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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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23.05.1940 No. 92 Squadron Spitfire N3290 GR-U F/O. John Gillies

Operation: Patrol

Date: 23rd May 1940 (Thursday)

Unit: No.92 Squadron

Type: Supermarine Spitfire I

Serial: N3290

Code: GR-U

Location: East of Boulogne, France

Pilot: F/O. John Gillies PoW. Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria


On the evening of 23 May 1940, 92 Squadron had set off on an evening patrol over Dunkirk when they encountered a formation of Heinkel He-111s, heavily protected by Messerschmitt Me-109s and Bf110s of II./ZG76 at around 18:07 hrs. Thought possible that Uffz. Karl Huber of 6./ZG76 claimed Spitfire N3290.

Spitfire N3290 - main photograph (since retouched by the son of Professor Murray Clyde Meikle - see notes)

Squadron Leader Roger Bushell ordered an attack and plunged into the bomber force with Gillies and Paul Klipsch. All three were shot down – Klipsch was killed, Bushell and Gillies were captured. Bushell was later executed in March 1944 by the Gestapo on the orders of Hitler after being recaptured in the aftermath of the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III. John Gillies remained a PoW until the end of the War.

Note: John Gillies (commissioned July 1942) was the eldest son of Sir Harold Gillies (17th June 1882 - 10th September 1960) a New Zealand-born, Cambridge-educated ear nose and throat surgeon, widely considered to be the father of plastic surgery, which he pioneered during the First World War at the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot and the Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup. His younger cousin Sir Archibald McIndoe (1900–1960), also New Zealand-born, and for many years Gillies’ junior partner, made his name during the Second World War treating aircrew who suffered serious burns at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead – home of the legendary Guinea Pig Club. He was also a champion golfer, for many years lived at 71 Frognal, Hampstead, where a ‘blue plaque’ has been placed. His youngest son, Michael Thomas Gillies (15th September 1920 - 10th December 1999) followed his father in medicine (entomologist) - became the world authority on the Mayfly and the role of the Mosquito in the transfer of Malaria.

Further information kindly supplied by Professor Murray Clyde Meikle, University of Singapore (We have tried to contact him but his last email is no longer working - February 2016). Also further detailed information and photographs submitted by Jean Pierre Duriez in February 2016.

Reconstructing Faces-The art of wartime surgery: Professor Murray Clyde Meikle has since published a book on the evolution of plastic and maxillofacial surgery in the first half of the 20th century. This book is about four of the key figures involved. Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe were born in Dunedin, McIndoe and Rainsford Mowlem studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School, and Henry Pickerill was foundation Dean of the University of Otago Dental School. The author describes how these surgeons revolutionised plastic surgery and the treatment of facial trauma, working on soldiers, fighter pilots and civilians disfigured by bombs, shrapnel and burns. Eventually Gillies et al. were supported by a vast surgical enterprise that included surgeons, dentists, anaesthetists, artists and photographers, nurses and orderlies. The text is fully illustrated with photos, drawings and case notes by the surgeons and war artists at military hospitals at Boulogne-sur-Mer, Aldershot and Sidcup in WWI and civilian hospitals at East Grinstead, Basingstoke and Hill End in WWII. The book includes a DVD of Rainsford Mowlem performing a variety of plastic operations. This book is a must for anyone interested in the history of medicine and the treatment of casualties in World Wars I and II.

Available from Amazon - ISBN: 978-1877578397 In hardback with a packed 264 pages. Aircrew Remembered are acknowledged in the publication.

KTY - 04.02.2016 - additional photographs and information added - courtesy Jean Pierre Duriez

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 05 February 2016, 01:01

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