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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. C H MacLean


Charles Hector MacLean was born on 9th December 1913 in Glasgow. He was educated at Canford School and graduated from Glasgow University with a Law degree in 1935.

He joined 602 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force in 1936, the squadron was then operating the Hawker Hind. His commanding officer was S/Ldr. the Marquess of Clydesdale, later the Duke of Hamilton.

MacLean was called to full-time service on 24th August 1939 and on 22nd December he shared in the destruction of a He111, which was laying mines fifteen miles east of the Isle of May.

MacLean shared in damaging a He111 over the Firth of Forth on 13th January 1940.
On 7th July 1940 MacLean shared in the destruction of a Ju88 and on 18th August, after the squadron had moved south to Westhampnett, MacLean damaged a Ju87.

He was shot down on 26th August in Spitfire I X4187, seriously wounded.

He had engaged a formation of He111's off the south coast but as he opened fire he was hit from behind by the fire from a Me109. His right foot was almost completely severed.

MacLean managed to regain control of his badly damaged Spitfire and used his scarf to make a tourniquet. Unable to bale out, he belly-landed on the airfield at Tangmere, where he was lifted from the aircraft, minus his foot. He had been wearing brand new shoes, and, anxious not to lose one of the pair, he sent an orderly back to retrieve his severed foot. The airman took one look into the cockpit and passed out.

He was admitted to the Royal West Sussex Hospital at Chichester, where his right leg was amputated.

He was non-effective sick and supernumerary at RAF Tangmere from 26th August to 23rd October 1940, when he was posted away to Drem as a supernumerary.

He later became a fighter controller and was on duty at Ayr when Rudolf Hess parachuted into Scotland.

On the night of 10th May 1941, observer posts and radar units tracked a lone hostile aircraft as it approached the Northumberland coast and continued towards Glasgow. MacLean, whose sector was responsible for the air defence of the south-west of Scotland, was the duty controller.

Once he was alerted to the aircraft's presence he immediately scrambled a Defiant from 151 Squadron but before it was able to complete the interception, the hostile aircraft, a Me110, crashed.

A farm worker contacted the police to say that the pilot had baled out and needed to deliver an important message to the Duke of Hamilton, a serving RAF group captain, whose house was some 15 miles away.

The pilot was Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, who claimed to have met the Duke when they both attended the 1936 Berlin Olympics, although such a meeting appears never to have taken place.

The police informed MacLean of the crashed aircraft and of Hess's request, and he immediately contacted the Duke, his old commanding officer, who was roused from his sleep and was 'nonplussed' by Hess's statement. Hess was taken into custody and spent the rest of his life in captivity.

MacLean continued as a fighter controller in Northern Ireland and in south-east England.

When the Auxiliary Air Force re-formed in 1947, MacLean was appointed commanding officer of 3602 Fighter Control Unit at Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow. He retired as a wing commander and received the Air Efficiency Award and Clasp in recognition of his service in the RAAF.

After the war he rejoined the family firm, Montgomerie, Flemings, Fyfe, MacLean. He developed a particular forte in the field of trusts and financial matters.

He lent his expertise to a number of charities and for many years was chairman of the Association for the Relief of Incurables in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, a charity his family had been involved in from its inception in the late 19th century.

MacLean was an honorary vice-president of the Clan MacLean Association and took a close interest in the restoration of Duart Castle, the clan seat on Mull.

A life-long resident of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Renfrewshire.

MacLean was also a devoted member of the 602 Squadron Association and gave much support to the establishment of the squadron's museum in Glasgow. In 1999 he wrote 'Fighters in Defence, Memories of the Glasgow Squadron'.

He died on 19th July 2007.


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