Gibbs Family Tree

Lieut. Colonel Denis Lucius Alban Gibbs, DSO*

Lieut. Colonel Denis Lucius Alban Gibbs, DSO*

Male 1905 - 1984  (78 years)

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  • Name Denis Lucius Alban Gibbs 
    Title Lieut. Colonel 
    Suffix DSO* 
    Birth 15 Oct 1905  Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Residence 2 Apr 1911  Berkshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Relation to Head of House: Son 
    Death 27 Apr 1984  Gloucester, Gloucestershire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • 3rd son of Canon Reginald Gibbs, MA. Baptised at Clifton Hampden 19 November 1905. Educated at Lancing College (Foundation Scholar) 1919-24 and at Royal Military College, Sandhurst, 1924-26. Army Staff College, Camberley, 1939.

      Captain of the School at Lancing and in the school Athletic Team in 1923 and 1924. At Sandhurst in the 1st Association football team; a junior under officer there; passed out 6th. Gazetted to The Queen's Royal Regiment February 1926 and joined 2nd Battalion in Allahabad, India, in March the same year, returning to UK via Sudan with his Regiment in 1928. Adjutant, Regimental Depot 1930. In 1934-35 at London University and in Italy studying Italian under War Office auspices, prior to becoming an Italian military Interpreter. A/Staff Captain 9 Inf. Bde., Portsmouth, 1936. Promoted Captain 1937 and appointed Adjutant 2nd Bn. Queen's Royal Regt. in Isle of Wight. Nominated to vacancy at Staff College, Camberley, January 1939.
      Following outbreak of war in Sept. 1939 was appointed, in November, Staff Captain (A) G.H.Q. BEF France. In February 1940 Brigade Major 144 Inf. Bde. in 48 Divn. and in May, on the German invasion of Holland and Belgium, moved up with the Bde. to outskirts of Waterloo. Took part in the Retreat to Dunkirk and evacuated from Dunkirk beaches on 1st June 1940. (Mentioned in Despatches). 1940-41 on Staff at H.Q. 10 Corps, Catterick, and at H.Q. Eastern Comd. Luton Hoo. March 1942 appointed to command 1/6 Queen's Royal Regiment, serving in Egypt in 8th Army and taking part in battles of Bir el Munassib, Adam Haifa and El Alamein. Whilst serving in Egypt was mentioned in Despatches and awarded the DSO.
      Captured in the Desert in October 1942 and taken by air to Italy. Held in various POW camps 1942-43, from Bari to near Cremona in the valley of the river Po, from whence he escaped from Campo PG49 at Fontanellato in Sept. 1943. Trekked 600 miles down the Apennines before reaching Allied Lines near Naples in November 1943. Details of the escape are recorded in a book, privately published, Apennine Journey, Diary of Travels across Italy after escaping from P.O.W. Camp.

      November 1943-Feb. 1944 sick leave in U.K. June 10 1944 ordered to Normandy Beach Head to take over command of 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, whose C.O. had been killed in the Normandy landings 3 days earlier. Remained in command throughout operations in France, Belgium and Holland up to the Rhine in Germany. Awarded Bar to D.S.O. for action whilst under command of II Armd. Divn. near Falaise.

      March 1945 appointed GSO I Liaison 24 Army Gp. and subsequently returned to U.K. to command 166 Inf. Officer Cadet Unit in Isle of Man. Oct. 1945 in command Basic O.C.T.U. Aldershot to reform it into the Mons Officer Cadet School; appointed Acting Colonel. 1946 in command 1st Bn. of his own Regiment, The Queen's Royal Regt. in Malaya. 1948 Commandant Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School, Chester. 1950 retired, remaining on Regular Army Reserve of Officers, with mobilization appointment in rank of full Colonel.

      1950-63 market gardening at Roborough House, Nr. Plymouth; Member of Board of Governors, St. Dunstan's Abbey School, Plymouth 1951-66; Member of House of Laity, Church Assembly 1965-70; Church Warden, St. Mary the Virgin, Bickleigh, 1951-63, member of the P.C.C. and Manager of the Church School at Bickleigh; member of the P.C.C. of Parish Church of St. Eustachius, Tavistock, since 1965.

      Interests: Gardening; Bird Watching (Member R.S.P.B.).

      Clubs: Sometime member Junior United Service and Senior Army & Navy (the Rag); more recently, St. John House Club (Order of St. John of Jerusalem).

      Portrait: Crayon by Robert Needham 1947.

