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GH Martin

Sgt Gerald Hayward (Jerry, Gerry) Martin 967741
Flt Lieutenant GH Martin 1149977 RAFVR

Gerald was born in April 1919 in Canada, later growing up in Glasgow. As war came, he entered the RAF at Padgate in September 1939 (by his Service number) and completed initial training at 5 ITW Hastings in February 1940.

    01_Gerald_Martin_c1939
    Aircraftman Gerry Martin soon after enlistment cSep 1939 (Martin collection)
    In new-style tunic with old style airman’s “cheese-cutter” service cap.

In July 1940 and now Leading Aircraftman, Gerry Martin was at No 4 Bombing and Gunnery School, West Freugh as trainee aircrew. My father had passed his own course there back in May.

    01 Gerald - West Freugh 1940
    West Freugh July 1940 (Martin collection)
    Gerry’s caption. A very cheerful group of Leading Aircraftmen on a break in training on a bright summer’s day at 4 BGS. Several with the propellor badge of their LAC classification visible on their upper sleeves, no Observer’s winged 'O' trade qualification badges at this early stage. Gerry Martin, with his LAC propellor badge, last on the right with paper.

    02 Gerald - West Freugh 1940
    E Class Bombing Up West Freugh July 1940 (Martin collection)
    The Class of trainees, likely all RAFVR Observers U/T, in a variety of service dress, several in full flying kit ready for an air exercise. Their RAF Instructor pilot, centre, in the customary Officer’s white flying suit. Gerry Martin last right, kneeling, in flying kit. Behind them, one of the 4 BGS Fairey Battles, used for both bombing and gunnery exercises. In front of them, a bomb trolley carrying two
    250lb GP bombs, though not in the often-used mustard yellow of early war years.

Qualified as an Observer, Sgt Martin’s first operational posting was to 82 Squadron at Bodney and Watton with their Blenheim Mark IVs. Their heavy losses from daylight operations over Europe and later Malta are well recorded: Martin had three operations with them from October 1940.

On 2 December 1940 Gerry Martin was Sgt Observer in one of several crews undertaking Blenheim Delivery Flights from Watton then Thorney Island then via Malta to Egypt. These long flights counted as two trips towards tour completion. Sgts Bennett, Tunstall and France had also left on 2 December, while Sgts Baker, Hay and Checketts made their departure in the very early hours of 3 December. Bennett and crew were the first to reach 211 Squadron at Menidi in Greece, flying their first operation on 20 December (only to be missing in action with L1540 while returning from a Valona raid on 31 December).

For Sgt Observer Martin, posting to 211 Squadron came a month later, arriving on 23 January 1941 with a draft of 10 aircrew that included the Hooper brothers and Sgts Baker, Hay and Checketts. In Greece, Gerry (or Jerry) Martin was one of two so named among the aircrew, the other being the Sgt WOp/AG known as “Ace” Martin (who had joined the Squadron by October 1940 to record at least 30 ops by the end in Greece).

The RAF and 211 Squadron took heavy loss in Greece and of necessity destroyed (or lost to enemy action) both Squadron and personal records. Among these were the 211 Squadron record from March to June 1941 and also Gerry Martin’s second Flying Log Book (his first having been left with 82 Squadron on departing the UK).

Thus the Squadron Operations record has but one op listed for him: on 22 February in L8478 with pilot P/O JC “Pip” Cox and “Ace” Martin as WOp/AG, the original daily records for March, April and May having been destroyed during the withdrawal and only recompiled as monthly summaries after arriving in Palestine. Likewise, while his third Log Book includes a summary note of 10 operations with 211 Squadron in Greece, his entries only begin on 12 April, to record some truly fascinating detail for 15 April . He flew with Pip Cox and with both Hooper brothers: all three came from Rhodesia.

While in Greece Gerry took a good many excellent photographs, prints of which in the usual way were often shared with his Squadron friends, among them WOp/AG Sgt Bill Baird and my father, “Nobby” Clark, fellow Sgt Observer. The two came to know each other well.

By 1 June, like several other 211s, he’d been posted to 11 Squadron in Palestine and Iraq. He was then posted with them to the Western Desert. There in late November 1941 Sgt Martin was attached to 12 Squadron SAAF until July 1942.

    02_057_Gerry_Nov_1941_LG110
    “Up the Blue”: Gerry Martin, LG110 Western Desert November 1941 (Martin collection)
    LG110 was about 40 miles into the Desert from the coast at Sidi Barrani.

    06_035_12Sqn_A.L.G_Gerry_1942
    Gerry Martin and 12 Squadron SAAF crewmates Western Desert 1942 (Martin collection)
    The irrepressible Sgt Observer, in shorts. And a better tent and site!

At last, after about 20 months posted to operational Squadrons, 17 of them in the Middle East, he was screened, tour expired, to be a navigation Instructor at 47 Air School Queenstown. On arrival there, 29 August 1942, he was pleased and surprised to meet my father again. Stints at 44 Air School and 43 Air School followed, taking him to the end of the war.

Commissioned Pilot Officer in February 1943, by late 1944 Gerry Martin had been promoted to Flying Officer.

    Gerald - 47 Air School Queenstown Dec 1944
    Gerald 47 Air School Queenstown December 1944 (Martin collection)
    A nice studio portrait of Navigation Instructor GH Martin, Flying Officer Observer with what was then the
    1939—1943 Star ribbon, cheerful as ever. About this time at 47 Air School he was in and out of the Met Office...

    Molly - 47 Air School Queenstown 1944
    Molly 47 Air School Queenstown 1944 (Martin collection)
    WAAF Molly Esme Torr of the Met Office...

    Molly_Gerry_Lady_Grey_3_April_1945 sized
    Wedding 3 April 1945, South Africa (Martin collection)
    A happy shot of a happy day for Molly and Gerry Martin.

Gerry left the RAF in 1945 as Flt Lieutenant GH Martin 1149977 RAFVR. He and his wife Molly later settled in South Africa, where their son Brian lives today. Gerald Hayward Martin died in November 1983 at the age of 64, while visiting family in New South Wales. His mortal remains rest in South Africa. I’m indebted to Brian and his family for such splendid scans of family photographs and other memorabilia, while Brian himself is gradually putting together an account of his parents and their Service life.

Sources
211 Squadron Operations Record Book:
Form 540 Summary of Events AIR 27/1302
Form 541 Record of Events AIR 27/1302
London Gazette issues

Martin GH RAF Form 1767 Air Gunner’s and Observer’s Flying Log Book
Martin GH Personal notebook
diary 1941, 1942
Martin GH: Wisdom TH Wings Over Olympus annotated copy
Martin family photographs and correspondence with author

 

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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 31 Mar 2024. Page created 31 July 2023, last updated
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