CLOSE, [GC] Gerald Charles Neil

No. 37383, Squadron Leader, C (G.C.)
Aged 27

59 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Killed in Action on Friday, 9th May 1941

Empire Gallantry Medal....exchanged for....George Cross

Gerald Charles Neil Close was born in 1914 (Mildenhall Q1-1914 4A:1793, son of Reginald Charles Arthur (1883-1946) and Helen May Melville CLOSE (1880-1938) (née KERR) of the Old Rectory, Barton Mills. He had a younger sister Sheila R. CLOSE (1916-) and elder brother John Cecil Meville CLOSE (1908-)

In 1939 his widower father [14-1-1883] retired barrister/special constable and sister Sheila R [20-6-1916] (later married to BROWN) were at The Old Rectory, Barton Mills.There is one closed record. His mother had died the previous year.

Married Pamela Yvonne HUTCHINSON (Tonbridge Q2-1940 2A:3665)

Public Record Office Air 2/2516 has original recommendation drafted 20 May 1937 by S/L L.W. Cannon, Commanding Officer, No.5 Squadron. Gazetted 21st December 1937:-
"At Miranshah at about 0950 hours on the 13th April 1937, a Wapiti aircraft of No.27 (B) Squadron crashed about 700 yards beyond the boundary of the aerodrome shortly after leaving the ground. This aircraft was proceeding to the zone of air blockade operations and was loaded with four 112 pound Mark VI bombs, four 8.5 pound practice bombs and 800 rounds of small arms ammunition. One of the 112 pound bombs exploded immediately the aircraft crashed. Pilot Officer Close was Duty Pilot at Miranshah aerodrome at the time of the crash. He at once leapt on the fire tender taking with him AC.1 Woodcock and AC1 McKinnon and proceeded to the scene of the accident with the greatest promptitude. The fire tender was temporarily impeded on the way to the scene of the accident by a difficult nullah. Pilot Officer Close in company with the two airmen left the tender at this point and ran about 250 yards to the aircraft. Whilst still some 75 yards away from the scene of the accident they observed the aircraft burst into flames. Pilot Officer Close led on his airmen and approached closely to the burning aircraft. All three men rushed back to the fire tender which by this time had arrived near the burning aircraft. They seized fire extinguishers and approached as near as possible to the burning wreckage, sprayed the fire and did their utmost to rescue the imprisoned crew. Whilst they were so engaged at a distance of about eight feet from the wreckage a second 112-pound bomb exploded. Fortunately none of the would-be rescuers was injured. In spite of the explosion of this bomb and numerous small arms ammunition, they continued their attempts to extinguish the flames and rescue the crew. They did not withdraw from the immediate vicinity of the crash until ordered to do so by a senior officer who judged the risks too great owing to the grave danger of further explosions of bombs and small arms ammunition."

For this action Gerald was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal. When King George VI instituted the George Cross in 1940, all holders of the EGM were ordered to exchange their decorations for the new George Cross. This led Gerald to unfortunately hold the record of holding the George Cross for the shortest time

59 Squadron became a general reconnaissance squadron and carried out anti shipping strikes from April 1941.
On 9th May 1941, Bristol Blenheimm Mk IV, ser.T1874, c/s TR-Y took off from RAF Thorney Island at 22:00 hrs with a flight to attack shipping in Boulogne. They failed to return, whether hit by flak or fighter is not known. The pilot was Sqdn/Ldr Gerald CLOSE, Observer F/O FG Roberts and Wireless Op/Air Gunner was Sgt GW Richards. It was just three days after his promotion to Squadron Leader.
Being buried in a collective grave would indicate that the three men could not be individually identified, or that the Germans failed to individually identify them. Unfortunately, although photographs have been found of his 2 crew members, none have been found of Gerald.

photo:Rodney Gibson

Gerald Close is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, plot 13, row A coll grave 5-7

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details