To com­mand RAF base in Sec­ond World War

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he ended up mak­ing an emer­gency land­ing of his own.

In­sall and Don­ald stayed with their air­craft un­til night­fall, de­spite be­ing bom­barded by about 150 shells, then re­paired the Gun­bus by torch­light and flew it back to base at dawn.

In­sall was un­able to re­ceive his VC as sched­uled be­cause he was shot down by Ger­man fly­ing ace Haupt­mann (cap­tain) Martin Zan­der on De­cem­ber 14 1915.


Badly wounded, he fell be­hind en­emy lines and was cap­tured.

He spent the fol­low­ing 18 months try­ing to break out of a num­ber of pris­oner of war camps, of­ten dressed in elab­o­rate dis­guises.

He man­aged to leave Krefeld camp in western Ger­many by hid­ing in a laun­dry cart, but was caught walk­ing down a road in broad day­light and re­turned.

An­other time, he was re­cap­tured af­ter try­ing to tun­nel out of a camp.

He fi­nally es­caped per­ma­nently, from Stro­hen­moor camp near Hanover, on Au­gust 28 1917, walk­ing 150 miles over nine nights to reach the safety of the Dutch bor­der.

In­sall won the Mil­i­tary Cross for his es­capes in 1918.

In­sall was the el­dest of four chil­dren – three boys and a girl – and his younger broth­ers, Al­ger­non John In­sall and Ce­cil Dud­ley In­sall, fol­lowed him into the Royal Fly­ing Corps (RFC), the air arm of the Bri­tish Army be­fore and dur­ing the First World War, which merged with the Royal Naval Air Ser­vice in April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force.

Al­ger­non John, known by his fam­ily as Un­cle Jack or The Guv’nor, served with Cap­tain In­sall in No 11 Squadron RFC, qual­i­fy­ing as a pilot and later be­com­ing an ob­server.

Ce­cil Dud­ley, nick­named The In­fant by his sib­lings, joined the RFC just be­fore the for­ma­tion of the RAF, and trained as an air­ship pilot.

In­sall stayed in the RAF when the First World War ended, and in 1925 he pho­tographed a for­ma­tion of pits he spot­ted from his plane, which turned out to be the Bronze Age site now known as Wood­henge, two miles from Stone­henge.

Back to war

He was made a cap­tain in 1933, and dur­ing the Sec­ond World War he com­manded RAF Padgate, near War­ring­ton, and a nearby street was named In­sall Road in his hon­our.

He died of bronchial pneu­mo­nia in RAF Noc­ton Hall Hos­pi­tal on Fe­bru­ary 17 1972, aged 77.

Gil­bert In­sall, who spoke French and Ger­man, was born in Paris on May 14, 1894, to den­tist Gil­bert Jenk­ins In­sall and Mary Stu­art, nee Read.

His fa­ther was head of the Ecole Odon­tique of the Sor­bonne, and Gil­bert was train­ing as a den­tist un­til the out­break of the First World War.

Gil­bert Jenk­ins In­sall was still liv­ing at Im­ber when the Sec­ond World War ended.

He died soon af­ter, aged 89, and his daugh­ter, Esmé, lived with him to look af­ter him in his fi­nal years.

David be­lieves Im­ber was once two half-tim­bered cot­tages that some­one, pos­si­bly his grand­fa­ther, put to­gether to make one house.

Im­ber is now owned by Weald East ward rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cllr Paul Bartlett who said: “I have lived in the vil­lage since 1976 and pur­chased Im­ber in 2007 as a derelict cot­tage from Union Rail, which owned it for 15 years while they built High Speed 1.

“It has taken a lot of work to bring it back to its for­mer glory.”

A portrait of Cap­tain In­sall, painted by Ed­ward Newl­ing in 1919, formed part of the Great War in Por­traits ex­hi­bi­tion at The Na­tional Portrait Gallery.

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