Rank & Name: W/C P.A Gilchrist DFC
Date of Death: Unknown


There is little information known of W/C Gilchrist at this time. I have him as being at 59 Squadron in 1945 but my first noted record of him is in June 1944, as signing C/O in W/O AJ Bailey's logbook. It's most likely he arrived sometime in late 1943 after W/C Bartlett was posted to No.10 OTU. He had certainly left the squadron by Dec. 1945 when the death of W/C Halliday is recorded.

Update March 2012:

According to the Sqn ORB. W/C P.A Glichrist DFC was posted from RAF Aldergrove on the 7.7.43 to replace W/C Bartlett who was to be posted overseas (eventually to No.111 OTU - Bahamas).


Further Information

If you have more information on W/C Gilchrist, please contact me, thank you.

Update Dec. 2012: I have recently been contacted by Simon Lynton-Jenkins who kindly submitted the following. Thank you Simon.

"I am researching my Uncles short war time experience (he was killed in September 1940 at 19yo) and came across your web site. You ask for any additional information on P A Gilchrist..."

Squadron Leader Gilchrist was in charge of A Flight No 51 Squadron based in RAF Dishforth at least until the end of June 1940 (he signed my Uncles Log Book then), he may well of been one of the pilots involved in the first raid on Turin Italy the day after Italy declared war on Britain and France (my uncle who was in A Flight was).He was with No 35 and shot down by friendly fire in November 41...

This is full history which makes interesting reading:

GILCHRIST, F/L Peter Alexander (37348) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.51 Squadron - awarded as per London Gazette dated 31 May 1940. Born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, 1 August 1910; home in Port Pelly, Saskatchewan. Educated in Canada. Appointed Acting Pilot Officer on Probation, 7 October 1935; F/O 1938; F/L April 1940; S/L May 1940; W/C 1 June 1942. In No.51 Squadron at outbreak of war and remained until late July 1940. Joined No.35 Squadron, 5 November 1940; posted to No.405 Squadron to command, 20 May 1941. Missing, 24 July 1941. Evaded capture; interned in Switzerland, 18 November 1941 and reached UK 6 July 1942. Active in Ferry Command, September-December 1942; commanded No.53 Squadron in 1944. Transferred to RCAF, 26 February 1945 (C89584). Extensive postwar career rising to Air Commodore before retiring 21 December 1962. Medals with Canadian War Museum (AN 19860228-001) along with photos and documents. Specifically listed in AFRO 1292/41 dated 7 November 1941 as a Canadian in the RAF who had been decorated as of that date. Air Ministry Bulletin 801 refers. No citation other than 'for gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations.' Public Records Office Air 2/9413 has only marginally better citation:

....This officer has always shown great determination and courage and keenness in successfully carrying out his missions at night over enemy territory...

Annex 1Y to this recommendation indicates that he was recommended for the DFC on 23 April 1940 and had previously been recommended on 12 March 1940, but adds nothing of substance; there might be more in the recommendation of 12 March 1940, if it could be located.

Public Record Office Air 2/9412 has the recommendation dated 23 April 1940 by the Commanding Officer of No.51 Squadron (a Wing Commander Owen):

This officer has always shown great determination and keenness in carrying out his missions at night over enemy territory. He was recommended on 12 March 1940 and since then he has performed five further successful missions.

On 25 April 1940 the Commanding Officer of the station added:
I concur in the above remarks. This officer has shown determination and high courage in successfully completing his allotted tasks in the face of the enemy. Strongly recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Finally, on 30 April 1940, Air Commodore A. Coningham, Air Officer Commanding No.4 Group, added:
This Canadian officer has shown great determination and devotion to duty in carrying out many operational flights over enemy territory. Strongly recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

GILCHRIST, W/C Peter Alexander (37348) - Mention in Despatches - No.405 Squadron - awarded as per London Gazette 11 June 1942. Public Records Office Air 2/5684 has recommendation:

This officer was captain of a Wellington aircraft which bombed Brest on 24th July 1941. Shortly afterwards they were attacked by an enemy aircraft and compelled to bale out. On landing he immediately hid in a wood and, travelling by night and hiding by day, crossed the Mountains d'Aree on 28th July. He then went to Nantes and on 25th August left Nantes to make his way to Switzerland which he reached, after crossing Lake Geneva in a rowing boat on 30th August. He remained in Geneva until 12th January 1942 when he left to travel to Gibraltar via Madrid. He was repatriated from Gibraltar on 27th January 1942.

NOTE: This award began as a recommendation for a DSO drafted by G/C S.D. Bufton (Officer Commanding, RAF Station Pocklington) on 30 July 1941, noting that he had flown a total of 2,117 hours including 33 sorties. It read:
Wing Commander Gilchrist led his squadron on its first daylight operation, the target being the 'Gneisenau' at Brest. He was responsible for organizing the operation as a whole, and in this he spared no effort. His attention to detail, his powers of leadership and his own personal example inspired the whole squadron and were responsible for its success as a whole.

Leading his own section of three aircraft, he arrived over the target exactly on time and carried out a successful attack. Immediately after bombing, and before his following aircraft could rejoin him, his aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter, and when last seen two members of his crew had baled out. The aircraft appeared under control in a gentle dive, and it is possible that the remainder escaped also.

In the event of this officer being a prisoner of war, I recommend that his leadership and cool determination in leading his squadron to the completion of a successful operation should be recognized by the award of the Distinguished Service Order.

