ABEL, George Clayton Flight Lieutenant, No.36 Squadron, J7526 George Medal RCAF Personnel Awards 1939-1949
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ABEL, F/L George Clayton (J7526) - George Medal - No.36 Squadron - Award effective 28 April 1944 as per London Gazette of that date. Born in Grayson, Saskatchewan, 11 June 1909. Educated in Melville. Home in Melville, Saskatchewan (grain dealer, elevator operator). Militia experience with First Yorkton Regiment, 1927-1929. Enlisted in Regina, 14 August 1940. To Trenton, 31 August 1940. To No.1 Equipment Depot, 10 November 1940. To No.2 WS, 31 January 1941. Promoted LAC, 3 March 1941; to No.5 BGS, 13 August 1941; graduated and commissioned , 15 September 1941. To Halifax, 16 September 1941. To No.31 OTU, 28 September 1941; to RAF overseas, 13 March 1942. Disembarked in Britain, 23 March 1942. Posted 20 May 1942 to No.3 RS overseas; posted 7 July 1942 to No.7 (Coastal) OTU. Promoted Flying Officer, 15 September 1942. As of 20 November 1942 at No.36 Squadron on posting to Middle East and followed that unit to Far East. Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 15 September 1943. To No.22 Personnel Transit Centre, 19 March 1944. Disembarked in England, 1 June 1944. To No.6 (Coastal) OTU, 17 July 1944. Repatriated to Canada, 9 February 1945. Retired 3 April 1945. Presented November 1946. Died in Vancouver, 29 October 1977 as per British Columbia Vital Statistics. Photo PL-18007 taken 16 April 1943 shows him in India. // In November 1943, Flight Lieutenant Abel was a member of the crew of an aircraft detailed for an operational sortie. Shortly after taking off the pilot was compelled to make an emergency landing, and on touching the ground the aircraft burst into flames. The crew, who had taken crash positions, proceeded to leave the aircraft through the emergency exits. Flight Lieutenant Abel, with his companions, had travelled a distance of approximately sixty yards before he realized that one member of the crew, the rear gunner, was missing. The aircraft was blazing furiously and ammunition was exploding. There was also the grave risk of the petrol tanks and the bombs exploding. Flight Lieutenant Abel, ignoring the imminent danger, returned to the aircraft, calling on the other members of the crew to follow him. The rear gunner was discovered trapped in his turret which, together with the exists, had become jammed. Efforts were made to turn the turret but this the rescuers found to be impossible. Flight Lieutenant Abel then smashed the perspex with his bare hands and succeeded in dragging the rear gunner clear of the wreckage. When all were about twenty yards from the aircraft the first bomb exploded, and the aircraft was soon completely destroyed. By his courage and leadership Flight Lieutenant Abel undoubtedly saved his comrade's life at the risk of his own. // NOTE: Public Records Office Air 2/5038 has extensive documentation about the incident which occurred on 27 November 1943 (Wellington MP803). The aircraft had taken off on an Air/Sea Rescue sortie; ten minutes later it had to make an emergency landing. Abel was recommended for the George Cross on 23 December 1943. Other members of the crew were F/O G.W. Bowes (RCAF, J7651, navigator), F/O R.H. Regimbal (RCAF, J10149, pilot), P/O Fox (navigator, not further identified), Warrant Officer J.L. Victorsen (RAAF, AUS.407629, rear gunner), and Warrant Officer F.L. Hannah (second pilot, RAAF, AUS.405177). Not clear where it was downgraded to George Medal but most likely at Air Ministry level. // The documentation begins with the submission by Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Lloyd, 23 December 1943, which noted that Abel had flown 600 hours (315 on operations) of which 298 hours 45 minutes in the previous six months. These represented 41 sorties. He was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. The submission read: // At dawn of the 27th November 1943, a Wellington aircraft of No.36 Squadron took off on an Air Sea Rescue Sortie. Flying Officer Abel was the Wireless Operator Air Gunner. Within ten minutes of becoming airborne the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing and on touching the ground immediately burst into flames. Crash stations had been taken and the occupants left through the emergency exits and had proceeded to a distance of approximately 60 yards away when Flying Officer Abel realized that the Rear Gunner was not with them. In spite of the complete fuselage being ablaze, exploding ammunition and the immediate danger of the eight Depth Charges exploding, this officer immediately returned to the aircraft, calling upon the other members to follow him. He found the rear gunner and exits jammed but with great force smashed the perspex with his bare hands and dragged the conscious but trapped Air Gunner clear. They only proceeded 20 yards before the first Depth Charge exploded. // I consider the conspicuous courage and premeditated action of this officer in returning to the aircraft to face the danger of fire and exploding ammunition, together with the risk of exploding Depth Charges and petrol tanks, to be of the highest order. The Rear Gunner owes his life to this officer’s leadership and complete disregard for his own personal safety. // To this were appended four letters, one dated 14 January 1944 (Regimabal) and the others dated 16 January 1944, addressed to the Commanding Officer, No.36 Squadron. These were as follows: // From J10149 Flying Officer R.H.. Regimbal (later Mentioned in Despatches): // I have the honour to render the following report as instructed: // On the 27th November 1943 after Wellington aircraft MP803 was force-landed it caught fire immediately. My second pilot, Flight Sergeant Hannah, my wireless operator, Flying Officer Abel and I escaped through the nose of the aircraft. I joined my navigator who was