Gear, Alan Walter

Date of birth:
February 2nd, 1916 (Reigate/Surrey, Great Britain)
Date of death:
May 22nd, 2003
Service number:
British (1801-present, Kingdom)


Alan Gear went to St John's School and then on to the Grammar School. After leaving school he went to work at Hall & Co. and with his brother developed a love for motorcycles.
Gear joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in April 1939 and carried out his elementary flying training on Magisters at Redhill. He was called up in September 1939, and posted in October for initial flying training at Woodley. However, whilst there, Alan had a motor-cycle accident and was badly concussed, delaying the continuation of his training.
In May 1940, Alan went to Ansty for a refresher course, before being posted to No 12 Flying Training School at Grantham. He subsequently moved to No 5 Operational Training Unit at Aston Down in September 1940 and joined No. 32 Squadron at Acklington two weeks later, flying Hurricanes. He served with the Squadron subsequently at Middle Wallop, Ibsley, Pembrey and Angle, and stayed with them until October 1941, latterly flying mostly convoy patrols. He was then posted to the Central Flying School at Upavon to become an instructor.
Alan initially instructed on Masters at Hullavington, from December 1941 until July 1942, then at the Operational Training Unit at Balado Bridge for a few weeks, before moving finally to Errol, where he taught Fleet Air Arm pilots on the Swordfish, Albacore and Walrus aircraft.
In October 1942, the by-then Warrant Officer Gear was posted to 72 Squadron with Spitfire Vs at Ouston and, in November, went with the Squadron to North Africa. At this time, Alan had been carefully cultivating his moustache, following a wager with a RAF colleague to see who could grow the longest one. He always maintained that he wore it sticking out of his oxygen mask to frighten off any close flying German pilots.
Alan then went with the Squadron to Malta for the invasion of Sicily, flying sweeps and bomber escort missions. They finally moved on to the Italian campaign, flying beachhead patrols over the landing beaches.
Having been commissioned on January 11th 1943, Alan was posted away from 72 squadron in October 1943 to become a test pilot at Foggia. In early January 1944, he force-landed his aircraft after his engine failed and in the accident suffered severe injuries, which included a broken back. He was subsequently invalided out of the RAF in early 1945 as a Flying Officer.
After he was invalided out of the RAF, Alan went back to Hall & Co, where he became the Depot Transport Manager.
Gear joined The Handlebar Club in September 1947, remaining a member for nearly fifty six years.
Alan maintained many interests after the RAF in spite of his mobility problems.

January 12th, 1943: Pilot Offic er (Probation/emergency)
July 12th, 1943: Flying Officer (Probation/war sub)

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Second World War (1939-1945)
Warrant Officer (now Pilot Officer)
No. 72 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on:
July 27th, 1943
"Warrant Officer Gear who is now on his second operational tour participated in over 80 sweeps over the Channel, including several to the Breast Peninsula. During this tour he destroyed 1 He. 111. He has flown 174 operational hours in the North African campaign, and undertaken all types of sorties, including air combats, troop and aerodrome, and in the final stages, shipping strafes in the Gulf of Tunis. His claims in air combat during this campaign are: 2 1/2 destroyed. (1 Me. 109G. and 1/2 Ju. 87). 1 Me 210 destroyed 1 probably destroyed. (1 Me.109) 2 damaged. (1 Ju.88 and 1 Me. 109). W/O Gear was posted to No. 72 Squadron from Training Command shortly before the Squadron left England and immediately became the guiding influence among the Sergeant pilots, both in the air and on the ground. His exceptional doggedness and zeal in the air has had a great effect on the less experienced pilots who flew with him. Remarks by Officer Commanding Wing: W/O Gear has exerted a most powerful influence on the morale and enthusiasm of his fellow pilots which has undoubtedly had its effect upon the success achieved by his squadron. This award is strongly recommended."
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Second World War (1939-1945)
1939-1945 Star