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The Airmen's Stories - F/O H T Gilbert


Humphrey Trench Gilbert of Revesby Abbey, Lincolnshire, was born on 3rd November 1919.

His mother (1893 - 1957) was born Beryl Franziska Kathleen Bianca Trench. On 13th May 1914 she married Captain The Hon. Richard Philip Stanhope, the son of the 6th Earl Stanhope. He was killed serving with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards on 16th September 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Lady Beryl then married Lt. Cmdr. Walter Raleigh Gilbert RN on 5th July 1917. They were divorced in 1927.

HT Gilbert was educated at Durnford School and was at Cheltenham College from January 1934 to July 1937.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in early December 1937. After completing his ab-initio course at 7 E&RFTS, Desford on February 18th 1938, Gilbert went to No 1 RAF Depot, Uxbridge for a short induction course. He was posted to 9 FTS Hullavington on March 5th.



Gilbert was awarded his pilots wings on 1st June 1938, completed his training and joined 73 Squadron at Digby on 17th September. He was sent to CFS Upavon on 23rd October and qualified as an instructor on 22nd December 1938.

In January 1939 Gilbert was posted to 504 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force as Flying Instructor. On 3rd August 1940 he was posted from 9 FTS to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge.

After converting to Hurricanes, he joined 601 Squadron at Debden on the 16th. Gilbert shared in the destruction of a Ju87 on 15th August, shared a He111 on the 30th, destroyed a Me110 on the 31st and was himself shot down over the Thames Estuary, in Hurricane V7260. He baled out, unhurt.

Gilbert destroyed a Me110 on 4th September. Two days later he was shot down by a Me109 over Mayfield. Again he baled out but this time he was wounded. He landed at Pembury and his Hurricane, V6647, crashed at Kippings Cross, near Pembury.


Above: 601 Squadron - L to R: P/O JH Hoare-Scott, Intelligence Officer P/O Jacques Marlier de Routon, P/O AJ Rippon, F/O WJ Seddon, F/O HT Gilbert, F/O HC Mayers.


In late April 1941 Gilbert was appointed 'B' Flight Commander. A month later he was temporarily attached to 1422 Flight at Heston. He flew night sorties in a Hurricane, accompanying a Havoc in what were early tests on Turbinlite aircraft.

Gilbert was posted to 71 (Eagle) Squadron at Martlesham Heath on 3rd September 1941 as a Flight Commander. He was given command of 222 Squadron at North Weald on 1st November and on 23rd December 1941 he moved to Debden to take over 65 Squadron.

When the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau made their Channel Dash on 12th February 1942, the squadron was involved in combat with the German fighter cover. Gilbert destroyed a Me109 and damaged another.

On a Boston escort to Hazebrouck on April 12th, he shot down a Fw190.

Gilbert crashed on 2nd May 1942, attempting to take off from Debden in Spitfire BL372 with the Controller, F/Lt. DG Ross, sitting on his lap. They were said to have been going to a party. Both men were killed.

Gilbert is buried in Saffron Walden Cemetery, Essex. The award of the DFC was gazetted after his death (29th May 1942).

Below: there is a memorial stone at Revesby Abbey.




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