suffering from a badly burned hand. I heard Flying Officer Abel shout that Flight Sergeant Victorsen, my rear gunner, was trapped in the tail turret. I turned towards the aircraft to find that it was well alight. Two persons were running towards it. I left my navigator and ran to the aircraft to help to render assistance. I got to the aircraft just in time to see Flight Sergeant Hannah trying to turn the turret and Flying Officer Abel smashing the perspex of the rear turret. By this time the pyrotechnics and the bullets in the aircraft were exploding in the intense heat of the fire. Flying Officer Abel and I just had time to grab Flight Sergeant Victorsen by the shoulders and drag him out of the turret. All through that incident Flying Officer Abel kept calm and undoubtedly realized the risk of the depth charges exploding. Actually we had only got about 50 to 70 yards away when the depth charges or the petrol tanks exploded, completely destroying the aircraft. // As captain of the aircraft, I sincerely believe that Flying Officer Abel was responsible through his bravery, good judgement and calmness for the safety of the rear gunner. I wish to add that very often during 42 sorties together, Flying Officer Abel has shown himself an excellent and extremely valuable member of my crew. // From Aus 407629 Warrant Officer J.F. (or J.L.) Victorsen, Royal Australian Air Force: // I have the honour to report as instructed, that when Wellington MP803 crashed bursting into flames on 27/11/43, I, the Rear Gunner, was trapped in the rear turret and although having tried several ways for effecting escape had achieved no success. // Whilst endeavouring to rotate the turret, I realised that some one was attempting to aid me in doing so. On pressing my face against the perspex I saw through the smoke that the Second Pilot, Warrant Officer Hannah, was trying to help me with no apparent success. // Flying Officer Abel and the remainder of the crew came to the turret and assisted in trying to turn the turret, still with no success. Flying Officer Abel then began beating on the perspex in the most vulnerable place and was assisted by other members of the crew. Flying Officer Abel then managed to smash the perspex near the top and grasped me by the neck, and assisted by Flying Officer Regimbal and Flying Officer Bowes, pulled me through the aperture with great rapidity, almost certainly saving my life as the depth charges exploded before we managed to run 20 yards and the plane was burnt out. // All this aid was given me whilst ammunition, flares, flame floats etc. were exploding in all directions with apparent disregard for their own safety. The leadership of the successful action enabling me to escape was taken by Flying Officer Abel, to whom both he and Warrant Officer Hannah, Flying Officer Bowes, Flying Officer Regimbal and I am much indebted. During this action the Navigator, Flying Officer Fox, was incapacitated and was unable to render assistance, although present. // From Aus 405177 Warrant Officer F.L. Hannah: // I have the honour to report as instructed, that when Wellington MP803 crashed bursting into flames on 27th December [sic] 1943, I, as second pilot, escaped with Flying Officer Regimbal and Flying Officer Abel through the front of the aircraft. We commenced to run towards the tail of the aircraft when Flying Officer Abel raised the alarm that Flight Sergeant Victorsen was still in the turret. // I ran to the turret and tried to push it round by the guns. Flying Officer Abel called out to the rest of the crew to come and help, then proceeded to smash the perspex top with his fist. Flying Officers Bowes and Regimbal also assisted. // When the hole was sufficiently large, Flying Officer Abel reached down and assisted Flight Sergeant Victorsen to scramble out of the turret. We then all ran away from the scene of the crash and met Flying Officer Fox, who was injured, making his way to help in the escape of Flight Sergeant Victorsen. // Flying Officer Abel’ prompt and cool action was mainly responsible for the rescue of Flight Sergeant Victorsen before the depth charges exploded. // From J7654 Flying Officer G.W. Bowes: // I have the honour to report as instructed: // When Wellington aircraft MP803 crashed on 27-11-43, it burnt immediately. // Pilot Officer Fox and I escaped through the astro dome, both having received burns on hands and face. As we stumbled away I heard Flight Sergeant Hannah yell, “Where’s Joe”, and immediately Flying Officer Abel yell “Come and help - Joe is in the turret.” // I made my way to the aircraft, Pilot Officer Fox following as best he could (he had lost his shoes in the mud) where Flying Officer Abel, Flying Officer Regimbal and Flight Sergeant Hannah were trying to turn the turret. Finding that impossible, Flying Officer Abel began to smash in the perspex, while Flying Officer Regimbal, Flight Sergeant Hannah and myself assisted with our fists. // Flying Officer Abel reached in and pulled Flight Sergeant Victorsen from the turret; Pilot Officer Fox joined us and we all ran away from the aircraft but were barely 20 yards away when the aircraft exploded. // Flying Officer Abel’s coolness and immediate action undoubtedly were the major factors in Flight Sergeant Victorsen’s escape. // Note: On 14 November 1941 in accident at No.31 OTU, Summerside, Hudson AM764 (pilot was F/O Moran Howard Arthur Leslie, RAAF 400479), observer P/O Winstanley Henry Everard, RAAF 401356 and Abel as gunner; no injuries; no details). // On repatriation he stated he had flown 344 operational hours (42 sorties, the last on 4 January 1944) and 404 hours 30 minutes non-operational, Africa and India, Wellingtons, with No.36 Squadron. He has also taken a junior commander’s course. // Application for operational wing dated 24 February 1945 gave 344 operational hours, 42 sorties, 11 December 1942 to 4 January 1944.