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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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150 Squadron Crest
30.09.1939 150 Squadron Fairey Battle I K9283 Sqn Ldr. William M.L. Macdonald DFC

Operation: Photo-Reconnaissance

Date: 30th September 1939 (Saturday)

Unit No: 150 Squadron

Type: Battle I

Serial: K9283

Base: RAF Ecury-sur-Coole, France.

Location: At base, RAF Ecury-sur-Coole, France

Pilot: Sqn Ldr. William Mary Lawrence Macdonald DFC 28045 RAF Age 32. Survived, slightly injured. (1)

Obs: Sgt. Frederick Henry Gardiner BEM(M) 517540 RAF Survived, injured. (2)

WOp/Air Gnr: AC1. Alexander Murcar DFM 532866 RAF Age 22. Survived, injured. (3)


150 Squadron was at this time, part of the 71 Bomber Wing, Advanced Air Striking Force - made up from:

105 Squadron Fairey Battle x 16 aircraft available based at Villeneuve.
114 Squadron Blenheim Mk IV x 16 aircraft available based at Conde.
139 Squadron Blenheim Mk IV x 16 aircraft available based at Plivot.
150 Squadron Fairey Battle x 16 aircraft available based at Ecury-sir-Coole.

Leaving RAF Ecury-sur-Coole, France at 10:55 hrs six Battles from 150 Squadron headed by the Squadron Commander Sqn Ldr. Macdonald in a photo reconnaissance operation to monitor the movements of any German build up after the end of the Polish campaign, to discover if an attack on France was likely. Shortly after leaving, one of the Battles had to return with engine trouble.

Back in England the public were beginning to see what does happen in the air war with 144 Squadron losing five Hampdens with 16 crew killed, 4 others taken prisoner of war, just the previous day to these losses! Then this!
Over Saarbrucken they were fired on by the anti-aircraft batteries - then came the fighters! The conflict was a very much one sided affair:
Battle I K9387 flown by 26 year old Fg Off. Fernald Michael Clifford Corelli from Storrington, Sussex shot down with the loss of two crew, another taken PoW;
Battle I K9484 flown by 20 year old Plt Off. John Richard Saunders from South Woodford, Essex, shot down with the loss of two crew, another taken PoW;
Battle I N2028 flown by Plt Off. M.A. Poulton, all the crew safe after baling out following the combat;
Battle I N2093 flown by Fg Off. Hyde Parker, one crew member killed, the other two parachuting to safety.

K9283 was also attacked, several times in fact, receiving some 80 hits to various parts of the aircraft. With remarkable precision, the crew returned accurate fire, hitting at least two of the attackers. A Bf109E was hit in the fuel tank, the pilot. Ignatz Prestele landed unhurt, and the aircraft was subsequently repaired. Oblt. Pingel’s aircraft was also hit, he managed to return to land, uninjured. All the German aircraft taking part in the attack were from 2./JG53.

Uffz. Jozef Wurmheller from 2./JG 53 claimed K9283 as his 1st Abschuss west of Saarbrücken at 12:10 hrs. Note: This claim was listed as unconfirmed.

Maj. Wurmheller, was shot down by Fg Off. J.W. Fleming and killed on the 22nd June 1944 when his Fw190 crashed at Alencon, France. Reports that he collided with his wingman was untrue. He flew over 300 combat sorties and has 103 confirmed Abschüsse.(Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 4).

Sqn Ldr. Macdonald managed to return his Battle to its base after this engagement at 12:10 hrs. but on landing, the aircraft lost a tyre, cartwheeled and caught fire. The navigator was thrown clear but the gunner was trapped inside. Bravely risking his own safety, Sgt. Gardiner returned to the blazing wreck and pulled Murcar clear of the Battle. Macdonald had also been thrown clear, and was dazed and shocked, but not seriously hurt.

The two crew members who were injured were taken to the hospital at Chalons-sur-Marne (now named Chalons-le-Champagne) for treatment to burns. and other injuries.

Ministry of Information communique reporting of the operation by Sqn Ldr. Macdonald.

Burial details:

None - all survived.

(1) William Macdonald, a native of County Cork, Eire, where he was born on the 11th August 1908, educated at Castleknock College, William MacDonald joined the Royal Air Force in 1929. Appointed Officer Commanding No. 150 Squadron in 1938.

