Battle of Britain – Triple Aces – Who were the ‘Triple Flying Aces’

Triple Aces were pilots who were credited with shooting down 15 or more enemy aircraft. The Battle of Britain produced many aces (men who shot down 5 or more enemy aircraft) but triple aces were very rare. The figures below for triple ace kills are from July 1st 1940 to October 31st 1940 and include where necessary, where a pilot was in more than one squadron


The views and opinions expressed in this page and  documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in The Battle of Britain They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.



The Best fighter pilot of Battle of Britain


WWII: Battle of Britain


Carbury, B (Flying Officer) – 15 kills, 1 shared

 Flight Lieutenant Brian John George Carbury DFC* (27 February 1918 – 31 July 1961) was a New Zealand fighter ace of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.[1] He was credited with being one of three “aces in a day” in the Battle of Britain as he shot down five aircraft on 31 August 1940. The others were Archie McKellar, a British pilot, and Antoni Glowacki of Poland.


The 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) son of a Wellington, New Zealand veterinarian, Brian John George Carbury was raised in Auckland where he attended King’s College from 1932 to 1934. He joined Farmers’ Trading Co. on leaving school, but sick of the job as a shoe salesman,[2] he headed to the United Kingdom in 1937 to join the Royal Navy. Being told he was too old, he joined the Royal Air Force on a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer.[3]

June 1938 – July 1940

Carbury joined No. 41 Squadron RAF in June 1938, his rank was confirmed on 27 September 1938,[4] flying the Hawker Fury. In August 1939 he was posted to RAF Turnhouse near Edinburgh, Scotland with No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force as training officer, flying Spitfires. As an Auxiliary Air Force squadron, No. 603 were week-end ‘part-time’ airmen doing other jobs during the week. But as war approached the squadron was put onto a full-time footing and Carbury was permanently attached from the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. During the Phoney War, No. 603 gained pilots P.O Richard Hillary—later the author of The Last Enemy; and B. G. ‘Stapme’ Stapleton who shot down Franz von Werra, the only German PoW to escape and return to the Third Reich.

Scotland was far away from the more accessible targets in the south of England, but was in range for the Luftwaffe’s long range bombers and reconnaissance aircraft shadowing the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet in Northern Scotland and the North Sea. On 16 October a section of 603 was scrambled and shot down a Junkers Ju-88 bomber into the North Sea east of Dalkeith, the first German aircraft to be shot down over British territory since 1918. Carbury probably destroyed an Heinkel He 111 on 7 December, and claimed a third share in the destruction of another He 111 during January 1940. Carbury was promoted to Flying Officer on 27 April 1940.[5]

August 1940 – October 1940

In light of RAF Fighter Command‘s dire need for pilots in the battles over southern England during August 1940, No. 603 redeployed to RAF Hornchurch, becoming active in the Battle of Britain from 27 August 1940.

Carbury claimed his first victory on 29 August, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. He claimed another on the 30th, and three more on the 31st, together with two He 111’s[6] – taking his total to 8 and 1/3, and making him a fighter ace. Hillary was shot down on 3 September in combat with Bf 109’s of Jagdgeschwader 26 off Margate at 10:04hrs – rescued by the Margate lifeboat, he was severely burned and spent the next three years in hospital.[7] In September Carbury claimed three more Bf 109’s, and after sustaining wounds to his feet during actions in September, his efforts were recognised by the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The award was gazetted on 24 September 1940:[8]

Air Ministry, 24th September, 1940.ROYAL AIR FORCE

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the undermentioned appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy : —

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Flying Officer Brian John George CARBURY (40288).

During operations on the North East coast Flying Officer Carbury led his section in an attack on two enemy aircraft. Both were destroyed. From 28th August, 1940, to 2nd September, 1940, he has, with his squadron, been almost continuously engaged against large enemy raids over Kent, and has destroyed eight enemy aircraft. Five of these were shot down during three successive engagements in one day.

Carbury continued his toll of victories in October, as the German’s intensified their high-level fighter-bomber attacks on London. His first two victories for the month were a Bf109 over the Thames Estuary on the 2nd, and another in southeast London on 7 October. Based at RAF Manston on the 10th, Carbury noticed three Bf 109’s returning to northern France—leading three Spitfires into attack, he shot the first in to the English Channel, and a second on to the beach at Dunkirk. On 14 October, he damaged a Junkers Ju 88.

The official end of the Battle of Britain came at the end of October, when Carbury was awarded a Bar to the DFC—one of fewer than five pilots given the double award for victories claimed during the period of the Battle of Britain. With destruction of 15 enemy aircraft destroyed (and 2 victories shared destroyed), 2 probables and 5 damaged,[9] Carbury was among the five top-scoring pilots in RAF Fighter Command and the top scorer against Bf 109s [10] during the Battle of Britain along with Eric Lock. The award of the bar to his DFC was gazetted on 25 October 1940:[11]

Air Ministry, 25th October, 1940.ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—

Awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross

Flying Officer Brian John George CARBURY, D.F.C. (40288).

Flying Officer Carbury has displayed outstanding gallantry and skill in engagements against the enemy. Previous to 8th September, 1940, this officer shot down eight enemy aircraft, and shared in the destruction of two others. Since that date he has destroyed two Messerschmitt 109-5 and two Heinkel 113’s, and, in company with other pilots of his squadron, also assisted in the destruction of yet another two enemy aircraft. His cool courage in the face of the enemy has been a splendid example to other pilots of his squadron.

December 1940 onwards

No. 603 Squadron and Carbury returned to Scotland on scheduled rotation in December 1940. On Christmas Day Carbury was scrambled to intercept a Junker Ju 88 reported off St Abb’s Head, inflicting damage before the German aircraft turned for home.

Early in 1941 Carbury was posted to be an instructor at the Central Flying School and then 58 OTU at Grangemouth, and did not fly operationally in combat again. Unfortunately later that year he was charged with fraud after being accused of passing between 9 and 17 false cheques, an offence that at the time could attract a prison sentence. At his RAF court martial, he was found guilty and on 21 October 1941 the London Gazette announced: “Flg. Off. B. J. G. CARBURY, DFC (40288), to be dismissed the Service by sentence of General Court-Martial. 1 Oct 1941.” [12]

Hillary on Carbury

In his book The Last Enemy, Richard Hillary said of Carbury:[2]

I thought of the men I had known, of the men who were living and the men who were dead; and I came to this conclusion. It was to the Carburys and the Berrys [Alan Berry] of this war that Britain must look, to the tough practical men who had come up the hard way, who were not fighting this war for any philosophical principles or economic ideals; who, unlike the average Oxford undergraduate, were not flying for aesthetic reasons, but because of an instinctive knowledge that this was the job for which they were most suited. These were the men who had blasted and would continue to blast the Luftwaffe out of the sky while their more intellectual comrades would, alas, in the main be killed. They might answer, if asked why they fought, ‘To smash Hitler!’ But instinctively, inarticulately, they too were fighting for the things that Peter had died to preserve.

Combat Record

Date Service Flying Kills Probables Notes
7 December 1939 Royal Air Force Spitfire Damaged 1 *Heinkel He 111 Flying from RAF Turnhouse
7 March 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1/2 * Heinkel He 111
3 July 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1/3 * Junkers Ju 88
29 August 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 *Messerschmitt Bf 109 Flying from RAF Manston
30 August 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 * Messerschmitt Bf 109 Fw. Ernst Arnold of 3/JG27[13]
31 August 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 2 * Heinkel He 113
3 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
September, 1940 Awarded DFC
2 September 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
7 September 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 2 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
14 September 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
2 October 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
7 October 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
10 October 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 2 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
14 October 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire Damaged Junkers Ju 88
October, 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire Awarded DFC Bar
25 December 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire Damaged Junkers Ju 88 Flying from RAF Turnhouse
TOTALS 15½ kills 0 probable

Post war

After leaving the RAF, he lived in England until his death in July 1962.[14] In 1949, he along with three others, in a trial at Princes Risborough Magistrates’ Court, was found guilty of two offences relating to the illegal export of Bristol Beaufighters to Palestine.[15] Each man was fined a total of £100.[15] The defence solicitor described the four as “stooges” of a fifth man who had remained in Palestine.[15]


In 1961, Carbury was diagnosed with terminal acute leukaemia and died soon after in High Wycombe Hospital (then the War Memorial Hospital). He was later cremated at Breakspear crematorium near Ruislip. A memorial to his memory was erected in his home town of Wellington, New Zealand.


Frantisek, J (Sergeant) – 17 kills –

Killed in Action 08/10/40

 Sergeant Josef František DFM * (7 October 1914, Otaslavice – 8 October 1940) was a Czech fighter pilot and World War II flying ace who flew for the air forces of Czechoslovakia, Poland and the United Kingdom. He is famous as being one of the highest scoring Allied aces in the Battle of Britain.


Born in Otaslavice in 1913, Josef František joined the Czechoslovak Air Force in 1934. After basic training he joined the Czechoslovak Air Force Air Regiment 2. In 1935 he was a Corporal in Air Regiment 1 and returned to Air Regiment 2 as a Sergeant in 1937. In June 1938 he became a fighter pilot serving in the 40th squadron in Prague flying the Avia B-534 and Bk-534 fighter. After Czechoslovakia fell under German occupation (15 March 1939) like many other Czechoslovak airmen he escaped to Poland. Most Czechoslovak airmen then left Poland for France before the start of the Second World War, though František decided to stay and serve with the Polish Air Force.

During the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, František initially evacuated training aircraft from the air base at Dęblin. From 7 September he flew reconnaissance missions in an unarmed training plane, a RWD-8. On 19–20 September he attacked enemy columns near Kamionka Strumiłowa, throwing hand grenades on the troops below. On 20 September he was shot down near Złoczów, but was saved by a Polish crew that landed nearby. On 22 September František’s unit was ordered to withdraw with their remaining aircraft to Romania. František managed to abscond from an internment camp in Romania and reached France via North Africa in October 1939.

In France František elected to remain with the Poles instead of joining the exiled Czechoslovak air force (a probable reason for this decision was a conflict with a Czech officer, who tried to arrest him for insubordination.)

