Oliver Gomersal history



Oliver Gomersal history


Life history of Oliver Gomersal. Includes training in South Africa as observer/navigator, training on Wellington and operations with Coastal Command, journey to East Africa with antisubmarine and search operations in the Indian Ocean. On return to United Kingdom was posted to Transport Command. Concludes with postwar career.






Four page typewritten document


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Oliver Gomersal
I was born on 21st May 1921. My father was Arthur Gomersal, a well known footballer and cricketer, entertainer and collector of books and paintings
My mother Gertrude was a popular pianist in the town who during the first war played regularly for the soldier patients in the Devonshire Hospital, and also in a trio in the Pump Room during the mornings, and in Boots Cafe in the afternoons.
My sister Margaret was two years younger.
After infant school at Hardwick Square I was a pupil at Kents Bank Road School from which I won a scholarship to Buxton College.
On leaving school I went to an uncle in Teddington on Thames who had a small printing works. I attended Twickenham Technical College and studied the history of printing, lettering and layout. The outbreak of war caused the printing works to close due to a shortage of paper and I was lucky enough to get a job at Buxton town hall in the treasurer's department.
In 1940 I joined the Home Guard (Dad's Army) which was very useful pre-military training. In July 1941 I joined the RAF for training as an observer (Air navigator and bomb aimer). Main flying training done in South Africa was at Oudtshoorn which is the centre of the ostrich farming industry, very popular with present day tourists.
After returning to England I went on a specialist course at Squires Gate (Blackpool) airport for work in Coastal Command and cooperation with the Navy. From here we went to Silloth in the Solway Firth to "crew up" and leam to fly in Wellington aircraft. This was a 10 week course flying out into the North Atlantic. After completing this course we were posted to a new squadron being formed in East Africa to patrol the NW area of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden to counter the increased submarine activity due to the reopening of the Suez Canal, especially with supplies and troops for India and Burma, by sea.
We took over a brand new Wellington XIII and after two weeks ferry training in South Wales, during which we did two operational trips into the Atlantic and the north part of the Bay of Biscay we flew our aircraft out to East Africa.
We flew across the Bay of Biscay at the dead of night to Rabat in Morocco, then via Libya, the northern Sahara to Cairo, the Nile Valley to Khartoum, Nairobi, Mogadishu and the horn of Africa (Somaliland). I navigated all the way by "dead reckoning" without the assistance [sic] modern day navigational aids and it was a very satisfactory achievement to get there and fly for a year over the Indian Ocean on Coastal Command activities.
I was flying with another crew whilst their navigator was sick, when we found a boat and raft loaded with survivors from a torpedoed ship, and we were able to get them picked up by the Navy.* [sic] Also, whilst flying with my own crew we depth charged a German submarine which had just dived, and forced it to the surface. It was eventually captured and a lot of intelligence material was obtained. Our Captain and front gunner were decorated for the affair.
After completing a year in East Africa and the Indian Ocean I returned to the UK where I attended a special centre for Transport Command work which was then expanding, to do with the safe loading of aircraft as regards the centre of gravity, weight, and the handling of passengers and freight.
After appointments at three airfields in UK I was posted to Copenhagen, Prague and Singapore from where I was shipped home for demobilisation, leaving the RAF with the rank of Flight Lieutenant
In Autumn 1946 I resumed my job in the Treasurer's department in a new "Costing Offce", furnishing costs on the various jobs undertaken by the council's road maintenance teams and all the work on maintenance of all the various buildings owned by the council (Town Hall, Pavilion Gardens, Baths, Sewage, Waterworks and all the council houses). The Gas Works and Electricity undertakings were nationalised the next year. All this work was carried out by the Buxton Surveyor's Department.
In 1963 I moved to the Highways Department on Market Street and put in charge of the Office & Highway Stores for 8 years, a very interesting part of the job because this was where it was all happening.
Then in 1971 I returned to the Surveyor's Department as Chief Clerk until local government reorganisation in 1974, when I became a senior administrator in the Technical Services Department which dealt with similar work over all the now grouped North Derbyshire towns of "Borough of High Peak" and taking retirement in 1979. I also served on a County Committee of admin officers in like departments.
