Obituary: Air Vice-Marshal A. D. Gillmore

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The Independent Online
Air Vice-Marshal A. D. Gillmore

A. D. ("Peter") Gillmore lived through the age of the most dramatic developments in military aviation.

He graduated from the RAF College at Cranwell in 1925, from one of its earliest courses, and was posted in succession to Nos 13 and 208 Squadrons. Both were army co-operation and reconnaissance squadrons, fulfilling what was then still regarded as the primary role of the Royal Air Force.

At that time the Service was going through a number of dangerously exaggerated cuts and savage economies, just as it is today. Professional skills had to be honed on out-dated aircraft and with ancient equipment. Gillmore was to prove sufficiently expert to be appointed in 1931 to an instructorship at the School of Air Pilotage, at Calshot in the Solent, specialising in navigation.

He was largely involved in maritime matters, with flying boats and naval co-operation. In the Second World War he had his first operational command at Wick in Scotland, then the home of an anti-shipping wing; and on his return as an air commodore to the Air Ministry in 1943 he fought a hard and successful battle to preserve and extend this essential RAF activity.

Perhaps his two most interesting and telling appointments were in later years as Commandant of the Royal Air Force Staff College at Bracknell in 1951 and then as Senior Air Staff Officer of the Far East Air Force in 1953.

At Bracknell he succeeded the much-admired and respected Sir Donald Hardman, an officer of great stature and impressive good looks who drove a lordly pre-war Lagonda. Peter Gillmore, who was slightly built and as bald as Robertson Hare (whom some said he resembled), arrived to take over driving a second-hand Morris Minor, but to those serving under him there was no sense of let-down - or if there was it was short-lived.

Gillmore was a man of clear and decisive mind, a ready and entertaining speaker and of great personal charm and kindness. He left many happy memories with those who served with him as instructors or as students at that time.

He needed these qualities again in his next appointment, which coincided with heavy involvement of the Far East Air Force with the "emergency", the prolonged and arduous campaign against the Malayan Communist terrorists. The flexibility and mobility provided to the Army were a telling commitment to eventual victory, although the air staff under Gillmore had to admit that the offensive effectiveness of the RAF was disappointing and much limited by the jungle. Gillmore carried a heavy workload with skill and cheerfulness and won the respect and affection of inter-service colleagues.

After one further command at home (many were surprised that he was not promoted further) Gillmore retired in 1959 to the West Country, where he lived a full and active life with his wife and family of three sons, one of whom is Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield, from 1991 to 1994 Head of the Diplomatic Service. Many will join them in regretting the departure of a kindly and able man.

Christopher Foxley-Norris

Alan David (Peter) Gillmore, air force officer: born 17 October 1905; Senior Air Staff Officer, Home Command 1956-59; married 1931 Kathleen Morris (three sons); died Henley-upon-Thames 27 May 1996.