ENEMY COAST AHEAD
Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson V.C., D.S.O. & Bar, D.F.C. & Bar ( August 12th, 1918 - September 19th, 1944 ) was born in Simla ( former British India, Shimla, present - day Himachal Pradesh, India ). In 1924, when he was 6 years old, his parents separated. His mother, Leonora " Nora " Mary Gibson ( née Strike, 1894 - 1939 ), was granted custody of Guy, his elder brother Alexander ( " Alick ", 1915 - 1987 ) and sister Joan ( 1916 - 1993 ), and decided to return to Great Britain.
As her family came from Porthleven ( Cornwall, England ), " Nora " Gibson settled first in Penzance. Guy Gibson started school in England at the same school as his sister, West Cornwall College. His mother then moved to London and he was sent as a boarder to Earl's Avenue School ( present - day St. George's, Folkestone, Kent, England ). In 1932, Guy Gibson started at St. Edward's School ( Oxford, Oxfordshire, England ), the same school as Douglas Bader, the futur R.A.F. Ace with artificial legs ( 1910 - 1982 ).
Following her return from India, " Nora " Gibson developed a drinking problem which escalated into alcoholism. Her behaviour became increasingly erratic and sometimes violent towards her children. The school organised lodgings for Gibson brothers during the school holidays. Beatrice " Gwennie " ( " Nora "'s younger sister ) and her husband, John Christopher, took care of their nephews and attended some school functions to support them. As an average student academically ( he also played rugby ), Guy Gibson had developed interest for both science and photography. At one stage as a teenager, he seems to have become interested and quite expert in the workings of cinema organs.
From an early age, Guy Gibson wanted to fly. His ambition was to become a civilian test pilot. He wrote for advice to Vickers, receiving a reply from their Chief Test Pilot, Captain Joseph " Mutt " Summers ( 1904 - 1954 ), who wrote that the young man should first learn to fly by joining the R.A.F. on a short service commission. At first rejected when he failed the Medical Board, his later application was nevertheless successful. Guy Gibson commenced his flying training :
- No. 6 Flying Training Course with civilian instructors, Bristol Flying School ( Yatesbury, Wiltshire, England ), from November 16th, 1936 to January 1st, 1937.
- No. 24 ( Training ) Group, R.A.F. Uxbridge ( Hillingdon, Greater London, England ).
- Commissioned with the rank of Acting Pilot Officer ( A/P/O, with effect from January 31st, 1937 ).
- No. 5 Flying Training Course ( Junior Section ), No. 6 Flying Training School, R.A.F. Netheravon ( Wiltshire, England ).
- Graduated as a pilot ( May 24th, 1937 ). - Advanced Training Squadron ( Summer 1937 ).
- No. 3 Armament Training Station, R.A.F. Sutton Bridge ( Lincolnshire, England ).
- Opted for bombers. - Graduated at R.A.F. Netheravon, having passed all his ground exams first time, with an average of 77.29 % and a flying rating of " Average " ( August 31st, 1937 ).
Guy Gibson's initial posting was to No. 83 ( Bomber ) Squadron, stationed at R.A.F. Turnhouse ( Edinburgh, Scotland ) and equipped with Hawker Hind light bombers. Assigned to " A " Flight, Guy Gibson was promoted to Pilot Officer ( P/O, November 16th, 1937 ). The ground crews nicknamed him " Bumptious Bastard " because of his unsatisfactory behaviour towards them. Here is the list of the following events and his subsequent appointments :
- The Squadron was transferred from No. 2 Group to No. 5 Group, and relocated to R.A.F. Scampton ( Lincolnshire, England, March 1938 ).
- Armaments training camp, R.A.F. Leuchars ( Scotland, June 1938 ).
- Conversion to the Handley Page Hampden ( October 1938 - January 1939 ).
- In hospital with chickenpox, No. 4 R.A.F. Hospital Rauceby ( Lincolnshire, December 25th, 1938 ).
- Armaments training camp, R.A.F. Evanton ( Ross and Cromarty, Scotland, Spring 1939 ).
- Navigation Course, Hamble - le - Rice ( Hampshire, England ).
- Promoted to Flying Officer ( F/O, June 1939 ).
Two days after the start of the Second World War ( September 3rd, 1939 ), Guy Gibson was one of the pilots selected to attack the German fleet ( Wilhelmshaven, present - day Lower Saxony, Germany ). He took off from R.A.F. Scampton at 18:15. The operation was aborted owing to bad weather, and he landed back around 23:00. This is how began his first operational tour. The Squadron moved to R.A.F. Ringway ( Manchester, England ). On February 1940, he and some members of the Squadron were put on temporary secondment to Coastal Command, R.A.F. Lossiemouth ( Moray, Scotland ). From April to September 1940, Guy Gibson completed 34 operations ( laying mines, attacks on capital ships, ground - based military and economic targets ). During this time, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross ( D.F.C., July 9th ), was credited with a " probable " kill on a Dornier Do 215 ( returning from a raid on Lorient, France, August 27th ) and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant ( F/Lt, September 3rd ).
