Tag Archives: WWII

Remembrance Day: Karl Mander Gravell

Karl Mander Gravell, George Cross Recipient by Circespeaks

Karl Mander Gravell, George Cross Recipient by Circespeaks

The text of the caption is too small to read in my photo. Please see the caption text, verbatim, below:

George Cross
A Wireless Air Gunner under training, Leading Aircraftsman Gravell was awarded the George Cross for his courage and daring in time of emergency. Involved in a training aircraft crash, his first thought was not for his personal safety but for that of his pilot. Ignoring the fact that his own clothes were ablaze, and himself severely wounded, he endeavored to release his comrade. Had he immediately proceeded to extinguish the flames on his own clothing, he would probably not have lost his life.

Karl Mander Gravell was the only child of my grandfather’s sister. The oldest child in a family of six from Sweden, Anna-Lisa moved to Vancouver, B.C., married there, and had only one child, Karl Mander. Were he still alive today, he would be my mother’s oldest cousin. His mother died in her early nineties, after many years alone, save for the company of a companion and caretaker. What a different life she would have enjoyed had her only child lived. He was 21 when he died.

Karl Mander was a student-in-training when the accident occurred. He died in a fruitless attempt to save his flight instructor, who had died on impact. I will have to ask my mother again, but it is my recollection that he crawled into the burning wreckage, not only with his own clothing and the wreckage on fire, but with a broken back.

Every year the Queen of England honors the fallen who have earned the highest honor, the Purple Heart. Those men and women have sacrificed their lives to save others in the line of enemy fire. Every other year she also honors the recipients of the George Cross, who have sacrificed their life in service to their country, but not under enemy fire. My mother and I hope, one day, to go to London to attend this ceremony and reception, during which the Queen meets and speaks with the families. My mother had the George Cross itself at home for many years. I remember seeing it when I was a young child. It is now with other crosses, and with a different photograph of Karl Mander, in an appropriate place of honor. I am the only person who sees this photo, which hangs near my front door, daily.

Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day rather than Veterans Day. I met a young Canadian while checking out at the grocery store on Friday evening. He wondered where there was an American Legion hall in our area because he needed a poppy to wear. There is not one nearby, so I hope my recollection that poppies are given, and donations accepted, outside the grocery store on Veteran’s Day itself, is correct. In Canada, he explained, all civil servants wear their poppy, for Remembrance Day, for the entire month of November.

Please join me in remembering Karl Mander, his life, and his sacrifice today.