Wikipedia notes that “Hull was remembered by his comrades as an exceptional pilot and an affable, jovial personality. Jimmy Beedle, in his 1966 history of No. 43 Squadron, called Hull one of its all-time great characters, citing him as a major factor in the squadron’s “high standard of flying and…outstanding squadron spirit”. John Simpson, who joined the unit as a pilot officer two months after Hull, recalled finding “a confidence when flying with Caesar that was wholly lacking otherwise.” “I have never seen anyone who could throw a fighter about with so much confidence as old Caesar,” said another pilot, quoted by Beedle. “Nobody gave me so much confidence to have a lead from, nobody gave me so much exhilaration and fun. Following Caesar you found yourself getting more out of your machine than you had ever imagined was possible, doing things that done by yourself would have made your hair stand on end.”
“All the superlatives have already been written about Caesar,” Beedle wrote. “Caesar Barrand Hull, of the crinkly hair and the croaky voice, the laughing warrior whose idea of a lark was to change seats in the air…who had a phobia about worms or slugs, who would look under the bed ‘in case there are any feenies about’, then kneel beside it and say his prayers.” Bolitho took a similar line in his 1943 book Combat Report, attesting to Hull’s “bubbling, unquenchable gaiety”. According to Bolitho, Hull was “possessed of a magic power of creating happiness in others; making them belittle their cares, of inspiring them with confidence, not simply in him but in themselves. Of imbuing them with his own abounding love of life. Where Caesar was, laughter was.”
“He was the best chap I have ever met—an extraordinarily skilful pilot and a lively character.” Fellow 263 Squadron Commander, Tom Rowland.
Caesar Hull’s father Billy and mother Win, with older brother Robin and sister Wendy (Warriors of the Sky)
“Captain Gerald Bryan won an MC in 1941 as a commando at the Battle of the Litani River and subsequently proved himself an outstanding administrator in the Colonial Service.
In June 1941 Bryan was in command of a section of a troop of No 11 (Scottish) Commando in an attack on a large force of Vichy French. The French were guarding the Litani River, which was a formidable obstacle in the path of the Australian 21st Infantry Brigade’s advance from Palestine to Syria via the Lebanon.
On the brilliant, moonlit night of June 7, the vessel Glengyle, carrying 11 Commando, arrived off the mouth of the river. The landing craft were unable to get ashore because of heavy surf along the beaches and the operation was postponed until the early hours of June 9. By this time, the French had been alerted, one of the two bridges across the river had been demolished, and heavy opposition was expected.
Bryan was armed with a rifle, a pistol, a fighting knife and grenades. He and his men wore helmets camouflaged with sacking, khaki shirts and shorts, and their hands and faces were streaked with burnt cork. As soon as they got ashore, they came under rapid fire from a 75-mm gun and were reduced to seven.
Bryan threw a grenade, which silenced the gun and drove its crew into a slit trench. After fierce close-quarter fighting, they captured the gun, turned it around, knocked out the remaining guns in the battery and blew up the ammunition dump.
He and a few survivors then had to cross several hundred yards of open ground under constant fire. Bryan was severely wounded in both legs and, after being taken prisoner, was moved to a casualty clearing station at Sidon. About a third of the commandos who landed became casualties. Bryan was awarded an MC several months later.
Australians bridging the Litani River near Merjayun. (Wikipedia)
Gerald Jackson Bryan was born on April 2 1921 in Belfast, where his father was chief local government auditor. Young Gerald, whose father died when he was eight, was educated at Wrekin College, Shropshire, where he twice won the boxing competition at his weight and was captain of gymnastics and fencing.
He gained third place in the Army Entrance Exam and went on to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. After officer cadet training, in 1940 he was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers.
He subsequently volunteered for the Commandos and was posted to No 9 Commando, based at Lord Cawdor’s estate on the Pembrokeshire coast. At a training centre at Lochailort, near Fort William, he was taught how to shoot with a pistol and a Tommy gun, and close-quarter fighting. On a night exercise, he had felled a tree with gelignite to create a roadblock when he saw a figure striding down the drive.
Assuming that the man was one of the “enemy”, he wrestled him to the ground.
“Do you know who I am?” the man asked.
“No,” said Bryan.
“I’m Lord Lovat,” came the reply.
Bryan felt that he had only one card worth playing. “Do you know who I am?” he riposted.
“No,” said Lovat in bewilderment.
“Thank God!” exclaimed Bryan – and escaped into the darkness.
Further training took place on the Isle of Arran. Bryan was an experienced rock climber and, when his unit was paired with No 11 (Scottish) Commando, he transferred to that unit and passed on his skills. One of his companions in the house in which he was billeted was “Paddy” Mayne, who later became a founding member of the SAS and one of the most highly decorated British officers of the Second World War.
On New Year’s Eve 1940, Bryan, calling on Mayne to give him his good wishes, found him seated on the floor surrounded by three dozen small bottles of cherry brandy. He was celebrating on his own and was not in a good humour. He knocked Bryan to the floor, chased him out of the house into the night, fired his Colt automatic after the retreating figure and then shot out all the windows in the living room.
In January 1941 Bryan embarked for Suez, where his unit became part of Layforce. After the Litani River battle, he was operated on at the French Military Hospital, Beirut, and his right leg was amputated below the knee. He was reported missing, and it was two months before his mother heard that he was alive.
The Vichy French had suffered heavy losses and sued for an armistice. Bryan was moved to a British base hospital in Jerusalem to recuperate. Further operations followed at a hospital in Natal before he was repatriated.
