I never paid much attention to W.A.C. Gilbert’s name before.
Until Jean commented yesterday, and some more today.
Thank you for making such a quick correction! If anyone who frequents this forum has any memories of my father, Lon (but they called him Chirp, too) Gilbert, I would be very interested in hearing any tidbits about him. I know he was a great Spitfire pilot and the historical account on the site credits him with at least two kills and one shared kill.
More about Chirp…
Taken from this Website:
On July 23, No. 126 Squadron exchanged duties with No. 127 Squadron and the squadron returned to Dartmouth. Aircraft strength increased to fifteen Hurricane XIIs and four Harvards. Personnel strength averaged 120, of which 23 were pilots. It was now a full-sized squadron and was averaging about 500 flying hours a month.
While at Dartmouth, P/O M. W. Brown, Sgt Frombolo, F/O P. C. Holden, F/S H. L. Eakes and P/O Humphries departed on postings, leaving only D. M. Walz of the original thirteen pilots. F/O F. W. Ward also left the squadron in the Fall of 1943. Newcomers were F/L W. V. Shenk, P/Os T. G. Munro, P. E. Piché and F/S P. E. Ferguson (July), F/O A. Hunter and P/O A. G. McKay (September), P/Os L. Perez-Gomez, W. A. C. Gilbert and L. H. Wilson (November). The squadron adjutant, F/O J. G. B. Lawrence, re- mustered to aircrew and left in November. F/O C. E. Scarlett took over his duties temporarily.
On the morning of December 23, 1943, the advance party of No. 129 Squadron arrived to take over No. 127’s duties at Dartmouth and a happy band of officers and airmen boarded a train to take them home on embarkation leave. So ended No. 127 Squadron’s tour in Canada. The squadron’s flying personnel now included: S/L H. W. McLeod, F/Ls D. M. Walz and M. V. Shenk, P/Os E. H. Fairfield, A. J. Horrell, A. Hunter, G. F. Ockenden and C. E. Scarlett, P/Os W. A. Aziz, S. Bregman, L. B. Foster, W. A. C. Gilbert, T. G. Munro, L. Perez-Gomez, L. P. E. Piché, W. I. Williams and L. H. Wilson, W02 D. F. Bridges, F/Ss P. G. Bockman, P. E. Ferguson and G. E. Urquhart, and Sgt H. W. Summerfeldt.
Prelude To Invasion April – June 1944
Two months after arriving at Digby, 443 Squadron pilots S/L McCleod, F/Ls Prest, Walz, MacLennan, and Stovel, F/Os Perez-Gomez, Scarlett, Fairfield, Gilbert, Hunter and Stephen, and P/O Bockman left Westhampnett to provide top cover for a formation of Bostons bombing a target at Dieppe. D-Day preparations continued in earnest between April 13 and June 5 with more than 487 sorties being flown.
Bomber escorts for Bostons and Mitchells over the Crecy area, St Omer, and as far as Coblenz, Germany, fully occupied the squadron, which moved to Funtington, Sussex on the 22nd. On the morning of the 25th, W/C Johnson led No. 441 and 443 Squadrons on a sweep around Paris. They encountered six FockeWulfs and destroyed them, two kills by “Johnny”, one by F/L Hugh Russel and F/L Walz and two by No. 441 Squadron. Only three of 443 pilots returned directly to base; four ended up in Exeter, and “. . . two crashed near Warmwell when their fuel ran out.” Later that evening, the squadron flew close escort to Marauders over Cherbourg.
F/Ls Prest, Russel and Walz, F/Os Gilbert and Scarlett, and P/O Hodgins practiced dive-bombing on a flying-bomb site south of Dieppe on the 26th; more bombs were dropped on railway bridges south of Cherbourg. Then, on May 3 and 4, the final full-scale dress rehearsal prior to invasion occurred.
In the early evening of June 4, S/L McLeod led a formation of eleven aircraft on the squadron’s last pre-invasion operation. The task was to knock out an enemy radar post on the coast ten miles west of Fecamp, and as was to be expected, the ground defences put up an intense, although futile, barrage. Four direct bomb hits were seen, in addition to other near misses within damaging distance.
By this time, the squadron knew that the long expected invasion was only hours away. The invasion markings (broad black and white bands) were painted on the Spitfires. No. 443 Squadron now had twenty-eight pilots on strength. S/L H. W. McLeod, F/Ls A. Hunter, W. A. Prest, W. V. Shenk and D. M. Walz, F/Os W. A. Aziz, E. H. Fairfield, P. E. H. Ferguson, L. B. Foster, W. A. C. Gilbert, A. J. Horrell, R. A. Hodgins, T. G. Munro, G. F. Ockenden, L. Perez-Gomez, L. P. E. Piché, C. E. Scarlett, and W. I. Williams, and F/S G. E. Urquhart had all been with the squadron since the beginning of its overseas tour in February. F/Ls I. R. MacLennan, H. Russel and E. B. Stovel and F/Os R. B. Henderson, J. R. Irwin and G. R. Stephen, had joined in March and April. More recent additions were F/L G. W. A. Troke, DFC (on April 28) F/O W. J. Bentley (on May 16) and S/L J. D. Hall (on May 26).
On June 24, the squadron began armed reconnaissance (A/R) along roads behind the lines in search of enemy motor transport. Scrambles to intercept enemy raiders provided more instances of dust clogging aircraft guns.
While on an A/R mission, intense and accurate flak forced abandonment of that task. Ground control reported enemy aircraft in the vicinity and vectored No. 443 to intercept. F/O G. R. Stephen followed a group of eight or ten FockeWulfs and was able to close within 300 yards for a kill. Blue section meanwhile was in hot pursuit as F/O W. A. C. Gilbert, F/L G. W. A. Troke and F/O R. A. Hodgins combined for a kill. F/L W. V. Shenk was also inflicting damage to a FockeWulf when his gun failed thereby robbing him of a sure kill.
Reorganization broke up 144 Wing in July. No. 443 joined 127 Wing with Nos. 403, 416 and 421, and moved from St Croix to Crepon on the afternoon of July 14.
During its time with 144 Wing, S/L McLeod’s squadron destroyed thirteen enemy aircraft (McLeod 6, Walz 2, Hodgins, Gilbert, Stephen, Russel one each and Russel and Ockenden sharing one) and damaged five, (Prest 3, Shenk 2). In ground attacks, the squadron destroyed two locomotives and 42 vehicles, and damaged 15 mechanized enemy transport (MET) “smokers”, two engines, a barge, a signal house and 42 mechanized vehicles.
After uneventful patrols on the morning of September 27, W/C Johnson destroyed his 38th (highest total in RAF) enemy aircraft in a melee over Rees on the banks of the Rhine. F/O Rooney Hodgins forced another Messerschmitt away from his commander and got another destroyed for himself. F/L H. P. Fuller gave the “tail-end Charlie” of the German formation bursts of cannon and machine-gun fire to do it in. F/L E. B. Stovel, F/O Gilbert and F/L Walz also tallied one each.
Squadron flying for 1944 terminated after missions on the fifteenth and eighteenth of December in the Aachen to Trier area of the Siegfried Line. Here Von Rundstedt launched the famous “Battle of the Bulge”, but weather and cloud prevented 443 from being effective, and premature removal of radio transmitter crystals in anticipation of Air Gunnery Practice in England, resulted in missions on the eighteenth being complete fiascos.
December departures from the squadron included F/Os G. F. Ockenden and W. A. C. Gilbert, both who had joined the squadron in Canada, and F/O A. M. F. Thomas.