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Archive Report: Allied Forces
1914 - 1918

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
Geoprge McElroy MC DFC

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George McElroy MC (2 Bars) DFC (2 Bars): 'Deadeye' Irish Ace

Nickname(s)"Deadeye", "Mac", "McIrish"
Born14 May 1893
Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland
Died31 July 1918 (aged 25)
Laventie, France
Buried atLaventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue, Nord, France
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service1914–1918
RankCaptain
Unit
  • Royal Engineers
  • Royal Irish Regiment
  • Royal Garrison Artillery
  • No. 40 Squadron RFC/RAF
  • No. 24 Squadron RFC/RAF

Captain George Edward Henry McElroy MC & Two Bars, DFC & Bar (14 May 1893 — 31 July 1918) was a leading Irish-born fighter pilot of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force during World War I. He was credited with 47 aerial victories.



Military career

McElroy was born at Donnybrook, County Dublin, Ireland to Samuel and Ellen McElroy. He enlisted promptly at the start of World War I in August 1914, and was shipped out to France two months later He was serving as a corporal in the Motor Cyclist Section of the Royal Engineers when he was first commissioned as a second lieutenant on 9 May 1915. While serving in the Royal Irish Regiment he was severely affected by mustard gas and was sent home to recuperate. He was in Dublin in April 1916, during the Easter Rising, and was ordered to help quell the insurrection. McElroy refused to fire upon his fellow Irishmen, and was transferred to a southerly garrison away from home.

On 1 June 1916 McElroy relinquished his commission in the Royal Irish Regiment when awarded a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from which he graduated on 28 February 1917, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Aerial service

McElroy was promptly seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, being trained as a pilot at the Central Flying School at Upavon, and appointed a flying officer on 28 June. On 27 July his commission was backdated to 9 February 1916, and he was promoted to lieutenant on 9 August. On 15 August he joined No. 40 Squadron RFC, where he benefited from mentoring by Edward Mannock. He originally flew a Nieuport 17, but with no success in battle. By the year's end McElroy was flying SE5s and claimed his first victory on 28 December.

George McElroy WW1 Ace by plane

An extremely aggressive dog-fighter who ignored often overwhelming odds, McElroy's score soon grew rapidly. He shot down two German aircraft in January 1918, and by 18 February had run his string up to 11. At that point, he was appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain, and transferred to No. 24 Squadron RFC. He continued to steadily accrue victories by ones and twos. By 26 March, when he was awarded the Military Cross, he was up to 18 kills. On 1 April, the Army's Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) were merged to form the Royal Air Force, and his squadron became No. 24 Squadron RAF. McElroy was injured in a landing accident on 7 April; he brushed a treetop while landing. By then he had run his score to 27. While he was sidelined with his injury, on 22 April, he was awarded a bar to his Military Cross. Following his convalescence, McElroy returned to No. 40 Squadron in June, scoring three times, on the 26th, 28th, and 30th. The latter two triumphs were observation balloons. That ran his tally to 30.

In July, he added to his score almost daily, a third balloon busting on the 1st, followed by one of the most triumphant months in the history of fighter aviation, adding 17 victims during the month. His run of success was threatened on the 20th by a vibrating engine that entailed breaking off an attack on a German two seater and a rough emergency landing that left him with scratches and bruises. There was a farewell luncheon that day for his friend 'Noisy' Lewis; their mutual friend "Mick" Mannock pulled McElroy aside to warn him about the hazards of following a German victim down within range of ground fire.

On 26 July, his mentor and friend, Edward 'Mick' Mannock, was killed by ground fire. Ironically, on that same day, 'McIrish' McElroy received the second Bar to his Military Cross. He was one of only ten airmen to receive the second Bar.

Death in action

McElroy's continued apparent disregard for his own safety when flying and fighting could have only one end. On the 31st, he reported destroying a Hannover C for his 47th victory. He then set out again. He failed to return from this flight and was posted missing. Later it was learned that McElroy had been killed by ground fire. He was 25 years old.

McElroy would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously on 3 August, citing his shooting down 35 aeroplanes and three observation balloons. The Bar would arrive still later, on 21 September, and would laud his low-level attacks. In summary, he shot down four enemy aircraft in flames and destroyed 23 others, one of which he shared destroyed with other pilots. He drove down 16 enemy aircraft 'out of control' and out of the fight; in one of those cases, it was a shared success. He also destroyed three balloons.

McElroy is interred in Plot I.C.1 at the Laventie Military Cemetery in La Gorgue, northern France.

