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Davies, Gerald

Gerald Davies was born on the 7th March 1918, the son of Florence Davies.   Florence had been born in Cefn, Denbighshire, circa 1898, the daughter of Francis & Elizabeth Mary Davies (nee Griffiths).   They had married at St. John’s Church, Rhosymedre ( (Wrexham)C39/03/63) in 1897.

Florence is seen for the first time on the 1901 census when the family were living at Middle Street, Newbridge Hamlet, Rhosymedre, Cefn, Wrexham, Denbighshire.   Francis, 32, was head of the household,  a Brick Burner who had been born in  Ruabon.   His wife Elizabeth, 28 had been born in Trfonen, Salop.

The 1911 census see the family now living at Penybont Cottages, Pentre, Chirk, Shropshire, Francis, 42, was still working as a Burner of Bricks and Elizabeth, 38, tell us that they had been married for 14 years, 3 children had been born to them and were still living.   Florence, was now 13 years old and the new arrivals were Cissie Amelia, 9, and Francis Edward, 6.   They had both been born in Newbridge.

At some point the family moved to Shotton, as Gerald was born there and sadly Elizabeth Mary also died there in 1928 age 55 years and Francis was to remarry in 1934 to Edith M Clarkson at St. Ethelwold’s Church, Shotton (Flintshire (Mold) C115/05/E105).

They are seen on the 1939 Register:-

1939 Register

DAVIES Household (5 People)

31 Ash Grove,Shotton , Hawarden R.D., Flintshire, Wales

Frances            Davies 10 Jan 1869     Male    Boiler Foreman           Single  149      1

Edith Davis (sic) 15 Dec 1889 Female Domestic Unpaid Married 149 2

Herbert Davies 30 June 1915 Male Single Labourer 149 3

Dorothy Petch Female 6 June 1865 Widow Labourer 149 4

Dorothy, Pearson (Allison) Female 27 Aug 1913 Laundry Worker Single 149 5

It is at this address that Gerald was to spend his childhood as he was “adopted” by Francis and Elizabeth according to the family history of Nigel Williams, who has been such a help telling Gerald’s story.   He has provided an enormous amount of information re Gerald’s time in the R.A.F. and his subsequent fate, also I am indebted to him for more information and photographs that will emerge during the telling of Gerald’s story, so please accept my thanks Nigel.

At the age of 18 years, it appears that Gerald was to join the R.A.F. and at one time was stationed at Sealand Camp.    Below, in a message to me, is a snapshot from Nigel that will tell a little of the family and the love of his grandparents for Gerald and their sadness too.

“Through the late fifties to the nineteen-seventies (and beyond to the early eighties – when only my granddad was alive) I used to visit my Nana and Granddad’s house in Ash Grove, Shotton. 

In their parlour, where entry was restricted in the main, there was a photograph on the wall just to the left as you went in and unusually it was in colour, well colour of a sort – I now know that it was coloured in as they did in those days. 

The photograph, which took pride of place above the heavy wooden side-board, was in a brown wooden frame and was in pastel shades, with a misted, oval fading out from the centre.  The object of the photograph was a young male who looked no more than twenty years old.  His face and upper chest were the only parts of the person on view but it was obvious even to me as a young child that it was a person in uniform.  The uniform colour was a gun-barrel grey-blue and the upper part of the tunic contained what looked like out-spread wings.  The person wore what we would now recognise as a Royal Air Force beret.  Of course I didn’t know then but I now realise that I was looking at a photograph of a young RAF member. Indeed, I can remember asking innocent questions to my Nana inquiring ‘Who’s that?’ and ‘Was he in the war?’  This was the first time I was told about ‘Uncle Gerald.’ 

Nana and Granddad were obviously very proud of ‘Uncle Gerald’ and told me that he had been killed during the war.  Both Nana and Granddad said at different times that he had been killed and then changed the emphasis of their account to say ‘Rather, he went missing over Greece!’ I remember a hint of sadness in their voices as they went through what they presumed had happened.  They said that he was with the RAF in Greece during 1941 and had not returned home.  News during the Second World War was not easily forthcoming and the awful news had reached them that he was missing having gone on a mission over Greece having not returned.  They could only presume that he was dead. 

My Nana reflected that he had gone missing once before but had turned up sometime later, this had not been the case on the second occasion and they had been left without any definitive news at all right up to their dying day. 