On 31 July 1941, A/V/M/ C.R. Carr (Air Officer Commanding, No.4 Group) added, 'Strongly recommend the award of the DSO.' 

Further to this, Public Record Office Air 2/8754 has a letter dated 11 February 1942 from the Group Captain commanding RAF Station Pocklington to Headquarters, No.4 Group, dated 11 February 1942:
May I bring to your notice the exploits of Wing Commander P.A. Gilchrist whilst engaged on bombing operations culminating in his last flight, when he led No.405 (RCAF) Squadron in a daylight attack on Brest on 24th July 1941.
Prior to taking command of No.405 Squadron at Driffield in June 1941, Wing Commander Gilchrist had completed some 32 operational flights in his previous squadron. He was awarded the DFC in respect of consistent good work previous to joining No.405 Squadron and there was no doubt that his energy and enthusiasm stimulated a high sense of duty and morale in No.405 Squadron from the very beginning.
During his brief period in command he completed two operational flights, brief details of which are as follows:
(i) As Commanding Officer, No.405 Squadron, one night sortie, target Osnabruck Marshalling Yard. 'Clearly identified and attacked large building in north of town near railway. Caused five big red fires seen for 15 minutes afterwards.
ii) One day sortie, target the cruisers at Brest. He led his squadron in three formations of three, and was the first over target. He was seen to be heavily engaged by flak, and five members of the crew were seen to bale out. It is understood he bombed the target and that almost immediately afterwards was attacked by fighters who killed his rear gunner and shot the aircraft about badly. He ordered his crew to bale out.
After being shot down over Brest he made his way across France and was interned in Switzerland. He has recently returned to this country after some seven months of absence.
I have little doubt that his efforts to escape which were eventually crowned with success were due entirely to his enthusiasm and resourcefulness. I submit, therefore, that his last flight (leading a day raid over Brest) coupled with his untiring efforts to escape are well worthy of recognition.

On 17 February 1942, Air Vice-Marshal Tarr (Air Officer Commanding, No.4 Group) wrote to Headquarters, Bomber Command, enclosing the above letter. He wrote, in part:

A recommendation for the award of a DSO was put forward in the list of recommendations arising out of operations on 24th July 1941, under cover of my letter of even reference dated 31st July 1941. A copy of this recommendation, which was not proceeded with, as Wing Commander P.A. Gilchrist was missing as a result of the operation, is attached herewith.

In view of his escape and safe return to this country, referred to in the Officer Commanding RAF Station Pocklington's letter, I strongly recommend an immediate award of the DSO to Wing Commander Gilchrist, in recognition both of the daylight operation over Brest and his subsequent achievement in escaping to this country.

Bomber Command Headquarters sent this forward to Air Ministry on 20 February 1942, strongly urging award of a DSO. On 24 February 1942, a Mr. C.G. White writes to Major the Hon. O.E. Vesey (both apparently are in Air Ministry), reporting in outline the recommendation and adding:

As the recommendation contains no details of the escape, would you be good enough to ascertain from M.I.9 whether this entailed any special features such as might qualify the officer for an award under Army standards.
It is about this time that a citation appears to have been drafted:

This officer completed 32 operational flights in his previous squadron and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He took over command of No.405 Squadron in June 1941. His first operational flight with No.405 Squadron occurred at night when a successful attack was made on the marshalling yards at Osnabruck. On 24th July 1941, Wing Commander Gilchrist carried out his second operational flight when he led his squadron in a daylight attack on the German battlecruiser Gneisenau at Brest. At the head of the first formation of three aircraft, he arrived over the target exactly on time and carried out a determined and successful attack. After the bombs had been released, his aircraft was attacked and damaged by the fire from an enemy fighter. The rear gunner was killed and other members of the crew baled out when ordered to do so. Wing Commander Gilchrist was ultimately shot down but, by his courage and resourcefulness, succeeded in making his way across France to Switzerland where he was interned. After a period of seven months he made good his escape and returned to this country. Wing Commander Gilchrist was responsible for organizing the whole of the operation against Brest and he spared no effort in the task. His high qualities of leadership and his personal example have been largely responsible for the many successes he has achieved.

On 9 March 1942 Mr. Vesey writes to White:

I have now heard from M.I.9 who say that the case of Wing Commander P.A. Gilchrist, DFC, is under review but that it is improbable that his evasion performance will be found to justify a recommendation for an award. In view of this, you may think it well to proceed with the recommendation in respect of gallantry in air operations without further delay.

A minute in the file, dated 14 March 1942, reads in part:

Wing Commander Gilchrist received the DFC for completing 32 sorties and is recommended for the DSO for two further sorties plus a successful escape from France. It has been ascertained from the War Office (vide 1J) that this officer's case is under examination by the escape authorities but that it is improbable than an award is justified in respect of the escape. You will probably think, therefore, that consideration for the DSO should be deferred until he has carried out further operational flying.

A minute dated 4 May 1942 appears to shut down DSO action and substitute a Mention in Despatches:

...the War Office have now confirmed at 9A that no award should be make to Wing Commander Gilchrist in respect of his escaping from France. Meanwhile the RAF Awards Committee considered at their 31st meeting a proposal by D. of I. [Director of Intelligence) that all escapers should receive at least a mention in despatches. The citation at 103 of 2A certainly seems to justify a mention in despatches and a letter to Bomber Command in reply to 1F is submitted on the assumption that AMP [Air Member for Personnel] will wish a mention to be approved. (http://airforce.ca)
Kind regards,

Rest In Peace