b. 27/09/1922 Norkoping, Sweden. d. 10/11/1941 Calgary, Canada.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 10/11/1941 Calgary, Canada.
Karl Mander Gravell (1922-1941) was born in Norrkoping, Sweden on 27th September 1922, the son of Carl Helge and Anna Lisa Gravell (nee Schwarz). His mother was Canadian, having been born in Vancouver, British Columbia. Karl began his school career in Sweden, before his family emigrated to Canada in 1937 when he was 15. Karl then attended Kitslano High School before completing his studies at King Edward High School in 1940.
Karl had always been an enthusiast of aircraft and he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force on 15th March 1941. After completing his depot training, he was posted to No 2 Wireless School in Calgary, Alberta. Frequently in trouble with the authorities for such offences as “Conduct to the prejudice of good order and Air Force discipline in that he concealed himself, well knowing the Air Force authorities were searching for him” and “smoking in an unauthorized place”.
Karl had very little flying experience before the incident for which he is remembered. On 10th November 1941 at Calgary, Alberta, his Tiger Moth's engine cut out and the aircraft crashed into the yard of the Big Hills Springs School. The fuel tank exploded on impact. Gravell managed to get clear but lost an eye and his clothes were on fire; nevertheless, without any thought for his own safety, he rushed back to the blazing wreck and tried to pull the pilot, Flying Officer James Robinson, from the wreckage. Mrs Frances Walsh, a teacher, grabbed Gravell from behind and hauled him to the ground, rolling him over to put out the fire in his clothes. She called to her pupils for help. They carried the unconscious Gravell into the school where Mrs Walsh gave first aid and sent for a doctor. When medical help arrived, she didnt allow them to treat her burns before helping Gravell.
Sadly Karl died of his injuries and was posthumously awarded the George Cross on 5th June 1942. Frances Walsh was awarded the George Medal for her actions in trying to save his life. Karl’s body was taken back to Vancouver, where his parents lived, and he was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. His medals including his GC, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and War Medal 1939-45 are held at the 1 Wing Regimental HQ, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: 1 WING RHQ, WINNIPEG, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: MOUNTAIN VIEW CEMETERY, VANCOUVER, CANADA.
Abray. Block 4. Plot 7. Lot 2.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier