View Full Version : P/O and F/L William Robert CHALK, DFC and Netherlands Bronze

11th April 2022, 23:49
CHALK, William Robert – Pilot Officer (47910) – No. 61 Squadron - Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded as per London Gazette dated 15 June 1943. No published citation. From Spink auction catalogue of 22 April 2010, transcribed by Huguette Mondor Oates. .The recommendation, dated 27.4.1943, states:

“This officer has set the highest possible standard by his ability and efficiency throughout an operational tour of 23 sorties. His conduct throughout has been outstanding and all gunners in the Squadron have been influenced by his fine example. His operations have included two attacks on Berlin and many against other heavily defended targets in the Ruhr. He also took part in the famous daylight attacks on Le Creusot and Milan.

“On his second operational sortie, his accurate fire commentary enabled his pilot to manoeuvre the aircraft and thus allow this officer to destroy an enemy night-fighter. On every one of his sorties, he has shown the same high degree of skill and cooperation with the rest of his crew.

“He is strongly recommended for the award of the D.F.C.’

Mentioned in Despatches 1 January 1942 as 520616) Corporal W.R. Chalk, R.A.F.

CHALK, William Robert, F/L, DFC - No.299 Squadron - Netherlands, Bronze Cross, awarded as per London Gazette dated 2 September 1949. The recommendation states:

‘Whilst on this Squadron, F/L Chalk proved himself a brilliant leader, and welded his gunners into a highly efficient team.

“He took part in a number of sorties in support of resistance movements. In September, 1944, he flew as gunner on the leading aircraft engaged in the Airborne Operations at Arnhem. His persistence and courage in the face of fierce enemy opposition set a fine example to his comrades in the squadron. Whilst engaged in a re-supply mission to Arnhem, his aircraft was severely damaged by flak and set on fire. In spite of this, F/L Chalk continued firing on the enemy ground positions until finally ordered to abandon aircraft by his captain. He landed amongst the enemy and was taken prisoner.

“For his high example of courage and determination in the face of the enemy, F/L Chalk well merits the award of the Bronze Cross”.

Flight Lieutenant William Robert ‘Bob’ Chalk, D.F.C., (1913-1993); born Porthcawl, Glamorgan; educated at Claymore School, Winchester; articled to a firm of auctioneers in Bromsgrove, but left shortly after joining; having been turned down for a commission in the R.A.F. due to medical reasons, Chalk emigrated aged 17 to Nova Scotia, Canada; whilst in Canada, he had a farming accident during which he broke his arm and suffered lung damage forcing him to return to the UK; enlisted R.A.F. June 1935 and after training and a brief posting to 101 Squadron, he was sent overseas to Air H.Q., Signals Section, Habbaniya, Iraq, 1938; he was present during the Iraqi uprising, 30.4.1941 – 31.5.1941; with the latter put down Chalk volunteered for Aircrew training as an Air Gunner; posted to No. 24 Combined Air Observer/Air Gunner School, Moffat, August 1941; commissioned Pilot Officer, December 1941 and returned to the UK; after several more training courses he was posted to ‘D’ Flight 25 O.T.U., Bircotes, May 1942, and it was from here that he took part in his first operational sorties, the 1st of which being as a rear gunner in a Wellington engaged in the 1st 1,000 bomber raid to Cologne, 30.5.1942; the second sortie was in the same capacity to Essen, 1.6.1942, ‘Operations – To Essen shot down German night-fighter – confirmed’ (Log Book refers). Chalk offers more detail, “I sighted the enemy aircraft at a distance, closing in on a straight course towards my aircraft and waiting for him to get close enough for me to fire and not wanting him to deviate from our course. I finally fired and he went down in flames’ (Personal account included in lot refers).

