Sapper Ronald Arthur "Smokey" Gibson
Unit : No.2 Troop, 3rd Parachute Squadron, RE.
I am grateful to Nick Gibson, Ronald Gibson's son, for writing the following biography.
Ron was born on the 12th November 1923 in East Ham, London, the youngest of 5 sisters and a brother.
He attended Central Park school, infants, junior and secondary until in 1937 he was awarded one of only six scholarships to West Ham Municipal College of Arts & Craft. There he began a study of decorative arts. In 1939 his studies were ended with the onset of war, in order to avoid evacuation with other school children he left school to seek employment with the Firm of Houghton-Butcher, camera manufacturers in Holborn.
At this time he was very active in the scout movement, having received the award of 'Kings Scout', with the '1st East Ham' Scout Troop. During the London Blitz he was used as a 'scout messenger' for East Ham Police Station passing messages between the police stations and emergency services whilst normal communications were disrupted during the raids. Later during this period he spent time on the 'Discovery', then moored permanently on the Victoria Embankment, as part of the 40th Westminster Sea Scouts whose task it was to patrol the Thames looking for German parachute mines dropped during the night. This was later taken over by the Navy who, in 1940, formed the Royal Naval Auxiliary Patrol. Since the scouts younger than 18 could not remain in this unit he lied about his age and was taken on as a naval rating for 6 months before he was found out and had to leave. He received a rare award of a Scout Association 'National Service' Badge for these contributions to the civil authorities' war efforts.
At this time Ron found employment as an apprentice Lighterman on the Thames, working on a fuel carrier between Whitehaven and Battersea Power Station. This did not last however and having tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist in the mercantile navy at Liverpool, October 1942 found him taking up work with the Oxted Lime Company.
Called up for army service in January 1943, having been passed 'A1 fitness', he initially entered service in the General Service Corps in No8 PTC at Beverley Yorks. Here his usefulness as an experienced Thames lighterman was immediately recognised and so in typical army fashion he was recruited into the Royal Engineers and found himself as a DIII Lighterman shovelling coal off a collier ship in Cardiff Docks as part of No6 Dock Group RE.
In April 1943 he volunteered for Paratroops induced by the attractive maroon beret and (more importantly) the extra pay. He reported to AF Depot & School at Hardwick camp, Chesterfield on the 4th.
On the 15th April he reported to RAF Ringway (the Central Landing School) for his jumping course and subsequently was posted to 3rd Parachute Squadron RE at Bulford in Wiltshire.
During his NCO cadre course in August-September 1943 he was injured in a bad jump and was subsequently admitted to Shaftsbury Hospital on 13th December. On the 22nd January he married Grace Nicholls at St Michael and All Angels church, Manor Park, London, Discharged from hospital on 21st February 1944 he was sent to Lychett Heath Convalescent Home near Poole and subsequently to 'W2' Sub Unit, 34 RHU 101RG at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex finally being returned to 3 Sqn on 8th March 1944.
The Squadron was moved to transit camp 'Red Lodge' on the 25th May and at 00:50hrs 6th June Ron landed in France. The squadron remained in France on active service till they were halted at Honfleur on the 30th September and embarked for England on the steamer 'Empire Dauntless' on the 8th September to return to Bulford.
The squadron was returned to action on 25th December 1944 when they were sent to the Ardennes to help contain the German Advance during the 'Battle of the Bulge'. Moved on the 21st January to Heythuggen in Holland to relieve 15th Scottish Division they were finally returned to Bulford on 26th February 1945.
A period of leave in early March was followed by a return to Transit Camp 'Red Lodge' and subsequent landing at Hamminkeln Germany as part of the Rhine Crossing on 24th March 1945. The advance was pressed through to the Dormund-Ems Canal where on the 1st April 1945 he was wounded whilst trying to recover a wounded comrade under heavy enemy fire.
He was taken to 224 Para MDS at Greven and subsequently to 34 CCS. Thence to 9 BGH at Venray and 75 BGH in Brussels he was finally airlifted to Down Ampney and Wollaston House Emergency Hospital in Newport S Wales arriving on the 7th April 1945. He was transferred to Aldersbrook Hospital at Wansted, London on VE Day, 8th May and then to 102 Military Convalescence Regt at Kingston Surrey on 4th July 1945.
He was posted to 249 Field Coy RE at Bulford on 18th Oct 1945 and embarked for Palestine from Newhaven on 11th December. Arriving in Dieppe on 12th December he embarked on a 2 Day Train Journey to Toulon in S France where he boarded the Dutch Vessel 'HMT Volendam' bound for Port Said. Arriving at Port Said on the 19th December he travelled overland and across the Suez Canal arriving at Gaza on 27th December 1945 where he joined 9th Airborne Squadron RE then stationed at 'Biet Nabala'.
Wishing to re-trade as a Plant Op he went to 286 Field Park Company at Nairserat Ridge in Gaza on 17th April 1946 which continued until 4th August 1946 when he was accredited as Operator-Excavator BIII and also qualified as Heavy Goods Driver.
During this time in July 1946 the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was blown up by Jewish Terrorists, Ron and his Bulldozer worked 30 hours continuously helping to extract survivors from the rubble. He returned to 9 Squadron RE until posted to 249 Airborne Park Sqn RE on 16th September and a week later attached back to 3 Squadron RE recently returned from the Far East.
On the 3rd May 1947 he was moved to Port Said to begin his return to England and demob being completed at 12:15 17th May 1947.
In 1961 Ron enlisted in the Territorial Army joining 82 Inland Water Transport Sqn RE and later moving to 271 Port Sqn RE the Squadron re-badged in 1967 to the Royal Corps of Transport and Ron was finally demobbed for good in 1973 in his 50th year with the rank of Staff Sergeant. Ron died on 10th June 2008, leaving his son Nick & daughter Lynne & 2 grandchildren.
Nick Gibson adds, "I shall be scattering my dads ashes at the 3rd Para Bde 2 Tp memorial at Bures (Juckes Bridge) on the 5th [June 2009], it's quite appropriate as he was Capt Juckes W/O and runner and should have been killed alongside him on the 28th June 44 but as he was still eating his breakfast, Capt Juckes told him not to go with him."
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