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Home comment Mark's History: Ronald Luscombe Gill and the short-lived 623 Squadron

Mark’s History: Ronald Luscombe Gill and the short-lived 623 Squadron

In the second of a new seven-part series by Mark Stevenson looking at some of the real-life incidents behind the names on our war memorials, as we lead into the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Today: Calverley War Memorial …

The memorial in Calverley’s Victoria Park. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Blink and you would have missed it. The RAF 623 Squadron was formed on 10th August 1943 and was disbanded on 6th December 1943.

The squadron carried out night raids against Germany. The Squadron’s plane of choice was the Short Sterling four-engine heavy bomber, the first of its kind in the RAF. 

By the end of 1943 it had had its day, with the likes of the Avro Lancaster being made in ever greater numbers.

Sergeant Ronald Luscombe Gill may have looked on in envy at the newer planes coming into service and getting the best missions, or he might have been around long enough to know better. 

Never forgotten. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The Battle of Berlin started in November 1943, not that Ronald would have known it. One of the tactics used was to send dummy raids against the Germans to act as a decoy. 

On 18th November 1943 Ronald and the rest of 623 Squadron were to be decoyed so the main force of 440 Avro Lancaster could take part in the attack on Berlin. The decoy target was to be Mannheim in Germany.

It may have been a decoy but that did not make it no less dangerous. The five out of eight dead in Ronald’s crew gave testament to that. The plane was hit by flak.

calverley war memorial 4
Per ardua ad astra – “through adversity to the stars”. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Ronald was one of the dead. The plane crashed near St Martin in Germany and the other three remaining crew survived and were taken prisoner. 

Ronald was buried in the same grave as the rest of the plane’s dead at Edenkoben in Germany. 

Ronald is now Remembered with Honour at the Rheinberg War Cemetery. He is also Remembered on the War Memorial in Calverley Park.

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