Lieutenant Alan Jerrard V.C. – British Ace – 1897 / 1968
Jerrard was born in Lewisham in 1897 and moved in 1902 with his family to Sutton Coldfield where his father was Headmaster of Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School for 24 years. Later Jerrard attended Oundle School in Northamptonshire and Birmingham University.
Jerrard volunteered for the British Army and served with the 5th South Staffordshire Regiment, before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, where he trained as a fighter pilot. From mid 1917, he served as a pilot with No.19 Squadron R.F.C. in France, but he was injured in an air crash on the 5th of August 1917, whilst flying a Spad VII. From the 22nd of February 1918, he served in No.66 Squadron R.F.C. in Italy, as a Lieutenant, flying Sopwith Camels. Between the 27th of February and the 21st of March he scored four aerial victories, this score included one observation balloon.
On the 30th of March 1918 near Mansue, Italy, Lieutenant Jerrard with two other officers, Peter Carpenter and Harold Ross Eycott-Martin, on an offensive patrol, shot down one of five enemy aircraft. Then flying at 50feet he attacked an Aerodrome with some 19 aircraft either landing or attempting to take off. After destroying one of these aircraft, he was attacked by several more enemy aircraft, but seeing a brother officer in difficulties, went to assist him destroying a third enemy machine, then continued with his attacks only retreating, with five aircraft in pursuit at the orders of his patrol leader. Even then he repeatedly turned around to engage the enemy until he was finally forced down.
After the war, records revealed that the Camel’s opponents were four Austrian Albatros D.III ( O.E.F. ) fighters, one of which was damaged and had to land, while another pilot was injured by a bullet wound. Jerrard was himself shot down by the Austrian Ace Benno Fiala von Fernbrugg from Flik 51J, and became a prisoner of war. Although the R.F.C. gave Jerrard credit for 3 victories in this encounter. Jerrard personally did not claim to have destroyed any aircraft in that skirmish, he only claimed that he shot one up. He was the only Camel pilot to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Jerrard remained a prisoner of war until the end of 1918, when he managed to escape and reach the Allied lines. He later served in Russia in 1919 and reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Along with his Victoria Cross, Jerrard was awarded the Bronze Medal of Military Valour ( Italy ) and the Russian Order of Saint Anna Third Class, he was also mentioned in despatches. He was credited with eight victories, and died in 1968 at the age of seventy years.
(C) Damian Grange 2021