AIR VICE-MARSHAL HARRY ("JIMMY") GILL
Daring pilot who became head of RAF's supply branch after being grounded
, who has died aged 85, flew as a fighter pilot before high-tone deafness grounded him; he then started a successful career as an equipment officer, culminating in his appointment as the head of the RAF's supply branch.
After training as a pilot in Oklahoma, Gill
remained in the United States as a flying instructor before returning to Britain in 1943 to train as a fighter pilot. He flew the heavily-armed Hurricane IIc of No 279 Squadron, escorting aircraft attacking German convoys off Holland and Norway, in addition to flying on air-sea rescue operations. After converting to the Mosquito as the war ended, he served in Germany with No 4 Squadron
. He was a daring pilot, and on one occasion flew his Mosquito through the twin spires of Cologne Cathedral.
, known throughout his RAF career as "Jimmy"
, was born at Newark on October 30 1922 and educated at Newark Technical College. He joined No 47 Squadron of the Air Defence Cadet Corps based 15 miles away at Grantham - he would cycle there from Newark three times a week, an early indication of his lifelong devotion to the RAF.
accepted the disappointment of being unable to continue flying after 1949 and enthusiastically pursued a career in the RAF's equipment branch (later called the supply branch). Initially he specialised in explosives and fuel storage and their transportation, but with successive promotions he was appointed to a wider variety of roles within the equipment branch. He served on a number of flying stations before an appointment to the NATO
logistics staff in Norway.
In 1966 he joined the Headquarters Middle East at the height of the troubles in Aden. He played a vital role in the successful withdrawal of British forces and their families in November 1967 and was subsequently appointed OBE
After an appointment at the MoD
he attended the Royal College of Defence Studies before being appointed commandant of the RAF Supply Control Centre. In 1976 he was promoted to air vice-marshal to become the Director-General, Engineering and Supply Policy at the MoD
and head of his professional branch. He retired from the RAF in 1979, when he was appointed CB
always demanded excellence from his staff, and his influence on the supply branch of the RAF was considerable. The highly-coveted "Gill
Sword" is awarded annually to the junior officer of the branch that has made the greatest contribution to the RAF's front-line operations. A few months before his death he presented the sword to the present holder.
In retirement Gill
worked tirelessly to ensure the RAF was kept in the forefront of public life in Newark and the surrounding area. He was an outstanding president of the local branch of the RAF Association and an ardent supporter of the region's Air Training Corps squadrons. He continued to organise Newark's annual Battle of Britain commemoration service and he will be remembered for his efforts to cement the granting of the Freedom of Newark to the nearby RAF Cranwell.
had an excellent manner with people and was a constant visitor to the sick and infirm members of the RAF family. Despite his senior rank, he displayed a complete lack of self-importance and was much loved and admired by all ranks. He had a lifelong love affair with the Mosquito, and his personal aircraft, TA 122, is being restored for static display at the de Havilland Museum in London Colney.
He retained the keen-eyed shooting skills of a fighter pilot and was an outstanding shot with both rifle and pistol. In 1951 he was the winner of the King's Silver Medal at Bisley.
died on January 20. He married, in 1951, Diana Wood
, who survives him with their daughter.