13.12.1941 No. 37 Squadron Wellington 1C N2780 LF-E Sgt. Gerald de Lucie Carver
Operation: Derna and environs, Libya
Date: 13 December 1941 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 37 Squadron Motto: "Wise without eyes"
Badge: A hawk hooded, belled and fessed, wings elevated and addorsed. The badge is indicative of the duties of blind flying.
Type: Vickers Wellington 1C
Base: RAF Shallufa, Egypt
Location: Off the coast of Sidi Barrani, Egypt
Pilot: Sgt. Gerald de Lucie Carver 1169047 RAFVR Age 19 - Safe and uninjured (1)
2nd Pilot: F/O. Alan Leigh Davis 42977 RAF Age 25 - Safe but injured (2)
Obs: P/O. Walter Alexander Tanner J/3764 RCAF Age 24 - Missing believed drowned at sea (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Leech Pointing 751390 RAFVR Age 23 - Missing believed drowned at sea (4)
Air/Gnr: Sgt Pearson - Safe and uninjured (5)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. H. J. Bluck - Safe but injured (6)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our Helpdesk.
We particularly require any information about the two air gunners, Sergeants Pearson and H.J. Bluck.
During February 1941 the first units of the Afrika Korps under Erwin Rommel had arrived in Libya and in little more than a month had begun their move against the Allies. It became a seemingly relentless steady advance in the face of which the Allies, despite launching several counter-attacks, were forced back across the border into Egypt.
But the port city of Tobruk in Libya was still in Allied hands and as such a constant threat to Rommel's supply line thus severely hampering his ability to make further advances. Tobruk was also being re-supplied and reinforced by the Royal Navy whilst Rommel, despite constantly hammering on the city door, had so far failed to break it down.
Allies and Axis forces alike realised that disruption of supplies was a crucial part of desert warfare and in that respect the occupation of Tobruk had become pivotal to success or failure.
On 18 November 1941 General Sir Claude Auchinleck launched Operation Crusader, a major offensive to relieve Tobruk. Repulsed by Rommel the Eighth Army lost 530 tanks to Rommel's 100. To exploit the British halt and its apparent disorganisation, Rommel counter-attacked near the Egyptian border. The British resisted, thus causing the German offensive to stall as well as having outrun its supplies.
On 27 November the British successfully attacked Tobruk and linking up with the defenders inflicted heavy losses on Rommel's forces. Rommel regrouped his divisions and on 7 December fell back to a defensive line at Gazala 37 miles west of Tobruk all the while being constantly attacked by the RAF.
Gerald Carver enlisted in 1940 when he was just turned 18 years old. By the summer of 1941, having qualified as a pilot and completed advanced and operational training on the Vickers Wellington light bomber, he was posted to No. 37 Squadron at RAF Shallufa near Suez in Egypt.
The targets being attacked by the Squadron were, at the time, situated so far from RAF Shallufa that bombers necessarily had to fly part way to an Advanced Landing Ground where they were refuelled before later continuing their operation. After raiding the target bombers usually returned direct to base at RAF Shallufa from the target area unless circumstances prevented them from doing so. Because of the distance and flying time involved (up to 10 or 11 hours) these Wellingtons operated with a six man crew that including a second pilot to share the flying. The second pilot, colloquially known as a second dickie, was less experienced than the captain, the intention being that as well as sharing the flying duties he also gained operational experience without having the added responsibility of captaincy.
It was as second dickie that Gerald Carver began his operational career on 31 July 1941, a long distance bombing raid on Benghazi under the captaincy of Sgt. Atherstone. Between then and the end of September he flew a further 8 operations as second dickie; 7 of them with Sgt. Atherstone and one with Sgt. Harris.
On the night of 8/9 October he was deemed ready to captain a crew and was detailed as one of four crews for a raid on Benghazi. His crew included 2nd pilot Alan Davis, observer Walter Tanner and wireless operator William Pointing, all three were to remain ever-presents unlike the two air gunners who were a different pair on each of the first four operations that included two trips to Derna and another to Benghazi on which Sgt. Pearson was one of the gunners.
His next operation almost ended in disaster. Detailed to bomb Benghazi and flying Wellington T2801, he had just taken off from Landing Ground 104 at 2227 hours when his aircraft hit a fuel bowser 200 yards from the red light. Though the bowser caught fire the aircraft did not but was, nevertheless, totally wrecked. All the crew escaped without injury but no further flying was possible that night.
Whether the accident had any bearing on the situation is unknown but it was over a month before he was detailed for operations again.
On the night of 19/20 November Sgts. Pearson and Bluck flew together with the crew for the first time. The operation to bomb Derna lasted barely half an hour as they were forced to return with engine trouble.
