Helston Town Council gifts Guy Gibson portrait to Porthleven Town Council

On Saturday, The Mayors of Porthleven and Helston, with a ensemble of Councillors from each town, met in a ceremony to ‘handover’ a portrait of Guy Gibson VC that has for many a year rested in the Mayor of Helston’s parlor. Why did Helston have a portrait of Gibson? This goes back to a time when Porthleven and Helston had one administrative body and then in the early 1980’s, Porthleven ceded from Helston and formed its own administrative body – Porthleven Town council.

However in a local version of the Entente Cordiale, The Mayor of Helston in conversation with the Mayor of Porthleven felt this portrait should rest in Porthleven as Gibson was after all  is a ‘Son of Porthleven.’ The ceremony was a great affair, with Porthleven Town Council breaking out its best (and matching) china in welcoming Helston Town Council.

The Mayor of Helston gave a speech on the history of the painting and how the original (which was also gifted) was vandalised when a group of sailors broke into the Mayor’s parlor back in the 1990’s. The original portrait hung in the former West Cornwall School until its closure in 1967, and then thereafter rested in the mayor’s parlor. The replacement portrait will now have pride of place in the council chamber of Porthleven Town Council.

The handover...

The handover…

 

Porthleven Honours Guy Gibson VC

Wednesday 16th May 2012, the Town Council, and the town of Porthleven honoured Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar. A Son of Porthleven.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar

The ceremony started at 11:30 with a contingent of Officers and personnel from RAF St. Mawgan; followed by 20 Air Training Cadets from the Helston Squadron parading in front of the Bickford-Smith Institute. This was followed by a welcoming speech by the Mayor of Porthleven, Councillor Mark Berryman. After the Mayor had finished Group Captain David Robertson spoke a few words of the daring and courage Gibson had shown in the raid on the Ruhr dams. Group Captain Robertson is also the former Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron; also known as the Dambusters.

Before the ceremony, Group Captain Robertson had said he had flown over the dams, and explained that even in modern-day aircraft, the approach to the dams are very difficult. And he flew at 200ft in daylight. Imagine what is was like at 60ft and in the dark! You then understand the skill and courage of all the aircrew who took part in the raid.

It was then over to local historian and relative, Vic Strike who spoke about Guy Gibson’s younger days in Porthleven, and how in later years whilst a serving RAF officer visited Porthleven on leave and then with his wife. In fact he visited Porthleven on his last set of leave before he was Killed in Action over Holland.

At twelve-noon, the plaque was unveiled by Group Captain Robertson and Vic Strike. This was followed by an overhead flypast of two Hawks. This was a fitting end to the ceremony.

I was amazed at the number of people who turned out to either take part in the ceremony, or simply watch. I would say the crowds numbered at least 200. It was great to see many service Veterans attending with decorations and medals proudly displayed on their chests. There was one Veteran who had flown with Gibson on another mission. He was proudly wearing his campaign medals and the DFC. Amazingly, a Niece and Nephew of Gibson made the journey to attend the ceremony.

Sincere thanks should go to the Officers and personnel of RAF St Mawgan, the RAF Association and their Standard bearer, , RNAS Culdrose, Helston Community College for making the ‘plaque curtain’, Helston’s Air Training Corps and the British Legion for helping out and making sure this was a special day to remember. Lastly, a special thank you should go to the people of Porthleven and visitor’s who took the time to attend.

Here is a selection of photographs from the ceremony:

One half of the crowd

Part of the other side of the crowd

RAF and ATC marching to the ceremony 

Group Captain Robertson - Mr Vic Strike - The Mayor of Porthleven, Cllr Berryman

The Plaque

 
Here are a previous posts on Gibson – HERE and HERE

Guy Gibson Bronze Plaque

Last year Porthleven Town Council and local historian, Vic Strike got together to look into raising money for a plaque to the memory of Guy Gibson, VC, DSO* DFC*. It was universally agreed that no tax payers money should be used, but by local fund raising events it was felt this money could be found.

Two of the ideas was for Vic to show his film on the life of Guy Gibson, and the Mayor of Porthleven would hold a quiz. The film show took place last night in the public hall. A few days ago I spoke to Vic and he was worried no one would turn up. I said don’t worry it will be packed. It was indeed packed with at least 160 people turning up to watch this excellent film, and share a pasty supper. It was a total success and a great night.

The plan is to invite the current Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron who we hope will unveil the bronze plaque later on this year, or early next on the seaward side of the Institute.

Guy Gibson VC

Guy Gibson VC, who is he? Well he is a son of Porthleven. Born in India, but his mother was a born and bred Porthleven-er. He was a damn good pilot too, who led a squadron of equally exceptional pilots and aircrew in a raid against 3 dams during World War Two.

At last nights Porthleven Town Council meeting there was an item that I and Dick Powell had asked for. This was to discuss the possibility of a better monument than what is currently well hidden in the cemetery behind St Barts Church. To be honest you almost trip over it trying to find it as its not the easiest thing to find. It’s quite surprising how many people do actually come looking for it. When I owned a shop many people came in asking for direction. Many of those were Dutch.

It was felt that this was a good idea to look at something better and more fitting. One idea that met with a lot of approval was a large plaque in granite/metal to be placed on the iconic Bickford-Smith Institute. The two seem almost matched. A Mr. Vic Strike who is an expert on Gibson, and who also lives in Porthleven came along to the meeting. He was fully supportive of this course of action.

The Council voted to form a small working group (of 4) to look into various ideas and consult with the public. Vic Strike was also invited (and accepted) to sit on this working group. I know we have a street named after him, but I do believe this idea of a plaque is a worthy and fitting idea for such a person.