He was flying only old fashioned planes with fixed undercarriage and there are no official French records to confirm he flew combat missions during the Battle of France. After the fall of France František fled to Britain and after training on 2 August was assigned to No. 303 Polish Squadron based at RAF Northolt, flying Hawker Hurricane fighters. The squadron entered action in the last phase of the Battle of Britain. The first confirmed victory of Sgt. František was a German Bf 109E fighter on 2 September 1940.

A very ill-disciplined pilot,[1] he was seen by his commanding officers as a danger to his colleagues when flying in formation. His British CO Squadron Leader R. Kellett, offered to arrange for František’s transfer to a Czech squadron, but František preferred to stay and fight alongside his Polish colleagues. As all pilots were valuable, a compromise was created whereby František was allotted a “spare” aircraft so he could fly as a “guest” of the Squadron as and when he wanted to. Thus, František fought his own private war – accompanying the squadron into the air, but peeling off to fly a lone patrol over Kent, patrolling in the area through which he knew the German aircraft being intercepted would fly on their way back to base, possibly damaged and low on fuel and ammo. During the following month he shot down 17 German aircraft and 1 probable, of which 9 were Bf 109s, becoming one of the top scoring Allied fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain. His last victory was on 30 September 1940 and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

On 8 October 1940, František’s Hurricane crashed in Ewell, Surrey during a landing approach after a patrol. Reasons for the crash are not known, but according to some theories, he may have been making aerobatic figures to impress his girlfriend,[citation needed] or it might have been a result of battle fatigue and physical exhaustion.

He was buried in a Polish military cemetery. He was awarded several decorations, among them the Virtuti Militari 5th class and he was the first foreigner awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal with Bar.

Honours and awards

Virtuti Militari Ribbon.png Virtuti Militari Silver Cross (Poland)
POL Krzyż Walecznych 3r BAR.svg Cross of Valour 3 times (Poland)
Ruban de la croix de guerre 1939-1945.PNG Croix de guerre (France)
DFM w Bar ribbon.svg Distinguished Flying Medal and bar (United Kingdom)

Gray, C (Pilot Officer) – 15 kills, 1 shared

Colin Gray.jpg

Group Captain Colin Falkland Gray DSODFC & Two Bars (9 November 1914 – 1 August 1995) was the top New Zealand fighter ace of the Second World War.

Born in 1914, Gray was accepted into the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1939 after two previous attempts failed on medical grounds. He flew with No. 54 Squadron during the Battles of France and Battle of Britain, and had shot down 14 aircraft and had a half share in another by September 1940. He later added another 13 kills while leading fighter squadrons and wings in the North African and Italian Campaigns, and finished the war with a confirmed 27½ kills. After the war he held a number of staff and command positions in the RAF before his eventual retirement in 1961. He returned to New Zealand to work for Unilever. He died in 1995 at the age of 80.

Early life

Colin Falkland Gray and his twin brother Ken were born in Christchurch, New Zealand on 9 November 1914, the sons of an electrical engineer and his wife. He attended schools in the lower North Island and in Christchurch. He gained employment as a stock clerk in 1933, working at Dalgety and Company. In 1937, Gray, along with Ken, attempted to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1937. While Ken was accepted, Colin failed for medical reasons.[1]

A second attempt also resulted in failure on medical grounds and after this, to improve his fitness, Gray took up sheep mustering. He was successful on a third application to join the RAF and was granted a short-term commission at the beginning of 1939. His flight training was conducted at the de Havilland flying school at Hatfield in Hertfordshire, England. He was posted to No 11 Flying Training School from which he graduated as a probationary pilot officer in October 1939.[1]

Second World War

Gray was posted to No. 54 Squadron, at the time equipped with Supermarine Spitfires and based at Hornchurch, in November.[1] He was confirmed in his rank of pilot officer on 17 January 1940.[2] During the Phoney War he participated in patrols over the English Channel up until May 1940. The death of his brother Ken, in a flying accident on 1 May 1940, affected his morale.[1]

After initial combat on 24 May (claiming two ‘probable’ victories), Gray had a share in his first confirmed enemy aircraft, a Messerschmitt Bf 109, on 25 May 1940, while escorting a formation of Fairey Swordfish to dive-bomb Gravelines. His Spitfire was badly damaged in the engagement, and damage to the port aileron forced the aircraft into a dive that was controlled only with great difficulty. His aircraft had also lost its airspeed indicator and control of guns, flaps or brakes.[3] Despite this damage, Gray managed to force land safely at Hornchurch.[1]

On 13 July 1940, Gray shot down his second Bf 109 near Calais after a long chase at sea level. The pilot, Leutnant Hans-Joachim Lange of III./JG 51, was killed.[4] 54 Squadron was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain, tasked with the defence of the approaches to London. On 24 July, he shot down Staffelkapitän Lothar Ehrlich of 8./JG 52. Gray observed Ehrlich to bail out into the Channel and swim for what Gray believed to be a dingy. He radioed the man’s position, but the pilot did not survive the water conditions.[5] Alternately, it is possible his victim was Leutnant Schauff from III./JG 26.[6] On 16 August, he claimed two Bf 109s destroyed. No. 54’s opponents were JG 54. I./JG 54 lost one Bf 109—the unnamed pilot being killed in a crash at Saint-Inglevert airfield after returning from the battle. 3./JG 54 and 9./JG 54 suffered the loss of one Bf 109 each and their pilots (one killed and one missing) over English territory. Their names are unknown.[7] On 24 August, his flight was attacked by elements of I./JG 54 near RAF Manston. During the battle, he shot down Oberleutnant Heinrich Held.[8] On 31 August, he downed Oberleutnant Karl Westerhof from 6./JG 3.[9] Another source identifies 9./JG 26 pilot Oberleunant Willy Fronhöfer as his victim.[10] By early September, Gray had claimed 14½ kills, and his squadron was sent north to rest and re-equip. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 15 August 1940.[1]

Gray was promoted to flying officer on 23 October 1940.[11] He then served with 43 Squadron, before returning to 54 Squadron. Gray remained with the squadron until he was posted to 1 Squadron.[12] He was promoted to flight lieutenant in August 1941[13] and the following month was awarded a Bar to his DFC. The same month, he was posted to No. 616 Squadron to serve as its commander until February 1942, at which time he took up a staff posting at 9 Group.[1]

Returning to operations in September 1942, Gray, promoted to acting squadron leader, took over No. 64 Squadron, which operated over the English Channel and France. At the end of the year, he was posted to the Mediterranean Theatre,[1] firstly to 333 Group[12] and then in January 1943, to command of No. 81 Squadron, based in Algeria, the first unit to fly the Spitfire Mk. IX in the Middle East. During his service with the squadron, he shot down a further eight aircraft bring his personal tally to 22.[1] For his leadership and actions during this period, Gray was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.[12]

Gray was promoted to acting wing commander on 1 June 1943 and took over No. 322 Wing, which at the time was based on Malta. Conducting patrols over the Italian coast and supporting the Allied invasion of Sicily, he shot down a further five aircraft. His final kills came on 25 July 1943, when he shot down two Junkers Ju 52 transports.[1] He was promoted to war substantive squadron leader on 1 September 1943.[14] Later that month, he returned to England for a rest from active duty.[1]

A second Bar to Gray’s DFC was awarded in November.[1] He returned to operational duty in England, with 9 Group.[12] In August 1944, he was appointed Wing Commander of the Lympne Wing, which carried out operations over France and the occupied Netherlands.[1] He did not increase his tally of kills and finished the war with 27 aerial kills, two shared destroyed, six probable kills, with a further four shared probables,[15] the top New Zealand fighter ace of the Second World War.[16]


Gray returned to New Zealand on secondment to the Royal New Zealand Air Force from July 1945 to March 1946.[12] He was retroactively promoted to the permanent rank of flight lieutenant from 23 January 1943,[17] and received a retroactive promotion to temporary squadron leader from 1 July 1945.[18] He was promoted to the substantive rank of squadron leader on 1 September 1945.[19] Back in England after the end of his secondment, he was promoted to wing commander on 1 July 1947.[20] He served in the Air Ministry until 1949.[12] He then served in Washington, D.C. on the Joint Services Mission United States as an air liaison officer.[1] In 1954, after a period of time training in the Gloster Meteor, he commanded RAF Church Fenton in Yorkshire for two years,[12] during which he was promoted to group captain on 1 January 1955.[21] He was posted to HQ Far East Air Force in Singapore for three years before a return to the Air Ministry in 1959 and his subsequent retirement in March 1961.[12]

Later life

Gray returned to New Zealand to work for Unilever in Petone as its personnel director until 1979, at which time he retired. He settled in Waikanae and in his later years, he wrote Spitfire Patrol, an autobiography detailing his time in the RAF and which was published in 1990.

Gray died in Kenepuru Hospital, Porirua, on 1 August 1995, survived by his wife, Betty, whom he had married in October 1945, and his four children and a stepdaughter.


Lacey, J (Sergeant) – 18 kills

Ginger Lacey.jpg

 Squadron Leader James Harry “Ginger” Lacey DFM & Bar (1 February 1917 – 30 May 1989) was one of the top scoring Royal Air Force fighter pilots of the Second World War and was the second highest scoring British RAF fighter pilot of the Battle of Britain, behind Pilot Officer Eric Lock of No. 41 Squadron RAF. Lacey was credited with 28 enemy aircraft destroyed, five probables and nine damaged.[1]

Early years

Lacey left King James Grammar School, Knaresborough[2] in 1933 continuing his education at Leeds Technical College.[3] After four years as an apprentice pharmacist, he joined the RAFVR (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve) in January 1937 as a trainee pilot at Perth, Scotland. In 1938, he then took an instructor’s course, becoming an instructor at the Yorkshire Flying School, accumulating 1,000 hours of flight time before the war.[4] Called up at the outbreak of war, he joined No. 501 Squadron RAF.

Second World War

Battle of France

On 10 May 1940, the Squadron moved to Bétheniville in France where Lacey experienced his first combat. On the afternoon of 13 May over Sedan, he destroyed a Heinkel He 111 of KG 53 [5] and an escorting Messerschmitt Bf 109 on one sortie, followed by a Messerschmitt Bf 110 later in the afternoon.[6] He claimed two more He 111s on 27 May, before the squadron was withdrawn to England on 19 June, having claimed nearly 60 victories. On 9 June, he crash landed and was almost drowned in a swamp. During his operational duties in France, he was awarded the French Croix de guerre.

