Flt Lt Geoffrey Osborn G.M. and bar
Flt/Lt Geoffrey Osborn G.M. and bar
Born: January 24th 1922. Died: June 16th 2011 Age 89
Twice forced to crash-land his bomber, on both occasions rescuing members of his crew from the burning wreckage despite being injured; for his acts of gallantry he was awarded the George Medal.
On November 29th 1942 Osborn took off to test a twin-engined Whitley bomber.
Fifteen minutes later an engine failed and Osborn was forced down in a field in Cornwall. The aircraft caught fire but Osborn, who had been thrown clear, immediately braved the flames to rescue the trapped observer, sustaining serious burns to his hands in the successful attempt.
Osborn later joined No. 161 (Special Duties) Squadron to fly in support of S.O.E. operations. On the night of March 14th 1943 he was sent to drop supplies to the French Resistance, but his Halifax crashed soon after take-off.
Two crew members were killed and others were trapped.
Ignoring the exploding ammunition, he dragged four members of his crew from the fuselage.
When he was finally persuaded to receive attention it was discovered that he had been badly burned on the arms and face and had sustained spinal injuries.
Osborn’s commanding officer, Wing Commander Percy Pickard, recommended him for the immediate award of the George Cross, the supreme award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy. In the event, he received the George Medal.
His family left for Bermuda when he was seven and he was educated there at Warwick Academy.
In 1938 he joined the Bermuda Volunteer Regiment and was mobilised in August the next year.
He was a member of a pioneering group of airmen who learned to fly at the Bermuda Flying School at Darrell’s Island, leaving for England in 1940.
He joined No. 51 Squadron, equipped with the Whitley, and attacked targets in Germany and capital ships operating from the French Biscay ports.
On the night of February 27th 1942 he was the second pilot of a Whitley on Operation “Biting”, which dropped paratroops on the German radar site at Bruneval in northern France. Key components of the radar were recovered during this daring raid.
After joining No. 161 he flew a number of long-range sorties to drop supplies and agents to the Resistance in France and Belgium. He also dropped supplies to Czech resistors at Pilsen.
After his crash, he spent many weeks in hospital recovering from his injuries and did not return to operational flying.
He was transferred to training duties before returning to Bermuda to operate transport aircraft.
He was released from the R.A.F. in May 1946 .
After the war he initially worked at Kindley Field with Pan American before returning to Britain to become an air traffic controller.
He worked in Germany and in Northern Rhodesia before taking up a training role at Stansted and Heathrow Airports.
Osborn returned to Bermuda in 1966 to join the Department of Civil Aviation at Kindley Field Airport, becoming Director of Civil Aviation and subsequently Permanent Secretary for Transport.
He retired to Dorset in 1985 .
Osborn was also an internationally noted stamp collector.
He amassed a magnificent collection for Gibraltar, which was exhibited in London in 1980. After this was sold he concentrated on creating a superb collection of Bermuda stamps. He was also deeply interested in postal history, contributing to Morris Ludington’s book The Postal History and Stamps of Bermuda, and co-authoring the 1971 book The Royal Mail Steam Packets to Bermuda and Bahamas. He also wrote Gibraltar: The Postal History and Naval Officers’ Letters: A Study of Letters Sent to and from British Royal Navy Officers Serving Abroad in the Victorian Era.
During his hospital treatment he met Beatrice “Bobbi” Durham, a member of the nursing staff, and they married in 1944.
She survives him with their son and daughter.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.