- August 12, 1918-September 19, 1944
Born in 1918 in Simla (British India), returning to England in 1924 after his parent’s divorce. His Military service commenced in November of 1936, at the Bristol Flying School in Yatesbury. He earned his pilot’s wings in May of 1937. He was posted to the No. 83 (Bomber) squadron and promoted to pilot officer in November of 1937. In the spring of 1939 after completing a navigation course he was set to leave service but was kept on due to hostilities taking place in Abyssinia. In June of that year, he was promoted to Flying Officer. From April to September 1940 Gibson completed 34 operations in 5 months, with 10 taking place in June. These operations varied in job type from laying mines to bombing attacks on various targets. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in July of 1940 and promoted to Flight Lieutenant in September of that year. He was posted to a flying instructor position for a brief 2-week period before being posted to another squadron. In November of 1940 Gibson was posted to the No.29 Squadron as the Commander of ‘A’ Flight. Night flying was different than the work Gibson had previously done in his bombing unit. His final patrols with this squadron were flown in December of 1941, after which he was posted to an OUT as Chief Flying Instructor. He was eager to return to a bombing unit and was eventually promoted to Wing Commander of the No 106 Squadron at just 23 years of age. The squadron completed several early operations during April of 1942 and flew on 18-night flights. He participated in further operations with the 106, and in November of 1942 was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. His final flight with the 106 was in March of 1943. After this he was posted to HQ No. 5, and from there was interviewed to be put in command of a new squadron, No. 617 Squadron, who were involved in operation Chastise, which was an attack on German dams causing the flooding of the Ruhr valley and surrounding villages. Gibson was heavily involved in the planning surrounding this operation. The success of this operation lead to Gibson receiving the Victoria Cross, which did not fill him with cheer, as he was keenly aware of the human cost of this operation. During May of 1943 he Met the King and Queen of England, and Winston Churchill. In August he made his final flight with the 617. In August Gibson traveled to Canada with Churchill and was able to meet Prime Minister Mackenzie king, and President Roosevelt. During this time he also met with family of several members who were killed in the Dams Raid. In October of 1943 he was invested with Commander’s Insignia to the Legion of Merit. In January of 1944, Gibson was under orders to write a book, and was given a posting to the Directorate for the prevention of Accidents in order to allow him time to do so. In February of 1944 he appeared on Desert Island Discs, a BBC radio program. He was appointed Staff Officer at the No 55 airbase, which included operational planning and liaison between units within the base. Gibson’s final operation on September 19, 1944, was targets at Rheydt and Moenchen-Gladbach. The operation used marking techniques which Gibson was not an expert in. The type of aircraft he was most familiar with was unavailable to his crew, he rejected the reserve aircraft and insisted on using the other crew’s aircraft, causing the bomb loads to be switched at the last moment. During the operation there was mechanical mishaps, which caused confusion within the crews. His plane crashed in the Netherlands at 22:30 hours. At first no one was concerned, as it was assumed he had landed elsewhere. There is an unconfirmed report that another squadron heard him say he had a damaged engine. He was not officially posted as missing until November 29, 1944. There were unofficial reports of his missing status which were circulating. The exact cause of the crash is still unknown. Gibson is buried in Steenbergen, where he crashed as his family declined to have the remains reinterred in the United Kingdom. A 1955 film The Dam Busters was made about the 617 squadron. Richard Todd played Gibson. Gibson’s awards and medals are on display at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, England.