for the RAF in development for new planes.

Robert Stanford Tuck was reported to have said that he always had respect for the German pilots whom he flew against. Whilst he realised that he had a role to play and that it required him to lead attacks against them, he said following the war that he never hated his enemy during the war.

Teamwork and Hard work: .

Robert Stanford Tuck realised that being a team was vital to the success of his squadron. He led skilful flights and was known as a skilful leader. He encouraged others to be brave and work hard to bring about success.

Sailor Malan -

The brave leader who valued teamwork and was not afraid to fight for what he knew to be right.

The brave leader who valued teamwork and was not afraid to fight for what he knew to be right.

Adolph, most commonly known as ‘Sailor’ Malan, was a famed World War II RAF fighter pilot who led No.74 Squadron RAF during the height of the Battle of Britain. It was under this leadership that this squadron became one of the RAF’s best units and Malan’s leadership and role during the battle left a lasting legacy. Originally born in South Africa and was part of the South African Naval Cadets prior to leaving to join the RAF. It was his naval past that gave him the nickname ‘Sailor’ amongst his pilot colleagues. He joined the RAF in 1935 and moved to Hornchurch in 1936. Once the war was declared in 1939 he was a pilot officer. Unfortunately, Malan’s flight were involved in a serious incident of friendly fire just hours after the war was declared. This unfortunate incident led to the death of a RAF pilot. An incident like this would have caused much distress for himself and his colleagues but Malan continued to fly and went on to become a very distinguished pilot and leader.

Malan was involved in many fierce battles over Dunkirk and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1940. He was presented this by King George VI. Malan led his squadron during the Battle of Britain. It was whilst he was doing this that he developed rules for air fighting with his squadron, one of these rules was about the importance of teamwork.

Following his role in WW2, Sailor Malan returned to South Africa. This was during a time when the national party were introducing laws and rules which were racist and

Malan joined the ‘Torch Commando’ a group of ex servicemen who opposed the national party and their ideology and went on to oppose the apartheid in South Africa. He was their leader. Malan died in 1963 from Parkinson’s Disease, at the time this was very rare. A considerable sum of money was raised in his name to further study the disease, a fund that continues to this day.

Teamwork and Hard work: .

Malan epitomises the values of teamwork and hard work. He understood and truly valued the importance of teamwork and this was noted by his leadership style. Malan worked hard throughout hsi RAF career and after to bring about change and due to this hard work was recognised as a fantastic leader.

Frank Gruszka -

The Polish fighter forgotten in time

Frank Gruszka - The Polish fighter forgotten in time.

Franciszek ‘Frank’ Gruszka was born in Poland. He was one of three brothers who had prominent roles in WW2. He served in the Polish army from 1931 and graduated from their flying school. After the outbreak of WW2, he travelled through Romania, Yugoslavia and Italy to continue fighting in France. This movement is similar to those many migrants from the EU who have moved to the UK and continue to be key to our countries growth and development taking on roles in the NHS and many other key industries. In 1939 he arrived in Britain and was one of the first Polish migrant fighter to arrive. He underwent training in flying the spitfire and was commissioned as a Flying Officer based at RAF Hornchurch.

Gruszka was a key fighter and in 1940 he was involved in a dog- fight over Canterbury and was last seen chasing a fleeing German fighter. Gruszka never returned to RAF Hornchurch. There were no reports regarding his fate and it was assumed that he had been in a crash and captured as a prisoner of war. He was classified by the RAF as Missing In Action (MIA).

However in 1975, 35 years after he was reported missing, a WW2 aviation archaeology group found the remnants of a plane and its pilot in marshes in East Sussex. As this was found in a swamp, the nature of the ground had kept the uniform, airman’s emblem and some of his personal possessions in good condition. The body was identified as Gruszka’s as a golden fountain pen was found. This had been engraved with a message from his fellow pilots. This Polish fighter, who moved to Hornchurch and was forgotten in time was buried with full British military honours at the Polish War Memorial in London. He was also awards the Battle of Britain clasp, Air Crew Europe Star and his war medal.

Teamwork and Hard work: .

Frank Gruszka knew the importance of teamwork. He was valued by his team members and worked hard to bring about success. He was also able to become a valuable team member in a place far from his home. He would have had to lean on the attributes of hard work during his journey and his move to Britain.

