Gillum, Kenneth Sidney


He was the eldest son of Sidney Julius Gillum (F 1889-95), of Reigate, Surrey, and his wife Dorothea (daughter of Charles Stewart Smith, of Clent, Worcestershire).  He was the brother of John Reginald Gillum (E 1930-34).

He went up to King’s College, Cambridge, his father’s old college, in 1941, and was reading agriculture when called up. Riding and farming were his main interests; while still at Winchester he was  often seen driving a tractor in the neighbourhood of Chilcomb. He went into the Royal Armoured Corps in 1942, but transferred to the airborne forces in 1943.

Gillum had been recruited into a specialist parachute unit, 22nd Independent Parachute Company.   The purpose of the unit was to mark the parachute drop-zones and glider landing-zones with ‘Eureka’ radio beacons, lights, and marker panels.   The dropping aircraft used homing devices known as ‘Rebecca’ sets to home in on the ‘Eureka’ beacons. Having marked the zones, the path-finders would defend the area and afterwards attach themselves to divisional headquarters for whatever tasks were needed.

Gillum and his fellow path-finders were among the very first troops to be dropped on D-Day to hold the east of the Normandy beach-head.   They were to mark three drop-zones and as a guarantee of success two aircraft-loads of men (known as “sticks”) were to be dropped on each.  From the beginning the drop went wrong.  The aircraft had difficulty in identifying the drop-zones and in three instances they needed two or more runs over the target – resulting in drops being many minutes late.    The Commanding Officer, Major Lennox-Boyd prematurely exited south east of the drop-zone and was killed.

Gillum was one of ten men, commanded by Captain Ian Tait, on board Albemarle P1383 of 297 Squadron, who managed to land on the south-east corner of their drop zone “N” and erect their Eureka beacons.     They then made their way to the company concentration area near Divisional HQ at Le Bas Ranville.

Once the Company had rendezvoused, it was used as infantry. In the days which followed attempts were made to capture the village of Bréville, which was strongly held by the Germans, overlooked the Ranville area, and split the British positions.

Gillum was killed at Bréville in the fierce fighting of the first days of the battle on June 9th 1944 (the village fell on June 12th).

Aged twenty when he died, Gillum is buried in Ranville War Cemetery, grave IVA.B.6. His tombstone bears the inscription:

“He that believeth in me,

though he were dead,

yet shall he live.”

St. John XI.25

War: World War 2

  • Surname: Gillum
  • Forenames or initials: Kenneth Sidney
  • House: E
  • Years in School: 1936-1941
  • Rank: Private
  • Regiment: Parachute Company, 6th Airborne Division
  • Date of Birth: 31st July 1923
  • Date of Death: 9th June 1944
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner B1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Ranville War Cemetery: Grave IVA.B.6