Born, raised and educated in Marlborough Jerry Witts, later Air Commodore Jerry Witts, eldest child of the late Eddy and Joan Witts, has died after a long illness.
Jerry, along with sisters Aileen and Marilyn and brothers Ashley and Simon attended Marlborough Grammar School (now St John’s Academy) and St Peter’s Junior school before that.
A keen swimmer, artist, chorister and bellringer, Jerry found his true passion with the local Air Training Cadets (ATC), learning to fly before he got his driving licence. At 18, Jerry joined the RAF where he stayed until retirement in 2005.
With his first wife Maggie, he was posted to many locations both in the UK and abroad but, as soon as they were able, they purchased a permanent home in Marlborough as a base for the family. In 1991, as Wing Commander, he oversaw several Tornado Squadrons during Desert Storm and he led the detachment’s first combat sortie, and thirteen subsequent missions.
For this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, his citation noting that he “led his squadron with consummate courage, outstanding flying skill and in a manner that reflects the highest traditions of the Service. One of his officers commented: “Throughout all the troubles, Jerry stood tall taking a pragmatic view at all times. His leadership was outstanding and I do not know any one of 400 of us out there who would not follow him anywhere.” A more fulsome overview of his RAF career can be found in his obituary in the Daily Telegraph.
In his final RAF posting, Jerry was appointed Air Attaché and Assistant Defence Attaché at the British Embassy in Washington DC. In this position, he was instrumental in facilitating the transport of the dismantled Aldbourne stables, WWII home to the US “Band of Brothers”, from RAF Brize Norton to Toccoa, Georgia where they now form part of the US Military’s historical memorabilia. Jerry always retained close ties with his home town and served for some years as President of the Marlborough British Legion.
After retiring from the RAF, he became Director of Finance and Administration at University College School, Hampstead, and gained an MSc in International Security and Global Governance from Birkbeck College, University of London. He was Chair of Governors at Westminster Academy and is remembered as bringing a ‘calm and deft touch to everything he was involved with’ on the school’s journey to its current ‘Outstanding’ status. He remained at Hampstead until his health began to deteriorate in 2013. He was later diagnosed with Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) and eventually required 24 hour care.
Jerry is survived by his wife Liz, children Rebecca, Claire and Andrew, their mother Maggie and grandson Harry; step-children Laura, Alex and Sophie and grandsons Wilfred and Rufus; siblings Marilyn, Aileen, Ashley and Simon; his beloved aunt, Mary Holmes, and many nieces and nephews.
Whilst Jerry was a cadet in the Marlborough ATC, Maurice Cooper, twice Marlborough Mayor and father of the present town Mayor Mark Cooper was one of the Commanding Officers. Maurice’s widow, Rosemary said “It was one of Maurice’s proudest moments when he took the salute for the Wilts/Dorset Annual Parade, held in Marlborough to honour him as Mayor, that Air Commodore Jerry Witts was by his side in a joint salute.”