John George Mackay was the first pilot of the Civil Air Guard at Newlands (Scone) Aerodrome to fly solo. He received his commission on Christmas Day 1939 and was posted to France to join RAF 26 Squadron. The squadron was equipped with Westland Lysander Mk III aircraft in February 1939.
RAF 26 Squadron moved off from RAF Catterick at 0545 hours to the port of embarkation for France on 25 September 1939 to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Early breakfast was provided for the road party at 0500 hours and halts for short periods were made every three hours, with an average speed to be maintained of 15 mph.
From 3 October 1939, they were stationed at Abbeville. Mackay was listed as being the orderly officer at Abbeville on 12 April 1940. On 4 May 1940, Mackay is noted as reporting for operational duty with the squadron at Dieppe, France. On 6 May 1940, he was flying in the observer/gunner position along with Pilot Officer MacPhail in Lysander N1275 doing circuits of the airfield for 40 minutes. The next day with Halliday in the cockpit of Lysander N1290 they took off at 1005 hours and returned at 1235 hours providing anti-aircraft cooperation.
On 8 May 1940, along with Pilot Officer Smith in Lysander L6854, he flew in a contact patrol from 1650 hours to 1825 hours. He was not flying on 9 May 1940 but on 10 May 1940, the day the Germans invaded the Netherlands and the Low Countries he was on Standing Patrol from 1430 hours to 1600 hours along with Pilot Officer Dixon in Lysander L4777.
On 12 May 1940, along with Pilot Officer Wheller in Lysander N1275, the duty was to fly to Arras and return. On 17 May 1940, in Lysander N1275 with Flight Lieutenant Hill they took off at 1130 hours, returning at 11.50 hours on a bombing operation. They were back in the air at 1455 hours until hours reconnoitring the situation. In the early hours of 19 May 1940 at 0430 hours, Halliday and LAC Church failed to return. At 1410 hours to 1530, Mackay with Hill were tasked with another reconnoitring mission.
On 20 May, the first batch of squadron aircraft was flown back to England, to Hawkinge, Blixbourne, Lympne and Canterbury. Mackay along with Hill left for Hawkinge in Lysander N1253 on 26 May 1940 at 2050 hours, landing at 2100 hours. Lysanders N1243 and L6863 were reported missing the following day.
From 27 May 1940, flying from Hawkinge and Lympne, the squadron undertook bombing, reconnaissance and supply operations over the Dunkirk pocket. Hill and Mackay in Lysander N1283 took off at 1340 hours, returning at 1510 hours. Lysander L4782 failed to return that day and Lysander N1253 was lost on 1 June 1940. Flight Lieutenant Bryant and Pilot Officer Stone in Lysander P1689 were shot down off the coast at Dunkirk on 29 May 1940. Bryant was slightly injured, and Stone was uninjured, they were evacuated and returned to England the following day.
Pilot Officer John George Mackay, RAFVR (76919) is not listed in the squadron records from June 1940 onwards. It is known that he died of illness, at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford on 26 January 1941. He sustained multiple injuries in a mishap which occurred while he was on duty in the middle of June 1940. His death was recorded in the Squadron Operational Records, Summary of Events on that day.
Mackay was the son of Donald and Christina Sutherland Mackay of Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, husband of Olga Alexandra Ritchie Mackay. He was the father of four sons and three daughters and resided at Errolbank, Perth Road, Scone. He died age 44 and is buried at Scone Cemetery.
The Operations Record Book for April 1940 was lost in France during the evacuation of the BEF. The squadron at the time consisted of 23 officers, 2 warrant officers and 274 NCO’s, airmen and soldiers.
On 13 May 1940, the daily orders for the squadron reported that ‘the enemy has dropped poisoned chocolate. They might attempt dropping poisoned food or shaving brushes’.
After a period of training in October 1941, RAF 26 Squadron’s Lysanders Mk I, II & IIIs were replaced by Curtiss Tomahawk (P40) Mk I & IIa aircraft.
From five Lysander squadrons a total of 174 Westland Lysanders were sent to France between September 1939 and May 1940:
– 88 were shot down in air combat
– 30 were destroyed on the ground
– 120 crews were lost, all in about three weeks.
RAF 26 Squadron Lysander Mk. II N1290 P/O Christopher I. D. Halliday, Crash Site West of Authie (Somme) France 19 May 1940 © 2012 – 2020 Aircrew Remembered – http://aircrewremembered.com/
The wreckage of N1290 was excavated in December 2003 by Pierre Bean and his team. Many pieces were recovered and placed on display. © 2012 – 2020 Aircrew Remembered – http://aircrewremembered.com/ https://www.somme-aviation-39-45.fr/index_.html