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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. D E Gillam


Denys Edgar Gillam was born at Tynemouth on 18th November 1915 and educated at Bramcote, Scarborough and Wrekin College, Shropshire. He was awarded his 'A' Flying License at Public School Aviation Camp at Norwich on 12th September 1934.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in February 1935 and was posted to 6 FTS Netheravon on 7th May. With his flying training completed he joined 29 Squadron at North Weald on 6th March 1936.


Above: Gillam and his wife Nancye.


Gillam was posted to the Met Flight at Aldergrove on 25th January 1937. He was awarded the AFC (gazetted 9th June 1938) for flying food to Rathlin Island, which had been isolated by a gale for three weeks. He made two perilous landings in a Westland Wallace.

On 18th September 1939 Gillam was posted to 616 Squadron at Finningley. Over Dunkirk on 1st June 1940 he damaged a Ju88. Gillam claimed a Ju88 destroyed on 15th August, a Me109 on the 26th, a Me110 on the 29th, a Me109 destroyed, another probably destroyed and another two damaged on the 30th and another Me109 destroyed on the 31st.

On 1st September 1940 Gillam destroyed a Do17, probably another Do17 and a Me109 and damaged a third Do17 and on the 2nd he destroyed a Me110. In this last action his engine was set alight by a Me110 over the Maidstone area. Gillam baled out, unhurt. His Spitfire, X4181, crashed at Brook Farm, Capel.

Gillam was posted to 312 (Czech) Squadron at Speke on 6th September as a Flight Commander. He destroyed a Ju88 as he took off on 8th October, the squadron's first victory and probably the fastest confirmed victory of the war.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 12th November 1940).

In December 1940 Gillam took command of 306 (Polish) Squadron at Tern Hill. He was posted to HQ 9 Group on 2nd March 1941 and returned to operations in July as CO of 615 Squadron. He destroyed two He59s on the water on 9th October, was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 21st October 1941) and the DSO (gazetted 12th December 1941).

Gillam was shot down on 23rd November by ground fire at Dunkirk and baled out, wounded in legs and arms. He got into his dinghy and was protected by aircraft of 615 Squadron until an ASR launch arrived from the Goodwins and picked him up.

In January 1942 Gillam went to the USA to lecture American aircrews. Back in the UK in March, he was posted to Duxford to form the first Typhoon Wing, which made its first operational appearance at Dieppe on 19th August.

Gillam attended the RAF Staff College in October and was posted to HQ 12 Group in February 1943. He was sent to the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in August and after his return to the UK was appointed Wing Leader 146 Wing in December.

Gillam took Command of 20 Sector 2nd TAF in April 1944 and on 17th July he was given command of 146 Wing. He was awarded a Bar to the DSO (gazetted 11th August 1944).

On 24th October he led the Wing against a building in Dordrecht where a conference of high-ranking German officers was taking place. Gillam dived from 6,000 feet and dropped a marker bomb, followed by two 500lb. bombs. He was followed by five Typhoons which bombed from a very low level. Among the dead were two Generals, 17 senior officers and 55 other officers of the HQ of the German Fifteenth Army.



Awarded a second Bar to the DSO (gazetted 23rd January 1945), Gillam was posted in February 1945 to HQ 84 Group as Group Captain Ops. In August he went to 84 Group Disbandment Centre and was released from the RAF in October 1945.

Returning to the family textile business, Gillam also rejoined 616 Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

He died in September 1991.



(May 2024) In the early days of the monument development Denys Gillam kindly made available photographs from his wartime album, these were recently re-discovered and are shown below with the original captions, where these existed.


Above: 1942 - A photo taken at 0530 at Winnie's Riptide Club, Miami Beach, Florida.


Above: 1942 Duxford - G/Capt. Grandy and Gillam.


Above: 1942 Duxford - L to R: G/Capt. Grandy, AVM Saul, AM Sholto Douglas.



Above and below: May 1943 -35 (PR) Wing Tangmere. A Spitfire XIV suffers a burst tyre on takeoff.




Above and below: Photographic Section Tangmere 15th January 1944.



Above: 146 Wing Thorney Island shortly before D-Day.


Above: 146 Wing Thorney Island shortly before D-Day.

L to R: Gillam, W/Cdr. Malfroy (NZ) and G/Capt. Scott (NZ).


Advanced Landing Ground B3 at Ste. Croix-sur-Mer behind Juno Beach was constructed immediately after D-Day. Gillam was appointed to lead 146 Wing and arrived at B3 on 17th July 1944.



Above: Churchill visited B3 on 23rd July 1944.


Above: 11th November 1944 Belgium - F/lt. Neville Thomas briefs WO Cobber James (AUS) and F/Lt. Necklen (NZ).


Above: January 1945 Antwerp -visit of neutral attaches.


Above: G/Capt. Tom Gleave, General de Gaulle, Gillam (arrowed).



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