I did get told lots of other things about Gerald and it appeared that he had been the apple of my Nana’s eye.  She told me that he was really bright and intelligent and had made a success of working in school and then a success of his career in the RAF which had been tragically cut short.  As always, my Nana’s eye showed a tear and a hint of regret. She obviously had fond and real memories of this handsome young man. 

Nana died in 1970 and Granddad passed away some twelve years later in 1982.  Both went to their graves without knowing anything further about Gerald and the story I now know today, they were not aware of at all. These were harrowing times for all concerned and incidents thought of as ‘over and done with years before’ remained with people for the remainder of their lives.  My mother over the years often talked about Uncle Gerald and her earliest memories of him.  She remembered running to him as a child and being picked up into his arms for a cuddle.  She distinctly remembered his smart uniform and the revolver he carried in a leather holster at his side.  She remembered too that Uncle Gerald never forgot about her or her brothers at Christmas and brought them gifts. 

My mum has now gone (since 2006) but hopefully with this piece of work you are doing about names on the Shotton and Connah’s Quay Cenotaph, then people like my Uncle Gerald will now be remembered in perpetuity. 

Best regards, Nigel” 

It is thanks to Nigel, as he did so much research to make sure that his Uncle Gerald would be remembered, and a little bit of research from me, that we can tell what happened to him.

211 Sqn Royal Air Force https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._211_Squadron_RAF

Excerpt from the above website:-

World War II

The squadron was re-formed at RAF Mildenhall on 24 June 1937, with 10 officers and about 50 airmen, and was initially equipped with 12 Hawker Audax light bombers organised into two flights of six. By the end of the year, there were 15 officer pilots and three sergeant pilots.[4][5]

In August 1937 the squadron was re-equipped with the Hawker Hind,[4] and moved to RAF Grantham the following month. In May 1938 the squadron was one of several deployed to RAF Middle East. Based at RAF Helwan in Egypt[4] with 18 Hind aircraft, the squadron was organised into three flights of six, with 14 officers and about 180 other ranks. This included 18 pilots, split equally between officers and NCOs.[5] In January 1939 it moved to RAF Ismailia where in April it re-equipped with the Bristol Blenheim Mk.I twin-engined light bomber.[4] With nine or twelve Blenheims, the squadron establishment was set at 360 officers and men.[5] From June 1940, following the Italian declaration of war, 211 Squadron was involved in operations against the Italians in Libya and the Western Desert,[6] including the attack on Tobruk on 12 June, during which the cruiser San Giorgio was damaged, and a few days later in the capture of Fort Capuzzo.[7]

Following the attack by Italy, in November 1940 it moved to Greece, initially based at Tatoi, the pre-war civil airport and Hellenic Air Force base at Menidi on the northern outskirts of Athens, before moving forward to Paramythia near the north-western border with Albania. On 13 April 1941, the squadron suffered a severe blow when, following an attack on German forces at Florina in the Monastir Gap by six aircraft, they were attacked by Bf 109Es of JG 27 on the return flight, and all six aircraft were shot down.[8] The German advance forced 211 Squadron back, first to Agrinion and then to Tatoi from where it was evacuated in April 1941 through Crete to Egypt.[4]

The squadron then moved to Palestine. Based at RAF Aqir by May 1941 and partly re-equipped with the Blenheim Mk. IV,[4] the squadron flew operations against Vichy French forces in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign.[6] Withdrawn to Egypt in June 1941, it was based at RAF Heliopolis to regroup for the pending move to Wadi Gazouza in Sudan. There it was to act as a reserve training Squadron from July to October 1941, before providing the nucleus for the formation of No. 72 OTU, into which the squadron and personnel were formally absorbed in November 1941.[4]

Excerpts taken from “Blow by Blow Account of Easter Sunday 1941, byJ.B. Dunnet of 211 Squadron.

On Sunday April 13, 1941, six Bristol Blenheims flew from a Greek airfield to attack German troops in the mountainous Florina area of Macedonia in North West Greece.    None came back. It was only forty years later that the mystery began to unfold and the last flight of 211 Squadron can now be revealed. This is the factual account of myself 211 Squadron Flt Lt J. B. Dunnet, a surviving aircrew member. I survived that day through a stroke of luck – call it good fortune if you will, when at the last minute I was asked to give up my place on the aircraft by Wing Commander Coote, who was to die in my place on that day. This account, is a factual record of the fateful Easter Sunday raid that was to be the last act of those brave men of 211 Squadron.  

