James Lacey

James Lacey

James 'Ginger' Lacey was born in Wetherby, Yorkshire, England, on 1st February, 1917. After being educated at King James Grammar School in Knaresborough, he worked as a dispenser before joining the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1937. He also worked as a flying instructor with the Yorkshire Aeroplane Club.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Lacey joined the Royal Air Force. A member of the 501 Squadron he served in France until Dunkirk in June 1940.

During the Battle of Britain Lacey, flying his Hawker Hurricane, became the RAF's leading flying ace with 18 victories. This included shooting down a Heinkel He111 that bombed Buckingham Palace on 13th September, 1940.

Promoted to Flight Lieutenant, Lacey converted to flying a Spitfire while in the 501 Squadron. In November 1942 he was appointed chief instructor of the Special Attack Instructors' School.

In March 1943, Lacey was posted to India before returning to Europe in November 1944. Soon afterwards he took command of 17 Squadron where he scored his final victory. This took his total to 28 destroyed and nine damaged.

After the Second World War Lacey remained in the Royal Air Force where he reached the rank of Squadron Leader. After retiring from the RAF in March 1967 Lacey ran an air freight business. James 'Ginger' Lacey died on 30th May 1989.

Primary Sources

(1) Douglas Bader, Fight for the Sky (1974)

On September 13 a Heinkel III bombed Buckingham Palace. Unforunately for the German, a single experienced Hurricane pilot, Flight Sergeant 'Ginger' Lacey, shot him down in weather so poor that Lacey could not make his way home. He climbed up in the cloud and baled out. Lacey, still almost a boy at the time, had a remarkable Battle of Britain record. He destroyed eighteen enemy aircraft during the Battle.