Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Dodds MBE DFM
Born in Glasgow, Scotland July 22nd 1921
Died July 17th 2014
Jimmy Dodds was a Hurricane fighter pilot who cut a swathe through enemy aircraft during the campaign in North Africa
Jimmy Dodds, who has died aged 92, was the RAF’s most successful Hurricane fighter pilot during the North African desert campaign and went on to have a distinguished flying career in East Africa.
In the summer of 1941 Dodds joined No 274 Squadron, as a teenage sergeant pilot, to fly Hurricanes.
On November 18 that year a major Allied offensive against Rommel and his Panzers was launched with extensive air support.
Dodds was in the thick of “Operation Crusader” from the outset, and over the next few months flew 143 operational sorties over the desert.
His first success came on December 1, when he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109.
Over the next six months he was credited with shooting down 14 enemy aircraft, with a further six “probables”.
Most of his victims were German and Italian fighters; these had a superior performance to the Hurricane, and to offset this Dodds, when encountering hostile formations, would climb as high as possible before picking out a target well below him, then diving on it.
On one occasion he was escorting a reconnaissance aircraft when his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he was forced to land in the desert.
He had his final success on June 17 1942, when he shot down two Italian fighters during the same engagement.
His squadron then carried out a number of low-level bombing operations, Dodds completing seven sorties .
He left the squadron in July, and a few months later was awarded a DFM.
James Dodds was born in Glasgow on July 22 1921 and educated at Hyndland Secondary School, where he developed a lifelong love of literature.
He joined the RAF (where he was known as “Hamish”) in May 1940 and trained as a fighter pilot.
Shortly after leaving No 274 Squadron in 1942 he was commissioned and remained in Egypt flying communications and training aircraft.
On his return to Britain in April 1945 he joined No 56 Squadron, flying the Tempest and then the Meteor jet fighter.
He left the RAF in early 1947 as a flight lieutenant but continued to fly with the RAF Reserve from Perth.
In the aftermath of war Dodds worked for several years for the King Aircraft Corporation of Glasgow, makers of aircraft components and fittings.
He then went to Nairobi, where he joined Campling & Vanderwal as a charter pilot.
Operating 16 aircraft, this was the largest air charter company in East Africa carrying mail and making Red Cross flights between cities throughout the region.
During the Kenyan Emergency, Dodds was seconded, in 1953, to the Kenya Police Reserve Air Wing. Flying a single-engine Piper Pacer, he worked closely in support of Army operations, particularly those of the Devonshire Regiment in the Aberdare Forest.
Known to the ground forces by his call sign “Eagle Green”, he dropped supplies to isolated patrols and transported reinforcements to remote airstrips.
To provide additional flexibility in the area, the Devons levelled out an airstrip at Kihuri which they named “Dodds Field”.
Sometimes it was Dodds who provided the only radio link between ground patrols, meaning that he would have to coordinate an operation himself.
His command of one such operation, involving the Devons and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was described in the regimental history as “masterly”, and in May 1954 he was appointed MBE for his “outstanding services during the Emergency”.
His farewell visit to the Devons involved his landing, to the consternation of motorists, on the main Nairobi-Naivasha road — “because it was the nearest suitable strip to the Officers’ Mess”.
In 1955 Dodds left Kenya for New Zealand, where he joined Fieldair in Gisborne spraying a top dressing on numerous sheep stations in the area.
He met his future wife, Robin, in New Zealand, and in 1956 she accompanied him back to Nairobi, where he rejoined Campling & Vanderwal.
On June 30 1960 the former Belgian Congo became independent, and 10 days later Congolese soldiers mutinied against their European officers.
There was widespread panic among the 97,000 whites, and Dodds immediately volunteered to join an airlift to evacuate those in the east of the country.
On July 10 he flew a single-engine Comanche aircraft to the town of Bunia in the Congo, starting a shuttle between Bunia and Kasase in western Uganda, flying out to safety nuns, missionaries and civilians.
Over the next four days he flew for six or seven hours a day, making nine round trips during which his small aircraft was often overloaded and the target of rifle fire.
He then made four more evacuation flights from other Congo towns, making his last on July 16, when he picked up refugees from Paulis (now Isiro) and took them to Entebbe, in Uganda.
In November 1960 Dodds left for Mwanza in Tanzania, establishing his own air charter business flying a Cessna 206.
His wife did the bookings and paperwork while he traversed East Africa on both business and tourist charter flights.
These included frequent visits to game parks, providing him with opportunities to indulge his keen interest in both wildlife and photography.
Dodds returned to his native Scotland in 1970, building a marina on the banks of the Caledonian Canal in Inverness.
He also designed the superstructure of a cabin cruiser based on a 23ft fibreglass hull; she was hired out on the canal for some years, and chandlery, moorings, and small boat hire and sales gradually augmented the business.
Finally settled in East Berwickshire Jimmy Dodds passed his time gardening, reading and listening to classical music .
He is survived by his wife, whom he married in 1956, and by their two sons and one daughter.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.