In February 1943 he joined the staff of the Engineer in Chief, London district, as liaison officer with Experimental Station 6, War Department, at Knebworth. This turned out to be part of Special Operations Executive’s organisation.
He tested the efficiency of dropping containers by parachute from a high altitude, short-wave radio telephones, scaling ladders for use by Commandos, and itching powder for contaminating the underclothes of enemy troops. He was eventually appointed Director of Scientific Research (Operational Planning) in the rank of major and worked at 64 Baker Street.
He resigned from the Army in August 1944 and, having joined the Colonial Service, was posted to Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland, as Assistant District Commissioner. George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the country with their two daughters in 1947. Group Captain Peter Townsend, an equerry, was one of the royal party.
In 1949 Bryan went up to New College, Oxford, for two terms and took a postgraduate degree. He married while he was in Swaziland and, in 1950, he and his wife Wendy moved to Barbados, where he took up the post of Assistant Colonial Secretary and, later, Acting Financial Secretary.
In 1954 he was posted to Mauritius as Establishment Secretary. Shortly before the end of his tour, the aircraft carrying Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, to Kenya en route to England was due to land at Plaisance Airport, on Mauritius, for an hour to refuel. In the event, it made an emergency landing with one engine on fire and Bryan had the task of looking after the royal entourage for three days.
He served in the British Virgin Islands and then St Lucia as Administrator. In the latter post, with an adroit mixture of political nous, firmness and charm, he succeeded in restoring discipline and morale throughout the police force, and respect for the government and the administration.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh made a most successful visit to the island in the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1966.
Bryan was Government Secretary to the Isle of Man from 1967 to 1969, and general manager of the Londonderry Development Commission from 1969 to 1973. With IRA activity increasing throughout Northern Ireland, unrelenting pressure of work and wide-ranging responsibilities, that was a most exacting assignment.
When the commission was wound up, Bryan became general manager of the Bracknell Development Corporation. He retired in 1982 but for the next nine years he was an independent inquiry inspector on the Lord Chancellor’s Panel.
He was appointed OBE in 1960, CMG in 1964 and CVO in 1966. He published an autobiography, Be of Good Cheer, in 2008.
Gerald Bryan married, in 1947, Georgiana Wendy Cockburn Hull who was born in the Transvaal and whom he met in Swaziland. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two daughters and a son.
Captain Gerald Bryan, born April 2 1921, died March 21 2018 (Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph’s Obituaries team).
British Commonwealth soldier by the Litani River, 1941 (Wikipedia, Public Domain
“I have never heard anybody say an unkind thing about Caesar and I never heard him say an unkind thing about anybody else. One can’t say more than that, can one?”
Caesar Hull was born on a farm in Shangani, Rhodesia in 1913. After competing as a boxer at the Empire Games at Wembley in 1934, he returned home and applied to join the South African Air Force (SAAF). His application failed as he could not speak Afrikaans, so Hull returned to Britain and joined the RAF’s No. 43 Squadron (‘the Fighting Cocks’). On the outbreak of war 43 Squadron was posted to Acklington where they took part in coastal patrols, and where Hull and (then) Flight Lieutenant Peter Townsend (Signatory 12) were responsible for the squadron’s first kill: a Heinkel He111 bomber on November 18th 1939. 43 squadron then brought down the first German plane downed over British soil, another He111, on February 3rd 1940. Two of the German crew survived and were visited in hospital by Caesar, who took them presents of chocolates and cigarettes.After a period when 43 Squadron was relocated to Wick, where it defended Scapa Flow, Hull was posted to 263 Squadron aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Furious where he shot down a Junkers Ju 87 (‘Stuka’) during the withdrawal from Bodo before being injured and returned to Britain for treatment. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Mentioned in Despatches for this action.
He returned to active duty with 43 Squadron at Tangmere at the end of August 1940, where he claimed four kills – two Messerschmidt Bf 110s (Me 110s), a Messerschmidt Bf 109 (Me 109) and a shared Junkers Ju 88 between the 4th and 6th of September.
43 Squadron was scrambled for the first big raid of the Blitz on September 7th, during which Caesar was reported to have shot down two Dornier Do17s and used up all his ammunition before going to the aid of Flight Lieutenant Reynell, who was under attack from several enemy fighters. Neither man survived the action. Caesar’s Hurricane was found the next morning in grounds of Purley High School, his body next to it dead from bullet wounds.
After his death, Flight Lieutenant John Simpson, also of 43 Squadron wrote:
‘For two days I have been thinking of Caesar. I loved him as I would a brother. There can never be anyone to replace him in character, charm and kindliness. We came to 43 together and grew up in it together. We knew each other from A to Z and it was a privilege no one else could share. I don’t know what to say. I thought I was quite used to people dying. Do you realize that there are only three of us still alive who were serving with the squadron when the war began? I went for a long walk in the woods when the news came and I cried for the first time since I was little.
Dear old Caesar. He commanded the squadron he began in as a Pilot Officer. I would have loved to fly with him as my CO. It seems funny to think that I shall never see him shaking that left foot of his when he was excited. And that laugh! I have never heard anybody say an unkind thing about Caesar and I never heard him say an unkind thing about anybody else. One can’t say more than that, can one? (David Wade)
2nd Lieutenant Robin Yorke Hull was born in 1912, also at Shangani. He joined the Rand Light Infantry which was mobilized in June 1940. He was killed on active duty on January 1st 1942 and is buried at Halfaya Sollum Cemetary on the Egypt/Libyan border.