Former colleagues have paid tribute to long-serving Trustee and more recently Life Vice-President of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, Air Commodore Jerry Witts DSO, who died on Wednesday (3 June). He was 69.
Air Cmdre Witts, who became a Trustee in May 2009 and was made a Life Vice-President in March last year, had been in a care home in Kent for the past few months. He leaves a wife, Liz.
Immediate Past President of the Trust and former Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon described him as “a man to remember”, while other Trustees were quick to pay their respects to a popular figure.
Jerry Witts entered the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell directly from school and was commissioned on Battle of Britain Day – 15 September – 1969.
After completing pilot training, he joined his first operational squadron in Cyprus in 1972 and completed tours as a co-pilot and then captain on the Vulcan B2 bomber before converting to fast jets.
He was promoted to squadron leader in 1980 and spent four years in Germany flying the Buccaneer S2B fighter bomber. After a tour in the Tornado Project Office at Strike Command, he attended the RAF Staff College in 1986 before promotion to wing commander and a staff appointment in the Ministry of Defence.
In 1989, he took command of No 31 Squadron, flying the Tornado GR1 at RAF Bruggen in Germany. He later commanded a composite RAF Tornado squadron based in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Promotion to group captain was followed by a return to Germany as Executive Officer to the NATO Commander Allied Air Forces Central Europe, and from 1997 to 1999 he commanded RAF Northolt, providing air transport for the Royal Family, the Government and senior military officers. In 1998, he was appointed as an Aide de Camp to HM The Queen and the following year he was detached to Corsica to set up and command the RAF Tornado force operating in support of NATO operations in Kosovo.
He was promoted to air commodore and appointed as Director of Operations in the air environment of the newly formed UK Defence Logistics Organisation and in 2002 he became the UK Air Attaché to the US based in Washington, DC.
On his return to the UK in 2005, he retired from the RAF and became Director of Finance and Administration at University College School.
“Jerry was a skilled pilot, a great character, a highly valued Trustee and a great friend to many people,” said Trust Chairman Richard Hunting CBE. “He will be sadly missed.”