It gives me great pleasure to write about a wartime hero of mine.
The name James Harry Lacey does not mean a thing until the word “Ginger” is included. Obviously because of his hair being Ginger, the nickname stuck. He was born in Wetherby in Yorkshire on February 1st 1917 and later was educated at the King James Grammar School in Knaresborough. His ambition was to join the Royal Air Force. His Father told him to take a worthwhile job and this he did in 1933. For the next four years he served four years as an apprentice pharmacist. James’s father died during this apprenticeship. So he followed the career he always wanted to do and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1937 as a trainee pilot, passing with flying colours. During 1938 he took an instructors course and became an instructor at the Yorkshire Flying School. Now the threatening dark clouds of war came and he was called up at the outbreak to join No 501 Squadron as a Flight Sergeant.
During May 1940 his Squadron was sent to Betheniville in France. It was here on the 13th May he had his first baptism in combat. Over Sedan he destroyed a Heinkel He 111 and a Messerschmitt 109, followed by a Messerchmit 110 in the afternoon. Before, his Squadron was returned to England in June. He had a lucky escape when he crash landed in a swamp and nearly drowned, but lady luck shone on him. James Harry “Ginger” Lacey was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his services in France
Flying, throughout the Battle of Britain, still with 501 Squadron based at Gravesend or Croydon. After, shooting down a number of German Aircraft, on August 23rd he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. His tally of shooting down enemy aircraft continued into September. One particular engagement he was involve with, was attacking a large formation of bombers over London and he shot down one of the bombers who bombed Buckingham Palace It was in this raid he himself had to bail out having his plane suffered too much damage.
During the Battle of France and The Battle of Britain Ginger Lacey had been shot down or being forced to land because of having suffered too much damage in combat, no less than nine times. November 26th 1940 with 23 victories, of which 18 were in the Battle of Britain. James Harry “Ginger” Lacey received a Bar to his Distinguished Flying Medal, cited for his continued outstanding bravery during the Battle of Britain. Moving to 601 Squadron stationed at Kenley, flying the Spitfire Mark V in 1942. He had more successes and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and was posted chief instructor at the No 1 Special Attacks Instructors School, Millfield. Many pilots must have benefitted from his tactical experience and know how.
It was during March 1943 he was posted to India doing a lot of instructor work before being posted to command 155 Squadron, flying Spitfires V111. While based in India he shot down his last Aircraft on 19th February 1945 it was a Japanese Nakajima KI 43. He shot it down with only nine 20 mm cannon rounds” Ginger” Lacey was one of the few RAF pilots who took part in the opening day and closing day of World War Two. His Final tally was 28 confirmed planes shot down, 4 probable and 9 damaged. Unlike many pilots who fought during WW2, James Harry Ginger Lacey had many flying hours under his belt, prior to the war starting and this experience made him a fighter Ace
After the War He continued in the Royal Air Force and retired on March 5th 1967 as a Flight Lieutenant retaining the rank of Squadron Leader. After retirement he ran an Air Freight business and continued to instruct at a flying school near Bridlington.
James Harry “Ginger” Lacey died on 30th May 1989 at the age of 72. In September 2001 a plaque was unveiled at Priory Church Bridlington Yorkshire in memory of this truly brave man, a fighter Ace indeed.
It s been a while since I posted about the book but for new readers to the blog but I wrote a book available for the Kindle about my National Service experiences :
Get In Get Out and Get Away. This may sound strange but not for your uncles, brothers, fathers or grandads. They knew from an early age that one day they would be called up to do their two years National Service. I am sure the countless millions of ex-National Servicemen will have many things in common in these memoirs, hopefully they are happy ones. I was born in a small terraced house on Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness, England in 1938. In that era, the toilet was outside and the bath which was made of tin was kept in the backyard and brought into the house when needed. Whilst growing up, the cloud above one’s head of having to do National Service got closer and closer. I knew older lads who were getting called up on a regular basis. I was twenty one years old and had just finished my apprenticeship in 1960 when it was my turn. This was the last year of National Servicemen being called up for the services. I served my two years National Service in the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment reporting to Fulwood Barracks, Preston. For ten weeks, the drill instructors shaped the platoon from a rag tag outfit to smart soldiers. From Fulwood the platoon was sent to Barnard Castle, County Durham and later to the British Cameroons, West Africa for ten months. The regiment was chosen to keep the peace and oversee a vote on the Cameroons future. There was a terrorist organisation on the French border that was intent on disrupting the process and the memoirs include numerous encounters and an eventful raid on a terrorist camp. This true story is mixed with amusing anecdotes of growing up in post War Britain through the swinging sixties. I was given an eye opener in life then and I am sure when you read my detailed account, you will agree, and also see the parallels to the modern day operations undertaken by the American, British and United Nations military. It is all history now but it has been a privilege on behalf of my fellow countrymen to put it all down on paper. We all had one thing in common, that was to Get In Get Out and Get Away.