Battle of Britain

Flying throughout the Battle of Britain with No. 501 based at Gravesend or Croydon, Lacey became one of the highest scoring pilots of the battle. His first kill of the battle was on 20 July 1940, when he shot down a Bf 109E of Jagdgeschwader 27. He then claimed a destroyed Ju 87 and a “probable” Ju 87 on 12 August along with a damaged Bf 110 and damaged Do 17 on 15 August, a probable Bf 109 on 16 August. He destroyed a Ju 88, damaged a Dornier Do 17 on 24 August and shot down a Bf 109 of Jagdgeschwader 3 on 29 August. He bailed out unharmed after being hit by return fire from a Heinkel He 111 on 13 August.

On 23 August 1940, Lacey was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal after the destruction of 6 enemy aircraft.[7]

On 30 August 1940, during combat over the Thames Estuary, Lacey shot down a He 111 and damaged a Bf 110 before his Hurricane was badly hit from enemy fire. His engine stopped and he decided to glide the stricken aircraft back to the airfield at Gravesend instead of bailing out into the Estuary.

A highly successful August was completed when he destroyed a Bf 109 on 31 August.

On 2 September 1940, Lacey shot down two Bf 109s and damaged a Do 17. He then shot down another two Bf 109s on 5 September. During a heavy raid on 13 September, he engaged a formation of Kampfgeschwader 55 He 111s over London where he shot down one of the bombers that had just bombed Buckingham Palace. He then bailed out of his aircraft, sustaining slight injuries, as he could not find his airfield in the worsening visibility.

Returning to the action shortly thereafter, he shot down a He 111, three Bf 109s and damaged another on 15 September 1940, one of the heaviest days of fighting during the whole battle, which later became known as “Battle of Britain Day”. During the battle he attacked a formation of 12 Bf 109s, shooting down two before the other had noticed before escaping into cloud[8]

Two days later on 17 September, he was shot down over Ashford, Kent during a dogfight with Bf 109s and bailed out without injury. On 27 September, he destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged a Junkers Ju 88 on 30 September. During October he claimed a probable Bf 109 on 7 October, shot down a Bf 109 on 12 October, another on 26 October and on 30 October, he destroyed a Bf 109 before damaging another.

During the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, Lacey had been shot down or forced to land due to combat no less than nine times.

On 26 November 1940, with 23 claims (18 made during the Battle of Britain) Lacey received a Bar to his Distinguished Flying Medal [9] for his continued outstanding courage and bravery during the Battle of Britain. The citation in the London Gazette stated:

“Awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Medal. 740042 Sergeant James Harry LACEY, D.F.M., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 501 Squadron. Sergeant Lacey has shown consistent efficiency and great courage. He has led his section on many occasions and his splendid qualities as a fighter pilot have enabled him to destroy at least 19 enemy aircraft”.

After 1940

Lacey works on a model aeroplane in No 501 Squadron’s dispersal hut at Colerne on 30 May 1941

His final award for outstanding service during 1940 was a Mention in Dispatches announced on 1 January 1941.[10] Lacey was commissioned a pilot officer (on probation) on 25 January 1941 (seniority from 15 January)[11] and promoted to acting flight lieutenant in June. On 10 July 1941, as “A” flight commander, he shot down a Bf 109 and damaged another a few days later on 14 July. On 17 July, he claimed a Heinkel He 59 seaplane shot down and on 24 July, two Bf 109s (by causing them to collide). He was posted away from combat operations during August 1941, serving as a flight instructor with 57 Operational Training Unit. He was promoted to war substantive flying officer on 22 September.[12]

During March 1942, Lacey joined No. 602 Squadron, based at Kenley flying the Spitfire Mk V and by 24 March had claimed a Fw 190 as damaged. He damaged another Fw 190 on 25 April 1942 before a posting to 81 Group as a tactics officer. Promoted to war substantive flight lieutenant on 27 August,[13] in November he was posted as Chief Instructor at the No. 1 Special Attack Instructors School, Milfield.

In March 1943, Lacey was posted to No. 20 Squadron, Kaylan in India before joining 1572 Gunnery Flight in July of the same year to convert from Blenheims to Hurricanes and then to Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. He stayed in India, being posted to command 155 Squadron flying the Spitfire VIII in November 1944 and then as CO No. 17 Squadron later that month. While based in India, Lacey claimed his last aircraft on 19 February 1945, shooting down a Japanese Army Air Force Nakajima Ki 43 “Oscar” with only nine 20mm cannon rounds.

“Ginger” Lacey was one of the few RAF pilots on operational duties on both the opening and closing day of the war. His final tally was 28 confirmed, four probables and nine damaged.


After the war was over, Lacey went to Japan with No. 17 Squadron, becoming the first Spitfire pilot to fly over Japan on 30 April 1946. He returned to the UK in May 1946. He received a permanent commission in the rank of flight lieutenant on 8 December 1948 (seniority from 1 September 1945),[14] and retired from the RAF on 5 March 1967 as a flight lieutenant; he retained the rank of squadron leader.[15]

After retirement, Lacey ran an air freight business and instructed at a flight school near Bridlington, UK.


“Ginger” Lacey died on 30 May 1989 at the age of 72. In September 2001, a plaque was unveiled at Priory Church, Bridlington, Yorkshire in memory of the fighter pilot and ace.

There was/is also a plaque at the location of the house Lacey grew up in, on the old site of Nidd Vale Motors, Sandbeck Lane, Wetherby, sadly the house where he was raised was knocked down a few years ago.


Lock, E (Pilot Officer) – 21 kills

Eric Stanley Lock DSODFC & Bar (19 April 1919 – 3 August 1941) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War.

Born near Shrewsbury in 1919 Lock had his first experience of flying as a teenager. In the late 1930s with war a possibility and the likely event of him being called to arms, Lock decided that he would prefer to fight as an airman. He joined the RAF in 1939. He completed his training in 1940 and was posted to No. 41 Squadron RAF in time for the Battle of Britain. Lock became the RAF’s most successful Allied pilot during the battle, shooting down 21 German aircraft and sharing in the destruction of one.[1][2]

After the Battle of Britain Lock served on the Channel Front, flying offensive sweeps over France. Lock went on to bring his overall total to 26 aerial victories, one shared destroyed and eight probable in 25 weeks of operational sorties over a one-year period—during which time he was hospitalised for six months.[3][4] Included in his victory total were 20 German fighter aircraft, 18 of them Messerschmitt Bf 109s. In mid-1941 Lock was promoted to the rank of flight lieutenant.

Lock earned the nickname “Sawn Off Lockie”, because of his extremely short stature.[5] Within less than six months of becoming one of the most famous RAF pilots in the country, he crash–landed in the English Channel after his Supermarine Spitfire was damaged by ground–fire. Lock was posted missing in action. He was never seen again.

Early life and career

Eric Stanley Lock, younger son of Charles Edward Lock, was born in 1919 to a farming and quarrying family, whose home was then in the rural Shropshire village of Bayston Hill at Bomere Farm, and who later farmed nearby at Allfield, Condover. He was privately educated, at a boarding school called Clivedon at Church Stretton, at Shrewsbury Boys’ High School and at Prestfelde School, London Road, Shrewsbury. At the latter, he was a proficient swimmer and ice skater.[6] On his 14th birthday his father treated him to a five-shilling, 15-minute flight with Sir Alan Cobham’s Air Circus. Unlike most teenagers, Lock was unimpressed by flying and had soon lost interest. At 16 he left school and joined his father’s business.[7] He later changed his mind and attempted to enlist in the RAF as early as the age of 17, but his father refused to sign the papers.[8]

Although as a child he had lost the former strength of his left arm after a horse riding accident,[6] in 1939 he made the decision that if there was going to be a war, he wanted to be a fighter pilot, and so immediately joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Within three months Lock had been called up and began flight training.

Second World War

Training and Early Posting

On the outbreak of war in September 1939, as a trained pilot Lock joined the RAF as a sergeant pilot. After further training at No. 6 Flying School RAF Little Rissington,[9] he was commissioned as a pilot officer (Service Number 81642)[10] and posted to No. 41 Squadron at RAF Catterick, North Yorkshire, flying Spitfires.[7]

Lock completed his training in late May 1940. Officially qualified as a fighter pilot, he was posted to No. 41 Squadron at RAF Catterick as acting pilot officer. Lock spent several weeks with his Squadron before taking two weeks leave pass in July 1940 to marry his girlfriend Peggy Meyers, a former “Miss Shrewsbury”. Lock returned to his unit and soon began combat patrols over the North of England, defending British airspace against Luftflotte 5 (Air Fleet 5) based in Norway. Lock was bored by the patrols as it involved chasing lone enemy raiders without success.[7]

Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain began in July 1940 with the Luftwaffe making attacks on British shipping in the English Channel and Britain’s East Coast. In August RAF Fighter Command‘s bases came under attack as the Germans attempted to establish air superiority over southern England. The battles grew larger in scale, but 41 Squadron, based in the north, were well clear of the main combat zone and saw little action for the first four weeks of the German air offensive.[11]

Lock’s frustration ended on 15 August 1940. On this date the Luftwaffe attempted to stretch Fighter Command by launching a wave of aircraft against targets in northern England where German intelligence believed there to be little opposition. It was in this battle Lock gained his first victory. Climbing at 20,000 feet (6,100 m) north of Catterick Lock spotted a massed formation of Messerschmitt Bf 110s and Junkers Ju 88s. The Squadron was ordered into line-astern formation and made an attack. In the first attack Lock followed his Section Leader. In the second he had an opportunity to fire at a Bf 110 heavy fighter. After two short bursts the starboard engine caught fire. Following the enemy fighter down to 10,000 feet (3,000 m), Lock fired into the fuselage and set the port engine on fire. The machine-gunner ceased firing and Lock left it at 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Lock was going to claim only a probable, but another No. 41 pilot saw it crash into Seaham Harbour and confirmed his victory. Lock soon attacked the Ju 88s, downing one of their number.[7]

