Docking, Gilbert (Gil) Charles (Flight Lieutenant b.1919 - d.2015)

Unit No. 455 Squadron
Accession Number PR04233
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement 1 wallet: 2 cm.
Object type Diary
Maker Docking, Gilbert Charles
Place made Germany
Date made 1944-1946
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copying is permitted for the purposes of research and study, subject to physical condition
Description

Collection relating to the Second World War service of 419930 Flight Lieutenant Gilbert (Gil) Charles Docking, RAAF, No. 455 Squadron, Germany, 1944-1946. The collection consists of an original handwritten diary covering Docking’s experience as a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft III-A, in Luckenwalde, on the border of Germany and Poland.

Docking enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 9 October 1942, aged 23. He was posted to Australian Coastal Command Squadron 455, in Langham, Norfolk. Flying in a Beaufighter, his patrols across the English Channel were fairly routine until his plane was hit off the Dutch coast on 13 June 1944. Docking was the navigator, and the pilot was Keith Carmody (later well-known Australian cricketer). Docking and Carmody were thrown from the plane and spent the next 24 hours in the North Sea in a rubber dingy. They were sighted and picked up by the crew of a German motor torpedo boat. Both were then transported to the Prisoner of War camp Stalag Luft III-A.

In the opening pages of Docking’s diary, he concisely titles his capture ‘June 13th 1944, shot down’. Visually, the diary reflects his earlier years as an art student; it is redolent of an artist’s journal, incorporating handwritten text, drawings, quotes, photographs, newspaper clippings, book lists, autographs and memorabilia. Emotionally, the diary reflects stoicism; pages 41 to 46 describe in great detail the beginnings of liberation. Docking’s entry on Saturday January 27 1945 reads ‘”The Russians are over the Oder” – This statement together with “The Russians are 40 miles east of Frankfurt–on-Oder” gives impetus to the belief that we will be relieved by Wednesday next. One fellow said “It looks like we’ll hear them tonight and see them tomorrow”.’

Over the next week Docking writes daily, describing the prisoners’ forced march from camp to Spremburg Railway station. His final written entry on Saturday February 3rd reads ‘Fortunately this is the last stage of our march to Spremburg Railway Station. My feet have packed up, but I can manage. All we notice is the bitumen road passing beneath our boots, and the bobbing packs on bowed shoulders all around. At midday we halted at a modern army barracks. An air raid at the same time was a diversion. Vapour trails high in the sky. The army gave us a good ration of barley glop, and we proceeded to Spremburg West where we entrained in cattle trucks. Locked in each of these strawless enclosed vans were 45 men. As usual the Germans had made no sanitary or water arrangements’.

Supporting Docking’s written entries are drawings and photographs. The drawings on pages 33, 37 and 39 are Docking’s works, as are all the images on the grey toned pages. The photographs are the work of fellow POW James Hill, who posted the images to Gil in Melbourne in 1946. The photographs, showing POW scenes at Ludenwalde, were shot on a camera that James took from the camp-guard quarters, when the German’s fled the advance of the Russian army. Docking has captioned one of the photographs ‘Russian tanks arrive at Luckenwalde POW camp with women soldiers in tank crews’. In reflections on the last days of war, Docking wrote: ‘at last we could hear the rumbles of cannon as the Russian Red Army tanks rapidly advanced into our compound, stopped to make contact and amuse us by dancing and clapping, then racing on to Berlin 30 miles away’.

Docking was liberated by Russian forces in April 1945. He discharged on 13 February 1946. Following the war, he returned to the art world, embarking on a long successful career, that in 2014 was acknowledged with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), for service to the arts.

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