‘A’ Flight:

Bristol Blenheim L8478 is leading with the Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Irvine. His crew are Pilot Officers Gerald ‘Gerry’ Davies of Shotton and Arthur Geary is the gunner in the rear turret.   Covering the German advance, and circling over Florina, are three Messerschmitt  109E-4 fighters from 6 Staffel/Jagdgeschwader 27 led by Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Gerlach. 

Time: 1605.30s

Hauptmann Gerlach, the leader of the 109’s presses the trigger on his control stick to fire a sighting burst of tracer from his machine guns, then his thumb clamps down on the cannon button. 

Time: 1607-22 – 1607.53s

With the rear three Blenheims shot down, the fighters now concentrate on the leading ‘vic’ L8478  The Blenheim number L8478 flown by the Commanding Officer of 211 Squadron, Squadron Leader Irvine, with Pilot Officer Gerald Davies of Shotton as Co-pilot (and Observer) and rear-gunner Arthur Geary aboard, climbs to 5800 feet above sea level in an attempt to escape but Messerschmitts of the Germans are more than a match to the outdated Blenheim Bombers and Gerald Davies’ aircraft is raked with a burst from the leader of the Messerschmitts – piloted by Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Gerlach.  

L8478, the last flying Blenheim from 211 Squadron on that day, at once is in flames with its engines on fire as a result of the fatal cannon fire from the Messerschmitt and crashes near the small hamlet of Vigla, to the south of Alona in Northern Greece. All three crew are killed instantly as the aircraft hits the ground and bursts into flames.  Greek villagers bury the bodies of those airmen they could find in the churchyards of Karia and Akritas.  

In 1979, determined to find the grave of his brother Andy Bryce, the observer in Blenheim L1539, commenced an investigation in Greece. The resultant findings were submitted to the War Graves Commission, and all the bodies of those airmen that could be found, now rest under headstones made of Italian marble in the Phaleron War Cemetery near Athens. 

Of the three Luftwaffe fighter pilots:

  1. Feldwebel Herbert Krenz was shot down in flames by Spitfires in the Western Desert on September I, 1942
  1. Unteroffizier Fritz Gromotka, survived the war with the rank of Leutnant, and holder of the ‘Ritterkreuz’ with 27 confirmed victories. He died in 1981;
  1. Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Gerlach, was shot down the next day, April 14th 1941 by ground fire whilst making a low level attack He baled out and spent the rest of the war as a PoW. Efforts were made to trace him after the war but these efforts were not successful. 

A plaque on the entrance gate to Karie church erected by fellow 211 Squadron members reads: “To commemorate the air action in this area on the 13th April 1941 in which 16 aircrew of No. 211 (B) Squadron RAF gave their lives in the defence of Greece. Our sincere thanks to the Priest and villagers of Karie who found and interred several of these aircrew in this churchyard.’ 

If anyone is interested in reading the whole article which was taken from the document mentioned above please contact the website.

Nigel had written to him to ask about his Uncle Gerald.    James Dunnet had been an Observer with 211 Sqn and was writing a book “Wings over Greece” to tell the exploits of the 211.   James Dunnet had rung him back and Nigel made notes of the phone call, as he was he was glad that other people were interested in 211 Squadron as their memory would be able to live on.

Nigel also wrote this:-

More Than Just A Name: Gerald Davies – Shotton War Memorial

Remembrance Sunday Has Special Meaning for Nigel Williams  – and an unexpected association with a world famous author.

“ We take our freedoms for granted,” says Nigel Williams, “but we should never forget that lives were lost to preserve them, and that they were the lives of innocent loved ones from generations past”.

On 13th April 1941 (Easter Sunday that year), Nigel’s Uncle Gerald was shot down in action by a German Messerschmitt 109 at the age of 24.   Pilot Officer 44072 Gerald Davies was stationed in Greece with 211 Squadron of the RAF.  He piloted a Bristol Blenheim Fighter Bomber used by both Fighter and Bomber Command during World War II.  He had already had a narrow escape, after his aircraft had been shot at over Corfu, forcing a crash land on a beach.  It took several weeks for Nigel’s Uncle Gerald to get back to base in Greece with the support of resistance and friendly locals.  The report of the missing pilot reached home, but once it was known that he was back at base again, the local paper in Shotton ran a story with a photograph of Gerald and his sweetheart, Susan.  The story read:

 “This is Susan Hall, the girl who received a proposal of marriage via the newspapers. The young man is now Pilot Officer Gerald Davies, on service in Greece, the sender of the proposal. He was explaining to a reporter that the reason he got lost on a bombing trip was that he had left his mascot – a picture of Miss Hall – behind. No, it wasn’t his wife, but … “you can tell her I am going to marry her after this job is over. She doesn’t know it yet, but this goes as a proposal.”

