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John Ingles Gilmour
Born 28 June 1896
Died 24 February 1928 (aged 31)
Place of birth Helensburgh, Dumbartonshire, Scotland
Place of death 26 St James Street, London
Allegiance Scotland
Service/branch Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force
Rank Major
Unit 27 Squadron
65 Squadron,
Commands held 28 Squadron
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross & Two Bars

Major John Ingles Gilmour DSO MC & Two Bars (28 June 1896 – 24 February 1928) was a World War I flying ace. He was the highest scoring Scotsman in the Royal Flying Corps, with 39 victories.

Early lifeEdit

Gilmour was born in Helensburgh, Dumbartonshire, Scotland. He began his military career as an officer in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment.[1]

Flying ServiceEdit

Martinsyde g100

Martinsyde Elephant, as flown by Gilmour.

Gilmour joined the Royal Flying Corps in December 1915. He was originally assigned to 27 Squadron of the RFC. They were the sole squadron equipped with the Martinsyde G.100, commonly called the Elephant. This craft was nicknamed for being large and ungainly. A single seated aircraft, it turned out to be too big, slow, and unmaneuverable to be a successful fighter, and without a rear gunner, too defenseless to survive well in a ground attack or bombing role. It was equipped with a Lewis machine gun mounted on the upper wing firing over the propeller arc, and a second one on the fuselage pointed toward the rear.[2] Nevertheless, before the Elephants were withdrawn from service, Gilmour scored three victories flying one, though his primary duty was bombing. On 15 September 1916, in conjunction with several other pilots, he destroyed an Albatros D.I. On the 24th, he destroyed a Fokker Eindekker; on the 26th, he drove another down out of control.[2]

On 26 May 1917, Lieutenant Gilmour received the Military Cross for his prowess as a bombing formation leader. At this point, he was almost certainly still flying the Martinsyde.

Late in 1917, Gilmour was assigned to No. 65 Squadron RAF as a flight commander.[3] After a fourteen month gap in his aerial victory list, he scored flying a Sopwith Camel, on 18 December 1917. His two triumphs that day made him an ace.

He shot a triple on 4 January 1918, including one down in flames, and followed it up with number eight on 9 January.[1]

He then began to run up his score by single and double victories—two in February, one in March, seven in April, eight in May, four in June. By 29 June, his total was 31.[1]

On 1 July 1918, Gilmour capped his career with a performance that earned him a Distinguished Service Order. On that evening, in a 45 minute span, he burned two Fokker D.VIIs and knocked another down out of control, set an Albatros D.V afire, and drove a Pfalz D.III out of the air. The times on his combat reports make it clear these were five separate engagements; many times, aces reporting multiple victories scored in a single engagement.[1]

Gilmour destroyed a Pfalz the next day, and two the day after, for his final successes. In the end, his victory record showed that he had 1 balloon destroyed, 1 enemy aircraft captured, 24 aircraft destroyed (and 3 shared destroyed) and 10 claimed 'out of control'.[4] Eight of the destroyed craft had gone down in flames, as had the balloon.[1] He was promoted to major and transferred to Italy to command 28 Squadron. However, he did not add further victories to his record.

His victory list made him the leading ace of the 13 aces in 65 Squadron.[5]

On 3 August 1918, Gilmour was awarded the DSO; on 16 September, he was gazetted for his second bar to his MC.[1]

After the war, he had a brief tenure as air attaché in Rome in July, 1919. He then transferred to the Middle East to join a former Royal Naval Air Service unit, No. 216 Squadron RAF.[3] John Inglis Gilmour died on 24 February 1928, having committed suicide by cyanide poisoning. His death certificate describes him as of being of independent means but unsound mind.

Awards and honorsEdit

Military CrossEdit

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) John Gilmour, Argyll and Suth'd Highrs. and R.F.C. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in carrying out long-distance bomb raids. On one occasion, although his engine began to fail, he continued to lead his formation, and succeeded in bringing back most valuable information.[1]

Military Cross First BarEdit

Lt. (T./Capt.) John Gilmour, M.C., A. & S. Highrs. and R.A.F. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when engaging hostile aircraft. Within a week he crashed to the ground four enemy machines, and at all times, when on patrol, he never hesitated to attack any enemy in sight. His consistent dash and great fearlessness have been worthy of the highest praise. In all he has ten hostile machines to his credit.[1]

Distinguished Service OrderEdit

Lt. (T./Capt.) John Gilmour. M.C. (formerly A. & S. Highlanders). He is a most inspiriting patrol leader who has destroyed twenty-three enemy aircraft, and shot down eight others out of control. While leading an offensive patrol he shot down one enemy biplane in flames and drove down a second. A short time afterwards he, with four others, attacked about forty enemy scouts. He himself destroyed one in the air, drove another out of control and a third in flames, successfully accounting for five enemy machines in one day.[1]

Military Cross Second BarEdit

Lt. (T./Capt.) John Gilmour, D.S.O., M.C., A. & S. Highrs. and R.A.F. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in his leadership of offensive patrols. This officer has lately successfully engaged seven enemy machines, destroying five and shooting down two out of control. He has done splendid service.[1]

Sources for informationEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9
  2. 2.0 2.1
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sopwith Camel Aces of World War I. p. 61. 
  4. 'Above The Trenches'; Shores, Franks & Guest (grub street 1990)


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