Auction: 18002 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
An outstanding Second World War D.F.C., ‘special duties’ D.F.M. group of six awarded to Flying Officer G. L. Gamble, Royal Air Force, who flew 38 S.O.E. missions in No. 138 Squadron before undertaking a second tour of duty in Lancasters of No. 149 Squadron
Among agents delivered by him and his crew in 138 Squadron were three victims of Operation “Englandspiel”, the Abwehr’s successful penetration of S.O.E. in Holland; possibly, too, the gallant Eliane Plewman, who was executed at Dachau alongside Noor Inyat Khan, G.C. and two other women agents of S.O.E.
Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated ‘1945’; Distinguished Flying Medal, G.VI.R. (611917 F./Sgt. G. L. Gamble, R.A.F.); 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star, clasp, France and Germany; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, very fine and better (6)
D.F.C. London Gazette 25 May 1945. The original recommendation states:
‘As an operational Flight Engineer this officer has completed 55 sorties against the enemy.
On his first tour he carried out 35 (sic) special sorties for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. On his second tour of 20 sorties he was engaged on attacks against such targets as Dortmund, Essen (2), Homberg (3), Koblenz, Hamm and Leipzig.
He has shown, at all times, great skill as a Flight Engineer, earning the full confidence of his captain. His example in the air in both courage and outstanding ability has been an inspiration to the Squadron.
I therefore recommend most strongly that this officer be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.’
D.F.M. London Gazette 21 April 1944. The original recommendation states:
‘Sergeant Gamble has completed 38 operational sorties during his tour in this squadron, and has at all times shown great keenness and devotion to duty in his capacity as Flight Engineer.
His initiative and excellent handling of his aircraft whilst on operations has gained him the full confidence of his captain and crew, and have largely contributed to the excellent results obtained by them.
Sergeant Gamble never fails to display great cheerfulness and determination to achieve the utmost success in operations.’
Geoffrey Lee Gamble, who was born in 1920, the son of Tom and Edith Gamble, commenced his training as a Flight Engineer at Waterbeech in December 1942.
Special duties – D.F.M.
Posted to No. 138 (Special Duties) Squadron at Tempsford in early 1943, he commenced his protracted tour of S.O.E. supply sorties on the night of 14 April 1943, with Flight Lieutenant Dodkin at the helm of their Stirling; the squadron would soon convert of Halifaxes. Thereafter, he flew continuously in 138’s ‘B’ Flight until completing his thirty-eighth operation on 4 January 1944. For most of the period in question his skipper was Sergeant – later Pilot Officer – H. C. Brown and his Flight Commanders were Squadron Leader D. L. Pitt and Wing Commander A. Winding. Destinations and DZs varied in nature, Gamble and his crew on one occasion carrying out – via North Africa - an operation to Corsica. In the main, however, their work took them to France or Holland.
Thus a mission to Holland on the night of 21-22 May 1943, in Halifax BB317, carrying three agents code-named ‘Polo’, ‘Squash’ and ‘Croquet’. Unbeknown to them their circuit had been penetrated and they were picked up by a Gestapo reception committee on landing. In what was known as Operation “Englandspiel”, the Abwehr had captured several of S.O.E’s wireless operators and, under the able guidance of Major Herman Giskes, had duped London into continuing agent and supply drops. Only a handful of the agents in question survived, but Gamble’s passengers on the night of 21-22 May were not among them - they were executed at Matthausen concentration camp on 6-7 September 1944.
Among the agents dropped by Gamble and his crew over France may have been Eliane Plewman – a.k.a. ‘Gaby’. For they flew just such a mission on 13 August 1943, the very night that she was parachuted into France to join S.O.E’s “Monk” circuit. Agent and baggage – she was carrying a briefcase with a million Francs – landed some distance from the agreed DZ and she just cleared a rooftop and landed heavily in a field. Tragically, the gallant ‘Gaby’ was later captured, and she was executed at Dachau concentration camp in the company of three other S.O.E. heroines, among them Noor Inyat Khan, G.C.
Relevant records also reveal that Gamble and his crew had to make forced-landings on two occasions on returning from missions, one of them, at Tangmere on the 18 August 1943, resulting in their Halifax being written-off.
With a total of 38 such sorties under his belt – his tour had been extended because of ‘exigencies of the Service’ – Gamble was recommended for the D.F.M. in January 1944.
Second tour – D.F.C.
Having then been ‘rested’ as an instructor at R.A.F. Feltwell, he was commissioned Pilot Officer and requested a return to operations. He was duly posted to No. 149 (East India) Squadron in October 1944, a Lancaster unit operating out of R.A.F. Methwold in Suffolk.
Thus ensued a second tour of operations, a total of 20 sorties in the period leading up to February 1945, his targets including Bottrop, Coblenz, Dortmund, Essen Leipzig and Solingen.
On one occasion in November, whilst over Hamburg, a 250lb bomb, dropped against regulations by an aircraft directly above them, passed straight through their rear fuselage without exploding, whilst other bombs - including a 4,000lb ‘cookie’ - just missed them.
In the following month, with a full load of fuel and bombs, Gamble’s Lancaster was struck by lightning just after taking-off on a sortie to Leipzig. The flash was so great that those on the ground thought that the aircraft had exploded in mid-air. All the electrics being burnt out, pilot and crew were instructed to jettison their bombs over the Wash and return to base.
On 21 December 1944, during a daylight strike on Witten, the Squadron’s Mustang fighter escort was lured away, leaving the bombers to the mercy of enemy fighters. Gamble’s Lancaster was subsequently engaged by two fighters but they appeared reluctant to press home their attack. Lancaster and crew were able to bomb the target and then make good their escape with ‘only a few holes to show for it.’
Gamble - who attributed his survival ‘to 90% good luck and 10% skill’ – was awarded the D.F.C. He died in 2004.
Sold with the recipient’s original R.A.F. Observer’s and Air Gunner’s Flying Log Book (Form 1767 type), covering the period June 1942 to April 1945, together with his Buckingham Palace investiture letter, dated 12 June 1945.
Kelso, Robert, Errors of Judgment, S.O.E’s Disaster in the Netherlands, 1941-1944 (Robert Hale, 1988).
Lee, Thomas, a website tribute written by Gamble’s second cousin.
Merrick, K. A., Flights of the Forgotten, Special Duties Operations in World War Two (Arms & Armour Press, 1989).
Nicholas, Elizabeth, Death Be Not Proud (Cesset Press, 1958).
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