Remembered by: Peter Barker
Date added: 1 Oct 2009
Gerald was born in Indore, India on 3rd April, 1914. His Father, a regular Soldier, was a Captain in the 2nd Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment and was killed in 1915 during the Gallipoli campaign. Gerald’s widowed Mother married Graham Day in 1919. Gerald was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, then Magdalene College, Cambridge graduating with a B.A in English and History, followed by three years at De Havilland, Hatfield, studying aircraft design between 1936-39. He loved classical music building a large collection of LPs and cassettes as well as playing the piano and Clarinet.
In May 1939, Gerald joined the Traffic Department of Imperial Airways and was posted to Marseilles Airport. Later that year he was moved to Bahrain until he volunteered for the RAF and was released by Imperial in 1940. He joined the RAF on the 27th of August and commenced his training in Habbaniyah, Palestine.
Gerald was posted to the RAF Armoured Cars in the Western Desert in 1940, and was involved in the battle of Alamein in charge of a group of 5 Armoured Cars and was adjutant to no 2 Armoured Car Company between 1940 and 1942. His letter to me on 29th November, 1942, says he has done “Over 2,000 miles in the last three weeks… the place I am in now is the first in which I have spent two or more consecutive nights since November 5th.” He enjoyed the desert life: “Less formality”.
In late 1942 he was sent to Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, then to Salisbury on a flying course. He had learnt to fly and gained a pilot licence while at Cambridge, and passed out top of his course and then told he was to stay on as an instructor, which he did until 1944. In 1945 he returned to the Middle East for Operational Training in Tactical Reconnaissance, then to India where he was sent on a Jungle Survival Course. That was quite tough at the age of 30 when most were young men of 20! Gerald was very chuffed to see he could do just as well as them! Shortly after he passed the course, the Japanese surrendered and Gerald’s skill as a Spitfire pilot was never tested. He was disappointed he never rose above Flight Lieutenant and wrote a letter to his mother apologising.
He returned to England in December 1945 after 6½ years abroad and having served on three continents. Throughout those years he wrote copious letters to our Mother, my sister and me. Many had amusing sketches to illustrate a particular hair-raising drive or incident. I wrote an airgraph to him every week for most of those years.
Gerald was demobbed in early 1946 and rejoined BOAC (the successor of Imperial) that year, being sent to Istanbul as station manager where part of that job was meeting VIPs passing through. He transferred to BEA when they took ownership of Istanbul air station. He paid my airfare for me to stay in Istanbul for three months with him and his wife, Susan. That was an experience of a lifetime for me. Gerald had married Susan Malet in May 1947, but sadly Susan developed a heart condition and returned from Istanbul to hospital in Canterbury. She died there in 1947 and Gerald married Frances Simpson in 1949.
After Istanbul, he continued to serve with BEA in their Head Office in London then Zurich and Nice. He was then promoted to Area Manager, Austria stationed in Vienna. In 1955, Gerald decided there were too many young men in BEA of much the same age as he was all waiting/hoping for promotion and he resigned joining British Petroleum until 1961. He and Frances had two sons and a daughter when a further job change took him to Riyadh teaching English in the University. Gerald was a very good linguist, speaking French, German and adequate Turkish, he added Arabic in a remarkably short time. Sadly, Riyadh was too much for them and they divorced while there.
Gerald retired and left Riyadh in July 1985. After a month’s leave in England and Scotland to see his daughter, and granddaughter aged 4 months, he returned to France to settle in Toulouse. However, he was unable to remain there on his miniscule income so he accepted an offer from his French friends (whom he knew in Riyadh) to live in the summer house in their garden in Angerville (about 30 miles south of Paris). I sensed he was short of money, so I wrote to the RAFBF giving his details and they contacted him. I never knew the details but when writing to thank them he said their help had restored his peace of mind.
After a year in the summer house, his friends returned to Riyadh for the winter and told Gerald to move into the main house. However, the following summer (1988), back in the summer house, it was made clear he had outstayed his welcome. Thus, he packed up his worldly possessions, including a heavy library of books and his vast collection of classical music and set off to friends in Brussels. They had no accommodation to offer him, so he returned to Angerville to live in a room over a shop. Three days later it was noticed that he had not collected his letters so the shopkeeper went up a ladder to check through the window. Gerald was slumped in a chair, dead. He had died from a heart attack.
Our home at the time had a large garden and included a small barn which we had renovated into a basic, but warm and dry, place for friends to stay for short holidays. Gerald had used it on a previous visit, and I had written to him imploring to come back to use it, at least while he decided where to live more permanently. He never knew of my offer as my letter was one in the unopened pile in the shop. Sadly, this seems such a lamentable ending to a varied and interesting life.
Gerald was a fantastically kind and generous big (6’3”) brother, 11 years older than me. Nothing was too much trouble. Throughout his service in the RAF he wrote chatty letters as often as wartime life in the Western Desert and Southern Rhodesia allowed. Many letters were full of detail and illustrated with small, clever drawings. Years later his annual visit to us (my husband, two daughters and I) was always a very happy occasion.
His two sons attended his funeral in September 1988 and he is buried in the cemetery in Angerville. My sister and I, together with Gerald’s few surviving friends were able to finance a suitable headstone for his grave. The local stonemason and his wife keep it in good order on our behalf. Please visit it.