Gerald Huddart Swann, shot down over France in 1917

The Schwann family came from Germany in the early 1800s and married English families. Gerald was born in Westminster, London in 1898 to Henry Sigismund (a stockbroker) and Torfrida Lois Acantha Schwann (née Huddart, born in Ballarat, Australia, the daughter of a prominent ship-owner).  In 1903 the family moved to Hangerfield, Church Lane, Witley buying it from long rerm resident Lt. Col. H J Crawfurd.  Like many families with German names, Henry changed the family name to Swann (and his own to Henry Bagehot Swann) during the war due to anti-German sentiment.  The Swann children were Irene May (known as Maydie), Gerald, Edric, Hugh, Harry and Robert.


Gerald went to Rugby School in 1912 and was a member of the Officer Training Corps. In December 1916, he joined The Royal Flying Corps, was commissioned in April 1917 and awarded his “Wings” in June.  In August he joined 41 Squadron near Léalvillers, Somme, France, equipped with outclassed Airco DH5 single seat fighters.  On 18th October 1917, the squadron took off at 14:55 to undertake a deep offensive patrol to Arleux-Borlon Wood.  North of Havrincourt Wood and east of Bapaume, the squadron was intercepted by a large number of superior German aircraft.  Gerald was attacked by six German aircraft and one of his wings so badly damaged it tore away and his plane spiralled to the ground.  Gerald was found dead in the wreckage wounded in three places.


Gerald’s battlefield wooden cross was donated by the family to All Saints Church and hung in the north transept when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission replaced it with the permanent stone one.  The additional dedication on Gerald’s headstone reads “He being made perfect in a little while fulfilled long years”. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.


Henry and Edric served in the Royal Navy during the Great War and Maydie was a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse serving between 3rd July 1916 and 19th January 1919 at Hilders Military Hospital, Shottermill which catered mainly for Canadians.

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