Bill Tollitt

Tie Club # 1552

The first RAF pilot to have his life saved by an ejection seat was our Dad, Bill Tollitt. On July 3rd 1951, when he was serving with No 65 squadron at Linton-on-Ouse, Bill’s Meteor collided with another aircraft and went into a tight inverted spin.  In his last moments of consciousness, Bill managed to activate the ejection seat and he was ejected downwards.  He felt himself tumbling through the air.  It was a manual seat, and because he was disoriented and his fingers had lost all feeling, Bill was unable to release himself from the seat.  With numbed hands he managed to pull his parachute ripcord, and because his seat had been damaged in the process of ejection, the parachute was able to emerge.  A farmer saw the aircraft crash into a field and then saw a parachute with a man in a large seat descend in the next field.  The farmer thought that the pilot was dead and dashed off to phone the RAF base.  When he returned he was surprised to find Bill alive.  Bill had fractured his skull on landing, had frostbitten fingers and bruised eyes.  He spent a week in hospital.   His twin sister Monica Beckett, remembers hitch hiking from Marlborough when she was told about the crash and visiting him in hospital.  She has told us that Bill was also visited in hospital very soon after the crash by James Martin, founder of Martin-Baker.  Bill went on to fly in the Canadian Air Force and then for Cambrian Airways until he sadly died from cancer in 1968 at the age of 40.  Bill’s three children and five grandchildren would not be here today were it not for the ejection seat.  He has a son and a granddaughter who are commercial pilots, we are all grateful that his life was saved that day.  Thank You.

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