Pilot Officer James McCash

Pilot Officer James McCash, RAFVR (78977) was the son of David and Ruby McCash, Waverley Bank, Viewlands Road, Perth.  David McCash was a well-known businessman – a junior member of J McCash & Sons, Feus Road, Perth. 

The former Perth Academy pupil started flying training at Perth (Newlands) Aerodrome, gaining his wings at the end on November 1938 having trained for 18 months. He became an instructor at RNAS Evanton (also known as HMS Fieldfare) on the shore of the Cromarty Firth in Ross & Cromarty. In 1937, the aerodrome was expanded to become a flight and bombing training school. The airfield was shared with the RAF to which it was known as RAF Evanton.  

McCash was commissioned on probation for the duration of the war on 28 May 1940. As a No. 4 (Continental) Ferry Pilot Pool pilot at RAF Kemble, Gloucestershire where his task was to transfer aircraft to wherever they were needed. By 1944, there were 16 ferry pools of pilots – they were part of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). It consisted of 1,152 male pilots and 168 female pilots. Ferry pilots delivered new aircraft and took away damaged ones for repair. They flew service personnel on urgent duty and even carried out some air ambulance work.

Crucially, they freed up the frontline combat pilots to spend as much as possible of their time fighting the enemy. 

On 18 June 1940, McCash’s formation of 12 Bristol Blenheims and 12 Hawker Hurricanes took off between 06.30 am and 06.45 am. McCash was piloting Bristol Blenheim Mk. V, L9315. The planes were en route from RAF Tangmere, via France and Tunisia to Malta. They became split up in a severe storm with thick cloud about 60 miles south of the Loire River. Five of the Blenheims crashed; L9315 crashed at Prunières, about 150 miles north of Nice on the Mediterranean Coast. The crew comprised: 

Pilot Officer James McCash, RAFVR (78977), pilot, age 23 

Aircraftman 1st Class George Harris, RAF (626479), observer, age 23 

Sergeant Ronald Micklethwaite, RAF (636876), wireless operator/air gunner, age 19 

All three are buried at the Hiesse Communal Cemetery about 40 miles south of Poitiers in the region of Charente, France. McCash is commemorated on the North Church War Memorial, Perth. 

Perthshire Advertiser, 29th June 1940 

“War Casualties “Perth Pilot Believed Killed: “Observer Missing 

“Mr and Mrs D. N. McCash, Waverley Bank, Viewlands Road, Perth, were notified by the Air Ministry yesterday that their only son, Pilot Officer James M‘Cash (23), was reported missing but believed to have lost his life in an aircraft accident on June 18. 

“Pilot Officer McCash, whose father is a well-known Perth businessman, was a junior member of J. McCash & Sons, grain merchants, Feus Road. 

“A former pupil of Perth Academy, he received his flying training at Perth Aerodrome. 

“Recently, after a spell as instructor at Evanton, Rossshire, he was transferred south to the Ferry Pilot Corps.” 

McCash gained his wings on the same day as Pilot Officer David WoodPilot Officer John Robertson McLaren and Sergeant Jack Norwell, who were all first posted to RAF/RNAS Evanton in 1939. 

That day, 15 crew members were lost from the five Blenheims that crashed in France, L9315, L9351, L9317, L9318 and L9314. Blenheim L9263 due to engine failure struck the airfield boundary on take-off from Marignane, near Marseille, on the start of the second leg of the journey. The crew were safe, but the aircraft was abandoned. Another aircraft was later lost, L9334 escorted by five Hurricanes it crashed in the sea near Bizerte, Tunisia, killing all the crew. A Hurricane Mk.1 flown by Pilot Officer A G Maycock also crashed near the commune of  Parigné l’Evêque, Loudon, Maycock survived the crash. 

Possibly at least two crew that crashed in France may have survived and became POWs – research information is contradictory. This was a time of great confusion and this is as near to what happened as can be determined.

Seven days after the crash, France capitulated, officially surrendered to the Germans at 01.35. On the 18th, the day of the crash, General  De Gaulle formed the  Comité Français de la Libération Nationale, the French government in exile. 

The airfield in Tunisia was just north of the town of Menzel Bourghiba, in the Bizerte Governorate. It was known as Ferryville during World War II (after the war and Tunisian independence from France, the town was renamed in honour of Tunisia’s first president). 

Beaverbrook, the World War II  Minister of Aircraft Production, gave an appropriate tribute at the closing ceremony disbanding the ATA at RAF White Waltham on 30 November 1945:  

“Without the ATA the days and nights of the Battle of Britain would have been conducted under conditions quite different from the actual events. They carried out the delivery of aircraft from the factories to the RAF, thus relieving countless numbers of RAF pilots for duty in the battle. Just as the Battle of Britain is the accomplishment and achievement of the RAF, likewise it can be declared that the ATA sustained and supported them in the battle. They were soldiers fighting in the struggle just as completely as if they had been engaged on the battlefront.”

AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: BRISTOL BLENHEIM. (ATP 10479E) Blenheim Mark V: pilot’s controls and instrument panel on the port side of the cockpit. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127169

AIRCRAFT OFTHE ROYAL AIR FORCE, 1939-1941: BRISTOL TYPE 142M BLENHEIM I. (CH 655) Bristol Blenheim Mark I, L1295 in flight above the clouds. This aircraft commenced service in August 1938 with No. 107 Squadron RAF, followed by No. 600 Squadron RAF, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, No. 54 Operational Training Unit, RAF Cranwell, No. 3 Radio School, and finally No. 12 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit, with whom she was damaged beyond repair after crash-landing at Harlaxton on 29 … Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205209975

ROYAL AIR FORCE FERRY COMMAND, 1941-1943. (CH 14376) Service and civilian ferry pilots being conveyed to Canada on board a Consolidated Liberator of the North Atlantic Return Ferry Service, flying from Prestwick, Ayrshire. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210644