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Royal Engineers

In Memory of those brave men of The Royal Engineers, 9th Bomb Disposal Company who
lost their lives trying to save others in Coventry during the Second World War


 Second Lieutenant Alexander Fraser Campbell GC of the 9th Bomb Disposal Company

Alexander was leader of the first bomb disposal squad to be stationed in Coventry. He endeared himself to the locals with his friendly nature spending a great deal of his time seeing to the comfort of his men and interesting the general public in their welfare. He was born 02/05/1898 the son of Archibald and Mary Cambell of Dalmellington in Ayreshire, and was husband to Agnes Sharp Campbell also of Dalmellington.

He was awarded the George Cross for conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner. When Alexander was called in to deal with an unexploded bomb at the Triumph Engineering Company's works he found the device was fitted with an irremovable delayed action fuse.

The decision was made to remove the bomb from the factory where it landed to a less populated area. Whilst it was being transported Alexander lay alongside the bomb to listen for any sound that it had become active so he could alert the driver and give him the chance to escape. Alexander later defused the bomb safely.

Archive photo of Alexander Fraser Campbell GC

Photo of Alexander Fraser Campbell GC

Alexander received his George Cross posthumously because he was killed the following day 18/10/1940 aged 42. Having removed another bomb, which he thought to be inert, from Chapel Street, which was a residential area. The bomb later exploded but only after Alexander and his squad had transported it out of the city centre to a safe area. They only just managed to unload the bomb before it went off, tragically killing Sergeant Michael Gibson and Sapper’s William Gibson, Richard Gilchrest, Jack Plumb, Ronald William Skelton, Ernest Arthur Stote and their driver Ernest Frederick George Taylor.

Sergeant Michael Gibson of the 9th Bomb Disposal Company

Born in 1906, Michael formerly served with the Durham Light Infantry. He was awarded the George Cross posthumously for conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner. He oversaw the digging out of a very large unexploded bomb and even when another bomb exploded close by he continued working. Then suddenly it began to omit a hissing sound after which Michael sent the others away to protect them and continued to defuse the bomb alone.

Michael was killed on the 18/10/1940 aged 34 by another delayed action bomb it weighed 250kg and exploded after it was removed from their lorry having been transported from a residential area. Also killed were Second Lieutenant Alexander Fraser Campbell and Sapper’s William Gibson, Richard Gilchrest, Jack Plumb, Ronald William Skelton and Ernest Arthur Stote.

Sapper William Gibson of the 9th Bomb Disposal Company

William was killed on the 18/10/1940 aged 22 by a 250kg delayed action bomb that exploded after it was removed from their lorry having been transported from a residential area. William was the son of William and Eleanor Gibson of Burnage, Lancashire.

Sapper Richard Gilchrest of the 9th Bomb Disposal Company

Richard was killed on the 18/10/1940 aged 23 by a 250kg delayed action bomb that exploded after it was removed from their lorry having been transported from a residential area. Richard was the son of James and Annie Hilda Gilchrest of Gorton, Manchester.

Sapper Jack Plumb of the 9th Bomb Disposal Company

Jack was killed on the 18/10/1940 aged 25 by a 250kg delayed action bomb that exploded after it was removed from their lorry having been transported from a residential area.

Sapper Ronald William Skelton of the 9th Bomb Disposal Company

Ronald was killed on the 18/10/1940 aged 20 by a 250kg delayed action bomb that exploded after it was removed from their lorry having been transported from a residential area. Ronald was the son of James and Edith Emma Skelton of Grange Town, Cardiff.

Driver Ernest Frederick George Taylor of the Royal Army Service Corps

Ernest was born in 1909 and killed on the 18/10/1940 aged 32 by a 250kg delayed action bomb that exploded after it was removed from his lorry having been transported from a residential area.

Correspondence from Jennifer Ryan, October 2010

Thought i would email you today after seeing the Memorial Service for the Bomb Disposal men killed 70 years ago in Coventry.

My grandmother lived in Middleborough Rd at the time and used to provide lunch for Bomb Disposal men. She was with WRVS . One day she said they all came in, enjoyed lunch shared their cigarettes and chatted. A really nice bunch of men. They left after they had finished and all got killed later that day. She was very shocked. I think it must have been the same men as we hadn't heard of another group that were all killed.

Further information

Follow this link for books about the History of Coventry.