Soham Grammarians - Bertram Covill (1925-26 entry)


Recipient of three gallantry awards
died 27th June 2001

Bertram Covill, BEM, wartime naval reserve officer, was born on October 1, 1913. He died in Cambridge on June 27, 2001, aged 87.

While serving as a naval rating in a defensively equipped merchantman, Bertram Covill received three awards for the same act of gallantry in the Battle of the Atlantic in 1941.

The Adams Beck, in which he was a gunner, was bombed off the Irish coast by the Luftwaffe and the crew were forced to take to her lifeboats.

On discovering that his chief engineer was missing and that their vessel was likely to sink, Covill swam back and managed to reboard her.

He went down to the engine room and there found the officer trapped. He not only freed him but supported him in the sea for two hours until they were picked up. For this he was awarded the British Empire Medal, the Lloyd's Silver Medal for Bravery and the Royal Humane Bronze Medal.

Bertram Charles Covill was born in Leicester and educated at Soham Grammar School. He was set to go to Cambridge University but did not, since this would have placed too great a financial burden on his fatherless family, of which he was the only son; his father had been killed in the First World War.

Having volunteered for naval service on the lower deck in 1939, he finished the war as a lieutenant RNVR in the frigate Labuan, a ship of the famous Second Escort Group whose overall score of 25 U-boats was far higher than that of any other hunter-killer group. Among the Labuan's successes was the sinking of the U-1208 off Wolf Rock in February 1945. This was achieved with an Ahead Thrown Weapon, known as the "hedgehog". The U-boat sank with all hands.

After the war Covill worked for an East Anglian timber merchant. A keen cricketer for Ely City CC and footballer for Ely City, he also sailed from Brancaster, Norfolk, in his self-built yacht Ebse. His wife, by whom he had a son and a daughter, died in 1972.

source: The Times

In the 1925-26 Register of Admissions, entry 479 is Bertram Charles Covill.

Soham Grammarian Summer 1942

Hearty congratulations to Sub Lieut BC Covill RNVR who was awarded the British Empire Medal for "great and calculated courage" while in charge of the AA defences of a 6,000 ton collier. He swam back twice to the sinking ship to rescue comrades. He was also awarded the Royal Humane Society Medal for lifesaving and has now received his commission. [also in Autumn 1942 issue]

A photograph of Mr Covill would be appreciated - please contact the editor
last updated 15 Nov 2011