I always considered myself very lucky to have married my wife, Marjorie who was known and loved by such a wide circle of people until her death in 2008. We enjoyed interesting holidays over England, Scotland and Wales, being members of both the National Trust and English Heritage. A recent check revealed that we had visited over 120 of the National Trust venues, many of them on more than one occasion.
In 1951 jointly with my sister Margaret we bought the first Vespa scooter to be sold in Buxton, which allowed me to expand my horizons over the surrounding counties, and in fact I went to the last weekend of the Festival of Britain on it, and stayed with friends in Teddington. I bought my first car in 1965, a lovely little Wolsley Hornet which went out of production about three years later and had a car up to 2008 when failing eyesight caused me to give it up. My training as a navigator gave me a particular interest in travelling round our country and I was able to do much of it on "B" roads while they were still quiet.
To recap for sporting activities, I played in Buxton College 1st eleven cricket team with my lifelong friends Harold Barstow and Ken Lowndes during the summer of 1937 - a team which never lost a match. Whilst at Teddington I played with the 2nd team of one of the local clubs for 2 seasons, visiting a variety of grounds in the west London Area. During my time in the RAF I played for my "station" team on three occasions, at Aberystwyth, Brighton and Odiham.
After playing tennis in Buxton local parks I became a member (and later Treasurer) of the Buxton Gardens Lawn Tennis Club situated at the end of the promenade and now a car park. One year my partner and I won the mixed doubles cup.
During this period I was also a member of the main committee of the Buxton Lawn Tennis Championships held on both grass and hard courts in the Pavilion Gardens for their last two years; it finished, I think in 1954 due to rapidly mounting expenses.
At this time I was also a member of the Buxton Spa Table Tennis Club - there was a thriving north Derbyshire table tennis league at this time and matches were played very keenly. One year, as vice president I was asked to present the prizes at the annual dinner; a very pleasant duty. In 1951 for a holiday I walked to London with an ex-RAF friend. Starting off from Dovedale this was one of the most interesting weeks I ever spent
On the horticultural side, I helped my father with his large allotment at Crowestones, taking it over for 7 years after he died. When I later went to live on Mosley Road I managed to have a good floral display in containers and troughs both at the front and sides of the house and on the back patio, many of the flowers being grown by me from seed.
In 1980 I was invited to join the Buxton Archaeological and History Society where I was eventually made a life member in 2012.
I had a particular interest in Buxton history, especially the development of our local government from the first Local Board in 1859. The late Mr Glyn Jones, C.E. of Borough of High Peak kindly gave me access to the early records. I addressed the society on a number of occasions and contributed from time to time to the periodical newsletter which was started during my term as Chairman. My most important work was to make a study of the subscribers to the Buxton Ballroom in the Crescent from when it opened in 1788 until its final year in 1840. No one else appears to have done it in the detail I went to, so I like to think I have made a reasonable contribution to Buxton history.
In 1986 I met Mike Langham and Colin Wells who had just completed their first book "Buxton Waters" in typescript and they asked me to read their rough draft in case they had made any statements at which older Buxton residents would raise their eyebrows. This was the start of a happy and fruitful friendship which included their next six books or so. We were all delighted when Mike was awarded a doctorate in local history, and saddened by his early death.
From about 1962 I started making a collection of antique boxes, tea caddies, desk boxes, snuff boxes and various items of treen which will eventually go to the National Trust.
After giving about 50 of our father's collection of paintings to the local museum and art gallery and 20 or so to friends in memory of our parents, the remainder are willed to the Buxton Opera House Trust
When the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme was set up I was the representative for Mosley road for the first 10 years of its existence, passing it on when I was 80 years of age - quite an interesting job.
In about 1990 I was invited to join the committee of the "Friends of Buxton Cottage Hospital", on which I served for a number of years, helping with the various "efforts" to raise money, and at one time I was the Chairman. This brought me a whole new spectrum of friends of course.
Because of my knowledge of local history I have been consulted for various local publications from 1984 to 2015 for which due acknowledgement was printed.
I now find that at the age of 94 I am consulted for my memory of the late 1920s and 1930s, all rather a pleasure I never expected to have!
Oliver Gomersal. August 2015



Oliver Gomersal, “Oliver Gomersal history,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/5875.

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