Friday, 8 March 2013

Robert George Ivall DFM (1923-2011), RAF Pilot in WW2

Robert George Ivall (known as Bob) was a great grandson of Robert Thomas Ivall (1812-65), who was a brother of my ancestor David Ivall (1816-67). This profile contains information from Robert’s son, his niece and nephew.

Robert was born on 6th January 1923, the eldest of three children born to Walter George Ivall (1868-1953) and his second wife Alice Ivall nee Cumber (1884-1959), who married in 1921. Walter previously had six children (of which two died soon after birth) with his first wife Lily, who passed away in 1915. When Robert was born, his father was aged 55 and his mother was 38. Walter was deputy headmaster of Slough National School in the 1920s. Robert was born and grew up in Chalvey, a suburb of Slough. He nearly died from a perforated appendix aged 9 and was sent to convalesce at a farm near Dallington, Sussex, the home of Jack Croft, a tenant farmer married to Kate Hobden, who was Walter's first cousin.

The 1939 Register shows Robert, a motor mechanic, living at 11 Whiteford Road, Slough with his parents. Robert joined the RAF during the Second World War. He was too young to take part in the Battle of Britain (in 1940) but underwent flight training near Liverpool in 1942. He was then shipped to Cape Town in South Africa. From there he traveled by train to East Africa and by flying boat from Lake Victoria to Egypt. He thought he would drown when the flying boat almost sunk on landing. Robert then saw action in Malta and Italy, flying Spitfires and Hurricanes. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, which was given to non-commissioned officers and men for acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy. A total of 6,637 DFMs were awarded during the Second World War. Robert didn’t talk about his war time experiences much and his son doesn’t know the reason why he was given a DFM. Of the intake of pilots with whom he trained in the UK, Robert believed he was the only one to survive the war.

Robert in his RAF uniform

After the war, Robert got a job working for a business called Car Electricals in Slough. His role was to find and supply electrical components to customers, who included the nearby Pinewood Studios.

In 1951 he married Barbara Eileen Dunford at St Laurence’s Church, Upton (on the edge of Slough). He was aged 28, she was 25, a daughter of the manager of the Slough Co-op (the biggest shop in town). They had a son who was born in 1953 and moved into 50 Alpha Street in Slough, a house that was owned by Barbara’s parents. Robert lived here for the rest of his life. Robert and Barbara adopted many cats that found their way to their door. After their dog Candy died they had up to six cats at a time.

Sadly, Barbara died of cancer in 1981 aged 55. This was a loss that Robert never got over. In 1988, when he reached the age of 65, he retired from full time work at Car Electricals and then worked there part time for several years.

Robert was often kind and generous. In 1942, whilst he was stationed near Liverpool, he responded to an advert for a second hand Hornby train set on sale in Manchester. Robert travelled there, bought the train set and gave it to his two nephews as a Christmas present. This was a huge gift at that time. He was a good artist and drew pictures of Hurricanes or Spitfires in pencil. Robert’s son describes his father as a character, who would say things to get a reaction from other people. He was rather shy and had to be cajoled into taking part in social events, although once there, he would normally take part enthusiastically. Robert was a pipe smoker, like his father.

In 2011, Robert had a stroke in the night and was admitted to Wexham Park Hospital. He died there a few weeks later on 16th September 2011 aged 88. A funeral service for him was held at St Laurence’s Church, which he had attended. After his cremation, his ashes were placed with those of his wife in the churchyard.

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