Guy Gibson OSE at 100
This year, the RAF has been celebrating its centenary. It is also a year which marks the centenary of one of their best known servicemen. Today would have also marked the 100th birthday of ‘Dambusters’ commanding officer and former St Edward’s pupil, Guy Gibson.
Last term, a major exhibition was held at The North Wall Arts Centre celebrating the RAF and several members of the near 400 strong contingent of former St Edward’s pupils who have served in their ranks, including Gibson.
Other notable former pupils to feature in the exhibition included aircraft pioneers Geoffrey De Havilland and Louis Strange, maverick ace Adrian Warburton and legendary fighter ace Douglas Bader.
Gibson, who was at St Edward’s between 1932 and 1936 in Cowell’s, began his flying instruction as soon as he left school, going on to join 24 Group at RAF Uxbridge, electing to fly bombers. Within a couple of days of the start of the war Gibson was in operational action, attacking the German fleet near Wilhelmshaven, before briefly being seconded to Coastal Command to join the attacks on U-Boats.
The role for which he is best known came about in 1943, commanding 617 Squadron on a secret mission, codenamed Operation Chastise, to attack a series of dams in the Ruhr Valley using Barnes Wallis’ revolutionary “bouncing” bomb. Following the completion of the mission Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross, the only one in the School’s history. A Bar to his DSO also being awarded made him the most decorated active serviceman in the country.
Following a good-will tour of the USA, Gibson returned to action in 1944. On 19th September he joined an attack on Bremen, flying in a Mosquito, a plane he was not very familiar with. The attack was called off following complications, but Gibson’s plane didn’t return. The exact causes of his demise are uncertain and many theories still circulate.
He died as one of the country’s greatest military heroes at the age of just 26, having been awarded the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, and the Commander of the Legion of Merit (USA).