His DFC was awarded whilst with 150 Sqn and promulgated in the London Gazette on the 20th February 1940.

Continued his war service as a member of the Air Staff at Headquarters No. 1 Group before being appointed Air Officer for Administration at Headquarters No. 84 Group in November 1944.

After the War he became Commandant of the Central Flying School and then Deputy Director of Plans at the Air Ministry before becoming Air Officer Commanding No. 230 Group and then Air Officer Commanding Air Headquarters Singapore in 1952. Made Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence) in 1954 and Commander-in-Chief RAF Middle East Air Force in 1958 (including responsibility for British Forces Cyprus and Administration of the Sovereign Base Areas). His role was retitled Commander-in-Chief Near East Air Force in March 1961.

Final appointment was as Air Secretary in 1962, made Air Aide-de-Camp to the Queen in 1965 and retired on 11th August 1966. He passed away on the 9th November 1984, age 76.

Sir William received many awards in his lifetime:

  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath - 12 June 1965 (KCB - 1 January 1959, CB - 2 January 1956)
  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire - 1 January 1946
  • Distinguished Flying Cross - 20 February 1940
  • Mentioned in Despatches - 2 June 1943, 1 January 1945
  • Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France) - 194?
  • Croix de Guerre with Palms (France) - 194?
  • Order of the Star of Jordan, 1st class

His varied career covered a number of different areas of responsibility:

1 Oct 1938: Officer Commanding, 150 Sqn.
1 Jul 1940: Air Staff, HQ No 1 Group.
Nov 1943: Officer Commanding, No 137 Wing.
20 Nov 1944: AOA, HQ No 84 (Composite) Group.
1946: Commandant, Central Flying School.
1948: Exchange posting with USAAF.
1950: Deputy Director of Plans (Joint Planning Staff).
1 Apr 1952: AOC, No 230 Group.
1 Jun 1952: AOC, AHQ Singapore.
8 Sep 1954: Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence).
26 Nov 1958: C in C, Middle East Air Force.
16 Aug 1960: The Administrator, Sovereign Base Areas - Cyprus.
1 Mar 1961: C in C, Near East Air Force/Commander, British Forces Near East.
22 Oct 1962: Air Secretary
6 Apr 1965 - 12 Aug 1966: ADC to The Queen

Air Marshal Sir William Macdonald greeting Capt. E.G. Hall Pakistan Air Force Staff College during a visit to Cyprus (courtesy Flight, 26th October 1961)

(2) Sgt. Gardiner was awarded the BEM(M) whilst with 150 Sqn and Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 14th November 1939.

Citation: "In September, 1939, the aircraft in which Sergeant Gardiner was air observer was attacked by enemy aircraft and seriously damaged. Two petrol tanks were punctured and despite the fumes and much bleeding from a slight gunshot wound over the right eye, this airman continued his duties, and succeeded in setting an accurate course to the base. The aircraft caught fire on landing and, although his clothes were alight, Sergeant Gardiner commenced to extinguish the burning clothing of the wireless operator by rolling him on the ground, and beating the flames with his hands. Not until his efforts were successful did he attend to his own clothing".

(3) AC1 Alexander Murcar DFM was later missing in action, whilst serving with 224 Squadron (Coastal Command), flying out of RAF Leuchars (21:25 hrs) on Hudson I N7306 QX:T flown by Plt Off. Laurence G. Nolan-Neylan. The crew were classed as missing after being shot down by Oblt. Carmann II./JG77 in an Me109 on the 14th April 1940 - all four crew lost.

His DFM was awarded whilst with 150 Sqn and promulgated in the London Gazette on the 20th February 1940

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (particularly for our friend and nephew of Sir William Macdonald, Ivan Macdonald of Dublin, Ireland) by Kelvin Youngs. Thanks to Andrew Sparks for the correction to his grandfather's, Sgt. Gardiner, christian names (Oct 2018). Thanks to Tom Bowen for the correct to Battle serial numbers N2028 and N2093 (Apr 2022). Loss information updated and BEM(M) citation added by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2022).

RS 25.04.2022 - Correction to Battle Serial Nos and update to loss information

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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', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. 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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