Awards and citations:

Military Cross
2nd Lieutenant George Edward Henry McElroy, Royal Garrison Artillery and Royal Flying Corps.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has shown a splendid offensive spirit in dealing with enemy aircraft. He has destroyed at least two enemy machines, and has always set a magnificent example of courage and initiative." (Gazetted 26 March 1918.)
Bar to Military Cross
2nd Lieutenant George Edward Henry McElroy, MC, Royal Garrison Artillery and Royal Flying Corps.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When on an offensive patrol, observing a hostile scout diving on one of our aeroplanes, he opened fire, and sent down the enemy machine in an irregular spin out of control, when it finally crashed completely. Later in the same day, he sent down another enemy machine in flames. On another occasion, when on offensive patrol, he singled one out of four enemy machines, and sent it down crashing to earth. On the same day he attacked another enemy machine, and, after firing 200 rounds, it burst into flames. On a later occasion, he opened fire on an enemy scout at 400 yards range, and finally sent it down in a slow spin out of control. In addition, this officer has brought down two other enemy machines completely out of control, his skill and determination being most praiseworthy." (Gazetted 2 April 1918.)
Second bar to Military Cross
Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) George Edward Henry McElroy, MC, Royal Garrison Artillery and Royal Flying Corps.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While flying at a height of 2,000 feet, he observed a patrol of five enemy aircraft patrolling behind the lines. After climbing into the clouds, he dived to the attack, shot down and crashed one of them. Later, observing a two-seater, he engaged and shot it down out of control. On another occasion he shot down an enemy scout which was attacking our positions with machine-gun fire. He has carried out most enterprising work in attacking enemy troops and transport and in the course of a month has shot down six enemy aircraft, which were seen to crash, and five others out of control." (Gazetted 26 July 1918.)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) George Edward Henry McElroy, MC.
"A brilliant fighting pilot who has destroyed thirty-five machines and three kite balloons to date. He has led many offensive patrols with marked success, never hesitating to engage the enemy regardless of their being, on many occasions, in superior numbers. Under his dashing and skilful leadership his flight has largely contributed to the excellent record obtained by the squadron." (Gazetted 3 August 1918.)
Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) George Edward Henry McElroy, MC, DFC. (Royal Garrison Artillery).
"In the recent battles on various army fronts this officer has carried out numerous patrols, and flying at low altitudes, has inflicted heavy casualties on massed enemy troops, transport, artillery teams, etc., both with machine-gun fire and bombs. He has destroyed three enemy kite balloons and forty-three machines, accounting for eight of the latter in eight consecutive days. His brilliant achievements, keenness and dash have at all times set a fine example and inspired all who came in contact with him." (Gazetted 20 September 1918.)

Victories:

