Riding crop will be returned to family of Arnhem war hero
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
A STAINTON man’s pledge to return an antique riding crop to a decorated Second World War hero’s family has not only been successful but has also uncovered a host of fascinating information about his family.
When Astley Fenwick found the artillery regiment riding crop hidden among golf clubs in a bag that once belong to his mother-in-law, he was intrigued by the name and an RAF wings logo that had been carved into it.
His own research uncovered the name Lt Ralph Alexander Maltby, who had served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery as well as the Glider Pilot Regiment.
He had died on his 26th birthday on September 17, 1944, after suffering a headwound while his glider was under fire from anti-aircraft guns at Arnhem during the start of Operation Market Garden – made famous by the film A Bridge Too Far.
Lt Maltby had witnessed a V2 missile launch aimed at the UK as he was piloting the glider. He was killed shortly after while the craft was still airborne. His colleague took over and the glider landed safely.
Mr Fenwick was inundated with emails after articles about his search for the hero’s family appeared in the Teesdale Mercury and the Oxford Mail. One email in particular stood out. Mr Fenwick said: “I couldn’t believe it. I saw this name and that is his daughter. Isn’t it incredible?”
The daughter, who does not want to be named and currently lives in Kent, wrote: “I do know he liked to ride, and therefore it is likely that the riding crop might have belonged to him, and I would be delighted to see it. I can’t add any information about it as sadly I don’t remember him because I was only nine months old when he was killed. I am very grateful that you have gone to so much trouble to research the owner of the riding crop.”
It emerged that the daughter came to know about Mr Fenwick’s search through a former trustee of the Glider Pilot Regiment Society.
Mr Fenwick was also contacted by a former RAF wing commander who offered advice on how he might go about finding Lt Maltby’s family. Perhaps the most significant email he received was from Darlington resident Dr Gillian Hunt, who is familiar with family history research.
She discovered Lt Maltby’s cousin David Maltby was also a war hero in the RAF.
She wrote: “Squadron leader David Maltby flew in the Dambusters raid. He was killed not long afterwards and left a baby son. Tragic.
“David’s little teddy called Pinnie the Wooh, which flew with him on every mission including the Dambusters, is up for auction. It was recovered from his body [and is] expected to fetch £10,000.”
As for Lt Maltby’s other family members, Dr Hunt was able to discover that his father was a captain in Royal Horse Artillery in the First World War and his grandfather was a vicar. Mr Fenwick will be visiting his own daughter, Liz, in Kent shortly before Christmas and hopes at that time to meet Lt Maltby’s daughter to return the riding crop, successfully ending his Remembrance season quest.
However, one thing will always remain a mystery – how did the riding crop end up in a golf bag once owned by his mother-in-law?