Archie McKellar

Archie McKellar

Infobox Military Person
name=Archibald Ashmore McKellar
lived=10 April 1912 - 2 November 1940
placeofbirth=Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
placeofdeath=Adisham, Kent, England

allegiance=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
branch=air force|United Kingdom
rank=Flight Lieutenant
battles=World War II
*Battle of Britain
awards=Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar

Flight Lieutenant Archibald Ashmore McKellar DSO DFC & Bar (10 April 1912 – 2 November 1940), was a top fighter ace of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain in World War Two.

Most of McKellar's victories were scored in the Hawker Hurricane.

Early life

He was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the son of John and Margaret McKellar, of Bearsden, Dunbartonshire, [ [ Angela Kenney] BBC Peoples War] McKellar was educated at Shawlands Academy in the southside of Glasgow. [ [ Historic RAF Squadron reformed] ] On leaving school he joined his fathers construction business as a plasterer.

Military career


McKellar was commissioned into the Auxiliary Air Force as a Pilot Officer on 8 November 1936, joining No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron RAF. [LondonGazette|issue=34355|startpage=8442|date=29 December 1936|accessdate=2008-01-07] The squadron was based at RAF Drem, near Edinburgh. At the time it was a bomber squadron, but it later converted to the fighter role and was equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire. As a reserve unit, the members of No. 602 - both pilots and ground staff - were only part-time airmen, doing their service in the evenings, weekends and on a two week annual summer camp. But as war approached, the squadron was put on a full time footing, and RAF Drem became an air defence fighter unit for Edinburgh and the shipping area around the Firth of Forth.

On 16 October 1939, the Luftwaffe made its first attack on Great Britain, on shipping in the Firth of Forth. Spitfires from No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron joined 602 Squadron in a defensive counter-air sortie. During one attack, the cockpit canopy of Hauptmann Pohle's Junkers Ju 88 released itself. Pohle tried to fly northwards to take an observation position, but was hit by shells from the Spitfire of Flt Lt George Pinkerton and McKellar's Hurricane. The now stricken aircraft came down three miles east of Crail, nearly colliding with a Coastal trading vessel. [Pilots are taught to land close to a shipping vessel, should they be forced to crash at sea - to give them a greater chance of a successful recovery.] Pohle was recovered, bleeding from facial wounds suffered in the crash, the other three crew members were dead on impact. [ [ 1st Air Raid of World War II] ] Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief Fighter Command sent the following message to both squadrons the next day: "Well done. First blood to the Auxiliaries." [ [ Spitfire LA198 returns home] 2175 (Rolls-Royce) Squadron Air Training Corps]

McKellar is officially credited with the downing the first enemy aircraft to fall on British soil in WW2. On 28 October 1939 McKellar attacked a Heinkel He-111 of Stab./ "Kampfgeschwader 26". After he had caused it considerable damage, he was then interrupted by the arrival of three Spitfires from 603 Squadron. Although argument rages to this day as to which squadron let alone pilot was the victor, [ [ Name ] ] the 'kill' was only part credited to McKellar.

605 Squadron

In early 1940, No. 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron moved to RAF Drem, as they converted to Hurricanes. McKellar was promoted to Flight Lieutenant [LondonGazette|issue=34876|startpage=3711|date=18 June 1940|accessdate=2008-01-07] within No. 605, and became a flight leader.

On 15 August 1940 No. 605 were called up by Air Vice-Marshal Saul to assist in the defence of Tyneside, which was undergoing a heavy enemy air attack at the time from Norwegian based He 111s. McKellar was able to down three He 111s during the encounter, but together with two colleagues sustained minor damage to his Hurricane during the engagement. [ [ NE Diary 1939-45; Incidents 15th August 1940 to 15th August 1940 ] ]

On 7 September 1940, No. 605 moved on rotation to Croydon Aerodrome. Then lead by Squadron Leader Walter Churchill, McKellar scored four more victories on 9 September, before taking over from S/L Churchill from the 11 September. His score rose by another four on 15 September. His Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) was gazetted on 13 September 1940:LondonGazette|issue=34945|startpage=5487|date=13 September 1940|accessdate=2008-01-07]

quote|"Air Ministry, 13th September, 1940."


