EULOGY: Philip H. Wiltshire (27 June 1938 – 2 March 2019)



Philip Howard Wiltshire, brother to Andrew Wiltshire…. was born in Boscombe, near Bournemouth to Thora and Alec Wiltshire on 27th June 1938, and lived in a house his father built in Christchurch.


When you are going through possessions and things after a person passes you find some amazing things, as he had a wealth of experience and opportunities in his life, and it amazes me that some of them I’ve now only just found out about.


Phil called flying a ‘Grand Passion' ..…..and grew up as a little lad watching Flash Gordon at the Saturday morning cinema, witnessing the roar of WW2 bombers coming over the house in Christchurch, which I’m sure contributed to what would become his lifelong love of aviation.


The family moved to Southampton in 1948, and Phil’s first taste of flying as a 10 year old boy was a quick circuit of Eastleigh in an Auster after helping the pilot wipe the flies from the windscreen.


Fourteen was the joining age for the Air Training Corps, but they let him in at thirteen.

(Possibly Phil’s very persuasive nature there, as I’m sure many of you here will know !!!).


I found a note from his Headmaster from Bitterne Park Secondary School from 1954, where Mr Collings remarked …….“He has always shown a keen interest in aircraft & their construction and I can commend him to any employer or an authority as a youth who will do their utmost to fire every satisfaction”….so his interest in flying had already begun!!


On leaving school he joined the Ministry of Supply in two roles, initially at the Aircraft Torpedo Development Unit at Gosport (known as HMS Siskin) working on guidance systems, followed by a second role at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, one of the key British research organisations of the time where he was involved in experimental flying of classified aircraft as a flight test observer, weapons projects, and even a project to develop explosion-proof fuel !!!


Joining the RAF on call up for National Service in 1957, he was stationed at many locations….He did actually tell me them all but, there more than I can remember, .……..amongst them Germany , West Drayton, Cottesmore and RAF Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, where , on a night out he met a young barmaid working at the Eagle Lodge, Freda Graham, later to become his wife of 50 years.  I was born in 1968 whilst Phil was stationed at Honiton, Devon.  


He spent the next 17 years in the Air Force and eventually attained the rank of Chief Technician, in charge of radar and navigation aids.


The RAF also enabled him to learn to fly, gaining his pilot’s license initially in gliders, then in powered aircraft. He even found time for other passions including motorcycling, …… this was just one of the things young RAF blokes did !!!, ….plus RAF pay did not stretch to car ownership.   He also somehow found the time to get into the abstract hobby of potholing and caving.


Following the RAF were 3 or 4 years as Senior Engineer at Luton Airport who were using the same radar equipment that Phil had been using in the RAF.

In 1976 Phil and Freda’s second son, Alex was born.  


A Role at Airline, Pan Am’s World Services arm who ran the airports in Oman, gave the young family an opportunity to move to the Middle East where Phil spent the next 11 years running the radars at Airports in Salalah & Muscat.


There were many adventures during this time…..I remember once , on a trip out into the desert in Oman , we were even flagged down at gunpoint by a tribesman, and forced to drive him ,  sitting in the back of our then brand new Datsun 120Y to his destination.

Thankfully we were then allowed to go on our way !!!.


Phil’s next stop was working in Germany using his expertise from the RAF and Pan Am to sell complete airfield projects back to the Middle East and then back to Oman until his retirement


On retirement he continued his flying, operating from Popham and Barton Ashes airfields, as well as flying several aircraft as part of ownership-syndicates, even building his own plane, a Sherwood Ranger, as well as operating as a test pilot for the Light Aircraft Association.


I remember during the build of his plane he actually TEST RAN THE ENGINE IN HIS FRONT GARDEN! much to the bemusement of his neighbours !


There have been many good memories and events, that many here have attended ………Mum and Dad celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and Phil’s 80th Birthday last year.  There have been some great Fly-ins & BBQ’s at Barton Ashes and other Airfields. He was also a member of two aviation societies, the LAA Andover Strut, and the South Hants Historical Aviation Society,

and he contributed to their newsletters as well as arranging presentations and speakers for their regular meetings.


Phil also helped at the Starlight Foundation enabling Children with terminal illnesses to enjoy flying, plus I can remember countless flights to pretty much all of the UK’s aerodromes …… some good times.


…However….the last year has been extremely hard, …..and this is really summed up in a voicemail I received from someone who had returned from visiting him in late February last year, when he first went in to hospital, and this was a time we thought he might not make it, that just said “I’ve been in to see Phil…….pause……’it’s grim’ “


Through sheer determination (and very probably the Wiltshire stubbornness?), …..….….. a confusing myriad of drugs, numerous hospital visits and procedures, … is a testament to Phil’s determination ,and sheer bloody-mindedness that he has managed a relatively normal life … meeting friends, driving, even flying.   


During this time, he has had a fantastic support network at his home, all who have helped him greatly, including his brother Andrew, the NHS, Macmillan and the Church of the Ascension in Bitterne Park plus many more who have helped him up until he went into Countess Mountbatten Hospice a few weeks ago. Thank you so much to all of you.

Even at the end , he was still remarking on what an incredible life he’d lead….. that he’d had an amazing life , and speaking to a friend of Phil’s last week he summed it up very well as…..…

“An aviation life well lived!”



I ended with a poem called Impressions of a Pilot


Flight is freedom in its purest form,

To dance with the clouds which follow a storm;

To roll and glide, to wheel and spin,

To feel the joy that swells within.


To leave the earth with its troubles and fly,

And know the warmth of a clear spring sky;

Then back to earth at the end of the day,

Released from the tensions which melted away.


Should my end come while I am in flight,

Whether brightest day or darkest night;

Spare me no pity and shrug off the pain,

Secure in the knowledge that I'd do it again.


For each of us is created to die,

And within me I know,

I was born to fly.


Gary Claude Stoker



by Robert Wiltshire