Donald Edward Garland bigraphy, stories - Recipient of the Victoria Cross

Donald Edward Garland : biography

28 June 1918 - 12 May 1940

Donald Edward Garland VC (28 June 1918 – 12 May 1940) born in Ballincor, County Wicklow, Garland was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

He was a pupil at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, Holland Park, London from 1929 to 1935, and left with a good all-round School Certificate.

Spending some time at an insurance office, he joined the RAF on a short-term commission.

Mgr. Canon J. Vance, who became headmaster of Cardinal Vaughan School in 1928: "In those days I questioned young men closely before recommending their applications for short-term commissions because of a lurking fear that they might be forced to start life again at an awkward age, for Donald I had no misgivings whatever. He could start his life again at any time and was bound to succeed because of his independence and of his resourcefulness. I salute Garland's great heroism"

Victoria Cross citation

The announcement and accompanying citation for the decoration was published in supplement to the London Gazette on 11 June 1940, reading


A Vickers VC-10 Serial 'XR807' of 101 Squadron is named 'Donald Garland VC & Thomas Gray VC'.

During 2005, to mark its 90th anniversary, No.12 Squadron RAF flew a Tornado GR4 with Fg Off Garland and Sgt Gray's name painted under its cockpit as a mark of respect.

There is a monument on the bridge to the operation.

On the day of the attack on the bridge, Garland and his crew flew from the grass airfield near the Village of Amifontaine, France, where their squadron had been based since December 1939;Peter West, "Boredom, Bravery and Courage," Flypast Magazine, March 2003, pp. 65-68. no memorial to the airfield, and to the men who flew from it, has been reported to exist in the area.

Victoria Cross

He was 21 years old, and a Flying Officer in No. 12 Squadron, Royal Air Force during World War II, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 12 May 1940, over the Albert Canal, Belgium, two bridges, Veldwezelt and Vroenhoven, were being used by the invading army, with protection from fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft and machine-guns. The RAF was ordered to demolish one of these vital bridges, and five Fairey Battle bombers were despatched with Flying Officer Garland leading the attack. They met an inferno of anti-aircraft fire, and the bridge was hit but not put out of commission. Garland and his navigator, Sergeant Thomas Gray, attacked the bridge at Veldwezelt. They died either crashing in the village of Lanaken, or in the hospital in Maastricht, Netherlands. Only one bomber managed to return to base.

Garland is buried at the Heverlee War Cemetery near Leuven, Belgium.

Both Garland and Gray were awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. Leading Aircraftman Reynolds, the third member of the crew, did not receive a medal because he was not in a "decision making" position. Garland's Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, England.

He had three brothers, F/L Patrick James Garland, F/L John Cuthbert Garland, and P/O Desmond William Garland, who also served in the RAF. None survived the war.

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