Rex Tilley

by Frank Tibbo

Tilley Place is a beautiful street off Morgan Drive. It was named to honour the first Officer-In-Charge of Air Traffic Control in Gander. Rex Tilley has quite a few other credits in life besides that distinction, however like most veterans of World War II, he's rather reluctant to talk about that phase of his distinguished career. If you have read the book Charlie Baker George, you will have an insight of some of his characteristics.

Tilley was born in Elliston, Trinity Bay in 1914 and after completing Grade 11, went on to Memorial College where he trained to be a school teacher. During the next few years he taught at various places in Newfoundland

Tilley volunteered for military duty and received his call from the Royal Air Force in August 1940.He became a member of the first group to take part in the Empire Training Program. Between then and December he trained at Goderich, On. and Summerside, PEI. In June 1941 he was posted to Scotland in an Operational Training Unit, flying single engine Defiant night fighters and by November 1941 he was a member of the 125 (Nfld) Squadron operation Defiant aircraft.

In March 1942, he converted to twin-engine Beaufighters and in January 1944 he was transferred to Mosquito aircraft. By June of that year the RAF had him instructing on twin-engine aircraft, a task that lasted five months. He started his second operational tour in November 1944 and completed his last night patrol on the Norwegian coast on Sept.17,1945.

Tiller is typical of most war veterans when asked to comment on some dangerous mission. Instead of telling a story of daring and danger when faced with enemy aircraft, he told me about a bad landing. He was an expert pilot - he didn't say that - I did. The RAF had top notch pilots for instructors. One day, during a break from operational duty, he was instructing at an operational training unit on twin-engine aircraft. The purpose of the flight was to show how to land the twin-engine Mosquito. He said "I don't think I ever made a worse landing - in fact it was nearly a crash. I kept pretty cool (on the outside) pretending it was a normal demonstration of HOW NOT to land this aircraft. I'm sure the pupil felt as I did inside - frightened to death."

The RAF kept him in uniform for a year after the war was over. Finally in August 1946 he was released and returned to Newfoundland where he was appointed senior air traffic controller at Gander Airport. He remained in that position for six years and in 1952 was appointed operations manager of Gander Airport. That promotion was followed by another in 1956 when he became the airport manager of Gander International Airport. In 1964 he departed Gander for Moncton where he was appointed regional manager of airports in the Atlantic Region. He worked in that position until 1977 when he retired and returned to Newfoundland.

As published in the Gander Beacon and written by Frank Tibbo




top return to top