b. 03/12/1897 Lewisham, London. d. 14/05/1968 Lyme Regis, Dorset.
Alan Jerrard (1897-1968) was born in Lewisham, London on 3rd December 1897, the son of a headmaster. Alan was initially educated at his father’s school, Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield. He later attended Oundle School and, in 1915, began a degree at Birmingham University; but by the end of the year, he had decided to enlist in the Army, and was commissiond as a Second Lieutenant in the South Staffordshire Regiment on 2nd January 1916.
After a few months as an infantry subaltern, he applied for a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps and on 16th August 1916 began ground instruction at the School of Military Aeronautics, Oxford. On 23rd September he reported to No 25 (Reserve) Squadron at Thetford for initial flying instruction, and on 20th November 1916 moved to No 9 (Reserve) Squadron at Mousehold Heath, Norwich for further training. His next move, on 5th December, took Jerrard to No 59 Squadron at Narborough, a unit then in the process of formation for operations in France, but a bout of illness prevented him staying with the squadron, and he was temporarily attached to another Narborough unit, 50 (Reserve) Squadron, pending his return to full flying fitness. He was then posted to Upavon Central Flying School, from which he graduated as an RFC pilot on 14th June 1917; was officially transferred to the RFC on this date, and briefly attached to No 40 Training Squadron at Croydon.
Still intended to become a two-seater pilot, he was sent to 20 Training Squadron at Spittlegate near Grantham for further experience in the RE8, but his superior skills led to a spell training as a single seat pilot at London Colney. He then got his first operational posting to Liettres, France on 19th July 1917. He was then promoted to Lieutenant.
He arrived with 19 Squadron on 24th July, and adapted to his new aircraft, the Spad S7. He flew his first patrol on 29th July, but saw no action with the enemy. His second patrol came on 5th August, but lost contact with his formation, destroyed a German convoy, before his engine cut out and he crashed into a railway embarkment at St Marie Cappel. Nearby infantry had to dig him out of the wreckage, his nose and jaw broken in several places, plus other minor cuts and bruises, saw him removed to hospital.
Invalided back to England, he spent several months recuperating, and, after a brief refresher course, he was posted to 66 Squadron in Italy; arriving in his new unit on 22nd February 1918. 66 Squadron were commanded by Major Whittaker MC, was one of three Sopwith Camel units transferred from France only weeks before to bolster the Italian military campaign. Jerrard was soon involved, earning his first victory on 27th February, destroying an enemy balloon on 7th March, and on the 11th destroyed two Berg scouts. On 21st March, he took on an Albratross scout, and sent it down to crash.
On 30th March 1918 near Mansue, Italy, Lieutenant Jerrard, with two other officers, Peter Carpenter and Harold Eycott-Martin, on offensive patrol, shot down one of five enemy aircraft. Then flying at 50 ft. he attacked an aerodrome with some 19 machines either landing or attempting to take off. After destroying one of these he was attacked by more enemy aircraft but, seeing a brother-officer in difficulties, went to assist him, destroying a third enemy machine, then continued his attacks, only retreating, with five machines in pursuit, on the orders of the patrol leader. Even then, he repeatedly turned to beat off the enemy until finally forced down.
Jerrard was taken prisoner by the Austrians, and was interrogated and taken to a regular POW camp at Salzburg. Following repatriation after the end of the War, he opted to stay in the RAF as a career. He was invested with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 5th April 1919. He then joined the RAF Murmansk detachment in Russia. He then served in various minor roles at Henlow, Sealand, Grantham and Halton over the next fourteen years. He rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, but in 1933, due to poor health, he was forced to retire from the RAF.
Alan Jerrard spent the last few years living in Buckfield Nursing Home, Lyme Regis, Dorset. Sadly, in his later years, he had only hazy memories of his actions on 30th March 1918, except for his near-miraculous escape from death. Jerrard died peacefully in his sleep on 14th May 1968, and he was cremated at the Exeter & Devon Crematorium, Exeter. His ashes were interred in a family grave at Uxbridge and Hillingdon Cemetery, Middlesex. His medals were placed on a long term loan to the RAF Museum, Hendon, until in 2011, Michael Ashcroft purchased the group in a private sale for display at the Imperial War Museum. The group which comprises of his VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, Knight, Order of St Anne (Russia) and Medal of Military Valour (Italy), are now in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ASHES AND HEADSTONE, HILLINGDON CHURCH, MIDDLESEX.
Alan Jerrard's medals in August 2015 - Thomas Stewart
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
Bishop Vesey's Grammar, Sutton Coldfield
RAF Memorial, St Clements Danes, Aldwych, London
Lewisham War Memorial (Danielle Crozier)