Charles George Gass

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Charles George Gass
Born (1898-04-18)18 April 1898
Chelsea, London, England
Died March 1977 (aged 78)
Fulham, London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
 Royal Air Force
Years of service ca 1916–1919
1925–1928
1940–1954
Rank Squadron Leader
Unit

London Regiment
Royal Flying Corps

Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Military Cross

Squadron Leader Charles George Gass MC (18 April 1898 – March 1977) was the highest scoring observer ace during the First World War, with a total of 39 victories (16 solo) scored serving as a gunner flying with various pilots.[1] After working in the Post Office between the wars, he was recalled to the Royal Air Force in early 1940.

Early life and First World War[edit]

Gass was born in Chelsea, London in April 1898. He originally joined the 2/24th Battalion, London Regiment of the Territorial Force and became a sergeant, the rank he held when he first entered a theatre of war on 25 June 1916.[2][3] He was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in 17th Battalion, London Regiment,[3] and attached to the Royal Flying Corps from 1917. On 26 March 1918, he was assigned to No. 22 Squadron as an observer[1] on Bristol F.2bs, flying in France. The two seater "Brisfit" had a maximum speed of 123 mph, which made it as fast or faster than most enemy fighters, and was manoeuvrable to boot. It had a forward pointing Vickers machine gun for the pilot, and one or two Lewis machine guns that could be slid around on their Scarff ring mount by the observer/gunner to cover a wide field of fire.[4]

Aerial victories[edit]

Gass soon showed his proficiency with the Lewis guns. He began by driving an Albatros D.V down out of control on 22 April 1918. Then he began one of the most spectacular months in World War I aerial warfare.[1][2]

On 7 May, Gass was gunner on a Bristol piloted by ace Alfred Atkey; Gass was in Atkey's plane by Atkey's request. They flew one of two Brisfits that took on 20 German scouts. Gass and Atkey destroyed five of the attackers, sending two of them down in burning meteors of falling wreckage.[1][2]

He nailed another German on the 8th while teamed with John Everard Gurdon. Then on the 9th, he and Atkey repeated themselves. Once again they flamed two Germans; additionally, they destroyed another German and drove two down out of the battle.[1][5]

They then reeled off a series of multiple victory days. Two on the 15th; three on the 19th; three more on the 20th; two each on the 22nd, 30th, and 31st; three on the 27th. Gass had scored 28 times in the month, all but one in conjunction with Atkey. No one in World War I scored more victories in a single month.[1] He officially transferred to the nascent Royal Air Force on 22 May 1918.[6]

Gass and Atkey scored another double on 2 June, which were Atkey's final victories. Then Gass was teamed with Lieutenant Edwin Babbage, and scored twice on the 5th. On 26 July, he shot down another German while teamed with Lieutenant Samuel Thompson.[1]

In August, he was teamed with Lieutenant John Everard Gurdon, who had been the pilot of the other Brisfit on 7 May. They tallied five wins together, with the last coming on 13 August. Gass was transferred for pilot training soon after, but the war ended before he qualified for his wings.[1]

Gass's final tally totalled 39. Broken down, they amounted to 5 destroyed in flames, including one victory which was shared with other planes; 12 others destroyed; 22 down "out of control".[1]

It was the sort of performance that had garnered multiple decorations for single seat fighter pilots. For Gass, it brought a Military Cross gazetted on 16 September 1918, the citation read:

2nd Lt. Charles George Gass, Lond. R., attd. R.A.F.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During many engagements, generally against heavy odds, he destroyed five enemy aircraft. He showed great ability and an entire disregard for personal danger.[7]

He received his MC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 16 November 1918.[8]

Interwar period[edit]

Gass ceased to be actively employed by the RAF on 11 April 1919,[9] and relinquished his Territorial commission in 17th Battalion, London Regiment on 30 September 1921.[10] He lived in South London after the war, the address given for despatch of his campaign medals was 95 Flood Street, Chelsea.[3][11] He married Geraldine Marie Insani in the Fulham registration district in the second quarter of 1921.[12] He joined the civil service as a Post Office clerk on 27 June 1922.[13] He joined the Reserve of Air Force Officers as a pilot officer on 30 March 1925,[14] and was promoted flying officer on 6 May,[15] he left the reserve on 30 September 1928.[16] His wife petitioned for divorce in 1934,[17] they had had two sons, Geoffrey in 1922 and Donald in 1924.[18]

Second World War and after[edit]

With the Second World War escalating, Gass was recommissioned as a pilot officer in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch, RAF Volunteer Reserve on 8 January 1940.[19] He was promoted war substantive flying officer on 7 September 1940,[20] and confirmed in that rank on 8 January 1941.[21] He was later promoted flight lieutenant, and on 1 January 1944, temporary squadron leader.[22] He remarried, to Kathleen Fitzgerald, in the first quarter of 1944.[23] He finally retired from the RAFVR on 10 August 1954, retaining the rank of squadron leader.[24]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Charles Gass". aerodrome.com. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Bristol F2 Aces of World War I. pp. 29–30. 
  3. ^ a b c "WW1 Campaign Medals—Image details—Gass, George" (fee usually required to view pdf of original medal index card). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
    "WW1 Campaign Medals—Image details—Gass, Charles George" (fee usually required to view pdf of original medal index card). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
    Copies of these medal cards are also available from ancestry.com (subscription required), only these copies show the additional details on the reverse of the card
  4. ^ "Bristol F.2b fighter". aerodrome.com. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  5. ^ Bristol F2 Aces of World War I. pp. 30–31. 
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 30735. pp. 6802–6803. 7 June 1918. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30901. p. 10953. 16 September 1918. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times (London). Monday, 18 November 1918. (41950), col B, p. 11.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31391. p. 7301. 6 June 1919. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 32535. pp. 9761–9765. 30 November 1921. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  11. ^ Bristol F2 Aces of World War I. p. 31. 
  12. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
    "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32727. pp. 5118–5122. 7 July 1922. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33036. p. 2376. 7 April 1925. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33057. p. 4034. 16 June 1925. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33426. p. 6349. 2 October 1928. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  17. ^ "Item details J 77/3311/1138—Divorce Court File: 1138. Appellant: Germaine Marie Gass. Respondent: Charles George Gass. Type: Wife's petition for divorce". The Catalogue. The National Archives. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  18. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
    "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  19. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34784. pp. 657–658. 2 February 1940. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: no. 35083. p. 1084. 21 February 1941. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: no. 35042. pp. 284–288. 14 January 1941. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: no. 36340. pp. 411–412. 18 January 1944. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  23. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
    "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  24. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40250. pp. 4624–4625. 6 August 1954. Retrieved 18 August 2009.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • The Aerodrome lists his aerial victories and contains his photograph