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James 'Ginger' Lacey

James Harry Lacey was born on February 1st 1917 at Wetherby, Yorkshire, and left King James’ Grammar School, Knaresborough in 1933. After four years as an apprentice pharmacist he joined the RAFVR (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve) in January 1937 as a trainee pilot at Perth, Scotland. Two years later, he joined 1 Squadron at Tangmere

When war was declared in September 1940 he was posted to 501 Squadron, which was based at Filton. On May 10th, 1940, the Squadron moved to France where he experienced his first combat. On May 13th, Lacey destroyed a Bf109, a He111 and a Bf110. He shot down two more He111’s on May 27th before the Squadron was withdrawn back to England in June. During his operational duties in France he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre

During the Battle of Britain, Lacey became one of the highest scoring pilots of the conflict. His first kill of the battle was on July 20th when he shot down a Bf109. He then claimed a destroyed Ju87 and a “probable” Ju87 on August 12th along with a damaged Bf110 and damaged Do17 on August 15th, a probable Bf109 on August 16th, he destroyed a Ju88, damaged a Do17 on August 24th and shot down a Bf109 on August 29th

On August 23rd, Lacey was awarded the DFM

On August 30th, during combat over the Thames Estuary, Lacey shot down a He111 and damaged a Bf110 before his Hurricane was badly hit from enemy fire. His engine stopped and he decided to glide the stricken aircraft back to the airfield at Gravesend instead of baling out into the Estuary

A highly successful August was completed when he destroyed a Bf109 on the 31st

On September 2nd Lacey shot down two Bf109’s and damaged a Do17. He then shot down another two Bf109’s on September 5th. During a heavy raid on September 13th he engaged a number of He111’s over London and Kent where he shot down one of the bombers that had just bombed Buckingham Palace before his Hurricane was badly hit from return fire. He baled out of his burning aircraft sustaining small injuries and burns

Returning to the action shortly after, he shot down a He111, three Bf109’s and damaged another on September 15th, one of the most heaviest days of fighting during the whole battle which later became known as “Battle of Britain day”

Two days later on the 17th, he was shot down over Ashford, Kent during a dogfight and baled out without injury. On September 27th he destroyed a Bf109 and damaged a Ju88 on the 30th. During October he claimed a probable Bf109 on the 7th, shot down a Bf109 on the 12th, another on the 26th and on October 30th he destroyed a Bf109 before damaging another

During the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, Lacey had been shot down or forced to land due to combat no less than nine times

On November 26th, Lacey received a Bar to his DFM for his continued outstanding courage and bravery during the Battle of Britain

In January 1941 he was commissioned and promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant in June. On July 10th, as “A” Flight Commander, he shot down a Bf109 and damaged another a few days later on the 14th. On July 17th he shot down a He59 seaplane and two Bf109’s on the 24th. He was posted away from combat during August 1941 as a flight instructor

During March 1942, Lacey joined 602 Squadron, based at Kenley and by March 24th had claimed an Fw190. He shot down another Fw190 on April 25th before a posting to 81 Group as a Tactics Officer and later that year, in November, as Chief Instructor at the No: 1 Special Attack Instructors School, Milfield

In March 1943 Lacey was posted to 20 Squadron, Kaylan in India before joining 1572 Gunnery Flight in July of the same year to convert from Blenheims to Hurricanes and then to Thunderbolts. He stayed in India, being posted to 155 Squadron in November 1944 and then 17 Squadron later that same month. Whilst based in India, Lacey’s only “victory” was on February 19th, 1945, shooting down a Japanese, Nakajima “Oscar”

After the War was over, he went to Japan with 17 Squadron in March 1946 before returning back to the UK in May 1946. After receiving a permanent commission in December 1948, Lacey finally retired from the RAF on March 5th, 1967, as a Flight Lieutenant and retained the rank of Squadron Leader

James “Ginger” Lacey died on May 30th 1989 at the age of 72. In September 2001, a plaque was unveiled at Priory Church, Bridlington, Yorkshire in memory of the fighter pilot and ace


 “One of the Few”

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