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The Airmen's Stories - Lt.(FAA) G C McE Guthrie


Giles Connop McEacharn Guthrie was born on 21st March 1916, the son of Connop Thirlwall Robert Guthrie (1882-1945), a merchant banker and public servant. His mother was Eila Mary Guthrie (née McEacharn).

He was educated at Eton College and at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Guthrie learned to fly on the Tiger Moth whilst a student at Eton College aged 16 and was awarded his pilot's licence on turning 17.

He continued flying whilst at Cambridge, taking ownership of Percival Vega Gull G-AEKE, an aircraft he flew extensively in 1936 and 1937, competing in several competitions as a co-pilot to Charles Gardner. Their partnership culminated in their victory in the 1936 King's Cup Race.

CWA Scott and Guthrie as co-pilot won The Schlesinger African Air Race between Portsmouth and Johannesburg in 1936, flying Guthrie's Vega Gull. The Guthrie Wing of King's College Hospital was named to commemorate their victory.

Gardner and Guthrie retained the King's Cup Race in 1937, this time in a Mew Gull. Guthrie was first pilot in 1938 and came second to future Spitfire test pilot Alex Henshaw, also in a Mew Gull.

He married Rhona Leslie Stileman on 17th July 1939 in Marylebone, London.

Guthrie joined British Airways where he was employed in the traffic and commercial departments. His fluency in French and German took him to posts in Paris, Berlin and finally Warsaw which he left two days before the German invasion of Poland.



Guthrie joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1939 and was serving with 808 Squadron at Wick in July 1940, flying Fulmars on dockyard defence. He embarked with 808 squadron in HMS Ark Royal on 22nd October 1940 and took part in operations in the Mediterranean in 1941, including Operation Tiger (a Malta relief convoy) on 8th May.

On 23rd July 1941 Guthrie shared in the destruction of a SM79, on the 25th he shared a Cant Z506B and a SM79 and damaged another SM79, on 27th September he shared a SM84 and on 17th October he shared another Cant Z506B.

This posting lasted from September 1940 to November 1941, when Ark Royal was was torpedoed off Gibraltar. Guthrie was on board at the time and was taken off by a destroyer as were all but one of the crew.

He was awarded the DSC (gazetted 25th November 1941).

Guthrie flew Hurricanes from Gibraltar until he was posted back to the UK to the Naval Air Fighting Development Unit (NAFDU), operating from Duxford alongside the RAF Air Fighting Development Unit.

There Guthrie flight tested almost every single- and twin-engined aircraft entering service with the FAA. He was still there at the end of the war as 2ic and was appointed an OBE, Military Division in the 1946 New Year Honours.

Guthrie was released from the Navy on 30th January 1946 as a Lieutenant Commander (A).

Guthrie was invited back to British Airways, now BOAC, but the death of his father in September 1945 meant that he succeeded to the baronetcy and was required to manage the Guthrie family's business interests.

However he was appointed to the board of BEA in 1959 then in 1963 also to the board of BOAC. He regained his pilots licence and flew the new VC10 on several occasions.

His appointment came to an end in 1968 but he remained in the industry helping to organise insurance and safety standards.

In 1966 the Guthries had survived an armed robbery at their Gatwick home during which his wife Rhona was shot. She survived but it prompted the Guthrie family to move to Jersey.

Guthrie died there on 31st December 1979 from a brain tumour.


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