In light of Fighter Command’s need units in the south of the country, No. 41 Squadron was redeployed to RAF Hornchurch in Essex on 3 September 1940. On 5 September, Lock flew as Red 2, positioned behind and protecting the Squadron’s Leader. He shot down two Heinkel He 111s over the Thames Estuary. One of his victims crashed into a river, the other caught fire and its undercarriage fell down. Lock followed it down.[12][13] He quickly realised his mistake—reducing height to pursue a damaged enemy put a pilot at risk from enemy fighters—but it was too late.[12] A Messerschmitt Bf 109 attacked him and he sustained damage to his Spitfire and a wound to his leg.[12] Lock immediately zoom-climbed. The Bf 109 attempted to follow but the pilot stalled and fell away. Lock reversed direction and dived. Waiting for the German fighter to come out of its dive he fired several short bursts and it exploded.[12] Looking around he saw the second He 111 land in the English Channel, about ten miles from the first.[12] Lock circled above the He 111 and noticing a boat he alerted the boat to its presence by flying over it and led the vessel to the crash site. As he left the scene he saw the crew surrendering to the occupants of the boat. On the way home he saw his first victim in the river, with a dingy nearby.[12] A further Bf 109 was claimed destroyed on that date.[14]

The following day, despite pain from his leg and against medical advice, Lock claimed his seventh victory, a Ju 88 off Dover at 09:00.[12] On 9 September he claimed two Bf 109s destroyed over Kent and he followed the success with two victories—over a Ju 88 and Bf 110—on 11 September 1940. The victory brought his tally to nine enemy aircraft destroyed, eight of them in less than seven days. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).[12] The award was gazetted on 1 October 1940 with a citation reading:[12][15]

Air Ministry, 1st October, 1940.ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the undermentioned appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Pilot Officer Eric Stanley LOCK .(81642), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

This officer has destroyed nine enemy aircraft, eight of these within a period of one week. He has displayed great vigour and determination in pressing home his attacks.

Lock continued to shoot enemy aircraft down regularly. On 14 September he recorded two victories over Bf 109s and the following day shared in the destruction of a Dornier Do 17 before destroying a Bf 109 on 15 September 1940—the Battle of Britain Day—over Clacton-on-Sea. Two rest days followed. On 18 September he claimed a Bf 109 probably destroyed on his first patrol then another destroyed plus one probably destroyed in the afternoon over Gravesend.[12]

On 20 September he filed a curious report that saw him attack three “Heinkel He 113s“, shooting down one and forcing the others to flee back to France.[16] During that sortie he sighted a Henschel Hs 126 which he pursued across the English Channel before finally downing it over the German gun batteries at Boulogne-sur-Mer.[16] Upon landing he was told by his commanding officer that he had been awarded a Bar to his DFC for 15 victories in 16 days.[16] Published on 22 October 1940, the citation read:[17]

Air Ministry, 22nd October, 1940.ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—

Awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Pilot Officer Eric Stanley LOCK, D.F.C. (81642), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

In September, 1940, whilst engaged on a patrol over the Dover area, Pilot Officer Lock engaged three Heinkel 113‘s one of which he shot down into the sea. Immediately afterwards he engaged a Henschel Hs 126 and destroyed it. He has displayed great courage in the face of heavy odds, and his skill and coolness in combat have enabled him to destroy fifteen enemy aircraft within a period of nineteen days.

No. 41 Squadron’s pilots were placed on four weeks’ rotation rest following the intense period of operational sorties, returning to RAF Hornchurch in early October 1940. Lock immediately commenced where he had left off. On 5 October he was credited with another Bf 109 with two probables over Kent; on 9 October another Bf 109 was claimed 10 miles from Dover and a probable followed seconds later. Off Dungeness he dispatched yet another Bf 109 on 11 October then on 20 October 1940 shot down a Bf 109 directly above RAF Biggin Hill. This victory brought his total to 20, making Lock a ‘Quadruple Ace’. On 25 October Lock destroyed a Bf 109 to bring his tally to 21 aerial victories. The Battle of Britain ended on 31 October 1940 and Lock, with 21 enemy aircraft destroyed, was the most successful Allied ace of the campaign.[16]

Channel Front

On 8 November 1940 his Spitfire was badly damaged during a skirmish with several Bf 109s over Beachy Head in East Sussex. The Spitfire was so badly damaged that Lock crash-landed in a ploughed field, but was able to walk away. On 17 November 1940 No. 41 Squadron attacked a formation of 70 Bf 109s that were top cover for a bomber raid on London. After shooting down one Bf 109 and setting another on fire, Lock’s Spitfire was hit by a volley of cannon shells, which severely injured Lock’s right arm and both legs. The rounds also knocked the throttle permanently open by severing the control lever. The open throttle enabled the Spitfire to accelerate swiftly to 400 mph (640 km/h), leaving the Bf 109s in his wake without Lock having to attempt to operate it with his injured right arm. At 20,000 feet (6,100 m), he began to descend. With little control and no means of slowing the fighter down, he could not execute a safe landing. Too badly injured to parachute to safety, Lock was in a perilous situation. After losing height to 2,000 feet (610 m), Lock switched the engine off and found a suitable crash site near RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, into which he glided the stricken fighter for a “wheels down” landing.[18]

Lying in the aircraft for some two hours, he was found by two patrolling British Army soldiers and carried two miles (3 km) on an improvised stretcher made of their Enfield rifles and Army issue winter coats—made after instruction from Lock. By this point, Lock had lost so much blood that he was unconscious, and so unable to feel the additional pain of being dropped three times, once into a dyke of water.[18] After being transferred to the Princess Mary’s Hospital at RAF Halton, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 17 December 1940, the citation read:[18][19]

Air Ministry, 17th December, 1940.ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—

Appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.

Pilot Officer Eric Stanley Lock, D.F.C. (81642). Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 41 Squadron.

This officer has shown exceptional keenness and courage in his attacks against the enemy. In November, 1940, whilst engaged with his squadron in attacking a superior number of enemy forces, he destroyed two Messerschmitt 109’s, thus bringing his total to at least twenty-two. His magnificent fighting spirit and personal example have been in the highest traditions of the service.

Lock underwent fifteen separate operations over the following three months to remove shrapnel and other metal fragments from his wounds.[18] For the following three months he remained at Halton recuperating from his injuries, leaving on only one occasion to travel on crutches and in full uniform to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI presented him with his DSO, DFC and Bar.[20] He was also Mentioned in Despatches in March 1941.[21]

Last battles and death

Lock spent several months in hospital. He stayed at the Royal Masonic Hospital with Richard Hillary, another Battle of Britain ace. They were operated on by Archibald McIndoe, a famous surgeon. While there, Hillary wrote his memoirs The Last Enemy, before his death in a flying accident on 8 January 1943. He remembered Lock having Sulfapyridine treatment and being “vociferous”.[22][23] The nurses wore anti-infection masks and gloves, and Eric, “with an aimiable grin” would curse them for it “from dawn till dusk”.[24]

In June 1941 he received notification that he had been promoted to flying officer[25] and was requested to report back for immediate flying duty with 41 Squadron. Four weeks later he was promoted again to flight lieutenant and posted to No. 611 Squadron in command of B Flight.[20] In July 1941 he gained three victories against Bf 109s flying offensive sweeps over France—on 6 July at 15:00, on 8 July at 06:30 and 11:00 on 14 July near Le Touquet.[26]

The road sign for Eric Lock Road in Bayston Hill, Shropshire

On 3 August 1941, Lock was returning from a fighter “Rhubarb” when he spotted a column of German troops and vehicles on a road near the Pas-de-Calais. Signalling the attack to his wingman, Lock was seen to peel off from the formation and prepare for the ground strafing attack—the last time he was seen.

He was believed to have been shot down by ground–fire,[14] a line supported by a Ministry of Defence report that concluded his plane was damaged by anti-aircraft fire, without establishing exactly what happened and the location of his crash.[6]

In 2000 research by historian Dilip Sarkar cross-referenced Lock’s disappearance with Luftwaffe combat records for the day. Lock’s was the only British plane lost that day and the only claim from a Luftwaffe pilot of shooting down such a plane had been made by Oberleutnant Johann Schmid, who reported he had shot down a Spitfire into the sea near Calais.[6][27]

Neither his body or his Spitfire Mk V, W3257, have ever been found, despite a thorough search of the area in the years following the war by both the RAF and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.[28]

Lock was the first of three successful RAF aces who were shot down during this period: Douglas Bader was shot down in error and taken prisoner on 9 August 1941; Robert Stanford Tuck‘s Spitfire was hit by enemy ground-based flak near Boulogne-sur-Mer on 28 January 1942 and he was forced to crash land and taken prisoner.[29] In July 1942, Paddy Finucane would be lost in similar circumstances to Lock.[30]


Lock’s name is carved in Panel 29 on the Runnymede Memorial along with the 20,400 other British and Commonwealth airmen who were posted missing in action during the war. A new road was named after him in Bayston Hill, Shropshire where his family’s former home lies, as well as the members’ bar at the Shropshire Aero Club based at a former wartime airfield, RAF Sleap.[31][32]

List of victories

Lock was credited with 26 air victories and eight probable victories. The total included 17 Bf 109s, one ‘Heinkel He 113‘ (probably a Bf 109), one Henschel Hs 126, two Bf 110s, two He 111s, two Ju 88s and a Do 17 destroyed.[2]

