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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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92 Squadron badge
23.05.1940 92 Squadron Spitfire N3290 GR:U Fg.Off. John A. Gillies

Operation: Patrol

Date: 23rd May 1940 (Thursday)

Unit: 92 Squadron

Type: Spitfire I

Serial: N3290

Code: GR:U

Location: East of Boulogne, France

Pilot: Fg.Off. John Arthur Gillies 90900 RAuxAF Age 27. PoW No. 626 *

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg Langwasser, Bavaria)


On the evening of 23rd 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 Bf 110s of II./ZG 76 at around 18:07 hrs.

N3290 was one of six Spitfires that were claimed shot down by German pilots from 6./ZG 76. Three pilots from this heavy fighter (Bf 110) Geschwader (Wing) each claimed two Spitfires. Fw, Werner Hahn, Uffz Karl Huber and Fw Karl Langenberg

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

Sqn.Ldr. Roger J. Bushell ordered an attack and plunged into the bomber force with Fg.Off. Gillies and Sgt. Klipsch. All three were shot down, Sgt. Klipsch was killed, Sqn.Ldr. Bushell and Fg.Off. Gillies were captured.

Sgt. Paul Henry Klipsch, 566547 RAF was killed and laid to rest at the Wierre-Effroy Churchyard

Sqn.Ldr. 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 3. John Gillies remained a PoW until the end of the War

Note: John Arthur Gillies (Born on the 18th August 1912 in Marylebone, Middlesex) 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.

John Arthur Gillies was granted a commission as a Plt.Off. on probation in the RAF Reserves Class AA(i) (Direct entrant Officers with some previous flying experience), gazetted 29th March 1932.
His promotion to Plt.Off was confirmed on the 14th March 1933, and he was transferred to the Reserve for Air Force Officers (RAFO), gazetted 28th March 1933.
Promoted to Fg.Off. and transferred to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF), gazetted 4th July 1939.
Promoted to Flt.Lt. whilst as a PoW on 3rd September 1940, gazetted 14th March 1941.
After returning to England he was awarded the MBE(M), gazetted 25th December 1945. Omnibus citation reads: "The KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for distinguished service while prisoners of war."

Further information kindly supplied by Professor Murray Clyde Meikle, University of Singapore (Aircrew Remembered 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. Updated by Aircrew Remembered (Jan 2021).

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.

RS - 20.01.2021 - Corrections and updated narrative

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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