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Air Vice-Marshal Harry Gill CB OBE - 4 Sqn WWII Pilot and Head of RAF Supply Branch.

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Daring pilot who became head of RAF's supply branch after being grounded

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesAIR VICE-MARSHAL HARRY ("JIMMY") GILL, 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesAfter 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesHarry Gill, 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesGill 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesIn 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesAfter 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesGill 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesIn 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesGill 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesHe 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.

1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesHarry Gill died on January 20.   He married, in 1951, Diana Wood, who survives him with their daughter.

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