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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

G S M Insall, VC - 11th Sq, RFC


redbarchetta

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Well, after a week of angst, much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I bought the item shown below at an auction on Thursday (and in doing so breached a whole new threshold on how much I spend on things...!).

This is a propeller boss from a 100 h.p. monosoupe Gnome engine, originally with four blades, now cut down and turned in to a clock.

On the plaque mounted on the from it reads "Lieut G S M Insall, with the compliments of No 11 Squadron RFC, 25 Dec 1915".

Lt Insall's story is like something out of Boys Own !!

He was patrolling in a Vickers FB5 (no 5074) with First Class Air Mechanic T. H. Donald as his gunner when a German machine was sighted, pursued and attacked.

The German machine led Insall over a German rocket battery, but with great skill Lieut. Insall dived and got to close range, when Donald fired a drum of cartridges into the German machine, disabling the engine. The German pilot then dived through cloud followed by Lieut. Insall. Donald again opened fire, and the German machine was brought down in a ploughed field. On seeing the German crew scramble out of their machine and prepare to open fire, Lieut. Insall dived to 500 feet, thus enabling Donald to open fire on them yet again. The German crew then fled, one helping the other who appeared to have been wounded. Other Germans then opened fire on Lieut. Insall, but in spite of this he turned again and managed to drop an incendiary bomb on the German machine, which was last seen wreathed in smoke.

Lieutenant Insall then turned west and headed for the German trenches, but as he was only at 2000 feet, he dived across them for greater speed, Donald firing into the German trenches as they passed over them. However, the German fire had damaged the petrol tank, and with great coolness Lieut. Insall landed under cover of a wood 500 yards inside the British lines. The Germans fired some 150 shells at the aircraft but without causing it any damage, however small arms fire had damaged the aircraft but this was repaired overnight behind screened lights. At dawn the following day Lieut. Insall flew the aircraft home with Donald as his passenger. It was for this action that Lieut. Insall was awarded the Victoria Cross.

This was not the end of Lieut. Insall ’s exploits however. Later that year, on the 14th of December, he was on patrol and sighted a German machine and pursued it deep behind enemy lines. During the engagement his gunner, Corpl. Donald was shot in the leg and the petrol tank perforated by gunfire. After the German machine made off, he tried to return to his own lines but an anti - aircraft star shell exploded underneath the aircraft and a large fragment blew through the aircraft and hit Insall in the base of the spine. Although at times he lost consciousness he was able to land the aircraft but was captured immediately. He was operated on and the fragment removed. In the ensuing two years he escaped three times, the third attempt seeing him (along with two companions) walking 150 miles over a period of nine nights to cross into Holland. Two weeks later he was summoned to Buckingham palace to receive his award.

Lieutenant Insall went on to achieve the rank of Group Captain, Commanded Royal Air Force Uxbridge and served in the Second World War. Group Captain Insall V.C. died at Scrooby, Bawtry Yorkshire on the 17th February 1972.

So this would explain why the chaps who made this clock didn't bother to update Insall's name with 'VC', as they couldn't give it to him that Christmas, as he was cooling his heels in a POW camp !!

On the back of the clock has been glued a photo of a BE2c, number 2687.

The initial questions are regarding the origins / significance of the propeller. He was flying a Vickers FB5 when he won his VC. This uses a 100hp Mono Gnome engine, but all the photos I can find show a two blade prop, not four. The BE2c of the photo on the back does have a four blade prop, but according to Jane's this used a Renault or an RAF engine, not a mono Gnome.

Might the FB5 have also used four blade propellers ? Or might an BE2c have been fitted with a 100hp Mono Gnome engine (and a four blade prop) ?

Clearly it would make sense if this was the prop from his escape and repair adventure, hence the decision by his squadron to turn it into a clock, but unless four and two blade props were interchangeable, it can't have been - in which case what plane was this from ?? Good grief...

Anyway, I shall continue my research - I wondered whether the 11 Squadron history may shed some light, if I can track on down, or trawl through NA... plenty of time...!!

Thanks for any snippets you may have to point me away from any dead ends !!

Jim

post-2897-1113158479.jpg

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Wow what great piece! I have Insall's autograpth, but this ...

Any idea what happened to Cpl. Donald?

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Hi Jim

Hopefully I have managed to post a picture of Insall wearing his escaping outfit. The picture is from Purnells History of the First World War, Volume 2 number 13.

The article details the escape of H A Cartwright and M C Harrison and has no other details of Insall.

Regards

Steve

post-1035-1113173453.jpg

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Cheers Steve, must say he still looks decidedly British - but hey, if he made it across 150 miles of occupied Belgium, who am I to question !!

No idea what happened to Donald - must have been hard playing second fiddle to a VC winner, despite having suffered much the same ordeals. I presume he stayed a PoW until the end of the war, but I'm guessing.

Jim

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The initial questions are regarding the origins / significance of the propeller. He was flying a Vickers FB5 when he won his VC. This uses a 100hp Mono Gnome engine, but all the photos I can find show a two blade prop, not four. The BE2c of the photo on the back does have a four blade prop, but according to Jane's this used a Renault or an RAF engine, not a mono Gnome.

Might the FB5 have also used four blade propellers ? Or might an BE2c have been fitted with a 100hp Mono Gnome engine (and a four blade prop) ?

Have you any specific reason to think that the prop came from a Gnome Monosoupape [other than that that is what you were told]? The only aircraft with this engine that I've been able to identify with a four-bladed prop was the FE8 scout, which entered service in early '16 and did not serve with 11 sqdn. I'm not questioning the authenticity of the item, but unless the markings on the prop give any clues, your best lead is the picture of the BE2c. This did have a four bladed prop though never with a rotary engine. Being a pusher, an FB5 would be fairly unlikely to break its prop in all but the most serious crashes, whereas the tractor BE would be very likely to do so.

Adrian

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Adrian,

On the top of the boss, between the two upper prop blades, is stamped the following:

AD500 RK 100 H.P.

Monosoupape Gnome

DRG 500

Hence the conclusions I reached on what engine this was from !

The prop may not have been damaged in the crash, but from the ground fire as he swept across the front line... white silk scarf flying, naturally (and peppered with holes...). OK, fanciful, but the prop came from something !!

Cheers

Jim

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Jim

OK I give up...Still can't find a pic of a Gnome engined type with a 4-blade prop other than the FE8, but maybe some were fitted thus experimentally. And there is still the BE2c pic on the back....

Adrian

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Me too, Adrian - if this Forum doesn't have the answer, it probably doesn't exist !!!

Just busily going through the Times archive (see another thread) - loads from our GSM Insall - seems he was also used as a 'reprisal' POW - i.e. deliberately held in cities where we were bombing in an attempt to get us to stop...

Anyway, thanks again.

Jim

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