No. 40 Squadron RFC
128 December 1917
@1120
S.E.5a
(B598)
LVG CDestroyedDrocourt, Pas-de-Calais—Vitry
213 January 1918
@0920
S.E.5a
(B598)
Rumpler COut of controlPont-à-Vendin
319 January 1918
@1205
S.E.5a
(B598)
DFW CDestroyedVitry
424 January 1918
@1250
S.E.5a
(B598)
DFW COut of controlOppy—Henin-Liétard
52 February 1918
@1330
S.E.5a
(B598)
COut of controlSouth-east of Habourdin
65 February 1918
@1240
S.E.5a
(B22)
DFW CDestroyedWingles
75 February 1918
@1300
S.E.5a
(B22)
DFW CDestroyed (on fire)North of La Bassée
816 February 1918
@1130
S.E.5a
(B598)
DFW COut of controlWest of Henin-Liétard
917 February 1918
@1125
S.E.5a
(B22)
Pfalz D.IIIDestroyedMarquain
1017 February 1918
@1155
S.E.5a
(B22)
CDestroyed (on fire)4 miles south-east of Lens
1118 February 1918
@1200
S.E.5a
(B598)
Albatros D.VOut of controlDouvrin
No. 24 Squadron RFC
1221 February 1918
@1000
S.E.5a
(B664)
Albatros D.VOut of controlSouth of Honnecourt
1326 February 1918
@1605
S.E.5a
(B891)
Fokker Dr.IDestroyed (on fire)4 miles east of Laon
141 March 1918
@1045
S.E.5a
(B891)
DFW COut of controlBeaurevoir
156 March 1918
@0705
S.E.5a
(C1751)
Albatros D.VDestroyedNorth-east of Bullecourt
168 March 1918
@0755
S.E.5a
(B891)
DFW COut of controlEast of St. Quentin
178 March 1918
@1455
S.E.5a
(B891)
Fokker Dr.IDestroyedSouth-east of La Fère
189 March 1918
@0930
S.E.5a
(B891)
Albatros D.VOut of controlNorth-east of La Fère
1927 March 1918
@1520
S.E.5a
(A8900)
Albatros D.VDestroyed (on fire)Chipilly
2029 March 1918
@1530
S.E.5a
(C1800)
Albatros D.VDestroyedFoucaucourt
2129 March 1918
@1545
S.E.5a
(C1800)
DFW COut of controlEast of Warfusée
No. 24 Squadron RAF
221 April 1918
@1215
S.E.5a
(C1084)
Albatros D.VDestroyedNorth of Ignaucourt
232 April 1918
@1430
S.E.5a
(C1084)
Albatros D.VOut of controlEast of Moreuil
244 April 1918
@1505
S.E.5a
(C1084)
Pfalz D.IIIDestroyedNorth of Warfusée
257 April 1918
@1040
S.E.5a
(C1800)
Albatros D.VOut of controlWarfusée
267 April 1918
@1100
S.E.5a
(C1800)
Albatros D.VDestroyed3 miles east of Marcelcave
277 April 1918
@1115
S.E.5a
(C1800)
Fokker Dr.IOut of controlNorth of Moreuil Wood
No. 40 Squadron RAF
2826 June 1918
@0655
S.E.5a
(C8869)
DFW CDestroyed500 yards south-east of Annay
2928 June 1918
@1255
S.E.5a
(C8869)
BalloonDestroyedProvin
3030 June 1918
@1045
S.E.5a
(C8869)
BalloonDestroyedAnnayShared with Lieutenants A. R. Whitten and Gilbert Strange
311 July 1918
@1225
S.E.5a
(C8869)
BalloonDestroyedHarnes
322 July 1918
@1022
S.E.5a
(D6122)
DFW CDestroyedNorth of La Bassée
332 July 1918
@2100
S.E.5a
(E1318)
DFW CDestroyedNorth-west of Pacaut Wood
345 July 1918
@1150
S.E.5a
(C8869)
DFW COut of controlLestrem
356 July 1918
@0540
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover CDestroyedNorth-east of Arras
368 July 1918
@0925
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover COut of controlEast of MonchyShared with Lieutenants Indra Lal Roy and Gilbert Strange
378 July 1918
@1045
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover CDestroyed3 miles east of La Bassée
3811 July 1918
@0550
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover CDestroyedWest of Vitry
3913 July 1918
@0645
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover CDestroyedWest of EstairesShared with Lieutenants F. H. Knobel, Indra Lal Roy and Gilbert Strange
4013 July 1918
@2005
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Pfalz D.IIIDestroyedVitry
4114 July 1918
@0730
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover CDestroyedNorth of Drocourt
4215 July 1918
@2015
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Fokker D.VIIDestroyedNorth-east of Hill 70, Lens
43Fokker D.VIIOut of control
4419 July 1918
@1245
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Albatros D.VDestroyed2 miles North of Estaires
4525 July 1918
@0615
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover CDestroyedNorth of Neuve-Chapelle
4625 July 1918
@0715
S.E.5a
(C8869)
Hannover CDestroyedWest of Bois d'Épinoy
4731 July 1918
@0930
S.E.5a
(E1310)
Hannover CDestroyedLaventie

SY 6 Mar 2016

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling WW1 material include: Dunnigan, James F. (2003). How to Make War: A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare in the Twenty-first Century. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-060090-12-8.Durkota, Allen; Darcey, Thomas; Kulikov, Victor (1995). The Imperial Russian Air Service: Famous Pilots and Aircraft of World War I. Mountain View: Flying Machines Press. ISBN 978-0-060090-12-8.Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W.; Guest, Russell (1993). Above the Lines: The Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914–1918. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-73-1.Franks, Norman (2005). Sopwith Pup Aces of World War I. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-841768-86-1.Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell; Alegi, Gregory (1997). Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914–1918. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-898697-56-5.Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W. (1992). Over the Front: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-54-0.Guttman, Jon (2009). Pusher Aces of World War 1. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-846034-17-6.Guttman, Jon (2001). Spad VII Aces of World War I: Volume 39 of Aircraft of the Aces. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-841762-22-7.Kulikov, Victor (2013). Russian Aces of World War 1: Aircraft of the Aces. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-780960-61-6.Newton, Dennis (1996). Australian Air Aces: Australian Fighter Pilots in Combat. Motorbooks International. ISBN 978-1-875671-25-0.Pieters, Walter M. (1998). Above Flanders Fields: A Complete Record of the Belgian Fighter Pilots and Their Units During the Great War. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-898697-83-1.Shores, Christopher (2001). British and Empire Aces of World War I. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-377-4.Shores, Christopher; Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell (1990). Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9.Shores, Christopher; Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell (1996). Above the Trenches Supplement: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-898697-39-8., Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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