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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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165 Squadron Crest
12.06.1944 165 (Ceylon) Squadron Spitfire IX MK567 SK:Q Sgt. James J. Mclean

Operation: Rhubarb

Date: 12th June 1944 (Monday)

Unit: 165 (Ceylon*) Squadron. 19 Group (motto: Infensa virtuti invidia - 'Envy is the foe of virtue')

Type: Spitfire LFIX

Serial: MK567

Code: SK:Q

Base: RAF Preddanack, Cornwall

Location: English Channel south of Start Point

Pilot: Sgt. James Johnston McLean 417080 RNZAF Age 20. Missing

* The name "Ceylon" was added in recognition of the Island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, raising the funding to originally equip the squadron.


Taking off at 11:30 hrs on Rhubarb 278 operation. After attacking a military transport convoy west of Lambelle, the remaining two Spitfires from the squadron started to return to RAF Preddanack.

Whilst over the English Channel Sgt. McLean reported that his aircraft was suffering problems with the engine. Some 8 minutes later he abandoned the aircraft 70 miles south of Start Point. The other Spitfire circled and saw the pilot holding onto the end of his dingy and that his parachute had half covered that. He was forced to return due to lack of fuel. Air sea rescue were dispatched to pick him up and searched till early evening, but no trace could be found.

From left to right: LAC McLean on the left with fellow trainee whilst under aircrew training. Sgt. McLean, and standing by his Spitfire. (Courtesy James Mclean)

Photo Op. Sgt. McLean and his Spitfire, probably MK567 (Courtesy James Mclean)

Also lost from the squadron during the same operation:

Spitfire IX MK471 SK:N Flown by 21 year old, Plt.Off. Donald Moffat-Wilson 17334 RAFVR. During this day 10 pilots were killed or missing, 2 injured with 6 others safe after either baling out or crash landing. 10 Spitfires and 8 Typhoons were lost.

Photograph of the pilots of 165 (Ceylon) Squadron - Dated February 1944 and captioned "Splinters’s Chindits". Sgt. McLean standing 3rd row from the front and 3rd from the right, the remainder are unknown (Courtesy James Mclean)

Onehunga Memorial Pool and Leisure Centre (photo courtesy John Halpin)

Flt Sgt. McLean’s Medals, Pilot’s Wings and image of him in a Spitfire (the Pegasus image makes it probable that this was MK471, SK-N, Plt Off. Moffat-Wilson’s aircraft).
Left to right: 1939-1945 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-1945, New Zealand War Medal (Courtesy James Mclean)

Burial details:

Flt Sgt. James Johnston McLean. Commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 264. Born on the 5th December 1923 in Auckland, the son of David William and Lizzie McLean (née Abraham), of Te Papapa, Auckland, New Zealand, husband of Olive Claire McLean (née Firth), of Epsom, Auckland. Prior to service worked as a clerk for the Justice Department in Auckland. Also remembered at the Onehunga War Memorial Pool in Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 450 hours in his log book and this had been his 38th operation.

Thanks to James Mclean for the images of his grandfather, Flt Sgt. McLean and his squadron.

RS 29.04.2020 - Inclusion of new images of Flt.Sgt. McLean and his squadron

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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