LAC. Wallace Jackson in North Africa and Italy with 70 Squadron, RAF, 1941-1944


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70 Squadron service details contributed by Christopher Jary

Further biographical details and photographs contributed by Wing Commander McNamara's son, Rory McNamara


Commissioned as Pilot Officer in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch on 4th May 1940 and promoted to Flying Officer on 7 May 1941, in July 1942  Thomas Christopher McNamara voluntarily reverted to the rank of  Pilot Officer to transfer to the General Duties Branch and to fly operationally.  

In January 1943 he was posted as a Pilot Officer to North Africa to join 70 Squadron at Magrun, on the coast of North Eastern Libya.  70 Squadron were in 231 Wing.  He flew Wellingtons, initially as 2nd Pilot but mostly as Captain of Aircraft during a first tour of 39 operations. 

During his tour, 70 Squadron moved twice to keep up with Montgomery’s post-Alamein advance to Tripoli and into Tunisia.  In February 1943 they moved to Bir el Gardabia, on the coast of North Central Libya, and in late May 1943 they moved to Kairouan in North East Tunisia, from where they could support the invasions of Sicily and Italy.  


Date  Captain Target   Report
31 Jan. 1943  S/L D M Crossley Catania, Sicily  Bombs dropped on aerodrome in one stick at 100 yard intervals.  Results unobserved.
3 Feb.   W/C P R Beare Palermo Dropped bombs in one stick and W of harbour
5 Feb. S/L Crossley  Palermo Magrun – Palermo – Malta – Magrun.  Bombed target area.  No results observed.
The Squadron moved west to Gadarbia East.
22 Feb.   F/O M Smith  Palermo   Bombs dropped across two existing fires in area of North Central Mole.  Bursts only observed.

McNamara’s next 13 ops were in tactical support of the 8th and 1st Armies’ battles in Tunisia and to disrupt the Afrika Korps’ evacuation to Sicily.  

The first two ops involved bombing behind the German lines shortly before Rommel’s final counter-attack on the 8th Army, at Medenine on 6 March.


Date  Captain Target   Report
23 Feb. F/O M Smith  GabesSE Tunisia  Dropped on aerodrome.  No results observed except bursts.
3 March F/O M Smith  Mareth Line, SE Tunisia In three sticks, one on searchlights, one on village, bursts being seen among buildings, and one on concentration of MT (30) about 8-10 miles away.   Results unobserved but bursts seen.

McNamara was promoted back to F/O before his next operation.  It was flown on the night of Monty’s Operation Pugilist, which would break through the Mareth Line, capture Gabes and advance north to Sfax by early April.


Date  Captain Target   Report
21 March S/L Crossley   Mareth Area,  SE Tunisia Bombs dropped at fair amount of MT moving SW on road to Bordj Toual, and huts just off road, and AA position near Kettana.  5 MT smashed off road.   Small fires started in huts.

 McNamara’s next op was again behind the German lines North of Gabes, where that day – 6 April –  the 8th Army had broken the Mareth Line at the battle of Wadi Akarit.


Date  Captain Target   Report
6 April Mahares, N of Gabes S/L Crossley  Bombed in 4 sticks.  First dropped in Mahares.  Bursts on buildings.  Second aimed at a lorry just off cross roads.  Bursts close.  Third at single lorry near same cross roads.  Fourth at 5 MT just off road about 5 miles SE of Mahares.  Bursts seen.


McNamara was now promoted captain of aircraft and was given his own crew, who remained with him through most of the rest of his tour.  They were:

F/O A M Bensusan – navigator

Sgt A E D Murray – wireless-operator/air-gunner

Sgt L V Brown – front gunner

Sgt J H Rothwell – rear gunner.


Later in the tour (from early August), Sgt Rothwell was replaced by a number of different gunners, including:

Sgt L H Thompson 

Sgt C C Hardy 

F/Sgt R A Armstrong

F/Sgt A McClure


The crew was completed by a co-pilot often flying his first operations, who then moved on to captain his own crew.  These included:

F/O J R March  

Sgt G C Jennings

Sgt W C J Burgess

F/Sgt E C Ells

WO B L Devine


F/Sgt W Nicholls

F/Sgt H M Sells

Sgt A L Steele 

Sgt R F Case

McNamara’s next four ops preceded the 8th Army’s advance north and involved bombing roads, railways and airfields being used by the retreating Afrika Korps.


