Donald Archibald "Gil" Gillis


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Canadian Destroys Two Junkers Planes

London, April 10, 1945 — (CP Cable) — F/L Donald MacFadyen, of Toronto, and F/L Vernal Shail, of New Westminster, B.C., destroyed two Junkers 88s in combat last night near an airfield at Luebeck in northwest Germany.
This brought MacFadyen's total to seven destroyed in the air, five destroyed on the ground, three probables and 16 damaged. Shail as navigator has been with MacFadyen, the pilot, for most of these scores. They fly with the Lynx squadron.
During the weekend another Lynx pilot, F/L D. A. Gillis, of Saint John, N.B., with his navigator, F/L Norman Hamer, of Montreal, destroyed a Heinkel 111, a troop-carrying transport, south of Berlin.


The following was provided to me by Scott Gillis, son of F/L Don Gillis & posted as recieved

Born December 9th, 1913, in Paradise, Nova Scotia

Son of Archibald William & Maude Ethel Gillis, of Paradise

Volunteered shortly after the outbreak of World War II (September, 1939) in the RCAF at the encouragement of his younger brother who had already enlisted. (Due to previous militia experience with the West Nova Scotia Regiment he would otherwise likely have joined the Army.)

Donald Archibald Gillis - service number C-1208

Trained at Camp Borden.

Assigned to Easter Air Command as a Lysander Pilot (responsible for anti-submarine reconnaissance and attack)

Stationed at
Shearwater (Halifax),
Torbay, (St. John’s, Newfoundland) &
Millidgeville (Saint John, New Brunswick).

Lost a brother [IVAN LLOYD GEORGE GILLIS] to aerial accident (Hudson) on a search for a missing plane over Sable Island in June, 1941.

Attempting to post self overseas to see the action.

Married the 11th of June, 1943

Posting went through - went overseas in the summer of 1943 but was stuck in training for a year and a half despite his experience in Canada. He didn't get assigned to an operational unit until January, 1945

Took parting training on Blenheims, Bollingbrokes, etc. and Mosquitos

Assigned to 406 RCAF Squadron (Manston, England) with Night intruder work - January to August, 1945

April 7th 1945 shoots down an He-111 - receives Commendation - Nav was F/O Hamer on this occasion. His navigator was normally F/O H. J. Watt.

Squadron re-located to Predannack to prepare for assignment to Pacific theatre.

War ended – discharged and transported home to Canada.


Wings presentation
Wings Presentation Ceremony at Camp Borden - looks like it says 16 May 1940


Don with a Lysander
Don with a Lysander


* While flying from Saint John, New Brunswick to Halifax during the war he would fly over his home in the little village of Paradise, Nova Scotia in his Lysander. His old home was on the side of a small rise and one time he saw his father walking the milking cow up from the stream where he had taken her for water. He flew low across the meadow below the hill and up over his father who didn't know he was coming until he was right over top of him. The story was that the cow went straight up in the air with fright and while Dad looked back over his shoulder to see the reaction of his father shaking his fist at him he took the top limb off the old ash tree that was growing in their front yard. The tree is there to this day with the main limb or trunk damaged and he only knew that he had hit something when he landed in Halifax and one of the ground crew remarked that he must have been flying pretty low (due to a branch being lodged in the undercarriage).


Anti-sub patrol
Don getting ready to destroy a "Sub" - WW2 was full of close calls !

* This painting can be found on the Greenwood Aviation museum site. One of my brothers had Mr. Bennett commissioned to do a painting of another encounter of Dad's while conducting a search for a submarine off the mouth of St. John's harbour here in 1942. He was on the verge of dropping depth charges on a local fishing vessel that was not supposed be in those waters.


Lysanders - 1942
Lysanders - 15 May 1942


* On another trip he flew right down the middle of the main road through Paradise at very low level and "the story is" that when one of the residents spoke up and said they would call the authorities about it someone else spoke up and said, "You'll do no such thing! That's Don Gillis, Arch Gillis's son."


Group Photo
Lysander Squadron Group photo


* P.S. I just remembered something that you will likely find intriguing. I thought of it as I read back over this message and the note about Dad flying down the road in Paradise. A friend of Dad's did the same thing in Halifax after participating in the filming of "Captains of the Clouds" in 1941. I have a copy of an article on this written by Air Vice Marshall A. P. Martin who was a flight commander in No. 11 Squadron stationed at RCAF Station, Dartmouth, N.S (so was likely there when my uncle was killed at Sable Island in the Hudson). I can fax you the "Letter of the day" likely from the Chronicle Herald newspaper. You have Dal Russel on your web site - he pulled this stunt in a Hurricane painted up like a ME 109. [You're right, good story - click here to read it]
There are some interesting stories on Dad's experiences such as the time that he took American anti-aircraft fire over Luxembourg.
[There was a lucky escape on the 14th when the aircraft of F/L D. A. Gillis and F/O H. J. Watt was hit by flak over Luxembourg. As they made a one-wheel landing their undercarriage collapsed but they were not injured.]
Mum remembers a lot but in any case I can obtain or provide as much input as you would be interested in. I believe that at the end of the war he was the longest serving F/L in the RCAF as he declined promotions while with Eastern Air Command here believing (or knowing) that would limit his opportunity of seeing action overseas.



Office work
Office work - 15 may 1942


Off to Europe


406 Squadron men in pub
Some members of 406 Squadron - Off-hours were usually spent something like this.
Don's the lucky one on the right flanked by 2 ladies


Gillis by Geoff Bennett
April 7th 1945 - Don Gillis destroys a Heinkel 111

"An enemy aircraft was destroyed on April 7th when F/L Gillis and F/O Hamer were on an intruder sortie to Plauen. Finding that aerodrome in darkness they sought elsewhere and finally encountered an aircraft burning navigation lights over Mensdorf, about 25 miles northeast of Leipzig. This they identified as an He-111 but the enemy's bright white tail light made positive identification impossible. After overshooting once they closed with undercarriage down and radiator flaps open, firing a burst between 400 and 500 feet. Strikes were obtained on the port engine, mainplane and fuselage, the port engine exploding and fire spreading along the mainplane to the fuselage. Pieces of debris lodged in the port radiator and along the leading edge of the starboard wing of the Mosquito. The enemy lost height rapidly and exploded on hitting the ground off the southeast corner of the aerodrome. The temperature of the Mosquito's port engine rose rapidly and a fire broke out but this was extinguished by feathering. The crew landed at Brussels-Melsbroek." - [from The RCAF Overseas Volume 3]

Although a recommendation for a medal was not made by his CO [Russ Bannock] the exploit came to the attention of the Air Vice-Marshall who, in his position not able to directly recommend a medal, chose to have the effort recognised through this unique commendation which he had prepared and signed.


* When I was home in Nova Scotia for my 25th birthday a friend of mine got into a conversation with my father on the side about his encounter with the Heinkel. It turned out that my friend's father was Air Force artist Geoff Bennett. My friend thought that it would be a wonderful subject for a painting so the family agreed to proceed and have it commissioned and to present it to him on the upcoming 40th anniversary of the event.


Victories Include :

7 April 1945 one He111 destroyed

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Thanks to son Scott for the photos & infos !

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