Richard Gorham

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Colonel Sir Richard Masters Gorham CBE, DFC, JP[1][2] (3 October 1917 - 8 July 2006) was a prominent Bermudian parliamentarian, businessman and philanthropist, who served as a pilot during the Second World War when he played a decisive role in the Battle of Monte Cassino, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Second World War[edit]

Bermuda Volunteer Engineers[edit]

Born in Pembroke, Bermuda, the son of Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Gorham, he enlisted in the Bermuda Volunteer Engineers in 1938. The unit was mobilised, along with the other part-time units of the Bermuda Garrison (the Bermuda Militia Artillery (BMA), Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps (BVRC), and the Bermuda Militia Infantry), when the Second World War was declared. As a Corporal, he was attached to the signalling division at the Royal Naval Dockyard, he earned a commission as a result of his saving an exercise when he suggested an emergency method of signalling visually to replace a broken wireless transmitter.

As a Lieutenant he learnt of an instruction from the Army Council prevented commanding officers from preventing officers under their command from taking any training course for which they volunteered (although his commanding officer, Major Cecil Montgomery-Moore, DFC - having transferred from the BVRC in France to the Royal Flying Corps when he had been commissioned during the First World War, and heading the Bermuda Flying School during the Second World War - must undoubtedly have approved of what Gorham intended).

Royal Artillery and Royal Air Force[edit]

At the time, the Royal Air Force was having great difficulty in providing effective Air Observation Post pilots to the British Army. In 1918, the British Amy lost its air wing when the Royal Flying Corps was merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to create the independent Royal Air Force (RAF). Since then, the RAF had jealously guarded its monopoly on British military and naval aviation. They provided the Royal Navy with RAF aircrew and support personnel to operate the aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, although the Navy had been allowed to begin training its own aircrew before the war began. The RAF also provided the aircraft and crews that worked in close support roles to the Army, notably the AOP pilots. These were pilots of light aircraft, such as the Auster, who acted as artillery spotters, directing the fire of the guns of the Royal Artillery from the air. Having had poor success at training RAF pilots to direct artillery fire, it was decided to train Army officers who were proficient at the task to pilot aeroplanes. This preceded the recreation of a new air wing within the British Army, the Army Air Corps (which initially included parachute and glider landed units, as well as the Glider Pilot Regiment, but would eventually take over the AOP and other air support roles from the RAF). Then Lieutenant Gorham requested to train for this role, and was detached from the Bermuda Volunteer Engineers to travel to England for the training. Transferred into the Royal Artillery, and trained by the RAF, he served in a squadron controlled by the RAF. He served in North Africa and Italy. In Italy, while in command of B Flight of 655 Squadron, he played the decisive role in the Battle of Monte Cassino when he spotted a German division moving in half-tracked German Armoured Personnel Carriers to counter attack the British 5th Division and the Polish Corps, which were themselves attacking the German-occupied monastery. Contacting the senior Royal Artillery fire control officer on the ground. All two-thousand field guns within range were switched from their local targets and placed under his control. Gorham directed their fire down onto the German Division. The guns fired for hours, with Gorham taking turns with other AOP pilots. The German division was completely destroyed, and the Allied ground forces broke through four days later. For this action, Gorham received the Distinguished Flying Cross, a relative rarity for an Army officer.[3]

Post-war service[edit]

Returning to Bermuda after the War with the rank of Captain, Gorham found his original unit, the BVE, was disbanded in 1946. All of the other local military units were demobilised at the same time, though the BVRC and BMA would both maintain skeleton command structures till their strength was built back up again in 1951 (they would amalgamate in 1965 into the Bermuda Regiment). Gorham entered the BVRC in which he served for a number of years. He was part of the detachment sent to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. He retired from the army with the substantive rank of Captain, however he was awarded the Honorary rank of Colonel in the Royal Artillery.

Civil life[edit]

In his civil life, Richard Gorham became a prominent businessman and Member of the Parliament of Bermuda (originally titled Member of the Colonial Parliament, or MCP, but today simply Member of Parliament, or MP). He donated much of his wealth to a host of causes, including the Bermuda Maritime Museum, and the Bermuda Sloop Foundation.



  1. ^ Richard Gorham biodata
  2. ^ Gorham entry in the London Gazette
  3. ^ [Colonel Sir Richard M. Gorham, DFC. Article by Peter Bonete, published in the Mid-Ocean News, 11 March 1972.]

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