Victory No. Date Flying Kills Notes
1–2. 15 August 1940 Spitfire 1 x Messerschmitt Bf 110
1 x Junkers Ju 88
Operating from RAF Catterick. Bf 110 belonged to I./Zerstörergeschwader 76 (ZG 76—Destroyer Wing 76). ZG 76 suffered heavy losses; 14 Bf 110s were shot down with 22 crew members killed and four captured. Among the victims was the Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) Hauptmann Restemeyer—likely lost in action against No. 72 Squadron RAF—and pilots Oberleutnant Ketling, Bremer and Leutnant Kohler and their gunners killed.[33]
3–6. 5 September 1940 Spitfire 2 x Heinkel He 111
2 x Messerschmitt Bf 109
Becomes fighter ace. Claimed one He 111 and one Bf 109 in the space of a minute over the Isle of Sheppey at 15:00. Other claim times not recorded.[34] Opponents at 15:00 hours are unknown. In the morning battle, at approximately 10:00, No. 41 Squadron engaged Bf 109s from Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—Fighter Wing 54) over the Thames Estuary. Two Bf 109s were shot down. A Bf 109E-4, Werknummer 5353 crashed and pilot Unteroffizier Behse was killed in action. Bf 109E-4 Werknummer 5291 also crashed. Hauptmann (Captain) Ultsch was killed. Both were from II./JG 54 (Second Gruppe or Group).[35]
7. 6 September 1940 Spitfire 1 x Junkers 88 Victim identified as Ju 88A-1, code F1 + DP, Werknummer 8070 belonging to I./Kampfgeschwader 30 (KG 30 — or Bomber Wing 30) crashed in France. Aircraft 60 percent destroyed. Crew unhurt.[36]
8–9. 9 September 1940 Spitfire 2 x Messerschmitt Bf 109 Claimed over Maidstone, south of London at 18:00.[37] Identity not known.Seven Bf 109s are known to have been shot down on 9 September that cannot be matched to any specific RAF unit or pilot. Lock’s possible opponents were from, Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3 — or Fighter Wing 3), Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27 — or Fighter Wing 27), Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 53 — or Fighter Wing 53) or Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54 — or Fighter Wing 54). German casualties in the air battles were; Oberfeldwebel Muller of 4. Staffel (Squadron) JG 3 flying Werknummer 6138 posted missing. Feldwebel Bauer, 7 Staffel JG 3 flying Werknummer 5351, posted missing. Unteroffizier Massmann, Werknummer 6316, missing in action. Stab, I./JG 27’s Oberleutnant Bode, flying Werknummer 6316 posted missing. Oberleutnant Daig, II./JG 27, missing. Feldwebel Höhnisch, Werknummer 1508 missing. Feldwebel Biber, I Staffel JG 54, Werknummer 6103, missing.[38]
10–11. 11 September 1940 Spitfire 1 x Junkers Ju 88
1 x Messerschmitt Bf 110
Awarded DFC. Claimed both victories at 17:30 over Kent.[39] Opponents unknown. Ju 88 claim unknown. Three Bf 110s known to have been shot down but not credited to a specific pilot. I./Zerstörergeschwader 2 (ZG 2 or Destroyer Wing 2) lost two machines. Werknummer 3376, code A2+MH, Gefreiter Kling and Sossner missing. Another Bf 110 crash-landed at St. Aubin. Werknummer 3623 50 percent destroyed, crew unhurt. Another II./Zerstörergeschwader 76 (ZG 76 or Destroyer Wing 76) crash-landed in the sea off Étaples. Werknummer 3285, Code M8+KC lost. Crew rescued Seenotdienst (Air Sea Rescue) service.[40]
12–13. 14 September 1940 Spitfire 2 x Bf 109 Claimed over DungenessRamsgate at 19:15.[41] Victims unknown.
14. 15 September 1940 Spitfire 1 x Bf 109
1 x Do 17 shared
Claimed both kills at 14:30 over Shoeburyness.[42] Identity of Bf 109 unknown. The Do 17 victory was assisted by Pilot Officer Neil but credited to Lock as one shared destroyed. One crew member was killed and one posted missing. The machine, Werknummer— (factory number) —3401 from III./Kampfgeschwader 2 (KG 2—Bomber Wing 2), crashed into the sea off Clacton at 15:30. German air-sea-rescue service, the Seenotdienst, rescued the remainder.[43]
15. 18 September 1940 Spitfire 1 x Bf 109 Claimed a Bf 109 probably destroyed over Kent at 10:10 and another destroyed at 13:15 over Gravesend.[44] Lock’s opponents in the afternoon air battle were 9 Staffel JG 27. The unit suffered two known losses in combat with 41 Squadron Spitfires. During the air battle Werknummer 2674 crashed at approximately 13:15. Gefreiter Glöckner was posted missing. Werknummer 6327 crashed in the same area. The pilot,Feldwebel Schulz, was killed.[45]
16–17. 20 September 1940 Spitfire 1 x ‘He 113′(sic), 1 x Hs 126 Awarded Bar to DFC. Claimed one He 113 and one Hs 126 northwest of Boulogne, France[disambiguation needed] at 11:15.[46] Lock most likely misidentified the ‘He 113’ as a Bf 109. A Bf 109E-1, Werknummer 5175, force-landed after combat near Boulogne. The machine, belonging to 7 Staffel JG 53, was slightly damaged and the pilot unhurt. The identity of the Hs 126 is unknown.[47]
18. 5 October 1940 Spitfire 1 x Bf 109 Claimed two Bf 109s at 14:30 over the English Channel and another Bf 109 probably destroyed south of Dungeness at 16:00.[48] One of the 14:30 claims can be identified as Feldwebel von Bittenfeld. After being shot down by Lock, Bittenfeld crashed near Canterbury at 14:27. Bittenfeld was posted missing in action.[49]
19. 9 October 1940 Spitfire 1 x Bf 109 Claimed two probable victories and one destroyed off Dover at 16:00.[50] Victim identified as Feldwebel Fritz Schweser. Schweser’s Werknummer 5327, White 6 of 7 Staffel JG 54, crashed near Rochester. Schweser posted missing in action.[51] Schweser crash–landed on Meridan Hunt Farm and was captured.[52]
20. 11 October 1940 Spitfire 1 x Bf 109 Victim identified as Bf 109E-1 Werknummer 6267 belonging to 5 Staffel JG 27 crashed near Deal. The pilot was wounded and taken prisoner.[53]
21. 20 October 1940 Spitfire 1 x Bf 109 Victim identified as Feldwebel Ludwig Bielmaier of 5 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52 — or Fighter Wing 52). His Bf 109E-7 Werknummer 5930 Black 4 crashed near RAF Biggin Hill at 13:50. Bielmaier posted missing.[54]
22–23. 17 November 1940 Spitfire 2 x Bf 109 Awarded DSO. Lock wounded in action in P7544.[55] Lock’s opponents were from 5 Staffel JG 54. No. 41 Squadron claimed five Bf 109s, but only two losses are recorded.[56]
24. 6 July 1941 Spitfire MkV 1 x Messerschmitt Bf 109
25. 8 July 1941 Spitfire MkV 1 x Messerschmitt Bf 109
26. 14 July 1941 Spitfire MkV 1 x Messerschmitt Bf 109
TOTALS 26 kills 8 probable


McGrath, J (Pilot Officer) – 15 kills


McKellar, A (Flight Lieutenant) – 17 kills, 1 shared

Squadron Leader Archibald Ashmore McKellar[1] DSO DFC & Bar (10 April 1912 – 1 November 1940) was a flying ace of the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War.

McKellar grew up and joined the family business in his native Scotland, but in 1936, aged 24, he joined the RAF and began pilot training. He completed his training in 1938 and was assigned to No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron RAF, an Auxiliary Unit. In 1939 he converted to the Supermarine Spitfire fighter. He experienced his first combat with No. 602 Squadron, credited with two victories soon after the outbreak of war in 1939 against German bombers attacking Royal Navy ships and installations over northern Britain during the “Phoney War” period. McKellar’s first victory earned him the distinction of being the first pilot to shoot down a German aircraft over the British Isles during the war.

A year later, he gained fame in 1940 during the Battle of Britain as a part of, and later Squadron Leader of, No. 605 Squadron RAF, equipped with the Hawker Hurricane fighter. The Auxiliary Unit was moved to southern England and participated in the large air battles. McKellar’s combat career proved to be very brief, lasting just over a year. He claimed all but two of his victories within the last two and a half months of his life; 15 August–1 November 1940. On 7 October 1940 he shot down five Messerschmitt Bf 109s, thus becoming an ace in a day; one of only 24 Allied aces to achieve the feat. At the time of his last mission he had claimed 21 aerial victories and another two shared destroyed against enemy aircraft. Included in this total of 21 air victories are 11 Bf 109s.[2][3] McKellar, along with Brian Carbury, were the only British pilots to achieve the feat of “Ace in a Day” during the Battle of Britain.[4][5][6][7]

On 1 November 1940—one day after the official end of the Battle of Britain—he was killed in action. He took off and engaged a formation of German fighters, one of which he possibly shot down for his 22nd—albeit uncredited—and final victory. McKellar was then shot down himself.[3]

Early life

Archibald Ashmore (“Archie”) McKellar was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland on the 10 April 1912, the son of John and Margaret McKellar, of Bearsden, Dunbartonshire and was then educated at Shawlands Academy in the Southside of Glasgow. Upon leaving school he joined a local stockbroker‘s firm. This did not suit McKellar, who preferred an open–air life style. Keen to leave, but unsure of what direction to take in life, he joined his father’s general contractor and construction business as a plasterer.[8] He spent five years as an apprentice plasterer. During this time he was given no special privileges despite being the boss’ son.[1]

McKellar was also a keen fitness enthusiast and, despite his short stature, built up a great physical strength. Though he enjoyed wine and smoked the occasional pipe or cigar he kept in peak physical shape until his death. Even at the height of the Battle of Britain he was always clean shaven and immaculately dressed.[1] McKellar’s spare time was used reading about sport and First World War fighter pilots. His interest in the flying personalities of the past spurred him to take up flying. He joined at his own expense the Scottish Flying Club,[8] which had been founded in 1927; it leased and managed Renfrew Airport from 1933 until it was requisitioned during the Second World War.[9] McKellar quickly acquired a pilot’s licence. By the time he began his military career, McKellar was a very experienced pilot, and he soon began earning relatively quick promotions.[8]

Joining the AAF and RAF

His flying skills earned him the attention of Lord Hamilton, Commanding Officer of No. 602 Squadron AAF. Hamilton invited McKellar to join the Auxiliary Air Force (AAF) and was soon commissioned into the RAF as a Pilot Officer on 8 November 1936, joining No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron RAF. McKellar’s comrades affectionately nicknamed him “Shrimp” owing to his short, 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m), stature.[10] McKellar stayed with the Squadron and on 8 May 1938 was promoted to Flying Officer.

