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Desmond Ernest Sonley, OBE, BEM, CD, LSGC and Bar. T Eng (CEI)

Desmond Ernest Sonley, OBE, BEM, CD, LSGC and Bar. T Eng (CEI)
Desmond Ernest Sonley, OBE, BEM, CD, LSGC and Bar. T Eng (CEI)

Mr. Desmond Ernest Sonley, husband of Frances S. Sonley of Moncton, passed away on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at the age of 91. Des was predeceased by his sister, Eva. 

Desmond was born in Helmsley, Yorkshire, England, September 30, 1926. He was the eldest of five children of the late John and Minnie (Sherwood) Sonley. 

He is survived and sadly missed by his wife, Frances (Perry) Sonley, and children, Robert and wife Lorraine, Susan and husband Michael, Barbara and husband David, Peter and wife Cindy, Richard and wife Carol and daughter Sandra; as well as two sons, Peter and Philip and wife Kathy, who all reside in England. His brother Tom and wife Gwen; sister Edna, sister Joyce and husband Robert. Also, his many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. 

Leaving school at the age of 14, Des went to work for the London North Eastern Railway until February 1944 when, aged 17 years and 4 months, he joined the British Royal Airforce and in any off duty time, he completed his education, with some subjects up to University Level. Des attaining the rank of Warrant Officer, was always a military man, serving 38 years in the RAF, then 12 years in the Canadian Rangers. He was also a survivor, for, in 1942 he survived the Luftwaffe bombing of York Railway Station and Goods Yards, and in 1947, walked away from a Mosquito aircraft crash on take off in Berlin, and also in 1974, he was in a glider that crashed during training to be a Glider Pilot Instructor. 

Des was seconded to the Short Sunderland Flying boats during the Berlin Airlift. His postings included overseas tours in Germany, France, Malta, Cyprus, Persian Gulf and Singapore. He flew in all the aircraft he serviced including Mitchel, Mosquito, Canberra, Dakota, Beverley, Varsity, Valetta and Shackleton aircraft. In 1957/58 he was with the British Atomic Trials team on Christmas Island and in Australia with the Canberra team. From 1960 to 1974 he was a member of a Vulcan Nuclear Bomber crew flying to bases around the world, including USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. From 1974 to 1976, he was on a ground tour of duty with the Air Cadets, when as a Glider Pilot Instructor he taught the Cadets (14 to 17) to fly Gliders. 

His last tour of duty was a nearly four year tour at Goose Bay, Labrador, as the Vulcan Engineering Officer. It was here he retired on his 56th birthday after 38 years’ service. 

Des was twice decorated by Her Majesty the Queen, when in the 1974 New Years Honours List he received the British Empire Medal, B.E.M. and again in the 1982 New Years Honours List he received the Order of the British Empire. 

On retiring from the RAF, Des took the post as 2nd in command of the 3rd Platoon of the 35th Company of the Canadian Rangers, when on completion of the required time, he was awarded the C.D. 

Des was employed by the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay as the Municipal Police Chief, from which post he retired on his 65th birthday. 

At. St. Andrews Church, Happy Valley, Des was trained and became a Diocesan Lay Reader, and on moving to Newfoundland he carried on Lay Reading at Topsail and since arriving in Moncton, has been a Lay Reader at St. James Anglican Church. 

In Masonic circles he was a Brother in Acacia Lodge #49, where he was Worshipful Master in 2002. A member of #7 Royal Arch Chapter where he was 1st Principal 2003, 2005 and 2006. He was Presiding Preceptor in 2004 and 2007 of Ivanhoe Preceptory # 36 Knights Templar. He was Thrice Illustrious Master of Tantramar Council of the Royal and Select Masters 2005. He is also a member of the Royal Ark Mariners, the Council of the Holy Order of High Priesthood, also member of Order of Holy Wisdom. From 2004 to 2007 he was Grand District Superintendent for District No. 2 of the Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons of New Brunswick, also from 2005 to 2008 he was Grand Chaplain of the Grand Chapter, and in 2005 was secretary for the Provincial Grand Prior of New Brunswick. He was also the representative of the Grand Chapter of New Brunswick to the Grand Chapter of New Zealand. 

A service to celebrate and honour Des’ life will be held at St. James Anglican Church, 101 Fairview Drive, on Friday, July 13, 2018 at 11:00 am with Rev. Wendy Amos-Binks officiating. A Reception will follow in the Church Hall. Interment will be in Fair Haven Memorial Gardens. 

In memory of Des, donations to St. James Anglican Church or a memorial of the donor’s choice. Online condolences for the family may be shared at


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Service Date
Friday, July 13, 2018
Service Time
11:00 am
Service Location
St. James Anglican Church, 101 Fairview Drive

No Visitation Hours

Burial Location
Fair Haven Memorial Gardens

Requested Charity
St. James Anglican Church or memorial of choice