This now established crew flew twice more to Benghazi and once to Derna during November. On the night of 6/7 December the Carver crew flew two sorties to the El Adem and Acroma area.
The crew was next detailed on 9/10 December as one of twelve aircraft for a raid on Derna but was one of six crews that failed to locate a target and returned with their bombs.
On 12 /13 December the crew were detailed yet again for Derna: it would be their sixth visit to the city and Gerald Carver's twenty first operation leaving nine to go to the end of his tour.
REASON FOR LOSS
Detailed to attack the Libyan port city of Derna and its environs, thirteen Wellingtons of 37 Squadron took off from Shallufa in the afternoon of Friday 12 December 1941 for the Squadron's landing ground some 250 miles west at Bi'r Kurayyim or the more imaginatively named, Landing Ground 09. There, men and machines were suitably refuelled in preparation for the night's operation after which they were to return direct to base at RAF Shallufa.
The time that Wellington N2780 took off for Derna is not recorded but of the others the first left at 00.01 on Saturday 13 December with the others following at various intervals until 01.05.
One aircraft experienced engine trouble on the way to the target and returned to LG09 with his bombs at 01.02. Another, due to adverse weather conditions, failed to find any suitable target at all and also returned to LG09 with his bombs.
The others made their attacks and returned direct to RAF Shallufa, having flown over 1000 miles since leaving Bi'r Kurayyim almost 7 hours earlier.
Back at base the crews reported having bombed various targets in the Derna area but with a certain vagueness pervading through their reports.
'the road East of Wadi Derna',
'what appeared to be buildings or aircraft',
'the southern boundary of the aerodrome at Derna'
'what was thought to be MT and buildings at the road junction ten miles west of Derna on the coast' and
'roads West of Derna aerodrome'
The lack of clarity as to precise targets attacked was due to the weather which throughout was not good and almost all the returning pilots made reference to the intense low cloud which had hampered the attack and had made observation of its effects almost impossible.
The enemy defences were alert to the threat and moderate light, medium and heavy flak was encountered over the target area together with a few searchlights that proved to be fairly effective. Wellington B8987 flown by P/O. Owen was hit in the port wing but the damage did not prevent him from successfully attacking the target or making a safe return to base.
Gerald Carver and his crew however were not so fortunate. Whilst over the target at Derna, Wellington N2780 was hit by anti-aircraft fire which badly damaged one of its engines.
Gerald quickly recognised that if they were to get home they were going to have to do so on one engine and ordered the remainder of the bombs to be jettisoned along with anything else that could be moved in order to lessen the load as much as possible.
A request to Walter Tanner for a course to RAF Shallufa was perhaps made more in hope than belief. 600 miles on one engine was surely out of the question but 400 miles to Bi'r Kurayyim? Well, with luck, just maybe.
Two hours later they were still flying on the one engine but Gerald Carver knew they would not remain airborne for much longer let alone fly another 150 miles to Landing Ground 09 at Bi'r Kurayyim. He decided that their best chance was a landing at the rapidly approaching RAF Sidi Barrani but his hopes were dashed when he found that the flare path there was not lit. He was now left with one option, put down in the sea as near the coast as practicable.
Gerald ditched the Wellington in the Mediterranean about a mile off the coast near Sidi Barrani at 0545 hours. The dinghy was deployed but only Gerald Carver, Alan Davis and the two air gunners Sergeants Pearson and Bluck managed to reach it. For some reason Walter Tanner and William Pointing did not manage to reach the dinghy and were last seen swimming for the shore.
On 27 December 1941, in a letter of condolence to Walter Tanner's mother, the Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Nash wrote:
"Your son was wearing an inflatable waistcoat, and so I had great hopes that he had been able to reach the shore which was about one mile distant. I must admit, however that in view of the length of time which has elapsed since the accident occurred during which period we have heard nothing of your son, I am very much afraid that he may have never reached land. Your son was doing very excellent work as a Navigator and Bomb Aimer in this Squadron. I had recently put him in charge of the Navigation Section and he was running it extremely well. He was a most likeable man and indeed a severe loss to us from every aspect"
As with Walter Tanner nothing was ever seen or heard again of William Pointing. They are both commemorated on the Alamein Memorial
The four men in the dingy reached the shore at 1400 hours later that day and Gerald Carver immediately went to seek assistance. Help was soon forthcoming and although he and Sgt. Pearson were both uninjured it was later found that Alan Davis had suffered two broken ribs and Sgt. Bluck had broken his left arm.