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

"Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross."

Flight Lieutenant Archibald Ashmore MCKELLAR (90168), Auxiliary Air Force.

This officer has at all times displayed the keenest desire to engage the enemy. In his first large-scale encounter against enemy aircraft he displayed a great sense of leadership and tactics in launching his flight against ninety Heinkel m's. As a result, at least four enemy aircraft were destroyed, of which Flight Lieutenant McKellar destroyed three. He has displayed outstanding leadership and courage.

On 7 October his score rose by another five victories, all Messerschmitt Bf 109s. [ Archie McKellar at] ] A Bar to the DFC followed on 8 October 1940:LondonGazette|issue=34945|startpage=5487|date=13 September 1940|accessdate=2008-01-07]

quote|"Air Ministry, 8th October, 1940,"


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

"Awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross."

Flight Lieutenant Archibald Ashmore McKELLAR, D.F.C. (90168), Auxiliary Air Force.

During a period of eight days in the defence of London, Flight Lieutenant McKellar has destroyed eight hostile aircraft, bringing his total to twelve. He displays an excellent fighting spirit, is a particularly brilliant tactician and has led his squadron with skill and resource.

During September McKellar shot down eight German aircraft, four of these were claimed on 9 September. On 7 October, McKellar went one better, shooting down five Bf 109s, four of which were destroyed after engaging 60 of the single-engined aircraft near Biggin Hill. [Holmes 1998, page 106.]


By 1 November 1940 McKellar had claimed 21 victories. Taking a section of No. 605 that included Flt Lt Bob Foster, (later Squadron Leader) up to meet a flight of Bf 109 "Jabos" (Bf 109s equipped with bombs), the section took a high altitude to meet the enemy aircraft:

Believed shot down by II./ JG 27s "Hauptmann" Wolfgang Lippert. [Holmes 1998, page 106.] McKellar's Hurricane MkI (V6879) crashed at the side of Woodlands Manor near Adisham, Kent at 18:20hrs.

His Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was gazetted posthumously on 26 November 1940:

quote|"Air Ministry, 26th November, 1940."


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."

Squadron Leader Archibald Ashmore MCKELLAR, D.F.C. (90168), Auxiliary Air Force (since killed in action)—No. 605 Squadron.

This officer has led his squadron with outstanding courage and determination. He has destroyed 20 enemy aircraft, and his magnificent fighting spirit has proved an excellent inspiration to his fellow pilots.LondonGazette|issue=35001|startpage=6753|date26 November 1940|accessdate=2008-01-07]

Further recognition came in a Mention in Despatches gazetted on 31 December 1940.LondonGazette|issue=35029|supp=yes|startpage=33|endpage=34|date=31 December 1940|accessdate=2008-01-07]


As McKellar died outside the Air Ministry "nominal" dates for the Battle of Britain (10 July to 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 the new Eastwood Cemetery, Thornliebank, Glasgow. [ [ Graves of World War II personalities] ] [ [ Archie McKellar] at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission]

Combat record

Of McKellar's total kills, 13.5 confirmed kills, four probables and one damaged were scored in one particular machine; "P3308" between 15 August and 7 October 1940. It became the Hurricane with the highest number of kills in the Battle of Britain. McKellar's Hurricane was handed over to a Czech unit, No. 312 Squadron RAF on the 4 January 1941. The machine was written off in an accident on 30 April 1941. [Holmes 1998, page 128.]


* Holmes, Tony. "Hurricane Aces 1939 - 1940". Osprey Publishing. London. 1998. ISBN 978-1-85532-597-5
* Ness, William N. - "The Allied Aces Of World War II" - Pub 1966, Arco Publishing Co., Inc., New York
* "Battle of Britain Remembered" - Issue No.5, September 2006
* [ Archie McKellar's Medals at the National Museum, Scotland]

Citations and notes

External links

* [ Archie McKellar at]

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