After an aborted trip to Bremen, he was posted to 61 Squadron (Lancasters), Syerston, July 1942; he flew two operational sorties as Mid-Upper Gunner (Wilhelmshaven and Kassel) before flying the rest of his tour as a rear gunner; these included: Nurnburg; Gardening-Denmark (2); Karlsruhe; 17.10.1942, Le Creusot (Daylight); Genoa (2); 24.10.1942, Milan (Daylight); Turin (2); Mannheim; Munich; Essen; Berlin(2); Dusseldorf; Hamburg (2); Bremen; posted as rear gunner/ instructor, 81 O.T.U., Whitchurch Heath, March 1943; posted as Gunner Leader 299 Squadron (Stirlings), Keevil, August 1944; he flew in operational sorties with the Squadron as Rear Gunner in the Officer Commanding’s (Wing Commander P.B.N. Davis, D.S.O.) Stirling; throughout August he flew on Special Operations to SOE and SAS groups based in France, including 6.8.1944, ‘Special Operation. 24 Containers, 5 Bicycles. D.C.O. A/C hit by light flak near Le Mont Michel’; 11.9.1944, ‘SAS Operations Holland’; 12.9.1944, ‘SAS Operations near Bordeaux.’

Operations Market Garden

On the 17th September, Chalk’s squadron took part in Operation Market, the airborne element of Operation Market Garden; on the first day of the operation Chalk’s Stirling towed a glider carrying airborne troops and motor transport which was successfully released over Landing Zone ‘Z’; the following day saw another successful release of a similarly laden glider over the same landing zone; 19.9.1944 Stirling LKI35 5GN returned on a re-supply mission carrying containers of petrol in the bomb-bay, ‘the Stirlings suffered the same punishment when it was their turn to drop, and six were shot down or were so badly damaged that they crashed soon afterwards. One was the aircraft of Wing Commander Peter Davis, the Commander Officer of 299 Squadron. He died at the controls of his Stirling when the containers of petrol in the bomb-bay caught fire after the aircraft was hit.’ (Arnhem – 1944: The Airborne Battle refers); Davis’ co-pilot for the mission takes up the account, “The approach to the dropping area” says Squadron Leader R.W. Lovegrove, flying in the aircraft piloted by Wing Commander Peter Davis, in command of the Operations, ‘was rather a disconcerting spectacle. Flak was simply being pumped up; heavy flak, light flak, machine-gun fire and rifle fire.”

Having watched a Stirling go down in flames, they reached the dropping zone where they were at once hit in the bomb-bay by a shell. “As we were carrying petrol, the aircraft was immediately aflame. Glancing down from the co-pilot’s seat, I saw my navigation table on fire and I remember with a curious detachment noticing that the Verey Cartridges were giving a firework display of their own. The flames were roaring up through the aperture through which the rear gunner (Chalk) had to jump”; the aircraft crashed in the Oosterbeek area of Arnhem, three members of the crew (including Chalk) managed to bale out; the others were all killed. ‘I landed near some bungalows in a wood, these appeared to be empty. I had damaged my leg on landing and hobbled off in a direction away from the firing, and found myself on a large raised mound of earth. I was taken prisoner by some elderly German soldiers, and marched off to a large red brick barracks, was there for the night and ended up at St. Elizabeth’s (Hospital)’, (Letter from recipient included in the lot refers); after a brief period of recuperation, Chalk was transported to and interned at Stalag Luft 1, Barth, POW Camp, where he saw out the remainder of the war.

He was discharged from the R.A.F. 18.10.1945; in civilian life, Chalk was employed by Flight Refuelling Limited (Chairman Sir Alan Cobham, K.B.E., A.F.C.), who as a company were continuing work started before the war on refuelling aircraft in flight; Chalk was later attached to British South American Airways on a series of tests called “The Bermuda Trials” in which ex R.A.F. Lancasters were converted as ‘Tanker’ and ‘Receiver’ aircraft; in his capacity of Observer and Operator, he recorded his flights with the company in his Log Book, 24.9.1945 – 5.12.1947; he returned to farming eventually retiring in 1985. In later life he corresponded with Dutch national who, as a boy, had witnessed the crash landing of his Stirling, he arranged for a return to Arnhem where he was a guest of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. During his stay he was presented with a piece of his plane retrieved from the crash site which is included with the lot.

Approximately eight Dutch Bronze Crosses were awarded to R.A.F. and R.A.F.V.R. personnel in recognition of gallant actions undertaken during the Second War, seven of that number were awarded for Arnhem, and three of them were awarded to Chalk’s crew.