Based at RAF Abbotsinch near Paisley, the squadron operated the Hawker Hind light bomber. The members of squadron—both pilots and ground staff—were reservists and completed their service on a part-time basis, in the evenings, weekends and an annual two–week summer camp. With the approach of war, the squadron converted to a fighter role and re-equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire. It mobilised on the outbreak of war at RAF Grangemouth on 6 October 1939 and then to RAF Drem a month later, charged with defending Edinburgh and the shipping area around the Firth of Forth.[11][12]

Upon completing training McKellar was deemed to have exceptional eyesight which earned him a reputation as a good marksman in air-to-air combat. Yet, paradoxically, when shooting with his rifle he was a well below average shot – a trait he shared with some other successful pilots. MacKellar was a keen sportsman. He believed physical fitness was a critical attribute in aerial combat; fitness, he believed, would ensure that the mind and body were always at their peak of alertness, and enable a pilot to react swiftly within a fluid battle situation.[13]

McKellar was also considered a capable leader in combat. Aggressive and instinctive, his fighting spirit was an inspiration to his squadron but according to one biographer, he was highly strung, vociferous and blunt with members of his unit. Nevertheless, his directness and socially confident nature singled him out for command. His dedication to his job as a fighter pilot and leader led him to refuse any leave from his Squadron while the Battle of Britain lasted. Invariably McKellar led from the front of his unit.[14] He spent a large proportion of his time with his squadron practising combat tactics. While intensely loyal to anyone he considered a friend, McKellar’s attitude to others outside the squadron was either of utmost friendliness or utter dislike. He is said to have tended to see everything and everyone in black and white.[15]

Second World War

602 Squadron

On 16 October 1939, the Luftwaffe made its first attack on target in Great Britain. I./Kampfgeschwader 30 (KG 30—Bomber Wing 30) targeted Royal Navy ships in the Firth of Forth. The target was HMS Hood. However, she was in dry dock and the cruiser HMS Southampton and destroyer HMS Mohawk were attacked.[16] Though none of the bombs that struck exploded Mohawk’s commander was killed. Spitfires from No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron joined 602 Squadron, The Queen’s “City of Glasgow” Squadron, in intercepting the raid. During one attack, the cockpit canopy of Hauptmann Helmut Pohl‘s Junkers Ju 88 released itself. Pohl was an experienced test pilot and Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) of KG 30. He had helped develop the Ju 88 and had taken part in the Polish Campaign. Pohl tried to fly northwards to take an observation position, but the aircraft was hit by the fire of Spitfires piloted by George Pinkerton and McKellar. The Ju 88 crashed into the sea, Pohl being the only survivor of his crew. The victory was credited to McKellar. Thus, McKellar is officially credited with the downing the first enemy aircraft to fall in British waters during the war.[11][17][18][19][20]

Following the 16 October success, Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, Air Marshal Hugh Dowding sent word to 602 Squadron; “Well done, first blood to the auxiliaries.”[21][22] This area around Firth of Forth became nicknamed “suicide alley” by Luftwaffe pilots.[23]

On 28 October 1939 McKellar intercepted a Heinkel He 111H-2 of Stab./Kampfgeschwader 26 (KG 26—Bomber Wing 26), code 1H+JA piloted by Unteroffizier Lehmkuhl. Acting on the advice of his navigator Leutnant Niehoff, dropped down towards cloud layers. The cover, however, quickly dispersed. Their gunners were killed, Lehmkul was hit in the back by machine gun fire and was wounded while Niehoff suffered a fractured spine during the crash–landing.[24] Debate continues to this day as to which squadron or pilot was the victor. Post–war sources credit the victory to McKellar.[25] It was also the War’s first German aircraft shot down onto British soil.[26]

605 Squadron

In early 1940, No. 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron moved to RAF Drem, as they converted to Hurricanes. McKellar was transferred to No. 605 and promoted to Flight Lieutenant, assuming the responsibilities of a flight leader on 21 June 1940.[11][27] McKellar imposed strict discipline, both in standard of dress on the ground and in tactical discipline in the air. Despite his strict methods McKellar was held in high regard. His popularity arose from his desire to help mould his unit into a well-disciplined fighting team.[11]

On 15 August 1940 No. 605 intercepted a German raid against Tyneside mounted by He 111s based in Norway with Luftflotte 5 (Air Fleet 5). McKellar was credited with three He 111s destroyed during the encounter. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and was gazetted on 13 September 1940 and made reference to the “outstanding leadership and courage” displayed by Mckellar.[28][29]

Hawker Hurricane I R4118 of No 605 Squadron, flown by Bob Foster, McKellar’s Squadron comrade who also flew on McKellar’s last mission.[30]

On 7 September 1940, No. 605 moved on rotation to Croydon Aerodrome under the command of Squadron Leader Walter Churchill. McKellar scored a further four victories in a single mission on 9 September.[31] McKellar attacked with the sun at his back with his Squadron, save for one Section which was left to provide top cover against Bf 109s. The attack was made head-on to break up the German bomber formation which consisted of a large mass of He 111s.[32] He destroyed three He 111s with a single, 12–second burst. The first He 111 exploded. It damaged a second which rolled over and dived down into the ground. McKellar then moved his fire to a third. Its port wing snapped off.[31] He then destroyed a Bf 109 in the afternoon giving him a fourth success.[1]

McKellar took over from Squadron Leader Churchill on the 11 September. He achieved a further three victories 15 September. The raids were made in large formation leading the fighting that day to be christened the Battle of Britain Day. McKellar led 605 into combat twice on that date claiming two Bf 109s and a Do 17. That night, at an hour past midnight, 16 September, he claimed another He 111 shot down. A Medal bar to the DFC followed which cited his “excellent fighting spirit … particularly brilliant tactician, and his led his Squadron with skill and resource”.[33]

On 3 October McKellar became one of the select few pilots of Fighter Command to sit for one of Cuthbert Orde‘s charcoal portraits. On 7 October his score rose by five victories, all Bf 109s—becoming an Ace in a day. McKellar explained three of the five victories in the combat that day in his combat report;

I attacked the Number One and saw a bomb being dropped from this machine. I fired and pieces fell off his wing and dense white smoke and vapour came from him and he went into a violent outside spin. In my mirror I could see another ‘109 coming to attack me and therefore turned sharply right and found myself behind another ‘109. I opened fire and saw my De Wilde (explosive ammunition) hitting his machine. It burst into flames and went down inverted east of Biggin Hill. As I again had a ‘109 on my tail I spiralled down to 15,000 feet and by this time there appeared to be ‘109s straggling all over the sky. I followed one, pulled my boost control and made up on him. I gave him a burst from dead astern and at once his radiator appeared to be hit as dense white vapour came back at me and my windscreen fogged up. This speedily cleared and I gave him another burst and this machine burst into flames and fell into a wood with a quarry near it, west of Maidstone.[34]

Thirteen days later, on 20 October 1940, McKellar brought down another Bf 109. Its pilot, Feldwebel Adolf Iburg from 9 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—Fighter Wing 54), was slightly wounded in action. Iburg managed to force–land near New Romney and was captured. The victory was credited to him in a post-war account, but there is no official accreditation of the Iburg victory to McKellar by the RAF, though he was credited with another Bf 109 victory on that date.[35][36]


By 1 November 1940 McKellar had claimed 21 victories. Taking a section of No. 605 that included Flight Lieutenant Bob Foster, up to meet a flight of Bf 109 Jabos (Bf 109s equipped with bombs). The section climbed to high altitude to meet the enemy aircraft. In the ensuing battle it is believed McKellar was shot down by II./Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27—Fighter Wing 27) Hauptmann (Captain) Wolfgang Lippert.[2][37] McKellar’s Hurricane MkI (V6879) crashed at the side of Woodlands Manor near Adisham, Kent at 18:20hrs.[38]

On 8 November 1940 his actions brought a final award—the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).[39] His DSO was gazetted posthumously on 26 November 1940 and again cited both ‘outstanding courage and determination’ in leading his squadron.[40] Further recognition came in a Mention in Despatches gazetted on 31 December 1940.[41]

On 16 January 1941 Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air, visited Glasgow to deliver the eulogy;

Not long ago I visited a fighter squadron which was taking part during the dark days in the battle of this island. That squadron lost its leader in an air fight—and they felt the loss. He had been wounded in combat and had been withdrawn from service. I found in his place, taking to the air with daring resolve, proving himself a leader amongst leaders, a young Scot. His name was Archie McKellar. He had come from the City of Glasgow Squadron to lift up this squadron in its dark hour and to carry it on to fresh victories and achievement by his spirit. It was quite apparent to me that he had the whole squadron with him. He was regarded with the greatest admiration and affection by his officers. I will never forget the impression he made upon me when I saw him.[14]

As McKellar died outside the Air Ministry “nominal” dates for the Battle of Britain (10 July—31 October 1940), he is not listed on the Battle of Britain roll of honour at The RAF Chapel, Westminster Abbey. McKellar is buried at New Eastwood Cemetery, Thornliebank, East Renfrewshire, by Glasgow.[42][43]

photograph of headstone

List of victories

Historian Alfred Price credited McKellar with 17 air victories, three shared destroyed, five probably destroyed and three damaged.[44] Historians Christopher Shores and Clive Williams credit him with 21 air victories, three probably destroyed and three damaged as does E.C.R Baker.[45] In his last combat they credit him with a possible 22nd victory, since a Bf 109 crashed in the area of his last combat and no RAF pilot made a claim. John Foreman credits him with at least 17 victories and acknowledges the unclaimed Bf 109 that crashed on 1 November 1940 near to McKellar might have been his last victory.[46] Chaz Bowyer, another prolific historian and writer on RAF personnel credits McKellar with at least 20 victories.[14]

During the period he flew Hurricane P3308, McKellar scored 13 victories and shared one more destroyed, four probable and one damaged, between 15 August and 7 October 1940. Thus earned the distinction of being the Hurricane with the highest number of kills during the Battle of Britain. It was later handed over to a Czech unit, No. 312 Squadron RAF on 4 January 1941 and written off in an accident on 30 April 1941.[47]

