Charles Galpin Lilley MBE

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Group Captain Charles Galpin Lilley, MBE, died on May 19th 2008 while undergoing a heart operation at Leeds General Infirmary. He was 83.

His career in the RAF spanned nearly 40 years and although he retired in 1979, the RAF remained very close to his heart. He was involved in several RAF-related organisations including the Royal Air Force Association, the Air Crew Association, and reunions of 214 Squadron, the Lancaster Bomber squadron he served in during the Second World War as a bomb-aimer.

Born in 1924 in Ashington, Sussex, he spent part of his childhood in Argentina, before joining the RAF, aged 17. It was to become the defining act of his life.

Starting as an AC2, he quickly rose through the ranks to become an officer and enjoyed several overseas postings including Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany and the United States.

It was in Hong Kong that he met his beloved wife, Pat, who he married in 1952. The previous year he was awarded the MBE in the king’s Birthday Honours for distinguished service and devotion to duty helping to get supplies through to troops fighting in the Korean War.

He finished his military career having attained the rank of Group Captain and was the RAF’s Deputy Director of Air Movements specialising in equipment and supply.

He then found employment in a variety of consultancy jobs including as a senior advisor to the Ministry of Defence in the Sultanate of Oman; working with Kenya Railways; the Air & Sea Ports Authority in St Lucia and in Swaziland and Poland for the Crown Agents. He was still working on his 70th birthday.

While the RAF was undoubtedly the central pillar of his life, Charles had had many other interests including collecting stamps, playing golf and bridge, and supporting the National Trust.

He had a great capacity for friendship and was able to establish empathy with an unusually broad cross-section of people. He valued friendship and really worked at it; not in a cynical or manipulative way, but because he genuinely believed it was the magic key through which one achieves contentment in life.

Charles leaves his wife, Pat, three children and four grandchildren.

The Pictures are of Charles in uniform at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, USA – 1968: On holiday in Venice, and with his wife, Pat – both in 2001.

Added by: Peter Lilley on 19th September 2008.


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Picture of Charles Gaplin Lilly MBE.
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Picture of Charles Gaplin Lilly MBE.

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Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
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0800 169 2942
Registered Charity No. 1081009