Gordon 'Bryce' Francis Cousens, OBE, DSO, DFC, Chevalier de la Couronne (1912 - 1976)

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Birthplace: Esher, Surrey, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Wroughton, Swindon, England, United Kingdom
Cause of death: Tuberculosis (TB)
Managed by: Angela Tugwell
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Gordon 'Bryce' Francis Cousens, OBE, DSO, DFC, Chevalier de la Couronne

Born 2 May 1912 in Esher Surrey, UK (Registration in District of Kingston, Surrey, UK) and christened Gordon B.F. Cousens (Bryce).

Twin of Henry A.C. Cousens - older brothers of Alan (by one year)

1920 Placed in boarding school (aged 8) in England with his twin brother, while parents and younger brother, Alan (aged 7), were in Tientsin, Republic of China

1923 His parents divorced (He was 11 years old)

Bryce was brought up first in U.K. and then in Northern Rhodesia, where his mother took the family after her marriage to Peter Meyers, a British army officer she had met in China. His mother gained custody of her three sons at this time.

His father subsequently remarried and went to live in Canada with his second wife.

Cousin Maurice Tugwell (12 years younger than Bryce) writes: "Alan was the youngest of three brothers. While the senior two (twins Bryce and Henry) had expensive educations (Sandhurst, etc) .......... This needs to be verified.

Bryce lived in Salisbury, S Rhodesia training pilots for the S Rhodesian air force during World War II.

1937, 1st June - " Air Ministry, ROYAL AIR FORCE. General Duties Branch “The undermentioned are granted short service commissions as Acting Pilot Officers on probation with effect from and with seniority of '18th May 1937': ...Gordon Bryce Francis COUSENS.” (Source: London Gazette Edition 1 June 1937 Issue number:34403 Page number:3515)

Air Ministry, 22nd March, 1938. ROYAL AIR FORCE. GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH. The undermentioned Acting Pilot Officers on probation are confirmed in their appointments and graded as Pilot Officers on the dates stated: — 15th Mar. 1938: Gordon Bryce Seymour Cousens (Source: THE LONDON GAZETTE, 22 MARCH, 1938

1941 "To be Ordinary Officers of the Civil Division of the said Most Excellent Order: (Source: London Gazette 14 February 1941 , Issue number: 35076, Page number: 902)

D.S.O [Distinguished Service Order]


D.F.C [distinguished Flying Cross]


Gordon Bryce Francis COUSENS (39715)."

Squadron Leader

Marriage 1: His engagement announcement to Diana Katherine English, refers to his mother * as "Mrs. Meyer" of Nth Dela, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)

1938 Marriage to Diana English registered in the District of 'Freebridge L." in the 3rd quarter 1938. Continued to live in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe).

1940 18 August, son, Jonathan (Jon) Bryce Irwin Cousens, born in Salisbury, Rhodesia. Diana and Bryce's other children are Sue and Lynda.

1940 Trained in Rhodesia to become a bomber navigator and Squadron Leader.

Navigator of Lancaster bomber in August/September 1943 in 1660 CU, and

was shot down on 2 October 1943 on his 5th operational mission with 61 Sqn.

His plane crashed over Munich, and he was taken to '''Stalag Luft III (Żagań, Poland : Concentration camp)''' as a prison-of-war, where he became editor of a paper entitled  "The Log".  

1946 Released by Russians (a year after the war ended) from Stalag Luft III – prisoners were force-marched through freezing snow from Stalag Luft 111 [aka Belaria by the inmates] and the group Bryce was in ended up in a camp south of Berlin controlled by the Russians. The other groups were able to reach 'home' more quickly but had their own hard time.

"The Log" was reprinted and published by Bryce in 1947 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK. "[dedicated] to the memory of those fifty-one brother officers murdered by the Germans after escaping in 1944..."

Bryce later presented King George IV with a copy of The Log and it is now in the Windsor Castle Archives, included among His Majesty's records of World War II. (Source Letter from Windsor Castle April 14 1948). His son Jon also has a copy.

24 July 1947 Daughter Linda born at Hunstanton, Norfolk, United Kingdom.

Bryce and Diana divorced shortly after Bryce's return from Stalag Luft III POW camp after the war. (see below)

'Marriage 2: 1947 third quarter' marriage registered in the district of Cheltenham: to Prudence (Pru) Lewis-Hall. (Registration states her name as 'Manifold' or 'Lewis-Hall'). [Her maiden name was Lewis-Hall but her previously married name was Manifold}

1947, July 15 received Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate #394 (shows his photo on reverse side) - lists his address at that time as 10 Lyppiatt Terrace, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and his full name as Gordon Bryce Francis Cousens, born 2 May 1912 in Esher, Surrey.

1949 June 6 – Son, Stephen, born to Prudence and Bryce Cousens at Thirstaine Hall, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England

1952, August - Vacuum Oil Co. (Ireland) Managing Director - "took position in August, expecting to stay for 5 years before returning to the parent company in London'. '(Mobil Oil was result of the merger of Standard Oil of New York and Vacuum Oil.)

(Year?) On the staff of Perguson Tractor Company, Coventry, England.

1957 Appointed by Standard-Triumph International to create a Continental Division in Belgium. Bryce headed operations at the Malines plant, near Brussels, where a whole range of Standard-Triumph cars shipped from Coventry were assembled and supplied to Belgian, Luxumbourg, West German and French markets.

