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Group Captain David Samuel Jillings CBE, MC.
2 Squadron WW1 pilot 11Aug14 until after Mar15.

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D S Jillings wearing the ribbon of his MC, after having been commissioned.




First Briton Wounded in 1914 War

Group-Capt. David Samuel Jillings of Sunnyside Farm, Old Buckenham, the first British soldier to be wounded in the 1914-18 war, died on Tuesday at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital following an operation.   He was 71.

As a young man he served in the Grenadier Guards and joined the R.F.C. in 1912 transferring to the R.A.F. when that Service was established.   He possessed a report which showed that on the morning of August 22nd 1914 when he was a sergeant-major he was observer in a two-seater B.E.II reconnaissance aircraft.   Against 11.05 am was a sentence reporting that the engine was knocking badly.   The pilot, Lieut. W. M. Noel had added to the report.   "The airplane came under infantry fire and Sgt-Major Jillings was hit by infantry fire one mile north of Maffle."

After the First World War he was adjutant at the R.A.F. College, Cranwell for four to five years and then served at various R.A.F. stations in this country.   In 1937 he went to Egypt where he was Base Personnel Staff Officer at R.A.F (Middle East) Headquarters.   Returning to England in 1943, he served as Senior Personnel Staff Officer in the Second Tactical Air Force.

Group-Captain Jillings came to Norfolk on his retirement about six years ago.   He took a close interest in the affairs of the parish and church of Old Buckenham and was a member of the Parish Council for the past five years.

Group-Captain Jillings who was a member of the St. Edmunds Lodge of Freemasons, was recently made president of the Norwich R.A.F.A.   He was a prominent British Legion member and vice-chairman of Norwich A.T.C. Committee, a post he held for several years.

A son, Squadron-Leader A. D. Jillings, was in the news in 1951 when he took part in two long-distance training flights in a specially-equipped Lincoln aircraft over the Atlantic and the Polar regions.

The Military Cross to Flying Personnel of Great Britain and the Empire 1914-1918

Hal Giblin and Norman Franks

JILLINGS. David Samuel

2sqnpic214.jpg, 4220 bytesThe son of Mr and Mrs Alfred Jillings of Hanley Place, Brook Street, Brentwood, Essex, he was born on 11 June 1881.   After leaving school, he worked as a clerk until, age 18, he enlisted as a Private soldicr (Number 8410), into 3 Battalion, Grenadier Guards on 11 November 1899.   He progressed steadily through the ranks: Lance Corporal, 1901; Corporal, 1902; Lance Sergeant, 1903; and Sergeant, 1907.   On the staff of the Tower of London in 1908, he re-engaged for a further 21 years Regular Army service.   Selected to infuse discipline and smartness into the ranks of the RFC, he transferred to the recently formed Corps with the rank of Flight Sergeant on 21 January 1913 (RFC Number 9), Jillings gazetted Sergeant Major on 11 August 1914, the day before proceeding to France with the original contingent of the RFC.   He became the first RFC man to be wounded in action, when, on 22 August 1914, he and his Pilot, Second Lieutenant W M Noel, King's (Liverpool Regiment) attached RFC, on patrol over Ath, Belgium, in a 2 Squadron BE, were shot up by ground fire.   Jillings was hit at the top of his thigh and when Noel brought them down to a safe landing, 2 AM George Alderton drove him to a Paris hospital in his lorry.   He had recovered and was back on strength by the following October.   For his gallant work as an Observer, Jillings was initially recommended for the Victoria Cross, but this was down-graded by Army HQ, to a proposed Distinguished Conduct Medal.   When, however, the MC was introduced for Warrant Officers and Subalterns, he was amongst the first listed recipients in the London Gazette of 1 January 1915 (no citation).   Before this announcement, he had been recommended for a commission and was duly gazetted Second Lieutenant to the West Yorkshire Regiment, with an immediate secondment to the RFC, on 11 December 1914.   Jillings was also Mentioned in Despatches on four occasions during the Great War, London Gazette of 8 October 1914,4 December 1914, 1 January 1915, and 4 August 1913.   Keen to progress to piloting, he gained his Royal Aero Club Certificate (Number 1178) on 15 April 1915.   His formal pilot training duly completed, he was confirmed and gazetted Flying Officer on 2 July following.   He served with 14 Squadron in the UK, but, age 34, was probably considered a little old for operational flying and was subsequently appointed Adjutant to 2 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron in November 1915.   Jillings held this position until January 1918, before serving out the reminder of the war in various Administration posts as A/Major.   Staying on after the war, he was granted a permanent commission in the RAF in August 1919.   David Jillings finally retired with the rank of Squadron Leader on 1 October 1926.   He served again in the Second World War, a member of Personnel Staff 2 Bomber Group HQ, Andover, Hampshire.   For his services at this time, he was awarded the MBE.

