The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. H E Black
Herbert Ernest Black was born in Measham, Leicestershire on 12th June 1914, the son of Herbert Ernest and Mary Elizabeth Black.
He was known in the family as 'Bert' to distinguish him from his father. His mother died in 1922 and his father remarried.
Black Snr., whose parents had been licensees, became in 1917 landlord of the Waggon & Horses pub in Curzon Street, Ibstock, after the death of his mother in law. The family then lived at the pub.
Black gained a scholarship to Dixie Grammar School, Market Bosworth. He was an excellent sportsman and played as a batsman for the school cricket team. He also played for Ibstock Town Cricket Club, achieved success at hockey and was skilled at billiards. He was also
a Boy Scout and later became a scout master.
On leaving school he studied at Clark’s College, Leicester and then worked as a weights and measures assistant.
He joined the RAFVR about August 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He was called up on 1st September 1939 and was posted to 7 FTS Peterborough on 9th October on No. 12 Course.
With his training completed, he joined 226 Squadron in France on 6th March 1940, to fly Fairey Battles. After the squadron was withdrawn to England on 16th June Black volunteered for Fighter Command, which he considered increased his chances of survival compared with flying Battles.
He was posted to an OTU to convert to Hurricanes and joined 32 Squadron at Acklington on 3rd September 1940.
On the 17th he went to 257 Squadron at Martlesham Heath and he made his last operational sortie with the squadron on 15t October. Black probably joined 46 Squadron at Stapleford Tawney on the 22nd.
On 29th October Black was shot down in combat with Me109s in Hurricane P3066 and is believed to have crashed in Hothfield Park, near Ashford. He was wounded and badly burned, having been trapped for a time when the hood jammed. He had both legs amputated but died in Ashford Hospital on 9th November.
He had married Gwendoline Annie Cuthbert, a childhood friend, on 17th June 1940 (below) and she was by his bedside when he died.
Speaking in 1999 she recalled the day of her wedding:-
'There was a pitter-patter [of gravel] on my bedroom window. I was a bit concerned but on peering out I saw Bert standing there with a beam on his face. He told me to get dressed quickly because he had arranged to pick up a special marriage licence from Leicester: we were married at St Denys’s church that very afternoon'.
She wrote the foreword to the book 'The Battle of Britain Then and Now' (edited by Winston G Ramsey) published in 1980.
She described her conversations with her husband as he lay fatally wounded, including his description of two Hurricanes circling him protectively as he descended by parachute. 'They followed me down' he told her.
Black was 26 and is buried in St. Denys' churchyard, Ibstock.
Gwen Black never remarried. She died in 2004 and was buried in the same grave as her husband.
His half brother, George Norman Black (known as Norman), also served in the RAF in the Second World War.
In October 2022 a plaque was placed on his home in Ibstock by the local council (below).
He is also commemorated by two plaques at his old school and the pupils regularly visit his grave.