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John Gillies

                                N3290) lies burnt out in a French field 23.05.1940. 

Name: John Gillies

Born: 18 Aug 1912

Joined 92: 14 March 1940

Shot Down: 23 May 1940


Type:  Supermarine Spitfire I 


Serial:  N3290


Code:  GR-U


Location:  France. Exact location unknown?



 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 110s. 


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.


John Gillies was the eldest son of Sir Harold Gillies (1882–1960) a New Zealand-born, Cambridge-educated ENT 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 burnt airman at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead – home of the Guinea Pig Club.


With thanks to the following: 


  1. Patrick Bishop "Fighter Boys Saving Britain 1940".

  2. Professor Murray C. Meikle, National University of Singapore who contacted us with further information,

  3. The superb work of the C.W.G.C.

  4. "Fighter Command Losses" - Norman Franks. 

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