Archibald McInnes was born 31st July 1919 and joined the RAFVR in 1938.
He received his call up via telegram the day war was declared and went to No.5 Aston Down OTU for conversion to Hawker Hurricanes.
Aged 21, Pilot Officer McInnes joined the Battle of Britain during September 1940, posted to 601 Squadron at Exeter before joining 238 Squadron at Chilbolton just two weeks later on the 8th October. Archie’s first Operational sortie with 238 Squadron was on the 9th October flying alongside future Battle of Britain ‘Ace’ and well know fighter pilot P/O Bob Doe when Bob was shot down.
Flying Hawker Hurricanes throughout, the squadron and Archie continued to fly patrols through 1940 and into 1941. After the Battle of Britain, Archie remained with 238 Squadron then posted to the Middle East in the summer of 1941, armed with Mk.IIA Hurricanes.
238 Squadron set sail on the HMS VICTORIOUS from Scapa Flow and, after chasing the BISMARK, arrived in Gibraltar on 11th June 1941, taking off for Malta 2 days later, and then onto Egypt. He flew various bomber escort and top cover sorties through mid-late 1941 until an engagement with ME109’s on the 30th October 1941 resulted in Archie being shot down.
As a result of the crash his left arm was badly damaged and had to be amputated. During hospitalisation it also transpired some days later he had broken his neck, had blood poisoning and typhoid. Following his repatriation back to England, Archie eventually recovered and served 9 months in the Air Ministry, before returning to fly again. Archie would incredibly help design and create his own arm prosthetic and adaptation to enable him to do so. These were approved allowing him to return to flying – including once again his beloved Hurricane with 691 Sqn at Roborough in February 1944, in charge of B-Flight. Here he also flew Barracudas and had later postings towing target tugs with both 595 Sqn at Aberporth and subsequently with the Fighter Leader School down at RAF Tangmere, Sussex.
He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant & eventually retired to village life just outside of Cambridge.
I’ve been extremely lucky to get to know Archie well over recent years and it has been a huge privilege helping gain Archie some long-overdue recognition as a hero.
From sitting back in a Hurricanes at both the BBMF and Duxford, tracking down his service records (after his logbook was lost in the Middle East) and being registered as surviving Battle of Britain aircrew with the Historical Society – in August we topped the lot! Thanks to the huge generosity of Peter Monk and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar we managed to get Archie back up over Kent in the rear seat of a WW2 Spitfire from Biggin Hill. Peter also graciously flew his Hurricane alongside Archie in tribute. Quite an achievement at 99 years of age, and even more special and poignant seeing as it is highly likely it will be the last time one of the remaining ‘Few’ will ever fly in a Sptifire over the Kent skies. More on these on my Blog pages to follow soon.
Following this we enjoyed a return visit to RAF Coningsby where Archie visited the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight once again, and thanks to Squadron Leader Ian ‘Smithy’ Smith, Archie also flew in the RAF’s Typhoon simulator – used to train todays modern day pilots. An incredible experience.
Having seen the overwhelming adoration for Archie everywhere we had been and hearing his incredible stories first hand, I persuaded Archie to let me write his story and to get it published in his 100th year. An intense 6 month project, supported very gratefully by good friend Mark Postlethwaite, we managed to get Archie’s story titled ‘Against Adversity‘ finished and published. Not only this, but myself and Archie were able to join Mark Postlethwaite at the historic Bentley Priory Musuem to launch the book on the 1st June 2019. Once again another poignant occasion taking one of the ‘Few’ to Bentley Priory, in which I expect Archie will be the very last to visit. What better place to launch a book than sat infront of ACM Hugh Dowdings office in such a historic building!
On the 31st July 2019 we celebrated Archies milestone 100th Birthday at his old golf club amongst old friends and family, but tragically and sadly, Archie passed away that very evening.
We had been on quite a journey in a short space of time and hopefully I was able to give some very small tokens of thanks that we owe Archie along with all his colleagues, and which we can never fully re-pay.