George Kemp Gilroy was born in Edinburgh on 1st June 1914. After finishing his education he took up sheep farming. He joined 603 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force in 1938 and was called to full-time service on 23rd August 1939. He shared in destroying a He111 over the Firth of Forth on 28th October 1939, the first enemy aircraft to crash on British soil in the war.
On 19th January and 7th March 1940 Gilroy shared He111s. He shared a Ju88 on 3rd July, shared a Me110 on the 6th, shared another He111 on the 12th, damaged another on the 18th and damaged another He111 on the 24th.
Gilroy destroyed Me109s on 28th and 31st August. On the latter day he was shot down in combat over London and baled out. Mistaken for a German, he was attacked by a crowd on landing and admitted to King George Hospital, Ilford. His Spifire, X4271, crashed on to 14 Hereford Road, Wanstead.
Above image courtesy of and copyright the David Ross Collection.
Above: with 603 Squadron
P/O JR Caister, P/O HK MacDonald, F/O GK Gilroy, P/O JS Morton, P/O P Gifford, S/Ldr. GL Denholm.
Gilroy was awarded the DFC (gazetted 13th September 1940).
He was discharged from the hospital on 17th September and re-joined 603 the same day. He claimed a Me109 destroyed on 28th October and shared a Me110 on 7th November.
On 8th November Gilroy was slightly wounded in combat and was posted to RAF Hornchurch as non-effective sick. He re-joined 603 on 14th November and shared a He111 on the 21st.
He was badly injured in an accident on 17th December 1940. The squadron had moved to Drem but as Sgt.Price landed he ran into Gilroy's Spitfire. After several months off flying, Gilroy re-joined 603 during the second week of February 1941.
He began flying in sweeps over France and on 21st June, 8th July and 21st July 1941 he damaged Me109s. On 29th July Gilroy was given command of 609 Squadron at Gravesend. He claimed two Me109s destroyed on 27th October, another on 8th November, damaged a Fw190 on 8th March 1942 and destroyed a Fw190 on 15th April.
He was posted away from the squadron on 31st May 1942 and awarded the C de G (Belg)(gazetted 3rd March 1942) and a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 23rd June 1942).
In November 1942 Gilroy was posted to 325 Wing in East Africa but on the 29th he went to North Africa instead, to take command of 324 Wing. On the 30th he damaged a Ju88, on 6th December damaged a Me109, on the 16th shared in destroying three Me109s on the ground and on the 28th he shot down two Hs129s.
On 2nd January 1943 Gilroy claimed a Me109 destroyed and shared another on the 11th and destroyed one on the 18th. He was in collision with F/Lt. EB Mortimer-Rose over Souk-el-Khemis on 28th January and baled out, slightly injured. Mortimer-Rose was killed.
Gilroy got a probable Me109 and damaged another on 23rd February 1943 and was awarded the DSO (gazetted 2nd March 1943).
He destroyed a Me109 on 3rd April, shared a Ju52 on the 22nd, destroyed a Me109 on the 24th, shared a He111 on 1st May, damaged a Me109 on the 5th, shared a probable Ju88 on 13th July and destroyed a Mc202 on 4th September.
In November 1943 Gilroy was promoted to Group Captain and returned to the UK, where he took command of RAF Wittering and later RAF Blakelow. He was awarded the DFC (US) (gazetted 14th November 1944).
After release from the RAF Gilroy rejoined the Auxiliary Air Force and commanded 603 Squadron from June 1946 to 23rd September 1949.
He died on 25th March 1995.
Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website