For his actions in the operation Gerald Carver was Mentioned in Dispatches. He went on to complete a tour of operations with No. 37 Squadron and by the summer of 1943 he was serving with No. 78 Squadron in Europe.
In 1943 he was awarded the DFC and the DSO and went on to complete a career total of 58 operations.
A MOST DESPICABLE THEFT
Prior to his death Gerald Carver had expressed a wish that his medals be displayed at Trent College, Long Eaton where he had been a pupil from 1936 to 1938. It was his hope that the medals might help in teaching todays youngsters about the sacrifices made during the war.
In fulfilment of his wishes his family duly loaned his medals to the college on Derby Road in Long Eaton, Derbyshire where in 2009 they were placed on display in a wooden, wall-mounted case in the college museum.
Earlier this year the medals were stolen from the Trent College at sometime between Monday, February 19 and Thursday, February 22.
Despite extensive publicity in the media including Crimewatch,
we were informed by Derbyshire Police on 15 August 2018 that the medals had not been recovered.
If you have any information about this incident please contact
Derbyshire Police quoting reference number 18*166566 through
the Contact Us section of the following website www.derbyshire.police.uk/Contact-Us
You can also anonymously contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111 or by visiting www.crimestoppers-uk.org
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Sqn Ldr. Gerald de Lucie Carver DSO, DFC, MiD, was born in 1922 at Marylebone, London the son of Christopher Fitzjames Carver and Florence Mary Carver nee Maltby. He had two siblings: Arthur Tregarthen Carver born 1915 at Barnet Middlesex and Kenneth M. Carver born 1918 at Dorking Surrey. He also had a half-brother James Christopher Carver born 1927 (from his father's second marriage to Marjorie Price)
Gerald Carver was educated at Trent College, Long Eaton from 1936 to 1938 and enlisted in the RAFVR in 1940 aged 18.
1169047 Temporary Flight Sergeant Gerald de Lucie Carver was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 1 February 1942 (London Gazette 31 March 1942) and on 1 October 1942 he was promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) (London Gazette 20 November 1942)
It was promulgated in the London Gazette of 11 June 1942 that he had been Mentioned in Dispatches.
On 10 September 1943 whilst an Acting Flight Lieutenant with 78 Squadron he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The date of posting to 78 Squadron is not known but he is known to have flown on an operation with the squadron on 24 June 1943.
On 10 December 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order whilst serving with No. 78 Squadron.
The citation reads
"This officer has completed a large number of sorties, many of them in the Middle East. He is an ideal leader, whose great skill and tenacity of purpose have always been evident. His determination was well demonstrated on a recent occasion during an operation against Mannheim. In the early stages of the outward flight some equipment became unserviceable and sometime later, the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire which badly damaged the hydraulic gear. In spite of this, Flight Lieutenant Carver flew on to the target and pressed home a determined attack. This officer has displayed great courage and devotion to duty and his achievements have won great praise".
His promotion to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) was on 1 February 1944 (London Gazette 18 February 1944)
In 1944 he married Joan I. Hemingway at Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire. They were to have three daughters and a son together.
On 3 September 1948 on appointment to the Reconstituted RAFVR he resigned his commission in the RAFVR Training Branch retaining the rank of Squadron Leader and was appointed to commission as a Flying officer in the RAFVR (Reconstituted section) (London Gazette 9 November 1948)
He relinquished his commission in the RAFVR (Reconstituted section) on 3 September 1953 (London Gazette 1 April 1955)and after leaving the air force he joined Mobil as a sales representative, eventually becoming area sales manager and retiring in 1981.
His wife Joan sadly died in 1985 and in 1990 he married his second wife Norma.
Gerald had six grandsons, three granddaughters and six great-grandchildren. He was chairman of the Aircrew Association for six years from 1988 to 1994, a member of the Saffron Walden Golf Club and a sidesman at St Mary's Parish Church. He had endured ill health for some four years prior to his death during which time he had suffered a stroke and a heart attack. He died at home on January 29 2008 age 86
His funeral service which took place at St Mary's Parish Church, Saffron Walden on Wednesday 6 February 2008, at 11.30 a.m. was attended by more than 200 people and Gerald's coffin was carried by his six grandsons.
(2) F/O. Alan Leigh Davis TD, was born on 13 August 1916 at Hampstead, London the son of Edgar John Davis and Ethel Olive Davis nee Pett. He had two siblings John A. Davis born 1920 and Geoffrey I. Davis born 1925.