As a rest from operations, he was posted as a Flying Instructor to No. 14 Operational Training Unit ( O.T.U. ) at R.A.F. Cottesmore ( Rutland, England, two weeks ), then transferred to No. 16 O.T.U. at R.A.F. Upper Heyford ( Oxfordshire ).
His second operational tour began when he volunteered to fly night fighters. Guy Gibson was ordered to report to No. 29 Squadron, No. 12 Group ( R.A.F. Digby, Lincolnshire ), as the " A " Flight Commander ( November 13th, 1940 ). He flew six operations on Bristol Blenheim ( from R.A.F. Wellingore, a satellite field ), before the Squadron started to convert to the Bristol Beaufighter. Guy Gibson made his first operational flight in a Beaufighter on December 10th. He completed a total of 99 operational sorties, during which he was credited with 4 confirmed kills ( although one was qualified as " unconfirmed " ), was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader ( A/S/Ldr, June 1941 ) and was awarded a Bar to his D.F.C. ( September 10th ).
After his last operation ( December 15th ), he was taken off from operations for a rest, and posted as Chief Flying Instructor at No. 51 O.T.U., R.A.F. Cranfield ( Bedfordshire, England ).
As a newly promoted Acting Wing Commander ( A/W/Cdr ), Guy Gibson Gibson once more returned to operations ( his third tour ) when he joined No. 106 Squadron ( No. 5 Group ) at R.A.F. Coningsby ( Lincolnshire, April 13th, 1942 ) to fly bomber operations again in Avro Manchesters and Lancasters. Although he was a true Leader, his behaviour towards N.C.O.s and ground crews could still be a problem. During his time with the " One - O - Six ", Guy Gibson was known as " The Boy Emperor " and the " Arch - Bastard ". He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order ( D.S.O., November 20th, 1942 ), which was followed by a Bar to the very D.S.O. ( April 2nd, 1943, confirmed by Air Chief Marshal Arthur " Bomber, Butcher " Harris )... after he flew his last operation on March 15th, 1943.
The decision was made to attack the Ruhr dams, which supplied power to the valley's industry. On March 18th, then the following day, Guy Gibson attended two interviews at Headquarters, No. 5 Group. He was told that he was to command a new Squadron ( No. 617 Squadron, stationed at R.A.F. Scampton ), which would be required to fly low at night with an objective that had to be achieved by May 19th ( " Operation Chastise " ). Although the newly - formed unit comprised experienced men, some crews had not completed one tour, with some individuals having flown fewer than 10 operations ( some of the Flight Engineers were actually on their 1st ).
After the training on a specially adapted version of the Lancaster ( beginning of April - May 14th ), " Operation Chastise " would take place on the night of May 16th - 17th, 1943, and the Squadron would be split into three waves to attack the targets. The first of the 19 Lancasters, each one equipped with the Upkeep bomb ( nicknamed " Bouncing Bomb " ) designed by Barnes Wallis ( 1887 - 1979 ), took off from R.A.F. Scampton at 21:28. The bombers attacked four dams ( Möhne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe ), and managed to breach the first two. Three aircraft were forced to abort the operation, and eight did not return ( 53 casualties, 3 P.O.W.s ).
The " Dam Busters " became celebrities then. Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross ( V.C. ), and 33 crews received gallantry awards ( 5 D.S.O.s, 4 Bars to the D.F.C.s, 10 D.F.C.s, 2 C.G.M.s, 1 Bar to the D.F.M. and 11 D.F.M.s ). They all attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace ( June 22nd ), performed by the Queen Elizabeth ( the futur Queen Mother, 1900 - 2002 ).
After " Operation Chastise ", Guy Gibson then accompanied the British Prime Minister Winston L.S. Churchill ( 1874 - 1965 ) visiting Canada for the Québec Conference and the United States ( August 4th - December 1st, 1943 ).
In January 1944, Guy Gibson was posted to the Directorate for the Prevention of Accidents, where he appears to have been under orders to write a book ( the one presented to you ). He completed his final draft in September 1944. After having attended a Staff Course at the R.A.F. Staff College, Bulstrode Park ( near Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England ), from March to May 1944, Guy Gibson was appointed as a Staff Officer at No. 55 Base, R.A.F. East Kirkby ( Lincolnshire, June 12th ), then posted to No. 54 Base, R.A.F. Coningsby ( August 2nd ).
Since June, he was persistently pressing for a return to operational flying. On the night of September 19th, 220 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitoes attacked railway and industrial centres at Rheydt and Mönchengladbach ( present - day North Rhine - Westphalia, Germany ). Detailed as Master Bomber, Guy Gibson piloted Mosquito B.XX " AZ - E " ( KB267 ) of No. 627 Squadron, with Squadron Leader James Brown " Jim " Warwick D.F.C. ( 1921 - 1944 ) as Navigator. One crew from No. 61 Squadron claimed they heard Guy Gibson say he had a damaged engine. The aircraft crashed at Steenbergen ( North Brabant, the Netherlands ) at around 22:30. Both airmen were killed.
( sources : Wikipedia, www.porthlevenmuseum.org.uk, warbirdsnews.com, www.vconline.org.uk, www.tracesofwar.com, fr.findagrave.com )