Henry 'The Pole' Szczensy -

The dedicated and committed Polish fighter who made the UK his home.

Henry ‘The Pole’ Szczesny - The dedicated and committed Polish fighter who made the UK his home.

Henryk Szczesny was born in Ruszkow, Warsaw on 27th March 1910 and joined the Polish Air Force in 1931. Henry was involved in fighting for the Polish RAF. During this time he was injured and evacuated to Romania, he was in hospital in Bucharest and later escaped on a Greek ship, which took him to Malta. Szczesny went to France, then to England. Travelling throughout Europe like many modern day migrants, he settled in England and was commissioned in the Reserve RAF in 1940.

He learned how to fly spitfires and then joined 74 Squadron at Hornchurch on 5th August.

Szczesny went on to have an excellent fighting record. He was a determined and courageous pilot. Szczwsny was shot down and captured and put into a German POW camp where he remained in very difficult conditions until being freed in late April 1945 At this point Szczesny returned to the UK, the country which he was proud to call home.

Szczesny stayed in the RAF postwar, in the Fighter Control Branch. He retired on 27th March 1965 as a Flight Lieutenant, retaining the rank of Squadron Leader. He remained in London for the rest of his life.

Teamwork and Hard work: .

Szezesny was a proud member of his squadron and worked hard to get to the UK to fly spitfires for the RAF. He understood the importance of working in a team and valued teamwork, this is shown by his dedication and long service to his ‘team’ - the RAF.

Joy Caldwell -

The Opps room support worker

Joy Caldwell was an Operations Room worker at RAF Hornchurch during WW2. The Ops room was the nerve centre for RAF Hornchurch. It provided strategic guidance and was key to both the protection of the Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain.

Operating the printer, teleprinter and contributing to plotting was 18 year old Joy Caldwell. As a young woman during this time, she worked in terrifying times but was known to have shown unfaltering bravery and courage. Conditions in the Ops rooms would have been intense and stressful, however, Joy like her colleagues managed this with a calm and collected approach. She did not let the sound of bombs falling panic her and was able to give 100% to her tasks despite this.

During her time at RAF Hornchurch, Joy was actually hit by a bomb. One day as she was walking into ops, a bomb came down and she was blown through the door and over the counter of signals. She broke her back on the wireless sets and was out of action for a period of time but returned to work the Ops room as soon as she could.

Alongside her role in the Ops room, Joy used to go round with buckets of sand to fill in the holes where anti aircraft guns had been set so that the fighters could return to battle.

She provided moral support, kindness and was always willing to go above and beyond in her role.

Teamwork and Hard work: .

Joy was a proud member of her team. She was proud of those she worked with and was committed to doing her bit to support the RAF at Hornchurch during the time. She worked tirelessly to ensure that she fulfilled her role and made a difference during the war effort.

Ronald Eke -

A young boy, a hero, who made a selfless choice

Ronald Eke - A young boy, a hero, who made a selfless choice

Ronald Eke was a 13 year old boy when his family home on Ardleigh Green was hit by 2 bombs that dropped in mid November 1940.

The rescue team who arrived at the site found Ronald first. Despite horrendous injuries which included both of his legs being severely crushed and covered by the rubble, Ronald bravely showed real strength.

He pretended that his injuries were mild in order to allow for his family members to be found first. He helped the rescuers by giving them invaluable information so that they were able to locate his family and others impacted by the bomb.

His own extraction took a long time in the darkness and rain and yet he never complained. Ronald showed immense bravery on this day but sadly died the next day during surgery to remove both of his arms and legs, as they were so badly injured.

Ronald , a boy scout, was rightly honoured with the ‘Bronze Cross’ , the highest honour the scouts can give, this was for the courage shown and brave choice to put others before himself.

Teamwork and Hard work:

Ronald showed bravery and courage in acting in a selfless way. He put the needs and his concern for others before his own. He bravely worked with the team of rescuers to help locate his family despite being in horrendous pain he never gave up.

Ronald epitomises hard work and teamwork, putting others before himself and remaining calm despite the horrendous situation he faced.

