Tim Thorn

Last updated

Tim Thorn
Born (1942-09-21) 21 September 1942 (age 79)
Atbara, Sudan
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of servicec. 1961–95
Rank Air Commodore
Commands held RAF Regiment (1993–95)
RAF Cranwell (1987–88)
No. II(AC) Squadron (1980–83)
Awards Air Force Cross
Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air

Air Commodore Timothy Gane Thorn, AFC , FRAeS (born 21 September 1942), often known as Tim Thorn and nicknamed "Tiger", is a retired Royal Air Force officer and up to January 2010 was a pilot and flying instructor at 6 Air Experience Flight at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire.


Early life

Thorn was born in Atbara, Sudan during the Second World War and attended Ipswich School from 1953 to 1961. Just after leaving school he represented Suffolk in the Minor Counties cricket competition as an 'opening' fast bowler. He entered the Royal Air Force College Cranwell as a flight cadet in September 1961. He graduated with his pilot wings in 1964 and on completion of the Advanced Flying Training he was selected to become a flying instructor straight out of training.

Thorn represented the RAF at Rugby and played for Blackheath Rugby Club.

RAF career

In May 1966, Thorn ejected from his aircraft following a mid-air collision with 4 other aircraft in which two aircraft crashed onto the outskirts of Nottingham. Thorn represented Great Britain in the bobsleigh at the 1968 Winter Olympics, Grenoble, France. [1] At the European Championships just prior to the Olympics he won bronze in the event. On completion of his flying instructors tour he started his succession of fighter squadron tours commencing in January 1968. Four Hawker Hunter tours followed: No. 8 Squadron based at RAF Muharraq, Bahrain (1968–69), No. 4 Squadron and No. II(AC) Squadron based at RAF Gutersloh, Germany (1969–71) and No. 234 Squadron based at RAF Chivenor, SW England, where he graduated from the Pilot Attack Instructors Course. Promoted to squadron leader in July 1972, having turned down the opportunity to become a Queen's Equerry, he was seconded to the British Army and joined the Parachute Regiment with 16 Parachute Brigade where he completed over one hundred parachute descents, one of which the parachute failed to open on an exercise parachuting into Schleswig-Holstein. The tour was shortened to attend the Indian Defence Services Staff College, in South India for a year in 1975.

On completion of Staff College, a return to flying duties on the new single-seat Jaguar aircraft followed, first as a Deputy OC No 41 (F) Sqn based at RAF Coltishall, where he was awarded a Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air.

Promoted to wing commander in July 1979, he completed the six-month Air Warfare Course at the RAF College, Cranwell, before assuming command of No. II (AC) Squadron in 1980, flying the Jaguar at RAF Laarbruch. Thorn was the first and only jaguar pilot to achieve one hundred percent air-to-ground strafe scores on no less than seven occasions, four of which both Aden guns of 60 rounds each fired simultaneously achieved 120 hits on Nordhorn range, West Germany and the other 3 with a single Aden gun firing 60 rounds achieving 60 hits on each sortie. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in December 1982. [2] In January 1983 he handed over command of No II (AC) Squadron to Wing Commander Hoare. [3] He was posted to the Operations Directorate in the Ministry of Defence with responsibility for future RAF air to ground weapons which included the development of a new nuclear weapon. In 1985 he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (FRAeS).

Thorn was promoted to group captain and was appointed Station Commander, RAF Cranwell in September 1987 before being succeeded by Group Captain T.E.L. Jarron. [4]

Thorn next held an appointment at the Training Command HQ before attending the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) in London during the year 1990. During the year's course he was promoted to air commodore and at the end of the course was appointed the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) at HQ RAF Germany in January 1991. He held this post until March 1993 when he became the first air commodore to be appointed the Commandant-General of the RAF Regiment whilst holding the post of Director of Fire Services, [5] and Head of the RAF Strike Command Provost Branch.

Nine lives

Thorn is renowned for his '9 lives' after surviving 10 major airborne emergencies:

8 July 1965-Jet Provost (XX549). With Flying Officer E Hempson Flamed-Out (jet engine stopped). Landed safely at RAF Little Rissington.
26 May 1966-Jet Provost. With Pilot Officer M Sedman (student) ejected after mid-air collision with four aircraft in formation near Nottingham.
28 September 1967-Jet Provost. With Pilot Officer Mussett(Student) landed with only 2 wheels locked down.
12 February 1969-Hunter FR(10)(XE599). Landed with no nose under-carriage at Bahrain Airport.
27 May 1969-Hunter FR(10)(XF436). Aircraft caught fire after take-off. Force landed with no engine.
28 July 1969-Hunter FR(10)(XF441). Only one wing fuel tank fed. Safe emergency landing.
11 May 1970-Hunter FR(10)(XF428). Aircraft engine flamed-out (Stopped) 300 feet (91 m) after take-off. Turned aircraft back towards runway for dead stick (no engine) landing.
24 May 1974-Chipmunk (WZ877) With Air Cadet, engine seized -Forced landed on golf course.
10 September 1974-Schleswig-Holstein. Survived parachute descent with unopened parachute jumping from Hercules aircraft flying at 650 feet (200 m) at night.
13 December 1997-Bulldog (XX639) with Air Cadet experienced a catastrophic engine failure at 350 feet (110 m) after take-off. Turned aircraft back to force-land safely back on reciprocal runway.


After he had prematurely retired from the RAF having achieved over 8,000 single seat flying hours and a total of 123 parachute descents, Thorn joined De Beers as the Head of Security for the Diamond Company with worldwide responsibility. At the same time he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training) Branch in December 1995 with the rank of flying officer. [6] In December 1997 he was awarded a Green Endorsement for an instance of Exceptional Flying Skill and Judgement when flying with an Air Training Corps (ATC) cadet in a RAF Tutor aircraft he successfully completed a forced landing back onto the airfield from 350 feet after the engine had failed and the propeller stopped. He was promoted to the rank of flight lieutenant in 2003. After 13 years service in the RAFVR he was awarded the Cadet medal in 2008. In November 2000, together with the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad he was heavily involved in successfully denying an attempt to steal £350 million display of De Beers diamonds (the Millennium Star and 11 unique Blue Diamonds) from the Millennium Dome, Greenwich, London. In 2005, he retired from De Beers at the age of 60 years and formed his own Security Consultancy Company dealing with the Jewellery Retail Trade and Diamond/Gold Mines. As a consequence of a change of RAF policy on the maximum age of RAF pilots he was forced to cease flying on 31 January 2010 but continued to run his consultancy until April 2019 when he finally retired at the age of 77 years.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air Training Corps</span> Military unit

The Air Training Corps (ATC) is a British volunteer-military youth organisation. They are sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Air Force. The majority of staff are volunteers, and some are paid for full-time work – including Commandant Air Cadets, a Full Term Reserve Service RAF officer. Although many ATC cadets go on to join the RAF or other services, the ATC is not a recruiting organisation for its parent service.

RAF Cranwell Royal Air Force training station in Lincolnshire, England

Royal Air Force Cranwell or more simply RAF Cranwell is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England, close to the village of Cranwell, near Sleaford. Among other functions, it is home to the Royal Air Force College (RAFC), which trains the RAF's new officers and Aircrew. The motto, Altium Altrix, meaning "Nurture the highest" appears above the main doors of the Officers Mess. RAF Cranwell is currently commanded by Group Captain Joanne Campbell.

RAF Henlow Royal Air Force support station in Bedfordshire, England

RAF Henlow is a Royal Air Force station in Bedfordshire, England, equidistant from Bedford, Luton and Stevenage. It houses the RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine, the Joint Arms Control Implementation Group (JACIG), elements of Defence Equipment and Support, and the Signals Museum. It formerly hosted light aircraft flying and 616 Volunteer Gliding Squadron. The Ministry of Defence announced on 6 September 2016 that the base is set to be closed following a consultation.

Grob G 115 German trainer aircraft

The Grob G 115 is a general aviation fixed-wing aircraft, primarily used for flight training. It is built in Germany by Grob Aircraft. The E variant with a 3-blade variable pitch propeller is in service with the Finnish Air Force, the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps for Flying Grading and in the Royal Air Force as part of No. 6 Flying Training School which provides flying to both University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights to Cadets of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. As of 2020, the Tutor is still being used by the RAF for some Elementary Flying Training (3FTS) but is due to be phased out in favour of its replacement, the Prefect T1.

Aircrew brevet Aircrew badge in RAF, British Army and other commonwealth nations

An aircrew flying badge is the badge worn on the left breast, above any medal ribbons, by qualified aircrew in the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, British Army, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, South African Air Force and Sri Lanka Air Force. An example of a real pilot brevet is as opposite:

Central Flying School British Royal Air Force pilot school

The Central Flying School (CFS) is the Royal Air Force's primary institution for the training of military flying instructors. Established in 1912 at the Upavon Aerodrome, it is the longest existing flying training school. The school was based at RAF Little Rissington from 1946 to 1976. Its motto is Imprimis Praecepta, Latin for "The Teaching is Everlasting".

