b. 02/02/1914 Mildenhall, Suffolk. d. 09/05/1941 Boulogne, France.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 13/04/1937 Wazristan, India.
Gerald Charles Neil Close (1914-1941) was born in Mildenhall, Suffolk on 2nd February 1914, the son of Reginald Charles Arthur and Helen Mary Melville Close (nee Kerr). He had an older brother John Cecil Melville and a sister Sheila and the family lived in the Old Rectory in Barton Mills near Mildenhall. Little else is known about Gerald’s early life and schooling prior to his enlistment in the RAF on 21st October 1935 as an Acting Pilot Officer. He commenced his flight instruction on at 11 Flying Training School on 2nd November 1935, and became a Pilot Officer on 26th August 1936.
On 16th March 1937, he was posted with 59 (Army Corps) Squadron to India, and in particular to the region of Waziristan. Less than a month later, on 13th April 1937, a Westland Wapiti laden with bombs crashed on take-off and burst into flames at Miranshah aerodrome. Close hastened to the scene of the accident and, in spite of the explosion of bombs and small arms ammunition, made persistent attempts to extinguish the flames and rescue the crew until ordered to withdraw by a senior officer.
Gerald was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Military Division on 21st December 1937, and in 1938 was promoted to Flight Officer. Following the outbreak of World War Two, Gerald was promoted to Flight Lieutenant, and in 1940, he married Pamela Yvonne Hutchinson in Tonbridge, Kent. Sadly, like many wartime service marriages, it was not to last.
By the early months of 1941, Gerald had been promoted to Squadron Leader, 59 Squadron, flying a Blenheim Mk IV. He had already received the news that his EGM had been automatically exchanged for the new George Cross decoration created the previous September.
On 9th May 1941, Gerald was on a mission to bomb Boulogne Docks. He took off from Thorney Island at 2200 hours with Observer Flight Officer Frederick Roberts and Gunner Sergeant Gordon Richards. Sadly on the return flight, the aircraft was hit and lost over France. All three men’s bodies were recovered and are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves section of the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery. Gerald’s medals included the GC, India General Service Medal, 1939-45 Star, War Medal 1939-45 and Air Crew Europe Star with “France” clasp. The location of his service medals is not known, but Gerald’s GC was acquired in 1974 by the trustees of the RAF Museum at Hendon.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: RAF MUSEUM, HENDON, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BOULOGNE EASTERN CEMETERY, BOULOGNE, FRANCE.
PLOT 13, ROW A, GRAVE 5-7.
NO IMAGE AVAILABLE
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier