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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. J H G McArthur


James Henry Gordon McArthur was born in Tynemouth on 12th February 1913. He attended West Jesmond Council School then Rutherford College from January 1926 to December 1928. He then went on to the Marine School at South Shields.

In 1934 he entered the England to Australia 'MacRobertson Air Race' as a wireless operator to T Campbell Black in Airspeed Viceroy G-ACMU but they withdrew at Athens because of a technical problem.

He was awarded Aero Certificate 12614 at Redhill Aero Club on 5th March 1935.



He teamed up again with Black later in 1935 for an attempt on the London to Capetown and return record. They flew non-stop from Hatfield in DH Comet G-ADEF 'Boomerang' to Cairo. After refuelling they took off to fly to Kenya for another re-fuelling stop but due to a problem with the aircraft they were forced to bale out of the aircraft around 100 miles north of Khartoum and landed in the desert.

They were later rescued and then awarded Caterpillar Club badges by Irvin, McArthur then being the youngest recipient. He joined British Continental Airways as a wireless operator in early 1936.

He took an RAF Short Service Commission in May 1936.

On 18th July he was posted to 9 FTS at Thornaby and was confirmed as a Pilot Officer on 11th October. He then joined the Station Flight at Aldergrove on 14th January 1937 and was promoted to Flying Officer on 11th May. On 1st October 1938 he was posted to the Experimental Section, Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough as a test pilot.

McArthur was posted to 238 Squadron at Middle Wallop as a Flight Commander in June 1940, having become a Flight Lieutenant on 11th May, before joining 609 at Middle Wallop as ‘B’ Flight Commander on 1st August 1940 under S/Ldr. Darley.


(Above: McArthur, standing, fourth from right, with other 609 members at Warmwell)


On 8th August whilst flying Spitfire R6977 he destroyed two Ju87s off the Isle of Wight. He destroyed a Me110 on the 11th, again in R6977, 15 miles SSE of Swanage. Still in R6977 he claimed a probable Me110 on the 12th and a Me109 on the 13th.

On 15th August he destroyed two Me110s in R6769. He claimed another Me110 destroyed on the 25th in X4165 and on 7th September he destroyed a Do17. He claimed a further Do17 destroyed on the 15th in R6979.

After this action he suffered an oxygen failure at 25,000ft. Attacked by Me109s he lost consciousness and came to just in time to pull out of a high-speed dive at a low altitude. The damage to his ears was to require future hospital treatment but in the meantime he destroyed a Me110 on the 25th.

Because of the damage to his ears, McArthur had to hand over command of ‘B’ Flight to F/Lt. J Dundas, after which he was not allowed to fly above 5,000 feet and in consequence was not able to return to operations.

McArthur was awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd October 1940) and his portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde in November.

Subsequently employed in non-operational posts, he was promoted to Squadron Leader on 1st September 1941, being promoted to Wing Commander on 1st January 1944.

Released from the RAF in 1947 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in Edmonton, Alberta in 1948 and was posted to the Winter Experimental Establishment, testing RAF and Royal Navy aircraft.

In 1949 he turned his hand to air racing and was granted leave for the races, acquiring Spitfire XIVe TZ138 on 4th August 1949 in partnership with F/Lt Ken Brown DFC, who had been a Flight Sergeant with 617 Squadron on the Dams raid.

Purchasing the Spitfire for $1250 they registered it as CF-GMZ on 25th August. Sponsored by Imperial Oil he entered the Tinnerman Air Races at Cleveland, Ohio as number 80 and finished in third place in the Thompson Trophy on 4th September 1949. Back with the RCAF he served in Canada, the USA and Japan and was awarded the UN Korea Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration.

He was badly injured in an motor accident in 1957 and left the RCAF soon afterwards, moving to Mexico. McArthur was killed in a flying accident in May 1961 aged 48.

He had rented an aircraft at Searchlight Airport, south of Las Vegas, to take Raymond Horton, a croupier at the Horseshoe Club, for a pleasure flight. The aircraft circled the area with the occupants waving to friends, before it inexplicably dived into the ground. No cause was ever found.

McArthur was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Las Vegas, with full military honours with the help of the Vancouver Legion.


Above image courtesy of Jeff Braucher.



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