Percival Provost 1950 trainer aircraft by Percival

The Percival P.56 Provost is a basic trainer aircraft that was designed and manufactured by British aviation company Percival.

Gordon Moulds

Air Commodore Gordon Moulds, CBE DL is a retired Senior Royal Air Force Officer who held various commands including most recently Commander of Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

Neville Duke

Neville Frederick Duke, was a British test pilot and fighter ace of the Second World War. He was credited with the destruction of 27 enemy aircraft. After the war, Duke was acknowledged as one of the world's foremost test pilots. In 1953, he became holder of the world air speed record when he flew a Hawker Hunter at 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h) over Littlehampton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">No. 1 Flying Training School RAF</span> Military pilot training school

The No. 1 Flying Training School is the oldest military pilot training school in the world, currently used to deliver rotary training to aircrew of the British armed forces.

Ian Stewart (RAF officer) British Royal Air Force officer

Air Commodore Ian Richard William Stewart is a retired British Royal Air Force officer. His last posting was as the United Kingdom National Military Representative at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. He was Commandant Air Cadets between 2008 and 2010, and Air Commodore, Royal Air Force Reserve from 2014.

Royal Air Force College Cranwell Royal Air Force training and education academy

The Royal Air Force College (RAFC) is the Royal Air Force military academy which provides initial training to all RAF personnel who are preparing to be commissioned officers. The College also provides initial training to aircrew cadets and is responsible for all RAF recruiting along with officer and aircrew selection. Originally established as a naval aviation training centre during World War I, the College was established as the world's first air academy in 1919. During World War II, the College was closed and its facilities were used as a flying training school. Reopening after the War, the College absorbed the Royal Air Force Technical College in 1966.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cliff Spink</span>

Air Marshal Clifford Rodney Spink, is a retired senior Royal Air Force officer, who is now a Spitfire display pilot on the national air display circuit. The first Spitfire he ever flew belonged to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, during his tenure as Station Commander of RAF Coningsby. He also served as the 23rd Commandant of the Royal Observer Corps, the last but one officer to hold the post.

<i>High Flight</i> (film) 1957 British film

High Flight is a 1957, CinemaScope, American, cold war children’s film in Technicolor, directed by John Gilling and featuring Ray Milland, Bernard Lee and Leslie Phillips. High Flight was filmed with the co-operation of the Royal Air Force (RAF). The title of the film was derived from the poem of the same title by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American aviator who flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and lost his life in 1941 over RAF Cranwell, where much of the film was shot.

Air Vice Marshal John Frederick George Howe, was a senior Royal Air Force officer in the 1970s and 1980s. He flew combat missions in the Korean War and North Sea interceptor air patrols during the Cold War, finishing his career as the Commandant General RAF Regiment and RAF Provost Marshal and Director General Security. Howe also served as the sixteenth Commandant of the Royal Observer Corps between 1977 and 1980.

No. 2 Flying Training School RAF Military unit

No.2 Flying Training School is a Flying Training School (FTS) of the Royal Air Force (RAF). It is part of No. 22 (Training) Group that delivers glider flying training to the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. Its headquarters is located at RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire and gliding takes places from several sites throughout the UK using the Grob Viking T1. The RAF Central Gliding School is also under its command.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">No. 3 Flying Training School RAF</span> Military unit

No. 3 Flying Training School is a Royal Air Force military training school, which manages elementary flying training for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and also for the training of all non-pilot aircrew for the RAF and is home to the Central Flying School Tutor Squadron.

No. 6 Flying Training School RAF is a Flying Training School (FTS) within No. 22 (Training) Group of the Royal Air Force that delivers flying training to University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights.

No. 4 Flying Training School RAF Military unit

No. 4 Flying Training School is a Royal Air Force military flying training school, which manages Advanced Fast Jet Training (AFJT) from its base at RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales. Its role is to provide fast jet aircrew to the Operational Conversion Units for the RAF's jet attack aircraft, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.


  1. Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Tim Thorn Olympic Results". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  2. "No. 49212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1982. p. 27.
  3. "Bosses Pages". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  4. http://www.rafweb.org/Stations/Station%20OCs-Lincs.htm
  5. "Other RAF Appointments_P". Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  6. "No. 54354". The London Gazette . 25 March 1996. p. 4431.
Military offices
Preceded by
R Fowler
Officer Commanding No. II (AC) Squadron
Succeeded by
F J Hoare
Preceded by Commandant-General of the RAF Regiment
Succeeded by
I McNeil