The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. D P A Boitel-Gill
Derek Pierre Aumale Boitel-Gill was born on 13th March 1911 in Claygate, Surrey, the son of Charles Baptiste Boitel-Gill (1877-1947) and Daisy Dora Allen (1881-1972).
He was educated at Milbourn Lodge School and Steyne School, Worthing. He joined the RAF in 1929, went to 5 FTS, Sealand and joined 3 Squadron at Upavon on 9th September 1930. He went on to the RAFO in 1934.
Boitel-Gill married Katharine Elliott Buckley on 12th December 1936 in Wandsworth, London.
On 22nd March 1937 he took off at 6am from Croydon in a DH89 Dragon Rapide with a load of newspapers to be landed at Le Bourget in Paris. There was high wind and pouring rain but the flight was uneventful till mid-Channel when the port engine failed. He immediately turned back but the aircraft lost height rapidly.
His wireless operator, WJ Menlove, used his body to wedge open the aircraft door and frantically threw out the bundles of newspapers. The aircraft was able maintain 200ft. and land at Lympne.
Another newpaper flight, Airspeed Envoy G-ADBZ, took off from Croydon at the same time but crashed at Titsey Hill, near Oxted in Surrey. Captain GS Jones-Evans and John Walker, wireless operator, were both killed.
Three months later, on 30th March 1937, Boitel-Gill made the inaugural flight of a London-Aberdeen service by Northern Airways (below).
He is later recorded as flying for Imperial Airways. He is also recorded as serving as the personal pilot to the Nizam of Hyderabad, this report (below) from November 1939, may be connected.
Boitel-Gill was recalled to the RAF in April 1940 and joined 152 Squadron at Acklington as a Flight Commander. On 5th May Boitel-Gill was posted to 5 OTU Aston Down. After he had converted to Spitfires he was retained to assist in instructing new pilots on Defiants and did not rejoin 152 Squadron until 27th July 1940.
He destroyed a Ju88 on 12th August, two Me110s and a Ju87 on the 15th, another Ju87 on the 18th, a Ju88 and a Me109 on 25th September, a Ju88 on the 26th and damaged a Ju88 on 19th October.
Awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd October 1940), he commanded 152 from November 1940 to 17th June 1941, when he was posted to 59 OTU Crosby-on Eden as Wing Commander Flying.
On 18th September 1941 Boitel-Gill was killed, the manner of his death was only recently (2015) discovered when the diary of P/O Dennis Fox-Male was examined:
....there was Derek Boitel-Gill who died so tragically at Crosby where we instructed pupils on Hurricanes.
He was giving practice to the gunners on the gun posts round the airfield - a daily duty which we took in turn.
Cloud base was about 600 to 800 feet. He was diving on the gun posts, flying low on the runway then climbing
up into the cloud where he did a stall turn and came down in a dive again.
The dive was steep and he flattened out at about 5 or 6 feet above the ground but poor Bottle (sic) forgot that
a Hurricane still sinks after the stick is pulled back hurriedly even if it is in a level or even climbing position. A
Spitfire never behaved in this way, but Bottle left his pull out too late, the Hurricane sank and hit the ground.
He was thrown out and killed.
Boitel-Gill was cremated at West Norwood Crematorium, London.
His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (below).