    • From Cobbold Trust Tree:

      When commanding 1/6 Queen's Royal Regiment with the 8th Army and taking part in the battles of Bir el Munassib, Adam Halfa and El Alamein, he was awarded his first DSO. He was captured in the desert but escaped from prison camp. The story of his escape is told in his privately published book, Apennine Journey. Following his escape he was ordered to Normandy to command 2nd Battalion of the Warwickshire Regiment whose CO had been killed in the Normandy landings three days earlier. He retained this command for the rest of the war and won his second DSO.
      The citation states:
      "On August 6th 1944 Lieut-Colonel Gibbs' battalion withstood a heavy and determined attack at le Bas Perrier from enemy infantry and Tiger tanks, preceded by intense artillery and mortar covering fire. One company area was overrun by tanks, which penetrated the battalion position. The action lasted from early afternoon till dusk, and the fire of enemy tanks dominated the battalion area the whole time, from the high ground above. Throughout this confused action, in which the battalion suffered heavy casualties, Lieut-Col. Gibbs had the situation well in hand. His calm, imperturbable behaviour was an inspiration to his junior leaders and soldiers. His clear orders, determination and complete disregard for his own safety under these very difficult circumstances had a most marked effect upon the course of the battle, and its successful outcome is a shining example of what the personality of a courageous leader can achieve."

      At his funeral service on 4th May 1984 the address was given by Major General Sir Philip Ward. Here is what he said:

      Once in a lifetime - maybe twice - if you have eyes to see - you will behold a man who you will recognise as one who is especially good, especially dear, in fact uniquely special. And if you have ears to hear you will reconise in him a voice that speaks the truth. In my lifetime, and I guess in the lifetime of most of you here this afternoon, Denis Gibbs was such a man. His influence on us all was far reaching, profound and wholly benign.

      I originally met Denis on 1st January 1950 when I was appointed to my first job outside my regiment to be his Adjutant, when he was Commandant of Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School. My predecessor, like me, a Welsh Guardsman of tender years, in handing Denis over to me said - rather anxiously - "don't worry if at times he seems a little fierce; he tends occasionally to gnash his teeth and storm about, but if you stand your ground he turns out to be the kindest man on earth and you will get to love him". He also told me that Denis was given to writing little notes on very small pieces of paper, none of which were decipherable, but that it didn't matter because he always followed them up with verbal confirmation that left no room for misunderstanding. Well - he did storm about a bit and gnash his teeth, (seldom I'm happy to say at me), but his gnashes expired as quickly as they had begun, and ended with the object of his wrath being bought a reviving drink to settle things.

      As to the writing, that too proved to be a correct warning, but it has become a source of intellectual delight far exceeding the solution of crossword puzzles, in all the time of friendship and correspondence that has ensued throughout the last four and thirty years. The trick, we found, was to open one of his letters at breakfast time and lie it flat on a convenient table or desk and let it get used to its new surroundings. We would then visit it during the day taking it, as it were, by surprise, and from a distance dart in and out, making out its meaning, bit by bit.

      From these early days my alarm had changed to respect, from respect to affection and from affection to admiration and love. Denis Lucius Alban Gibbs was the third son and child of the five children of Canon Reginald Gibbs and his wife Lucia of Clifton Hampden in the county of Oxfordshire and was born in 1905. His brother Tom and his sister Joan survive him and they are here with us today. It was within this truly remarkable family that Denis received his grounding in the Christian Faith. He was carved into it, granite strong, and it was a faith that never left him. By it he was inspired, with it he inspired other people. It was the first of five foundation stones upon which his life was built.

      The second foundation stone, chronologically, was his Regiment and the Army. He went to Sandhurst in the year that I was born, and was commissioned after an oustanding two years as a Gentleman Cadet into The Queen's Royal Regiment in 1926. he was lucky enough to serve in India and in the Sudan before such service was eclipsed by the aftermath of the Second World War. In those years before 1939 he became immersed in the art and ethos of regimental soldiery, honed and tempered for the most difficult of all levels of command - in his case that of Battalion Commander. But first, at the outbreak of war he was appointed Brigade major of 144 Infantry Brigade serving in France. He was Mentioned in despatches for his part in the evacuation from Dunkirk.

      Then, in 1942, he was given command of 1/6 Battalion of his own Regiment, leading them at the battles of Alam Halfa and El Alamein. Here again he was Mentioned in Despatches and was awarded his first D.S.O.
      Fate ordained that he should be captured in the desert, but fate also ordained that he should escape from his prison camp, and more of that in a moment. Meanwhile, after his return to this country, and a short spell of sick leave, he was ordered to Normandy to take over the 2nd Battalion of The Warwickshire Regiment whose Commanding Officer had been killed in the Normandy landings three days earlier. He remained in command throughout the rest of the war and received his second D.S.O. What a record: what a man.