“Tragically, he never did get to make that proposal in person,” says Nigel Williams.

But what first encouraged Nigel Williams to delve so deeply into the past of his relative?

“Aside from a general interest, I happened to be reading Roald Dahl’s autobiography ‘Going Solo’, which gives an account of Roald Dahl’s life as a Hurricane pilot during the Second World War, when I noted that he had been in service in Greece at the same time and location as my Uncle Gerald. 

Roald Dahl was the pilot of a Hawker Hurricane and was in Greece protecting the ‘slow’ aircraft, one of which was flown by my uncle, Gerald Davies.  Sadly, the British were ill equipped at that time, in comparison with the Germans”.     Writing about his experience, Dahl described   “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side”.  Roald Dahl piloted one of the last two British aircraft in Greece at that time in 1941, before the Germans overran the country in May.  Luckily, Dahl escaped and was one of only two pilots to make it out of Greece following that fateful that Easter 1941.

In the 1960’s the crash site of Gerald Davies’ aircraft was found in Northern Greece, and human remains were transferred to the Phaleron War Cemetery in Athens.  This is where Gerald Davies now lies at rest, in a Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in the Greek Capital which overlooks the sea.  Had he survived the war, it is possible he would still be alive and in his nineties.

Nigel Williams said:  “The value of Gerald Davies’ contribution to the outcome of World War II cannot be understated, yet he, like many others, received no medals and no accolades for this. We must never forget the part these brave heroes and heroines played during this period of world turmoil.  This is also why it is so important to me that the values that the likes of my Uncle Gerald fought and died for, are not thrown away.”

In a previous career, Nigel Williams was a teacher.  When taking school assembly for Remembrance Day he would tell the pupils about how one of their favourite authors was lucky to escape the war – if he had not, generations of children would have missed his stories.  But having had an Uncle who served alongside the great story teller, helps to bring the point home:  “Much was sacrificed by loved ones, members of our own families, some-one’s son or daughter, a brother, a future spouse, an uncle, so that we can be free today”. “

Between 1937 and 1946 the members of 211 Squadron were awarded three Distinguished Service Orders, 27 Distinguished Flying Crosses and one Bar, eight Distinguished Flying Medals, five mentions in dispatches, and four awards from other countries.[10]

This Squadron Leader was also killed on the same day:-

Squadron Leader A.T. Irvine  March–April 1941       KIA, 13 April 1941

I downloaded the London Gazette and found Squadron Leader A.T. Irvine’s name mentioned – ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to

approve the following awards to the undermentioned

officers and airmen: — Squadron Leaders A.T. IRVINE (36090). Missing.

As can be seen from Nigel’s contribution above, S/Ldr Irvine was indeed with Gerald.

I also downloaded the Operation Record Book for 211 Sqn, which is like a War Diary, and extracted this:-

PARAMYTHIA 

12th April   Three raids were carried out on the enemy advancing north of VALONA.   One in the morning , one in the afternoon, and one at dusk.   S/Ldr. IRVINE led each raid and all the aircraft returned safely.

13th April Raid carried out on OUKES west of LAKE OCHRIDA.   Dur. 1 hour 25 mins.Raid on RESAN, Yugoslavia.   Duration 1 hr. 25 mins.   From both these raids all our aircraft returned safely.   The third raid of the day was carried out on MONASTIR, by six aircraft.   W/Cmdr. COOTE & S/Ldr. CRYER took the places of two regular observers.

NONE OF THE AIRCRAFT RETURNED FROM THIS OPERATION.

As also mentioned by Nigel there was a sad love story and also below are the articles mentioned, this makes the story more poignant, I wonder what happened to Susan?  Gerald was perhaps indicative of the times, living for the moment, not knowing what tomorrow may bring, bless him.(Please see the articles below.)

Gerald’s mother Florence married Richard Charles GOLD in 1925 in Hawarden.  They had 2 sons, Victor GOLD (1925) and Dilwyn R. GOLD (1926) (Thanks again to Nigel)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission reports also adds to the end of the story of Gerald, his “A” Flight crewmembers on L8478 and L4819 and “B” Flight crewmembers on L8449  that are mentioned above.   See the CWGC reports below.


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