LEATHERHEAD WAR MEMORIALS - WWII
Flt Lt David Stapylton Gillett RAFVR
Pilot, 61 Squadron, 5 Group, RAF Bomber Command
Town Memorial World War II
Per purum tonantes (Thundering through the clear air)
61 Squadron RAF
Early in the morning of 13 January 1943 Lancaster bombers of No.61 Squadron, No.5 Group Royal Air Force were part of a force from Nos. 1 & 5 Groups taking part in an attack on Essen, one of the cities in the industrial heartland of Germany, the Ruhr. The pilot of one of those aircraft was Flt Lt David Gillett.
His Lancaster mkI W4192 QR-E took off at 0335hrs from RAF Syerston. It crashed at Mettman, 14 km ENE of Düsseldorf, where the crew, who were all killed, were buried in the Nordfriedhof. Their graves are now in the Reichswald War Cemetery¹.
Pilot Flt Lt David Stapylton Gillett RAFVR: 117679: age 22: Grave 8.G.5.
REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY.
Son of William Alan and Ella Mabel Gillett, of Leatherhead, Surrey; husband of Margaret Virginia Gillett, of Leatherhead.
Flight Engineer Sgt Albert Frederick Haden RAFVR: 1185774: age not given: Grave 8.G.3. Navigator F/O John Edward Northend RAFVR: 119289: age 22: Grave 8.G.2.
Son of William Frederick and Phyllis Northend, of Sheffield.
Observer (Air Bomber) F/S John Charles Morgan RAFVR: 969408: age 36: Grave 8.G.7
Son of the Revd. John Arthur Morgan, M.A., and Anna Ida Morgan; husband of Dorothea Mary Morgan, of Derby. B.A. (Cantab.): Pembroke College
Wireless Operator Sgt Edward Roberts RAFVR: 1064318: age 29: Grave 8.G.4.
Son of Harry and Ada Ellen Roberts, of Hull.
P/O Ronald Henry William Hatt RAFVR: 132167: age 23: Grave 8.G.8.
Son of Henry William and Fanny Hatt; husband of Mavis Cynthia Hatt.
Sgt Herbert Frank Burton RAFVR: 913376: age 24: Grave 8.G.6.
Son of Arthur Frank and Ada Burton, of Cliffe-at-Hoo, Kent.
RAFVR: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, aircrew were volunteers.
ESSEN 12/13 January 1943
4 Pathfinder Mosquitoes and 55 Lancasters of 1 and 5 Groups, Bomber Command.
1 Lancaster lost [that of David Gillett].
The Oboe equipment of the first Mosquito to arrive failed and the other 3 Mosquitos were all late. Because of this many of the Lancasters bombed on dead reckoning. Some bombs did fall in Essen, where 20 houses were destroyed or seriously damaged and 9 people were killed, but other bombs fell in Neviges, Remscheid, Silongen and Wuppertal, a group of towns 12-20 miles south of Essen. 19 people were killed in Remscheid.²
David Gillett is commemorated in the Chancel of Leatherhead Parish Church:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
DAVID STAPYLTON GILLETT RAF
DEARLY LOVED HUSBAND OF VIRGINIA GILLETT AND SON OF
COL. AND MRS. W. ALAN GILLETT OF LEATHERHEAD
WHO WORSHIPPED AND SERVED IN THIS
CHURCH AND GAVE HIS LIFE IN ACTION OVER
GERMANY ON 12TH JANUARY 1943 AGED 22.
MAY LIGHT PERPETUAL SHINE UPON HIM
the late Mrs Virginia Gillett and her husband's plaque, 25 July 2004
see also 10 June 1944 press report below
Saturday 31 January 1942
LIEUT. D. S. GILLETT AND MISS V. DARE MARRIED
The Assistant Bishop of Guildford (Dr. C. H. Golding-Bird), assisted by the Revs. S. E. Hickox and A. E. Chapman (curates), officiated at the marriage at Leatherhead Parish Church on Saturday of Lieut. David Stapylton Gillett, second son of Colonel and Mrs. W. A. Gillett, of Hallaton, Leatherhead, and Miss Margaret Virginia Dare, only daughter of the late Major James Dare and of Mrs. Dare, of Woodlands, Leatherhead.
The bridegroom, who is at present in the R.A.S.C., is in training for the R.A.F. The bride, who was given away by Mr. Stanley Pickthall (friend), and attended by Miss Stella Gillett (sister of the bridegroom), wore an ankle-length white lace dress, with a veil of fine net and Honiton lace. Mr. John C. Gillett (brother of the bridegroom) was best man.
