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The Airmen's Stories - F/O J K Quill


Jeffrey Kindersley Quill was born on 1st February 1913 at Littlehampton, Sussex. His father, a civil engineer, was Irish and his mother English. Jeffrey Quill was educated at Lancing College.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in October 1931. He was posted to 3 FTS Grantham on the 24th and after completing his training he joined 17 Squadron at Upavon on 18th September 1932.

He went to the Station Flight at Duxford on 11th December 1933 and took command in November 1934. In November 1935 Quill was offered the post of assistant to the chief test pilot at Vickers (Aviation). He left the RAF and went on to Class 'C' of the RAFO.



Quill was initially involved in testing the Wellesley and from March 1936 the Spitfire. He became Chief Test Pilot in 1936. He was awarded the AFC (gazetted 23rd June 1936).

Quill was transferred to the Supermarine Works at Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft) Ltd. in November 1938.

After the outbreak of war, Quill continued test flying but in 1940 he was determined to do some operational flying and on 6th August he managed to go on attachment to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch.

On the 14th he shared in the destruction of a Me109, on the 16th he probably destroyed a Me109 and on the 18th he shared in the destruction of two He111's.

At the request of the company, Quill returned to Vickers-Armstrong on 24th August to begin development of the Spitfire Mk III. Quill had said that operational experience would help in his job and when he returned to Vickers he submitted a long report, detailing suggested improvements, particularly cannon armament. He became Chief Test Pilot of Vickers Armstrong (Supermarine).

There was a bizarre plot, Operation Airthief, concieved by Captain Philip Pinkney of 12 Commando to paddle Quill ashore near a German airfield in France with the aim of stealing an Fw190 fighter about which details were urgently required.

Quill mugged up every available piece of intelligence about the new fighter. He had also undergone a strenuous commando fitness and Folbot canoe paddling regime before the exploit was called off. The capture at Pembrey in Wales of Oblt. Arnim Faber in a pristine Fw190 had made such a perilous exploit unnecessary.

In 1943 he spent five months with the Fleet Air Arm developing the Seafire. He held the rank of Lieutenant Commander, RNVR. Quill received training in deck landing at RNAS Easthaven, Angus and was then appointed to HMS Ravager to practise landings.

He carried out Seafire trials on HMS Pretoria Castle and served as a supernumerary with 886 and 879 Squadrons, embarked in HMS Attacker. He also flew Wildcats, Hellcats and Corsairs from carriers and wrote a report for the Admiralty on the suitability of the Corsair for use from small escort carriers. He retained the rank of Commander.

Quill continued test-flying throughout the war, particularly with the many marks of Spitfire. After sixteen years of flying fighter aircraft, he became very tired and in 1947 took a period of enforced leave, having logged more than 5000 hours on 90 types.

Quill flew Spitfire AB910 at air shows and RAF Open Days until 1965, nearly thirty years after his first test flight on the prototype.

His work with Vickers was concerned solely with military aircraft and as Head of the Military Aircraft Office at Weybridge he was involved with the development of the TSR2, Jaguar and Tornado.

Quill retired in December 1978. His work at Vickers from 1936 through to the end of the war contributed largely to making the Spitfire superior to the Me109 and the Fw190, helping the RAF to gain and then maintain air superiority over Britain and Europe.

His efforts were recognised when he was made an OBE (gazetted 4th January 1943).

Quill died on 20th February 1996 at his home at Andreas, Isle of Man.

His name appears on a memorial plaque unveiled at Lancing College in 2014.


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