Tom was from Birkenhead and a father and a grandfather of four. He died at home at the age of 88 on Sunday 19th of February, surrounded by his family. His funeral is due to take place on Wednesday the 29th of February at Landican Cemetery on the Wirral.
Tom ‘Paddy’ O’Reilly began his career with the RAF aged 17. He quickly became a seasoned Hurricane pilot, flying on convoy patrols over the Channel. Tom trained in England, South Africa and the Middle East and by the time he was 21 he was a flying veteran and had risen to the rank of Warrant Officer.
When stationed in Malta in early 1944 he transferred to 229 Squadron converting onto Spitfires and it was in Spitfires that he took part in what he considered to be one of the most important operations of the Second World War: the protection of Allied troops during the D-Day invasion. He was amongst the first escorts for the invasion fleet massing in the Channel heading for the Normandy beach heads. Tom also fought over North Africa and throughout the Mediterranean.
Paying tribute his son David said: “He was a great man, always putting others ahead of himself and was a very courageous man. Even during his last weeks in hospital, when we visited him he always asked how we were, even though he was in excruciating pain.”
Tom, a member of the Spitfire Society, will be remembered with affection by those who knew him and with gratitude by those of us whose future he protected so long ago.