Lieutenant Alan Leigh Davis (RE (TA)) was granted a temporary commission as a Pilot Officer on being employed by the Royal Air Force on 7 March 1941 (London Gazette 2 April 1940)
The date of his promotion to Flying Officer (war subs) is not known but he was further promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 7 March 1942 (London Gazette 30 June 1942)
Flight Lieutenant Alan Leigh Davis and former member of the Territorial Army was awarded the Efficiency Medal (Territorial), having completed the qualifying period whilst serving with the Royal Air Force (London Gazette 23 May 1947)
On 5 January 1951 he relinquished his emergency commission on appointment to the reconstituted RAFVR as a Flying Officer in the Secretarial Branch. (London Gazette 19 June 1951) and promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 23 July 1951 (London Gazette 5 August 1952)
He relinquished his commission on 5 January 1956 (London Gazette 14 February 1956)
Alan Leigh Davis died on 3 August 1989 at the Isle of Wight where he lived at 1, The Quay, Yarmouth.
(3) P/O. Walter Alexander Tanner was born on 23 March 1916 at Maryfield, Saskatchewan the son of Timber Merchant, William Alfred Tanner and Emma Beatrice Tanner nee Sisley. He had three brothers: Alfred Sisley Tanner (1912-1969), Frederick Stephen Tanner born 1914 and Arthur James Tanner (1918-1990). Following the death of William Alfred Tanner in 1927 the family moved to Ontario where they lived at 31, St. Andrews Gardens, Toronto and later at 148 Roxborough Street, East Toronto.
Walter Tanner was educated at Maryfield Public School Saskatchewan, Deer Park Public School and Swansea Public School, Toronto 1923-30 and Bishop Ridley College, St Catherine's Ontario 1930-1932.
In 1932 the family move to England where they settled in Bath living at The Cottage, Lyncombe Vale.
In Bath, Walter was educated at Kingswood Public School during 1932-1933 followed by a private tutor for a year until 1934 when he was accepted as an undergraduate at Oxford University reading law. Whilst studying at Oxford University he was active in sports and was awarded his colours for field hockey.
He was awarded his BA on 11 August 1937.
Two weeks later Walter sailed from Southampton on the Empress of Australia for Montreal.
In Canada he was admitted to the Law Society as a student and employed at the legal firm of Leonard and Leonard of Toronto where he was articled to WW1 veteran Hon. Thomas D'Arcy Leonard CBE, QC.
He also studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto.
In 1939 he resigned from Leonard and Leonard in order "to go to England to see my brothers".
His visit to England must have been short as on 19 August 1939 he boarded the Ausonia at Southampton for Montreal.
It seems that he then returned to Toronto and resumed his studies at Osgoode Hall from where he graduated in 1940.
He enlisted at Toronto on 29 June 1940 and in his RCAF record he is described as being 5'9" tall weighing 144lbs with a medium complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. He listed his many sporting interests as hockey, boxing, lacrosse, tennis, rugby, cricket, swimming and baseball and not surprisingly stated that his hobby was sport. It is also recorded that he had been a member of the Cadet Corps at school and that he was a member of the international all-male college secret and social fraternity Phi Kappa Sigma.
After training at No. 2 Initial Training School at RCAF Regina, Saskatchewan, No. 2 Air Observer School RCAF Edmonton, Alberta, and No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Mossbank, Saskatchewan he was awarded his Observers Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 4 January 1941. The following day he was posted to No. 1 Air Navigation School at RCAF Rivers, Manitoba.
On 4 February 1941 he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer.
In June he embarked for the UK and on arrival was posted on 14 June to No. 3 Personnel and Reception Centre at RAF Uxbridge in the London Borough of Hillingdon. His stay at RAF Uxbridge was short lived as on 19 June he was posted No. 12 Operational Training Unit at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire for night bomber training on Wellingtons for 5 weeks until 25 July when he was posted to RAF Mount Farm, Oxfordshire where crews were trained for overseas Wellington units.
He was posted on 28 September 1941 to No. 37 Squadron at RAF Shallufa, Egypt.
In 1995 the Province of Manitoba honoured the memory of Walter Alexander Tanner by the naming Tanner Bay of in Wakula Lake.
(4) Sgt. William Leech Pointing was born in 1918 at Newcastle under Lyme the son of Thomas Pointing and Emily Jane Pointing nee Leech. His father was the manager of the Little Crown Public House, Castle Hill, Newcastle under Lyme and he had a brother, Thomas Pointing, born in 1929.
(5) Sgt Pearson. Nothing known, if you have any information please contact our helpdesk
(6) Sgt. H J Bluck. Nothing known, if you have any information please contact our helpdesk
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
P/O. Walter Alexander Tanner. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 245
Sgt. William Leech Pointing. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 243
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - August 2018
With thanks to the sources quoted below.