Victory No. Date Kills Notes
1. 16 October 1939 1 x Junkers Ju 88 First enemy aircraft shot down in British waters. Gruppenkommandeur I./KG 30 Hauptmann Helmut Pohl’s Junkers Ju 88 destroyed. Pohl survived and was captured by the Royal Navy; the rest of his crew were killed in action.[11][17][18][19][20]
2. 28 October 1939 1 x Heinkel He 111 First enemy aircraft to fall on British soil since 1918;[11] Stab./KG 26 code 1H+JA destroyed. Pilot Unteroffizier Lehmkuhl and Leutnant Niehoff were wounded and two other crew members killed. The fate of the fifth is unknown.[48]
3–5. 15 August 1940 3 x He 111s Unknown. Claimed at 13:15.[49] Opponents from KG 26. Of the eight He 111s lost by KG 26, two have not been attributed to any particular squadron, two are credited to ground fire and four to No. 79 Squadron RAF and No. 235 Squadron RAF. The two outstanding victims were from 8 and 9 Staffel. In the first aircraft, He 111H-4, Leutnant Burk and his crew were missing and presumed dead. The second, He 111H-4, was lost with its unnamed crew. The two He 111s believed to have been shot down by ground fire were both from 8 Staffel. Oberleutnant von Lübke and Oberleutnant Besser were lost with all of their unnamed crew members.[50]
6–9. 9 September 1940 3 x He 111s
1 x Bf 109
Claimed over the Brooklands area at 17:45.[51]The identity of the He 111s are unknown. Seven Bf 109s are known to have been shot down on 9 September that cannot be matched to any specific RAF unit or pilot. McKellar engaged enemy aircraft over Canterbury and Croydon region at around 17:45. After patrolling at 15,000 feet, 605 engaged. The account of the air battle is confusing.[52]

McKellar’s possible opponents were from Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3, Fighter Wing 3), Jagdgeschwader 27, Jagdgeschwader 54 or Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54). German casualties in the air battles were: Oberfeldwebel Müller of 4. Staffel (Squadron) JG 3 flying Werknummer 6138 posted missing. Feldwebel Bauer, 7 Staffel JG 3 flying Werknummer 5351 posted missing. Unteroffizier Massmann, Werknummer 6316, missing in action. Stab, I./JG 27’s Oberleutnant Bode, flying Werknummer 6316 posted missing. Oberleutnant Daig, II./JG 27, missing. Feldwebel Höhnisch, Werknummer 1508 missing. Feldwebel Biber, I Staffel JG 54, Werknummer 6103, missing.[53]

10–12. 15 September 1940 2 x Bf 109s
1 x Do 17
Claimed two Bf 109s over Edenbridge, Kent at 12:00. Later, at 14:30, claimed a Do 17 over Rochester, Kent.[54]

605 Squadron engaged Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—Fighter Wing 51). Pilot Officer Currant dispatched Werknummer 3266, from 7 Staffel and flown by Leutnant Bildau was posted missing. Another Bf 109 from 9 Staffel, Werknummer 2803 was also shot down. Feldwebel Klotz was wounded and taken prisoner.[55] Also involved in the action were Bf 109s from Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3—Fighter Wing 3), Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53—Fighter Wing 53) and Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—Fighter Wing 77). Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2—Learning Wing 2) provided top cover.[56]

JG 26 suffered no losses. JG 3 lost three Bf 109s in aerial combat. I./JG 3 lost Werknummer 1563, pilot unhurt. 1 Staffel lost Werknummer 0945 and Feldwebel Volmer missing. 2 Staffel lost Werknummer 1606, pilot Staffelkapitän (Squadron Leader) Oberleutnant Helmuth Reumschüssel missing.[55]

JG 53 lost eight Bf 109s, with seven completely destroyed. Seven were not directly credited to RAF units. In air combat, I./JG 53 lostUnteroffizier Schersand, killed in Weknummer 6160. 1 Staffel Bf 109, Werknummer 5111 crash-landed in France, 15% destroyed and the pilot unhurt. 3 Staffel lost Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän Julius Jase, killed in Werkummer 1590. The same unit lost Unteroffizier Feldmann. Two more Bf 109s — Werknummer 1174 and 5251 from III./JG 53 – were destroyed, but their pilots were unhurt. One was rescued from the Channel.[55]

JG 77 lost a 1 Staffel Bf 109, pilot unhurt, Werknummer 4847 force-landed after combat over Dungeness. Another, Werknummer 4802 from 3 Stafel, was lost with its pilot Unteroffizier Meixner.[55]

At 14:00, McKellar led 605 on an attack against II./Kampfgeschwader 3 (KG 3—Bomber Wing 3), II and III./Kampfgeschwader 2 (KG 2—Bomber Wing 2), I and II./Kampfgeschwader 53 (KG 53—Bomber Wing 53) and I and II./Kampfgeschwader 26.[57]

He claimed one of the Do 17s before being recalled by No. 11 Group RAF commanding officer Keith Park to create a reserve for further operations.[58] McKellar would be credited with one Do 17 destroyed whose identity is uncertain. Among the Do 17 losses, that have not been credited to a specific squadron, were: Do 17 Werknummer 3405 (code U5+FT) and 3230 (code U5+JT) from 9 Staffel KG 2. In the first crew, Oberleutnant Staib, Unteroffizier Hoppe were killed, Gefreiter Zierer and Hoffman posted missing. In the second crew, Unteroffizier Krummheuer, Feldwebel Glaser, Unteroffizier Lenz were killed and Unteroffizier Sehrt missing.[59]

Two more Do 17s were lost around the same time. 8 Staffel KG 2’s Werknummer 4245 U5+GS, piloted by Oberleutnant Hugo Holleck-Weitmann, was lost. Holleck-Weitmann was killed, Unteroffizier Schweighart wounded, and Unteroffizier Lindemeier was missing. The remaining crewmen’s fates are unknown. The second, Werknummer 3440, U5+PS, was lost. Oberleutnant Werner Kittmann, Unteroffizier’s Stampfer and Langer posted missing. The remaining crewmen’s fates are unknown.[59]

13. 16 September 1940 1 x He111 Awarded DFC*[28]DSO[40] Victory claimed at night, 01:00. Location of victory not recorded.[60]
14–18. 7 October 1940 5 x Bf 109s Claimed four in one battle at 13:30—one near the village of Brasted, Westerham; one east of Biggin Hill; Maidstone; and the final opponent near Ashford, Kent. The last and fifth claim of the day was made at 16:30 over Mayfield and Five Ashes.[61]The Germans lost 12 Bf 109s on this date. Most can be credited to other RAF Squadrons. Two of McKellar’s victories can be identified. Werknummer (factory number) 3665, of 5 Staffel (Squadron) Jagdgeschwader 27 was shot down between Maidstone and Westerham. Unteroffizier Lederer posted missing, presumed killed. The second was Werknummer 3881—Unteroffizier Paul Lege killed in action. Another loss was Werknummer 5391, of 4 Staffel Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2—Learning Wing 2). Pilot Unteroffizier Ley missing, presumed killed in action by 605 Hurricanes. Also lost that day was a 2 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—Fighter Wing 51) Bf 109, Werknummer 5805, which crash–landed near Calais after combat and was 65% destroyed. A second Bf 109 from the same unit, Werknummer 4103, was also destroyed. The pilot Oberleutnant Viktor Mölders—brother of the famous ace Werner Mölders—was posted as missing in action by the Luftwaffe. No times are given for these losses.[62][63]
19. 20 October 1940 1 x Bf 109 His first victory that day can be identified as belonging to 3 Staffel Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2—Learning Wing). Unteroffizier Franz Mairl was killed in action in Bf 109 Werknummer 2059 Yellow 8 over Ashford, Kent at 10:00.[64] A second enemy also fell that afternoon. Feldwebel Adolf Iburg from 9 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—Fighter Wing 54) crash–landed and was captured. The victory McKellar claimed was credited as damaged only.
20. 26 October 1940 1 x Bf 109
21. 27 October 1940 1 x Bf 109 Claimed a Bf 109 at 09:30 over Croydon, Dungeness.[65] The Germans lost 13 Bf 109s to all causes on this date. Seven machines were lost that day to unidentified squadrons over Kent: I./Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3—Fighter Wing 3) lost Bf 109E-7 Werknummer 4124. The pilot, Leutnant Wilhelm Busch, was posted missing in action. 8 Staffel JG 27’s Bf 109 Werknummer 1329 damaged, force-landed in France after combat 20% destroyed. The same unit’s squadron leader Oberleutnant Anton Pointer went missing. 9 Staffel Werknummer 4818 force-landed near Calais 40% destroyed. Pilot Albert Busenkeil was wounded. 2 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—Fighter Wing 52) Werknummer 1268 Black 5 was lost over Kent. Karl Bott was posted missing in action. 3 Staffel JG 52 lost Werknummer 2798 Yellow 2. Oberleutnant Ulrich Steinhilper was captured (and later made numerous escape attempts from Canada). In the same unit, Yellow 4, Werknummer 3525, was shot down. Lothar Schieverhöfer missing in action.[66]
22. (Uncredited) 1 November 1940 1 x Bf 109 Logged as a claim over Faversham at 08:15.[46] An Bf 109 did crash near McKellar, and no other RAF pilot claimed it as destroyed. It could have been brought down by McKellar, but remains uncredited.[36]
TOTALS 21 kills


Urbanowicz, W (Flying Officer) – 15 kills

Witold Urbanowicz.jpg

Witold Urbanowicz (30 March 1908 – 17 August 1996) was a Polish fighter ace of the Second World War. According to the official record, Witold Urbanowicz was the second highest-scoring Polish fighter ace, with 17 confirmed wartime kills and 1 probable, not counting his pre-war victory. He was awarded with several decorations, among others the Virtuti Militari and British Distinguished Flying Cross. He also published several books of memoirs.


Urbanowicz was born in Olszanka, Augustów County. In 1930 he entered the Szkola Podchorazych Lotnictwa cadet flying school in Dęblin, graduating in 1932 as a 2/Lt. Observer. He was then posted to the night bomber squadron of the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw. Later he completed an advanced pilotage course to become a fighter pilot. In the 1930s he flew with the 113th and No. 111th “Kosciuszko” Squadron.

In August 1936, flying an PZL P.11a, he shot down a Soviet reconnaissance plane which had crossed into Polish airspace. He was officially reprimanded and unofficially congratulated by his superior officer and as “punishment” in October 1936 was transferred to an air force training school in Deblin where he was nicknamed “Cobra“.