Saturday 23 January 1943
LEATHERHEAD OFFICER MISSING
Flt.-Lieut. David Stapylton Gillett, second son of Colonel W. A. Gillett and Mrs. Gillett, of Hallaton, Garlands Road, Leatherhead, has been reported missing. Flt.-Lieut. Gillett joined the R.A.S.C. in April, 1939, and went to France after the outbreak of war. After Dunkirk he obtained a commission, but, on request, was transferred to the R.A.F. He obtained his wings about a year ago, and was recently promoted to flight lieutenant. Last year he married Miss V. Dare, daughter of Major and Mrs. J. Dare, Leatherhead, and a son was born a few weeks ago.
Saturday 1 May 1943
LEATHERHEAD OFFICER KILLED
A./Fit. Lieut. David Stapylton Gillett. R.A.F., previously reported missing in January over the Ruhr, is now known to have been killed in action.
He was 22 years of age. and was the eldest son of Colonel W. Alan Gillett, T.D.. D.L., and Mrs. Gillett, J.P.. of Leatherhead. He was educated at Rottingdean School and Epsom College. Before the war he was reading for Holy Orders, and was a student in the Theological Faculty, King’s College, London. He took active part in Leatherhead youth organisations, was successively a Scout and Rover, and was secretary of the Young People’s Guild of SS. Mary and Nicholas Church, Leatherhead.
Joining the R.A.S.C. as a private before the war broke out he afterwards went to France, and was later given a commission.
He then transferred to the R.A.F., and after service with the Coastal Command went to Bomber Command as a pilot, and became acting flight lieutenant. He flew over the Alps in the raids on Milan and Turin. and also in operations over Germany.
He married Miss Virginia Dare, daughter of the late Major J. Dare and Mrs. Dare of Woodland, Leatherhead, and there is an infant son.
His wing commander, in a letter to Colonel Gillett, wrote; “He was captain of very fine crew that had carried out many praiseworthy services, including the famous raids on Italy. He was one of the most promising in the section, and his work was of the highest standard, and so, too. was the example he set as an officer.”
Leatherhead Parish Magazine, June 1943
THE LATE DAVID GILLETT
It is by this time no news that we must now regard the life of Flight-Lieutenant David Gillett, and the lives of the crew of the Bomber of which he was pilot, as lost during a Bombing Flight over Germany last January. As for many months no definite news beyond the fact that he was missing came through, we hoped against hope that he might be reported prisoner.
David had lived all his life in Leatherhead. From a boy he had been one of our devoted Servers, and at the outbreak of war was preparing for the Priesthood. No one who knew him could be unaware of his transparent goodness, and many had noted, since his ambition to "get his wings" and be a pilot was attained, how his confidence had developed, and had marked his poise and dignity. That he was a capable airman his rapid promotion showed. For such there can be no regret, however poorer the world may be without him. For his parents and for his young wife there is none of us who does not grieve and share in their mingled pride and sorrow.
Saturday 10 June 1944
MEMORIAL TO AIRMAN
On Monday afternoon [5 June] the Rev. A. E. Chapman (vicar of Wyke) unveiled a memorial tablet in Leatherhead Parish Church to Flight/Lieutenant David Stapylton Gillett. R.A.F., son of Lt.- Colonel and Mrs. W. A. Gillett, of Hallaton, Leatherhead. Flt./Lieutenant Gillett was killed in action over Germany last year; in January of that year his parents were notified that he was missing and in April they were informed of his death.
[The unveiling took place 5 days before the induction of the new Vicar, Rev Frank Page, on Saturday 10 June 1944: he succeeded the Rev Gerald Coleridge who had resigned in 1943 for health reasons after an incumbency of 18 years. Rev. Arthur Chapman had been honorary curate during the interregnum and had taken part in David and Virginia's marriage service in 1942. Before ordination he had been Headmaster of Farnborough Grammar Grammar School 1936-39, and Head of one of its precursors, Aldershot County Secondary School/ High School from 1912. He was succeeded at Farnborough by Mr BJA O'Neill who had been headmaster of Soham Grammar School 1930-39 later attended by the editor of this page. He then became Vicar of Wyke and Normandy (near Aldershot). He died in 1948 aged 66.]
His lifeSee the tribute given at the funeral of Mrs Virginia Gillett by their son David.
Virginia continued living in Leatherhead for the rest of her life, mainly at Woodland  Reigate Road, Leatherhead, not far from where Frederick Hatchwell, postman and fellow parishioner, had lost his life in an air raid in 1940.
1. RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, volume for 1943 (WR Chorley)
2. Bomber Command War Diaries 1939-45 (Middlebrook & Everitt)
61 Squadron History
50 & 61 Squadrons Association
Location of Mettman where the aircraft crashed
War Memorials of King's College London, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals
Epsom College War Memorials
Rottingdean School, Roll of Honour 1939-1945
the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him, of his grave and of any recollections within his family
last updated 3 Mar 2009: 10 Feb 14 CWGC links updated 7 Nov 17: 20 Aug 20