Marriage 3: 1958 Third marriage registered 1958 between Gordon B.F. and 'Judith O. Holderness' in the District of Westminster. Judith died of cancer not long after her marriage (acc.to Babs Duncan)

1959 SMC Brussels

1960 Managing Director, Maître Paul Lauwers, Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co., (Source: 1965 31 December London Gazette, Issue number: 43854 Page number: 21)

1962 Created a 'Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Couronne' by the Belgian Government for his work at Malines.

Marriage 4:

1965 April 10, at the British Consulate in Brussels, Belgium, Bryce married Marcia Marie-Louise Sale (nee Roblin, of Canada)===

1965 At the time of his marriage to Marcia, Bryce was Managing Director of Leyland Triumph and VP of the Council of the British Chamber of Commerce for Belgium and Luxemburg.. States his residence to be Belgium and England (Oxford).

September 1965 attended the 25th Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving for Victory in The Battle of Britain and the laying-up of a colour for the Royal Air Force Association in Belgium in Holy Trinity Church in Brussels.

Lived in Athelhampton, Dorchester, Dorset, England.

Contracted TB (Tuberculosis)

1976, December 16 - After a long illness at the Princess Alexandra R.A.F. Hospital in Wroughton, Wiltshire, Bryce died. Cremation was private and a Service of Thanksgiving was held at St. Clement Dane, London on January 21 1977 at noon.

Member of the Caterpillar Society

(life saved by parachute)

O.B.E.

January 1966 (received his OBE for his efforts on behalf of the early years of the European Union) 

1969 Chevalier de la Couronne

(Order of the Crown, class Knight, which wears the badge on a ribbon on the left chest- The Order may also be bestowed on foreign nationals and is frequently awarded to military and diplomatic personnel of other countries stationed in (or providing support to) Belgium.  This honor was conferred by King Leopold of Belgium.  Awarded to Bryce for Meritorious service to the Belgian state)

Freeman, City of Malines (Mechelen) Belgium (Chevalier d Honneur De la Ville de Malines)

CEO, Managing Director, British Leyland [Europe], a subsidiary of British Leyland.:

Director of British Leyland UK.

President, British Chamber of Commerce, Benelux.

Institute of Directors UK - 1st European Liaison Officer (early groundwork on the future European Union)

-----------------------------------------

Bryce became prisoner of war in the POW camp Stalag Luft 111, subject of the film "The Great Escape". According to the book "Sagan", written by Bryce, who was the editor of the Belaria compound newsletter, the POWs "paraded" on Sunday, January 29 at 0015 hours, were dismissed at 0145 and "eventually left at 5 a.m. on Sunday." ...he writes as though it was an all-R.A.F. group . They went 20 km to a village called Kunau where they spent the night, leaving the next morning. 20 km later they had gone through Tappferstadt to Birkenstadt and were locked in barns again for the night. They stayed there the next day and night. The next day (this would be Feb 2?) they marched to Schoenheide for the night. The next day they marched to Spremberg, were fed a hot meal and put on trains in the afternoon. Seven hours later the trains moved and the next evening they arrived at Luckenwalde Station. They were marched to a camp - the processing took most of the night - and put in filthy barracks. They were in Stalag IIIa. Cousens describes that "we were the only R.A.F. contingent".

 

They were still there on May 13. The Russians had taken over by then and the Americans were on the scene. At the end of the War, prisoners were moved to Dresden and came under Russian control. They were not released until a year after the war ended - in 1946! They then had to walk 40 miles to freedom in a weakened state and many of them died on that march. Squadron Leader Bryce Cousens, RAF, Editor of THE LOG published a book in 1947 and sent it to many of the Kriegies of Belaria: History journal of the thoughts, humor, and hopes of persons who in some cases had been prisoners since 1939.

AUTHOR: Cousens, Bryce.; Entract, Terence.;

TITLE: The Log : Stalag Luft III; Belaria-Sagan, Poland 1939-1945 /

                            editor: Bryce Cousens ; 
                            illustrations and marginal sketches: Terence Entract. 			

PUBLISHER: Cheltenham [England] : Bryce. Cousens,

NOTES: Reprints of a paper "The Log" issued for the prisoners of war in Stalag Luft 3.

(Printed by Burr's Press for the editor) (1947), authored, edited and published by COUSENS, Bryce, Squadron Leader, R.A.F.

It was from Stalag Luft III located near Sagan in Germany, about 100 miles southeast of Berlin (and now in Poland), that a group of soldiers staged a massive escape in March, 1944. Of the 76 escapees, only three reached freedom; 50 were captured and executed by the Germans; 17 were returned to the camp; and six were sent to other prisons. The publication of the inmate newspaper began in May of 1944, commencing publication with a three-page memorial to the recently murdered prisoners, along with other references and photographs related to the escape. The escape was the historical event that Paul Brickhill wrote about in his book The Great Escape in 1950, and was the inspiration for the 1963 film directed by John Sturges, scripted by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, with a splendid cast that included Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, and James Coburn.

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Gordon 'Bryce' Francis Cousens, OBE, DSO, DFC, Chevalier de la Couronne's Timeline

1912
May 2, 1912
Esher, Surrey, United Kingdom
1938
1938
Age 25
1947
1947
Age 34
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
1958
1958
Age 45
Greater London, United Kingdom
1965
April 10, 1965
Age 52
Brussels, Belgium
1976
December 16, 1976
Age 64
Wroughton, Swindon, England, United Kingdom