Second World War

During the Invasion of Poland in 1939, Urbanowicz was in an improvised Ulez Group, composed of flying instructors, flying obsolete PZL P.7a fighters and covering the Dęblin and Ułęż airfields. Despite a few encounters with enemy airplanes the Polish fighters (which could barely match the speed of German bombers) were not able to shoot down any enemy planes. On 8 September the school was evacuated from Ulez and Dęblin.[1]

He was ordered with the cadets to Romania, where they were told to await re-equipment: British and French aircraft were rumoured to have been sent, but no aircraft arrived. Urbanowicz returned to Poland to continue to fight, but after the Soviet invasion on Poland, he was captured by a Soviet irregular unit. The same day he managed to escape with two cadets and crossed the Romanian border and eventually found his way to France where, after the fall of Poland, a new Polish army was being formed.

While in France he and a group of other Polish pilots were invited to join the Royal Air Force in Great Britain. After initial training with 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum, he was sent to 6 OTU for re-training on fighters in July 1940. In August he was assigned to No. 145 Squadron RAF, and became operational on 4 August 1940. On 8 August he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 Major Joachim Schlichting of V./LG 1 while flying with No. 601 Squadron (although he was never officially attached to the unit) and on 12 August a Junkers Ju 88 of KG 51.[1]

On 21 August he was transferred to the Polish-manned No. 303 Squadron, flying a Hawker Hurricane as “A” Flight commander. On 6 September he shot down a Bf 109 of JG 52. On 7 September he became Squadron Leader, after Zdzisław Krasnodębski was badly burned. On 15 September Urbanowicz claimed two Dornier Do. 17’s of KG 2.[1]

On 18 September 1940 Urbanowicz was awarded the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari by the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Forces, General Sikorski. On 24 October, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[2]

On 27 September he was officially credited with shooting down four aircraft: two Ju 88s of KG 77, a Bf 109 and a Bf 110 of 15.LG 1. On 30 September he claimed three Bf 109s (one from stab.JG 26, one of II./JG 53 and one of 4.JG 54) and one Dornier Do 17 of KG 3. Despite his success Urbanowicz was never popular at Polish headquarters and on 21 October he was forced to hand over command of the Squadron to Zdzisław Henneberg.

During the Battle of Britain, he claimed 15 confirmed kills and 1 probable, which made him one of the top Polish aces (second only to Stanisław Skalski) and in the top ten Allied aces of the battle.

Between 15 April 1941 and 1 June 1941 he commanded the 1st Polish Fighter Wing based at RAF Northolt, before being posted to staff work at No. 11 Group RAF HQ. In June 1941 he was assigned as the 2nd Air Attaché in the Polish Embassy in the United States.[1]

In September 1943 Urbanowicz joined the USAAF 14th Air Force on attachment in China. On 23 October he joined the 75th Fighter Squadron of the 23rd Fighter Group (Flying Tigers). Flying a P-40 Warhawk he took part in several combat missions. On 11 December he fought against six Japanese Mitsubishi Zeros and claimed two shot down (these were actually Nakajima Ki-44 “Tojo” fighters of the 85th Sentai ).[3]

According to his reports he also shot other airplanes over China, and destroyed some on the ground but those victories were not officially confirmed. According to Kenneth K. Koskodian, he downed 11 Japanese aircraft while being Claire Lee Chennault‘s guest.[4] He was later awarded the US Air Medal and a Chinese Flying Cross.

In December 1943 he returned to the United Kingdom and later became an Air Attaché in the USA again.[1]

During the war none of Witold Urbanowicz’s planes were hit by a single enemy bullet.

After the war

Hurricane gate guardian at RAF Uxbridge in the colours of Witold Urbanowicz’s 303 Squadron aircraft

In 1946 he returned to Poland, but was arrested by the communist Służba Bezpieczeństwa secret police as a suspected spy. After his release he fled to the USA. He lived in New York City working for American Airlines, Eastern Airlines and Republic Aviation, retiring in 1973. In 1991 he visited Poland after the fall of communism and again in 1995 when he was promoted to the rank of General. He died in New York on 17 August 1996.[5]

A fibreglass Hawker Hurricane gate guardian was unveiled at RAF Uxbridge in September 2010 in the colours of Urbanowicz’s aircraft from the Battle of Britain.[6]


Virtuti Militari Ribbon.png Virtuti Militari, Silver Cross (18 September 1940)
POL Krzyż Walecznych (1940) 4r BAR.PNG Cross of Valour, four times
DistinguishedFlyingCrossUKRibbon.jpg Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)
Air Medal ribbon.svg Air Medal (United States)
Flying Cross[clarification needed] (China)


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e King 2010, p.339
  2. Jump up ^ King 2010, p.338
  3. Jump up ^ Aircraft of the Aces 100, Ki-44 “Tojo” Aces by Nicholas Millman, Osprey Publishing, p.26
  4. Jump up ^ Koskodian 2009, p. 98.
  5. Jump up ^ King 2010, p.340
  6. Jump up ^ “RAF commemorates Battle of Britan [sic] with services at RAF Uxbridge and Polish War Memorial”. This is Local London. 3 September 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  • King, Richard. (2010) 303 (Polish) Squadron Battle of Britain Diary. Surrey: Red Kite ISBN 978-1-906592-03-5
  • Koskodian, Kenneth. K. (2009) No Greater Ally. New York City: Osprey Publishing
  • Fiedler, Arkady. Translation by Jarek Garlinski. (2010) 303 Squadron: The Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron. Los Angeles: Aquila Polonica Publishing ISBN 978-1-60772-004-1


Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few

Dowding with some of “The Few”

The Few were the Allied airmen of the Royal Air Force (RAF) who fought the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. The term comes from Winston Churchill‘s phrase “Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few.” It also alludes to Shakespeare‘s famous speech in his play, Henry V: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”[


Nearly 3,000 men were awarded the “Battle of Britain” clasp. As of 2009[update], there were fewer than 90 alive.

By one tally, British RAF aircrew numbered 2,353 (80%) of the total of 2,927 flyers involved, with 407 Britons killed from a total of 510 losses. The remainder were not British, many coming from parts of the British Empire (particularly New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and South Africa), as well as exiles from many conquered European nations, particularly from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Other countries supplying smaller numbers included Belgium, France, Ireland, and the US.[2][3][4][5]


The Battle of Britain was considered officially by the RAF[6] to have been fought between 10 July and 31 October 1940.

  • RAF pilots claimed to have shot down about 2,600 German aircraft, but figures compiled later suggest that Luftwaffe losses were more likely nearer 2,300.
  • Of 2,332 Allied pilots who flew fighters in the Battle, 38.90 percent could claim some success in terms of enemy aircraft shot down.
  • The number of pilots claiming more than one victory amounted to no more than 15 per cent of the total RAF pilots involved.
  • To be proclaimed an “ace” a pilot had to have five confirmed victories. During the Battle of Britain just 188 RAF pilots achieved that distinction – eight per cent of the total involved. A further 237 of those RAF pilots claiming successes during the Battle became “aces” later in the war.
  • There were four pilots who were “ace in a day” in the Battle of Britain: Archie McKellar, a British pilot, Antoni Glowacki, a Polish pilot, Ronald Fairfax Hamlyn and Brian Carbury, a New Zealand pilot.

Leading aces

The leading aces of the Battle of Britain (between 10 July and 31 October 1940) were: [7]

Rank Pilot Nationality Squadron Aircraft Kills Notes
1 Plt Off Eric Lock United Kingdom United Kingdom 41 Spitfire 21 Total 26 kills. KIA 3 August 1941.
2 Sq/Ldr Archie McKellar United Kingdom United Kingdom 605 Hurricane 19 Total 21 (possibly 22) three probable and three damaged. 5 Bf-109’s on 7 Oct, 1940. KIA 1 November 1940.
3 Sgt James Lacey United Kingdom United Kingdom 501 Hurricane 18
(23 by end of November)
Total 28 kills.
4 Sgt Josef František Czech Republic Czechoslovakia 303 Hurricane 17 Killed 8 October 1940.
5 Fg Off Brian Carbury New Zealand New Zealand 603 Spitfire 15 + ⅓
6 Fg Off Witold Urbanowicz Poland Poland 145 and 303 Hurricane 15 Total 18 (possibly 20) kills.
7 Plt Off Colin Gray New Zealand New Zealand 54 Spitfire 14 + ½ Total 27.7 kills.
8 Plt Off Bob Doe United Kingdom United Kingdom 234 and 238 Spitfire / Hurricane 14 (+ 2 shared)
9 Flt Lt Paterson Hughes Australia Australia 234 Spitfire 14 + ⅚ KIA 7 Sep 1940.
10 Sqn Ldr Michael Crossley United Kingdom United Kingdom 32 Hurricane 14 Wartime total 22 victories.


The memorial to The Few at Capel-le-Ferne, on top of the white cliffs of Dover

…which faces towards the English Channel

The pilots are remembered on the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne, Kent, and their names are listed on the Battle of Britain Monument in London. The Battle of Britain Roll of Honour is held in Westminster Abbey in the RAF Chapel, and is paraded annually during the Service of Thanksgiving and Re-dedication on Battle of Britain Sunday.[8]

There is a preserved Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft known as “The Last of The Many”—which may be a play on words with “The Few”—that flies as part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, along with a Supermarine Spitfire that flew in the Battle (one of five Spitfires in the Memorial Flight). As the Hurricane was the last production model of that type, it did not itself fly in the Battle.

Popular culture

Pink Floyd loosely refers to “the Few” on the track, “One of the Few”, on their anti-war concept album The Final Cut. The heavy metal band Iron Maiden released a single named “Aces High“, telling the story of a pilot flying in the Battle of Britain. In 2010 the Swedish power metal band Sabaton recorded a song called “Aces in Exile” about the foreign contingent of the Few, on their album Coat of Arms.

The Few, a novel by Alex Kershaw, tells the stories of the men who flew in the Battle of Britain. As of 2003[update], a Hollywood film similarly named The Few was in preparation for release in 2008, based on the story of real-life US pilot Billy Fiske, who ignored his country’s neutrality rules and volunteered for the RAF. A Variety magazine outline of the film’s historical content[9] was said in The Independent to have been described by Bill Bond, who conceived the Battle of Britain Monument in London, as “Totally wrong. The whole bloody lot.”

2 thoughts on “Battle of Britain – Triple Aces – Who were the ‘Triple Flying Aces’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s