Newspaper cuttings concerning awards of Victoria Crosses



Newspaper cuttings concerning awards of Victoria Crosses


Top - Royal Air Force 23rd V.C. Announces award of Victoria Cross to Act Sqn Ldr Robert Antony Maurice Palmer 109 Squadron (missing). Quotes from citation for award with account of operation to Cologne and some service background. Bottom left - pals won V.C. within month of each other. Covers last operation of Captain Edwin Sales which resulted in posthumous award of Victoria Cross and gives some personal background and that he was the only South African Pathfinder master bomber. Mentions that he was a pal of Acting Squadron Leader Robert Palmer also awarded the Victoria Cross. Gives account of Swales operation to Pforzheim. Bottom right - master bomber, he died winning the V.C. Gives account of Captain Edwin Swales (South African Air Force) operation to for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.



Temporal Coverage




Three newspaper cuttings on an album page


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ROYAL AIR FORCE'S 23rd V.C. [inserted] FLIGHT – APRIL 1945 [/inserted]

THE KING has been graciously pleased to confer the award of the Victoria Cross on Act. Sqn. Ldr. Robert Anthony Maurice Palmer, D.F.C., R.A.F.V.R., 109 Squadron (missing) in recognition of most conspicuous bravery. This is the 23rd V.C. to be awarded in the R.A.F. during the present war.

The citation reads: "This officer has completed 110 bombing missions. Most of them involved deep penetration of heavily defended territory; many were low-level marking operations against vital targets; all were executed with tenacity, high courage and great accuracy. He first went on operations in January, 1941. He took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid against Cologne in 1942. He was one of the first pilots to drop a 4,000 lb. bomb on the Reich. It was known that he could be relied on to press home his attack whatever the opposition and to bomb with great accuracy. He was always selected, therefore, to take part in special operations against vital targets.

The finest example of his courage and determination was on December 23rd, 1944, when he led a formation of Lancasters to attack the marshalling yards at Cologne in daylight. He had the task of marking the target, and his formation had been ordered to bomb as soon as the bombs had gone from his, the leading aircraft. The leader's duties during the final bombing run were exacting and demanded coolness and resolution. To achieve accuracy he would have to fly at an exact height and air speed on a steady course, regardless of opposition. Some minutes before the target was reached, his aircraft came under heavy anti-aircraft fire, shells burst all around, two engines were set on fire and there were flames and smoke in the nose and in the bomb bay.

"Enemy fighters now attacked in force. Sqn. Ldr. Palmer disdained the possibility of taking avoiding action. He knew that if he diverged the least bit from his course, he would be unable to utilise the special equipment to the best advantage. He was determined to complete the run and provide an accurate and easily seen aiming-point for the other bombers. He ignored the double risk of fire and explosion in his aircraft and kept on. With his engines developing unequal power, an immense effort was needed to keep the damaged aircraft on a straight course. Nevertheless, he made a perfect approach and his bombs hit the target.

"His aircraft was last seen spiralling to earth in flames. Such was the strength of the opposition that more than half of his formation failed to return. Sqn. Ldr. Palmer was an outstanding pilot. He displayed conspicuous bravery. His record of prolonged and heroic endeavour is beyond praise."

[page break]

[missing letters]ILY SKETCH, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 1945

Capt. Swales

Pals Won V.C. Within Month of Each Other

Sqd.-Ldr. Palmer

[italics] 'Daily Sketch' Correspondent [/italics]

SOUTH AFRICAN-BORN Captain Edwin Swales (29), of the "Master Bombers," has made his last trip and died without knowing that he and his pal would be awarded the Victoria Cross within a month of each other.

The posthumous V.C. for Captain Swales – who "gave his life that his comrades might live" and who became an air ace after fighting as an infantryman with the Eighth Army in the desert campaign – was announced last night.

His pal was Acting Squadron Leader Robert A.M. Palmer, hero of 110 bombing missions and double D.F.C., who last month was awarded the V.C. for his work in a hazardous daylight operation against Cologne last December. That was the last time they flew together and Palmer was reported missing. In that raid Captain Swales won a D.F.C.

Only S.A. Pathfinder

Men who knew him will long talk about the night when Edwin Swales won his V.C. It was February 23 last and Pforzheim, Upper Rhineland industrial centre, was the target.

Swales, the only member of the South African Air Force to have flown with Pathfinder Force – Master Bombers – had the task of locating the target area and giving aiming instructions to the main force of following bombers.

With two engines put out of action by enemy fighters and his rear guns useless, Swales stayed over the target in a plane that was almost defenceless and calmly gave instructions that made possible one of the most successful and concentrated Bomber Command raids of the war.

His work done, he struggled to get his crippled machine home. For more than an hour he flew his plane with speed so reduced that it was difficult to keep it in the air.

'Gave Life for Comrades'

He reached friendly territory. The plane was losing height rapidly. Captain Swales ordered his crew to bale out, and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady as one by one they jumped. Hardly had the last of them got clear when the machine plunged to earth.

Captain Swales was found dead at the controls. Last night's citation said: "Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the fact [sic] of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live."

[page break]

[inserted] News Chronicle 24/4/45 [/inserted]


[italics] He died winning the V.C. [/italics]

THE V.C. has been posthumously awarded to Captain Edwin Swales, D.F.C., of the South African Air Force, a "master bomber," who, with two engines crippled and his plane almost defenceless, stayed over his target issuing instructions which made possible one of the most successful Bomber Command raids of the war.

When he was satisfied the attack – on Phrazheim in February – had achieved its purpose, he struggled in vain to bring his aircraft home.

When all his crew, on his orders, had jumped to safety, his crippled plane plunged to earth and he was found dead at the controls.

This is the 137th V.C. to be awarded in this war and the second to go to a member of the South African military forces.

Swales, who was born in 1915, at Durban, was a prominent Rugby footballer and played for the South African Services in Britain.

He was the only member of the S.A.A.F. to fly with the Pathfinder Force of Bomber Command.

He received the D.F.C. for his part in an attack on a rail yard at Cologne.


“Newspaper cuttings concerning awards of Victoria Crosses,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 24, 2024,

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