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The story of a pilot

Daze

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Great thread, I'm in Kent myself, have been to the memorial at Capel le ferne. Honours to them all.
 

Spitfire

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Copenhagen, Denmark.
Tom Neil - fellow pilot to Albert Lewis in 249 Sqd - writes several times about Lewis in his new book Gun Button to Fire.
Here are some "new" pictures of Lewis from the book.

IMG-2.jpg

Lewis sitting on the left side.

IMG_0002-1.jpg


IMG_0003jpg-2.jpg
 

Spitfire

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In an epilogue in his book “Gun Button to Fire” Tom Neil writes about several of his fellow pilots and what happened to them after the war.
It is obvious that Tom Neil and Lewis were truly great friends. But it is also evident that Tom Neil lost contact with Lewis.
(He doesn’t even know that Lewis died in 1982 - and that he had several children.)

This is also the first time somebody mentions that Lewis might have suffered from what we today call “combat fatigue” – very understandable with all he had been through. Fighting from the early days in France and during Battle of Britain. Being shot down several times, badly burned once and several other close calls. A man who gave everything - and who finally just had enough of it, and still kept on flying and fighting!

Here follows Tom Neil’s own words:

“Gerald Lewis was another South African, a short-service officer who came to 249 in September 1940. A splendid looking young man, he was 6ft 3in, had a mop of flaxen hair and a very engaging grin.
He had also been very successful during the early months of the war, serving in France with no. 85 Squadron and earning a DFC after being credited with the destruction of at least five enemy aircraft and himself being shot down, though uninjured.
Continuing his good work with 249, he claimed another nine enemy aircraft before he was again shot down on 28 September, this time bailing out after badly burned.

Recovering in Faversham Hospital he rejoined 249 in January 1941 and, having being awarded a bar to his DFC, he joined my own flight and flew with me on several offensive sorties over France.

On 10 February, 249 Squadron was acting high cover to a bomber attack on Dunkirk, with my own section of four, consisting of Lewis, Crossey and Davis, flying rear-guard at 20,000 feet.
Over the target, we were attacked by a large force of Me 109s, Davis being shot down almost immediately and Lewis badly mauled.
Landing back at North Weald, the cockpit of his aircraft a wreck, I found lewis profoundly disturbed by the incident and unusually critical of the manner in which such sorties were being carried out. It was this engagement, I believe, that was a tipping point for him, as he never felt entirely comfortable on any such operation again.

When in April 1941, the squadron was told it was to move to the Middle East, as a married officer, Lewis was informed that he would not be making the journey and that he would be posted to the new OTU then being formed at Debden.
So, his departure from the squadron, sadly, was to be the last time I was ever to see him.
Although we only served together for five months, I grew to be very fond of Gerald. A shy and retiring young man, he was never at ease in mixed company especially and, despite his splendid physique, seldom took part in any overt horseplay.
Inordinately fond of his home country he would talk at length – usually after dinner in the mess – about the glories of South Africa and how important it was for me to emigrate to Drakensburg Mountains after the war.

Later, I was told by friends serving with him, how he had gradually lost confidence in himself and that he was keen “to get away from it all”. So that when he was posted to command No. 261 Squadron in “out of way” Ceylon, it must have come as a great relief.

But the fates were against him as he was to move into trouble!
Only weeks after arriving in Trincomalee, a Japanese carrier force attacked the Island and he was shot down and wounded again, when in the act of taking off to intercept.

I believe he returned to the United Kingdom several months after the Ceylon incident, buy I lost track of him until many years after the war.
It was only in the 1990s, in fact, that Pat Wells informed me that earlier he had met Gerald in South Africa and that our late colleague had “taken to religion in a big way”, and was “trying to convert everyone”.
I had long been aware that before his arrival at North Weald, Gerald had married, but I never heard mention of any children. Nor indeed, now, if he, his wife or any near relation is still alive – he was two years older than me and, as I write, must now be well into his nineties.
If, however, children did result, they would be proud of their fathers achievements, as he gave a great deal for Britain – and South Africa.”
 
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Spitfire

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A different tribute to Zulu!

Daniel Gerald Smith - son of Lewis' eldest daughter, Dawn Yvonne Lewis - had this tattoo made in honour of his grandfather.

No matter what one might think and not think on tattoos, I will say it's a stunning piece of artwork.

76601_451791764436_502399436_5058868_6375480_n.jpg
 
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Spitfire

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I think it is evident that Lewis looks so much different - more sinister and thoughtfull - on theese last pictures than on the first picture in this thread, which was taken during the early stage of Battle of Britain.
Not much to laugh at now - only two months later.

If anybody reading this has more information, quotes, pictures or knowledge of where to find more info on Lewis, please let me know. I am still collecting all the pieces I can get - I am still interrested. And so is his family.
 

Spitfire

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Scan1.jpg


Just found this rather nice picture of Lewis starting up his Hurricane. I am only guessing here, but I think it's from the Life photo session at Castle Camps, when Lewis was with 85 Squadron.
 

Smithy

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It's a great photo Søren and I think you're right about it being from the LIFE session - it's certainly before Zulu was injured.

I have a fairly high res copy of this somewhere although it's erroneously listed as being another pilot.
 

Spitfire

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384139_10150437597817412_30643512411_8361289_1605288438_n.jpg

Thought this photo was gone forever:
Albert Lewis receiving his second DFC by the King after being shot down in flames,injured, hospitalized and back in 249 Squadron.
At this time Lewis had shot down 18 EA.
 
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Spitfire

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Another brave pilot from 85 Squadron. They really fought hard in those early days of the war. Somehow the Battle of France is getting overshadowed by the Battle of Britain - but that was where it all stated. Thank you for posting this interesting clip.
 

Spitfire

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Just bought the book: The Face of Courage - The complete selection of Eric Kennington's warpaintings.
Here is the portrait he did of Lewis in 1941 while he was recovering from his burns. I guess that is why the artist has shown Lewis in full flying gear - Irvin jacket and leather gloves. I have never ever seen a photograph of Lewis wearing a Irvin jacket - makes you wonder if he ever had one.
LEWIS-1.jpg

Alongside the painting there is a text about Lewis - and I am somewhat confused over a part of it, which claims that Lewis went with a squadron of Hurricanes to Soviet Union in 1941 and that he made an appearance on Moscow Radio in October 41. "By that time his score was thirty EA shot down!"
(The source is The Manchester Guardian 6 october 1941 page 6) But I doubt it very much, since I have no other information on that adventure.
 

Spitfire

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Had to do something with all my notes, so I put this book together. There are only two copies in the world. Till now that is.









Thanks to everybody who helped me gather informations in books, newspapers, magazines and on the internet.
 

Spitfire

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Thanks. Well to be honest it wasn't that big an undertaking. I did not have a deadline and could research when ever I had the time and interest to do so. Maybe that's why it took me five to six years to finish this book. But it was fun. And I even had the pleasure of corresponding with some of his closest family too. I can only recommend others to do it too. It gives you an insight that no "armchair general written book" can ever give you.
 

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