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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. J A F MacLachlan


James Archibald Findlay MacLachlan was born on 1st April 1919 at Styal, Cheshire, the son of Hugh Findlay MacLachlan and Helen MacLachlan (nee Orr-Ewing).

He attended Monkton Combe School from 1931 to 1936.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began training in March 1937. He was posted to 3 FTS South Cerney on 8th May and joined 88 Squadron at Boscombe Down on 27th November. Then equipped with Hinds, the squadron soon afterwards received Fairey Battles and took them to France at the outbreak of war.

The squadron was withdrawn to England in June 1940. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 16th July 1940).

MacLachlan volunteered to serve in Fighter Command in August and was posted to 145 Squadron at Drem on 18th August. He then joined 73 Squadron at Castle Camps on 28th September.



He was posted away for overseas service on 19th October and on 17th November he led six Hurricanes off HMS Argus for Malta, where they joined 261 Squadron at Ta Kali.

On 9th January 1941 MacLachlan claimed two Mc200s destroyed, on the 19th a Z506B, a Ju88, two Ju87s and a probable CR42. During the night of 8/9th February he claimed two Ju88s destroyed. He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 11th February 1941).


Above: his mother accompanied to the award of the Bar to his DFC.


In combat on 16th February 1941 MacLachlan was hit by a Me109 and severely wounded in the left arm. He baled out and came down on land. After three days in hospital his arm was amputated below the elbow. MacLachlan returned to the UK and went to the Limb Centre at Roehampton, who designed a special detachable forearm and hand, suitable for use in a Hurricane. He returned to operations on 4th November 1941 when he took command of No 1 Squadron at Redhill.

The squadron began night intruder operations over France. On the night of 26/27th April 1942 MacLachlan destroyed a Do217 and damaged another, on 3/4th May he destroyed a Do17 and a He111 and on 3/4th June destroyed two Do217s and damaged two more.

He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 29th May 1942) and on 31st July was posted to 59 OTU, Crosby-on-Eden, as an instructor.

Later in the year MacLachlan was sent on a lecture tour of the USA.



In June 1943 he went to the Air Fighting Development Unit at Wittering. On 29th June MacLachlan, in company with Geoffrey Page, flew a Mustang on a daylight sortie, in the course of which he destroyed two Hs126s, a Ju88 and shared a second with Page, who also destroyed two Hs126s.

They went again on 18th July but as they crossed the French coast MacLachlan was hit by machine gun fire. He force-landed in a field and ploughed through an orchard. He survived the crash but was taken, as a prisoner, to a German field hospital. MacLachlan died there on 31st July 1943.

He is buried in Route de Caen Communal Cemetery, Pont L'Eveque, France.

He was awarded a second Bar to the DFC (gazetted 30th July 1943). MacLachlan's portrait was drawn by Eric Kennington.





(Below) His portrait was drawn by Eric Kennington (left) and Olive Snell (right)





His brother Flight Lieutenant Gordon Baird MacLachlan was killed on 16th April 1943 aged 21 whilst flying in Spitfire VI BS245 'C' of 616 Squadron which was shot down by enemy fighters on a Ramrod to Brest.

He is buried in Plouguerneau Communal Cemetery north of Brest.


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