James Harry “Ginger” Lacey

15 Jul

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.

One Response to “James Harry “Ginger” Lacey”

  1. Joseph Gent July 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Yes Alan a true hero


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