Stuart Martin Insall was born in Paris on the 14th of May 1894, the son
of Gilbert Jenkins Insall and his wife Mary Stuart. He was educated in
Paris. and at the age of 21 joined the Army in the University and public
Schools Brigade of the Royal Fusiliers. He joined the Royal flying Corps
in March 1915, and was posted to the Western Front in July of that year.
The story of how he was awarded the Victoria Cross is as Follows.
He was patrolling in a Vickers Fighter with First Class
Air Mechanic T. H. Donald as his gunner when a German machine was sighted,
pursued and attacked. The German machine led Insall over a German rocket
battery, but with great skill Lieut. Insall dived and got to close range,
when Donald fired a drum of cartridges into the German machine, disabling
the engine. The German pilot then dived through cloud followed by Lieut.
Insall. Donald again opened fire, and the German machine was brought down
in a ploughed field. On seeing the German crew scramble out of their machine
and prepare to open fire, Lieut. Insall dived to 500 feet, thus enabling
Donald to open fire on them yet again. The German crew then fled, one
helping the other who appeared to have been wounded. Other Germans then
opened fire on Lieut. Insall, but in spite of this he turned again and
managed to drop an incendiary bomb on the German machine, which was last
seen wreathed in smoke. Lieutenant Insall then turned west and headed
for the German trenches, but as he was only at 2000 feet, he dived across
them for greater speed, Donald firing into the German trenches as they
passed over them. However, the German fire had damaged the petrol tank,
and with great coolness Lieut. Insall landed under cover of a wood 500
yards inside the British lines. The Germans fired some 150 shells at the
aircraft but without causing it any damage, however small arms fire had
damaged the aircraft but this was repaired overnight behind screened lights.
At dawn the following day Lieut. Insall flew the aircraft home with Donald
as his passenger. It was for this action that Lieut. Insall was awarded
the Victoria Cross.
This was not the end of Lieut. Insall s exploits however. Later
that year, on the 14th of December, he was on patrol and sighted a German
machine and pursued it deep behind enemy lines. During the engagement
his gunner, Corpl. Donald was shot in the leg and the petrol tank perforated
by gunfire. After the German machine made off, he tried to return to his
own lines but an anti - aircraft star shell exploded underneath the aircraft
and a large fragment blew through the aircraft and hit Insall in the base
of the spine. Although at times he lost consciousness he was able to land
the aircraft but was captured immediately. He was operated on and the
fragment removed. In the ensuing two years he escaped three times, the
third attempt seeing him (along with two companions) walking 150 miles
over a period of nine nights to cross into Holland. Two weeks later he
was summoned to Buckingham palace to receive his award.
Lieutenant Insall went on to achieve the rank of Group Captain, Commanded
Royal Air Force Uxbridge and served in the Second World War. Group Captain
Insall V.C. died at Scrooby, Bawtry Yorkshire on the 17th February 1972