      The story of his escape from prison camp near Cremona in Italy is recorded in a slim, privately printed book, written by Denis, and called Apennine Journey, and is in itself a small classic of fortitude and resolution. Many of you will have read it, and in it you will have detected that self-effacing modesty and that concern for the people who helped him make good his escape, so typical of Denis. For all who understood soldiery, and for all who saw him at work right up until the time of his retirement in 1950, Denis was the Quintessential regimental officer: proud of his Sovereign and the Country which his regiment served: proud of the men he led.

      In 1933, after seven years with his Regiment, another foundation stone, but of a very special kind, was laid, namely his marriage to Hilaria Edgcumbe. Here, if ever, was a marriage made in Heaven. The combined ingredients of love and their contrasting characteristics: the details of administration for him; the carefree serenity from her. Their combined interest in, compassion for and care of each other and of other people combined to make a marriage that was at once efficient and effective, and at the same time one that was as romantic at its end as it was at its beginning. So happy are we that they and all of us were able to share in the Golden Wedding celebrations last year.

      Two more foundation stones. First the family. Four daughters, eleven grandchildren. Such a source of pride and happiness. Such special people as you would expect from such a parentage. Colourful, diverse in character,adventurous, individualistic, original, loving - sometimes presenting Denis with conundrums to be shared and solved, with advice to be sought and given, all activities which, though like all fathers doubtless sometimes driven wild by them, Denis relished to the full, and without which he would have felt a little cheated.

      I come now to the last foundation stone: his Church: one allied so closely to the first of those which I suggested, his Faith. He was churchwarden and a member of the Parochial Church Council at Bickleigh, amongst his flowers and fruit whilst at Roborough, from 1951 to 1963. And of this church, here at Tavistock, a member of the Parochial Church Council from 1965 to his death. He was a most regular attender at all services of the Church's year deriving strength and comfort in such a quiet and modest way. If he was here (ie at Tavistock), or staying away, he never missed an Office if he could help it, and he epitomised what it is that the Church needs so desperately, if it is to survive and grow, namely the active participation of the Laity.

      Faith and Family: Regiment, Queen and Country, The Church. These were Denis' talismen. By them he steered: by them he was formed into the man we knew. I have tried to hold before your eyes a looking glass. In it I hope you have seen a Denis whom you recognise. But be assured of this. We shall not see his like again, this side of Paradise.

    Person ID I240  Gibbs Family Tree
    Last Modified 8 May 2019 

    Father Canon Reginald Gibbs,   b. 29 Jun 1867, The Parsonage, Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 27 Oct 1940, Aldenham, Hertfordshire Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 73 years) 
    Mother Lucia McCausland,   b. 18 Oct 1869, Drenagh, Newtown Limavady, Derry, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 10 Jan 1940, Peace Memorial Hospital, Watford, Hertfordshire Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 70 years) 
    Marriage 4 Jan 1899  Limavady, Londonderry, Northern Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F46  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Lady Hilaria Agnes Edgcumbe,   b. 16 Jan 1908, Chelsea, London Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 19 Nov 2009, Plymouth, Devon Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 101 years) 
    Marriage 17 Oct 1933  Aldenham Church, Aldenham, Hertfordshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Jillianne Bridget Gibbs,   b. 11 Jul 1935, Aldenham, Hertfordshire Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 20 Jan 1994, Shrewsbury, Shropshire Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 58 years)
     2. Margaret Hilaria Gibbs
    +3. Rosamund Lucia Gibbs, Lady Woodard
    +4. Penelope Mary Gibbs
    Denis Gibbs Hilaria Edgcumbe wedding
    Denis Gibbs Hilaria Edgcumbe wedding
    Denis Gibbs (from Aldenham Vicarage) married Hilaria Edgcumbe(from Aldenham Grange). Thus, the families intertwined, through Aldenham.
    Denis and John-Mike Gibbs as pageboys
    Family ID F60  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 20 May 2023 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBirth - 15 Oct 1905 - Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Relation to Head of House: Son - 2 Apr 1911 - Berkshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarriage - 17 Oct 1933 - Aldenham Church, Aldenham, Hertfordshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDeath - 27 Apr 1984 - Gloucester, Gloucestershire Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Documents
    1911 England Census-1.jpg
    1911 England Census-1.jpg

    Canon Reginald Gibbs and family