Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



Maj (V) Tom Gillett


Major (V) T.B.Gillett TD, BSc, MI Mech E (C Eng?), AMCT,(Tom to the Army, Brian to his family) served in the Royal Engineers in the TA and the TAVR, from 1959 to 1985. He was born in Shanghai in 1935, where his father was a miller, stemming from the Faversham family of Gillette, millers since the sixteenth century. He was evacuated to Australia during the War, and returned to England in 1948, to Dover College, where he won prizes for Mathematics and Science.

After National Service in the RAOC, he read Engineering at Manchester University, where he joined the OTC and took his Basic Parachute Course. He served in 123 Field Engineer Regiment TA before seeing the light and transferring to 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment TA, where his Troop of 299 Parachute Squadron was located, somewhat bizarrely, in Liverpool Tramways Terminus (fortunately not the end of the line for him!).

He remained in 131 Regiment and when, on the reorganisation of the Reserves in 1967 it was reduced to 131 Independent Parachute Squadron (V), he continued to serve in various appointments, culminating in becoming OC 131 in 1973, until retiring at the end of his tour in 1976. He knew his soldiers well, and was popular with them because, while their training and efficiency were essential to the Squadron, their well being was paramount.

He felt, characteristically, personal responsibility for the tragedy of 27th September 1975, when 10 soldiers of 300 Troop (Grangemouth) were drowned on a night exercise on the River Trent, and was active in raising and administering the Trust for their dependants.
He played a major role in saving 131 from extinction, and in its translation into a Commando Squadron with a challenging role in support of the Royal Marines. He then continued to serve in the CVHQ Pool of Watchkeepers until 1985.

In 1958 he had joined Joseph Rank Ltd.(to become Ranks Hovis McDougall (RHM), and later Rank Hovis Ltd.) as a management trainee, and stayed with that Company for the whole of his working life, becoming Chief Engineer of the largest flour milling company in Europe in 1981, until his retirement in 1993. His wide-ranging duties with RHM enabled him to keep in touch with his far-flung Troops (London, Birmingham, Hull and Grangemouth), and the Management of RHM were tolerant and understanding of the demands of his Service duties.

As a bachelor, he had no direct dependants, but was a caring and generous uncle and godfather, and was able to pursue his many interests: adventurous travel, from walking (over a number of years) the whole length of the Pyrenees, trekking in the Himalayas, and visiting Antarctica; music; malt whisky and fine wines; and perhaps most importantly of all, masterminding the reconstruction, over many years, of a derelict Welsh farmhouse, to the great benefit of his family and friends.



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