Details on www.getingetoutandgetaway.co.uk or it can be purchased on Amazon
My name is John Giles, on the 20th of February 1947 I was called up to start my national service at the Howe Barracks in Canterbury. It was here I undertook six weeks square bashing and bulling. I was then thought to be officer material and I was posted on to Buller Barracks at Aldershot to be a potential OR1 or possible officer. The training and studies were hard, but I got through it. I was selected to report to Chester and be interviewed by a War Office Selection Board. I was much too young and my father was not a General. As you can guess I was not selected and I was passed onto the R.A.S.C at Aldershot and sent for further training at Blackdown Camp in Camberley.
At the time no one of authority seemed to know what to do with myself and a few others who had failed the officer selection. Eventually I was shipped out to Port Said Egypt on the SS Franconia and onto the RASC School at Gebel Maryam. Later with a detachment I was sent onto Kabrit. We were there to guard German Prisoner s that had been rounded up after absconding and living with the local good time girls. They were all later shipped off to European POW camps. The Camp at Kabrit I later found out became an S.A.S training camp. I was now a Sergeant and was posted to Salonika in Greece. I was on detachment to the Salonika interrogation Centre, as a Sergeant Chief Clerk. I was billeted in a lovely three storey house by the sea. The house had been owned by a Jewish family who had fled when the Germans invaded Greece. I have often wondered what happened to that family and always hoping they reached safety. As you are aware this was a good posting, the area is known as Thessaloniki now.
As my Two years national service was coming to an end, I was shipped home on the Eastern Prince This converted troop ship had sustained a lot of damage during the war, but was refitted back into service. The ship was later named the Empire Medway. I was like all national servicemen looking forward to demob and getting on with my life. It was quite strange after demob, all my social like friends had moved on. I felt very uneasy and it was difficult to settle down and eventually I resigned my job in a bank. This turned out to be the best thing I ever did. I met Shirley who became my wife and we had fifty beautiful years together, before she died three years ago. Losing her was a big loss as you will understand, but nothing can douse the memories of our life together. Mine and Shirley’s legacy lives on in our two great children and our four lovely grandchildren.
I am now 84 years of age and still in good health, I don’t believe in wasting what time I have left, because as you know life goes on.
Good luck and best wishes to you all
S/19136378 John Giles
On the 26th June 2013 was the 71st anniversary of the first National Serviceman to be called up in 1939. His name was Rupert Alexander and he was conscripted into the Middlesex Regiment with his army number being10000001. Rupert was the first of the many young men who served their country with distinction. The sad part of it all, thousands of these conscripted young men, lost their lives in the service of their country.
At the outbreak of war, on 3rd September 1939, the Government brought in the National Service Act. This act imposed an order to conscript of men 18 to 41 years old. Obviously some men could be rejected for medical reasons also men who were engaged in vital industrial work were put on reserved occupation. Some young men were directed to work down the coal mines these were called Bevin Boys. Conscientious objectors had to justify their action to a tribunal, who had the power to allocate the applicants to one of three categories: unconditional exemption; exemption conditional upon performing specified civilian work like farming and forestry service some conscientious objectors were put in Non-Combatant Corps or in some other non-combatant unit such as the Royal Army Medical Corps. Where I lived conscientious objectors manned the smoke screens along a beach road. One has to remember families lost fathers and sons during the war. Consequently at that time people had no respect for the objectors and they were always called Conchies. Eventually by early 1940 all British subjects between 18 to 51 years old, as well as all females 20 to 30 years old resident in Britain, were liable to be called up. Only a few categories were exempted: Those days the British people were genuinely in it together
Men under 20 years old were initially not liable to be sent overseas, but this exemption was lifted by 1942. Men called up before they were 51 years old, but reached their 51st birthday during their service were liable to serve until the end of the war. People who had retired, resigned or had been dismissed from the forces before the war were liable to be called back into service if they had not reached 51 years of age. Britain did not completely demobilise after the war ended in1945. The conscription continued after the war because the men who had served in the forces during the war were given release dates determined by length of service Obviously military strength had to be kept and National Service was continued. National Service continued as a peacetime conscription was formulated by the National Service Act 1948. From 1st January 1949, healthy males 17 to 21 years old were expected to serve in the Armed Forces and this continued until 1960 when the last National Servicemen were conscripted (called up).
I personally was called up in February 1960, twenty one years after Rupert Alexander. History will recall Great Britain was rich with young men who were rallied to the call when their country was in need both at home and abroad. Alongside the regular services they served in many conflicts around the world. The National Servicemen did not get full recognition or credit by successive governments, for the part they played in the service of their country, all those years ago.