Tribute for a Doncaster Victoria Cross hero

Lieutenant Insall before his investiture for the Victoria Cross in 1915'Picture: David Insall
Lieutenant Insall before his investiture for the Victoria Cross in 1915'Picture: David Insall
0
Have your say

A ‘shy’ Victorian Cross winner who lived out his last 22 years in a village near Doncaster is to be commemorated at a special service at the National Memorial Arboretum

Second Lieutenant, later Group Captain, Gilbert Insall, a World War One flying ace, was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1915 for his daring exploits after being shot down behind enemy lines.

Group Captain GSM Insall in his later years, possibly at the the opening of the South Yorks Air Museum at Nostell Priory'Picture: David Insall

Group Captain GSM Insall in his later years, possibly at the the opening of the South Yorks Air Museum at Nostell Priory'Picture: David Insall

Gp Capt Insall, who was born in Paris, where his English father was head of the Ecole Odontique at the Sorbonne, was one of 145 VC holders who fought for Britain during the First World War but were born overseas.

Paving stones will be unveiled on Thursday at the arboretum, in Staffordshire, to commemorate the VC recipients born overseas.

His son David, aged 76, said: “I know he would be delighted to know this event is happening.

“We are an international family, with links to communities far and wide, from my mother’s birthplace in Madras, India, to my son Nicholas who was born in Wales and has seen active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stuart Reid, oil on canvas, An FB5 attacking an Aviatik German fighter. This is said to be Second Lieutenant GSM Insall on the occasion of winning the Victoria Cross.

Stuart Reid, oil on canvas, An FB5 attacking an Aviatik German fighter. This is said to be Second Lieutenant GSM Insall on the occasion of winning the Victoria Cross.

“I am sad not to be able to be present at the Commemoration Service, due to my work helping rural communities in Oman, but I am delighted Nicholas will be there to represent the family.

“It will be a proud moment for all of us.”

After an RAF career that took Gp Capt Insall all over Britain and the Middle East he settled in his ‘most-loved home’ in Monks Mill, Scrooby, near Bawtry, where he lived a quiet life away from the spotlight. He has a headstone at Rosehill Crematorium in Doncaster, although his ashes are interred in Lincolnshire.

* Gilbert Insall was 21 years old, and a Second Lieutenant in 11 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, when he was awarded a VC.

Group Captain Insall's headstone at Rosehill Crematorium, Doncaster 'Picture courtesy of Victoria Cross Trust

Group Captain Insall's headstone at Rosehill Crematorium, Doncaster 'Picture courtesy of Victoria Cross Trust

On Sunday, November 7, 1915, near Achiet-le-Grand, France, while on patrol in a Vickers FB5 Gunbus biplane with his air mechanic TH Donald, he engaged an Aviatik two-seater and forced the German pilot to make a rough landing in a ploughed field.

Seeing the air crew scramble out and prepare to fire, 2Lt Insall dived to 500ft and his gunner opened fire, whereupon the Germans fled.

After dropping an incendiary bomb on the downed German aircraft, 2Lt Insall flew through heavy fire at 2,000ft over enemy trenches.

The Vickers’ petrol tank was hit, but the skilled pilot brought his plane 500 yards back inside Allied lines for an emergency landing.

2Lt Insall and Donald stayed by the machine through a bombardment of about 150 shells while awaiting nightfall.

After dark, they then set to work by torchlight to salvage their plane.

After they repaired the machine overnight, Insall flew them back to base at dawn.

However, Lt Insall could not personally receive his medal.

He and Donald had been captured on December 14, 1915 after engaging a German pilot.

Insall escaped on his third try, on August 28, 1917, and made it home over the Dutch border nine days later.

He returned to duty as the Flight Commander of “A” Flight, 51 Squadron, and would continue to serve his nation until 1945.

He died in February 1972, aged 77, in Scrooby.