Courtesy of RAF Museum - Colindale, Richmond. July 2014

The Story of Jillings Decorations

     JillIngs had been hit by ground fire in the right hip and the bullet exited near the spine, fortunately without striking any vital organs.   It was amazing that he had been able to continue the reconnaissance for another 50 minutes with what was quite a serious wound, before asking the pilot to return.   The medical Officer told him to hold on to the centre pole of the bell tent they were in and then lifted his shirt and lowered his trousers to examine the wound.   The news of Jillings' injury resulted in a number of curious personnel peering round the tent flap, while the examination was carried out.   From the flow of blood it was erroneously assumed he had been wounded in the bottom.   On Monday Jillings wrote:

                   Wound dressed doing fine.   Informed that I was mentioned in despatches also that troops were leaving Maubeuge.   Doctor arrived
                   about 10.30 am with ambulance and took me to Le Cateau in temporary hospital had a good nights rest.   Major of RAMC tried to
                   send me to base.

     He avoided being posted out of the squadron and the next day was taken to his unit by ambulance, where he slung his hammock in the workshop lorry.   By 13 September he had recovered sufficiently to participate in another reconnaissance with Noel.

     He was recommended for the Victoria Cross but as he was as an observer it was deemed that he was not acting on his own initiative, as prescribed by the warrant governing the award.   In the event he was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal.   However, the MC had recently been instituted, for which he was eligible as a warrant officer.   He received one of the six awarded to the RFC in the first batch gazetted on 1 January 1915.

     Jillings was commissioned in December 1914 and learned to fly in April 1915, receiving Royal Aero Club certificate No.1178.   He was promoted to temporary major in February 1918 and received a permanent commission with the RAF in August 1919.

     The wound continued to worry him and in 1915 he had neuralgia of the spine as a result of it.   As late as October 1921, during a medical board at Cranwell, he was assessed as less than 20% fit as a result of his injury.
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     By 1926 he was a Squadron Leader and in 1945 retired as a Group Captain, having been awarded the CBE for his work as senior personnel staff officer with the Second Tactical Air Force in the period after the Normandy landings.   He died in 1953.

Newspaper Report from the Evening News on 4th August 1961.

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Just a Few Words in a Diary by Alan Tomkins.

     The pencilled words are still clear on the yellowing pages of the diary, though they were written 47 years ago.   They were brief, simple phrases written by the first British airman to be wounded in action.

     As a Grenadier Guard, seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, he was the first British soldier wounded on the Western Front, graveyard of most of the million British who died in that war.

     His name was Sergeant-Major David Samuel Jillings, and he was a six footer, born at Warley, Suffolk, in 1882.   He went to France with No. 2 Squadron at Mauberge.

     On August 22 at 10.15 a.m. he took off, in a slow biplane, as observer to Lieutenant Noel.   This is the entry in his diary.

          "Discerned one regiment of German cavalry at Ghizlenghen.   Engine trouble, made for Ath,
          Engine running better,   Returned to reconnoitre further,


          About 3 miles N.E. of Ath felt blow in back.   Awful pain.   Continued to reconnoitre, felt weak and asked pilot to go home.   Felt wound at
     11.15 a.m.   Landed at 12.5 p.m.    C.O. said "It is all up, Sergeant-Major."           Found bullet wound in side, dressed by M.O.
          Taken to French Military Hospital at Mauberge, wound again dressed, felt fairly comfortable.
          Visited by Lt. Noel, Major Burke, Lt. Mansfield, General Staff M.O.    All very kind.
          Could not sleep at all, toothache and restless.   During day at hospital had bread, cheese, beer, also soup and hot milk."

     The wound was from a rifle shot, the bullet entering between the side and the small of the back.

     The orders next day by R.F.C. commander Brigadier General Henderson contained a message from Sir John French congratulating the pilot and observer on their gallant action.

     In England, Jillings' bride-to-be, who bore the charming name of Lucetta, read the placards "British Airman Wounded."   She wondered who it could be!

     Actually the first British soldier to be wounded by the Germans in any part of the world was Colonel Sir Arthur Churcher.   He was hit in the leg in action in German East Africa a few hours after war was declared.

     The question of the first naval casualty never arose.   On August 6 the light cruiser Amphion helped to sink the mine-layer Konigin Luise in the North Sea.   Next day Amphion sank rapidly, with the loss of 151 lives, on hitting a mine, probably laid by her victim.

     Jillins was back observing within the month.

     He served in the RAF between the wars, latterly as a civilian.   He became Group Captain Jillings, CBE, MC, and went to Normandy with 2nd Tactical Air Force.

Jillings Medical Record Card

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