Gordon Olley

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Gordon Percy Olley
Born (1893-04-29)29 April 1893
Harleston, Norfolk, England
Died 18 March 1958(1958-03-18) (aged 64)
Wimbledon, London, England
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation Aviation and Company Director
Known for First World War flying ace
Awards Military Medal

Flying Officer Gordon Percy Olley MM (29 April 1893 – 18 March 1958) was a First World War flying ace who later formed his own airline, Olley Air Services.[1] He was the first pilot to fly a million miles in total.[2][3]

Early years[edit]

Olley was born in Harleston, Norfolk on 29 April 1893.[1] In the 1901 Census Olley, aged 7, is described as living at 161, Gloucester Road, Bristol with his parents George and Eliza Olley and a brother and sister.[4] His father is described as a Tobacconist and Hairdresser.[4] In the 1911 Census Olley is still living at the same address, now aged 17, and described as an Apprentice in a wholesale clothing warehouse. In 1912 he became a "motor salesman" at London's Selfridges department store.[5]

Military aviator[edit]

Olley joined the Queen Victoria's Rifles in August 1914.[1][5] He later transferred to the Royal Fusiliers, rising to the rank of serjeant, before being posted to the Royal Flying Corps as an Air Mechanic Second Class, going to France with them on 17 June 1915.[1][6] At first he was a despatch rider, and then he became an air observer with No. 1 Squadron.[1]

After training as a pilot he rejoined the squadron in 1917 to fly Nieuport scouts.[1] In September 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.[7] He was then commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on the General List,[8] and appointed a flying officer in the Royal Flying Corps on 28 January 1918.[9] He transferred to the Royal Air Force on its formation on 1 April 1918 and was promoted to lieutenant.[5]

After the war he was transferred to Unemployed List on 22 June 1919.[10]

His service record states that in addition to his MM he was Mentioned in Despatches "for valuable services" during the war.[5] During operations with 1 Squadron he is credited with ten aerial victories, comprising 3 destroyed, 5 ( and 2 shared) 'out of control'.[11]

He rejoined the RAF in 1923 when he was commissioned as a flying officer on probation in Class A of the Reserve of Air Force Officers on 4 December,[12] he was confirmed in that rank on 4 June 1924.[13] He transferred to Class C of the reserve on 4 December 1932,[14] and relinquished the commission on 4 December 1936, and was permitted to retain his rank.[15]

Civil aviator[edit]

Olley Air Services De Havilland Dove in 1954

After leaving the Royal Air Force he worked as a pilot for Handley Page Air Transport, Imperial Airways and KLM. In 1931, he became the world's first pilot to log one million miles.[2] Leaving Imperial, he started his own airline, Olley Air Services, in 1934. The firm originally operated from its base at Croydon Airport as a charter airline. Olley Air Services eventually was part of a group of airlines that included Blackpool & West Coast Air Services, Channel Air Ferries and Isle of Man Air Services. After the Second World War the airline resumed services from Croydon as both a charter airline and a scheduled service before being sold to Morton Air Services in 1953.

Olley died in Wimbledon on 18 March 1958.[1] His obituary reported that not one of his 40,000 passengers suffered a casualty.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Gordon Percy Olley". theaerodrome.com. Retrieved 14 November 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "News on civil aviation" (PDF archived at Flightglobal.com). Flight. Vol. 73 no. 2566. 28 March 1958. p. 433. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "Captain Gordon P Olley Scholarship in Aviation". University of Tasmania. 5 September 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2009. 
  4. ^ a b 1901 Census of Bristol, RG 13/2399, Folio 75, Page 23, Gordon P. Olley, 161, Gloucester Road, Bristol. The National Archives.
  5. ^ a b c d "RAF officers' service records 1918 - 1919—Image details—Olley, Gordon Percy" (fee usually required to view full pdf of original service record). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 
  6. ^ "WW1 Campaign Medals—Image details—Medal card of Olley, Gordon P" (fee usually required to view full pdf of original medal index card). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "No. 30287". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 September 1917. p. 9610. 
  8. ^ "No. 30535". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 February 1918. p. 2284. 
  9. ^ "No. 30541". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 February 1918. p. 2442. 
  10. ^ "No. 31449". The London Gazette. 11 July 1919. p. 8855. 
  11. ^ 'Above the Trenches'; Shores, Franks & Guest, page 294
  12. ^ "No. 32885". The London Gazette. 22 December 1923. p. 8452. 
  13. ^ "No. 32947". The London Gazette. 17 June 1924. p. 4747. 
  14. ^ "No. 33889". The London Gazette. 6 December 1932. p. 7749. 
  15. ^ "No. 34363". The London Gazette. 26 January 1937. p. 561.