John Grayston and Bert Poole -

Local heroes who saved the lives of many through their brave response to danger

John Grayston and Bert Poole - Local heroes who saved the lives of many through their brave response to danger

John Grayston and Vincent Poole were local men who worked at Romford Gas works. They played a vital role on the home-front throughout the war like so many other men and women. On 8th December 8th 1940, three bombs fell on Romford Gas Works.

The impact of this was that two of the gas holders were hit and plumes of gas threatened to engulf the entire plant.

John, who was an engineer and Bert, the foreman attempted to shut the relevant valves and plug the gaping holes.

Whilst they were doing this, there were still bombs falling around them. Their clothes set on fire numerous times but despite this they bravely carried on. The men managed to control the blaze and this averted a possible disaster at the site and for the local area.

Teamwork and Hard work:

Both men showed our school values throughout this night whilst they battled with the fire. They did not give up, whilst so many would have done, as they knew that they had a duty to prevent potential disaster and the risk of life to many.

This would not have been easy. They would have undoubtedly been scared but they did not give us regardless. They worked as a team to ensure that they were able to achieve their goal.

Muriel Petch -

The Ops room plotter who helped win the Battle of Britain

Muriel Petch - The Ops room plotter who helped win the Battle of Britain

Muriel Petch lived to be 103 and was one of the last handful of “Ops Room” plotters who helped fight the Battle of Britain in 1940. Petch, who ranked as a sergeant in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), worked at RAF Hornchurch in Essex.

Petch would display the colour-coded symbols showing Hitler’s Luftwaffe coming across the North Sea to attack, in swarms of 300 aircraft or more, alternately watching the clock on the wall, its face also colour-coded, and listening to the data given over her headphones. This was a very stressful job and she was able to fulfil it calmly and efficiently.

Petch and her team worked at RAF Hornchurch during the time when it was heavily targeted. It was bombed at least 20 times during the Battle of Britain. This would have been scary for anyone working there.

Petch was working during the Battle of Britain and due to the nature of this battle, Britain was running out of replacement planes. At this time the Ops room in Hornchurch had been bombed and they had moved their work to a grocery shop. Even from here they were able to provide strategic support and guidance.

Petch’s strength of character was next tested when she was involved in the planning of a raid on a Nazi held electical company in Netherlands. Petch had been to this area as a child on holidays and had many friends who lived there. Despite this, using her knowledge of the area she bravely worked with the RAF to plot the raid and it was a huge success. BR

Teamwork and Hard work: .

Petch understood the importance of teamwork and her role within the team. She was dedicated to the RAF and those she worked with. She worked hard, and often long hours in stressful and difficult conditions to bring about results. Muriel Petch epitomises our school values.

Ian Fisher -

The true professional and former Sanders Draper School student who epitomises the values of Teamwork and Hard Work.

Ian Fisher - The true professional and former Sanders Draper School student who epitomises the values of Teamwork and Hard Work.

Ian Fisher was a former student of our school. He died in action in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 5th November 2013.

A local man, WO2 Ian Fisher was born and grew up in Elm Park. He attended Ayloffs Primary and Sanders Draper School. Whilst he was studying for his degree he joined the territorial army. From this point on, the Army very much became his main focus.

WO2 Ian Fisher had extensive experience in overseas operations including completing tours in Northern Ireland, twice in Iraq and on a previous tour to Afghanistan.

It was during his second tour of Afghanistan that he sadly died. On 5th November 2013, he was leading on the second day of an operation to disrupt insurgent activity, as a meeting was being conducted with Afghan National Security Forces, WO2 Fisher’s vehicle was subjected to a vehicle-borne suicide attack. WO2 Fisher was evacuated by air to the military hospital at Camp Bastion, where it was confirmed that he had tragically been killed in action.

He was regarded as a true professional by his peers and those whom he led. Inspiring those around him with confidence and this professionalism, known to have a calming influence on those he worked alongside and led. He has been described as being ‘straight talking and obsessive in his pursuit of excellence’. His wit, intellect and strong sense of humour is what made him such a remarkable man.

Teamwork and Hard work: .

Described as an exceptional man, soldier and leader, WO2 Ian Fisher epitomises our school values of Teamwork and Hard Work. It is clear from his actions and dedication to the British Army that he understood the importance of working hard towards a shared goal. A key team player, as well as an inspiring leader, WO2 Fisher led with professionalism and continued to be committed until the day he was tragically killed in action.