Date  Captain Target   Report
10 April TCM  Menzel Temime Bombs dropped in 2 sticks.  Aimed at road and railway.  Bursts seen.  1 SW of Menzel Temime town 2135 hrs.  2 S of Kelibia 2205 hrs.
12 April TCM  Menzel Temime Bombs dropped across Landing Ground over which only occasional flares were dropping.  No aircraft seen.  Bursts only.
13 April TCM   Korba South, NE Tunisia  Target identified by salt marsh and river to north of   Landing Ground.  Bombed heading SW.  One stick at 2335.  Bursts seen.
18 April TCM Soliman, ENE Tunis   Bombs dropped in 2 sticks approx 2 miles S Soliman.    Aimed at flat area W of road.  Bursts seen.


His next three ops were in tactical support of the capture of Tunis by the 1st Army strengthened with units from the 8th Army, which had halted around Enfidaville.


Date  Captain Target   Report
4 May TCM Road targets, NE Tunisia  Battle area Oil pressure dropped down to 55 approx and at one time below 50 and at 2317 Captain decided to return to base.  At 2326 this improved so decided to resume original course.  At 2339 oil pressure again going down and he again decided to return to base.  Bombs jettisoned in sea at 0032.
6 May  TCM Roads in Tunis area No ground lights seen and, owing to impossibility of locating position, poor visibility and danger of  bombing our own lines, decided to bring bombs back.
7 May TCM  

Enemy concentrations 

SE Tunis

Faulty distributor caused all bombs to be released in a salvo.  Bursts were seen at approx 2-3 miles in road area ESE of Bani Khalled.  No claims.


McNamara’s final op was to disrupt the German evacuation from North Africa at Cap Bon.


Date  Captain Target   Report
9 May TCM  

Enemy concentrations

Cap Bon area 

Bombs dopped singly on coast road N Korba and on tents immediately to W of road.  Bursts only.


Until now McNamara’s operations had been flown in various Wellington IIIs.  The next operation  (and a few others in the rest of his tour) were flown in Wellington Xs, which had Rolls Royce Merlin engines.  The next  5 operations were in support of the invasion of Sicily and island of Pantelleria.


Date  Captain Target   Report
21 May TCM  Port installations at Messina 1 4,000lb NF bomb dropped on heading 000 aimed at centre of target area at 0229 from 10,000 feet. Burst seen in area of 0/18 followed by smoke which reached height of at least 1,000 feet and covered area.
23 May TCM   Port installations at Messina Flares aimed to open immediately S of target area. [Lighting target for other crews.]


70 Squadron now moved to Kairouan Temmar in NE Tunisia.


Date  Captain Target   Report
3 June TCM Pantelleria Target located by harbour and what appeared to be small vessels.  Two possible fires which did not last long.  Bombs dropped in 2 sticks.  Bursts only seen.


The strategically insignificant island of Pantelleria was captured on 11 June with the Allied loss of 15 bombers and 57 fighters to little purpose.


Date  Captain Target   Report
13 June TCM Messina Port  installations Set course followed and target easily identified. Bombs dropped at 2300 from 10,300 feet heading 3350, and aimed at pp7.  In middle of stick vivid  explosion seen.  No other result.
4 July TCM   Enemy shipping, Catania Owing to thick haze it was impossible to identify landmarks.  39 flares were dropped – 9 as locators,   remaining 30 to illuminate target.  No results were visible.  [Again, McNamara was lighting the target for other crews.]


McNamara’s next operation – which went awry – may have been part of a plan to mislead the Germans about Allied intentions.   In fact, they landed in Sicily four days later.


Date  Captain Target   Report
6 July TCM  


SW Sardinia

Artifical horizon went U/S and aircraft began to get   out of control, so turned for base at 2105.  As aircraft lost height haze became worse and captain decided there was little chance of landing safely  under these conditions.  Proceeded to bale out at  2150 when about 10-15 miles SSE Kairouan.  All five members of crew landed safely and returned to base.


The rest of McNamara’s ops with 70 Squadron were against Italian targets in preparation for the landings at Salerno and Taranto, the campaign in Italy and hastening the Italian surrender.


Date  Captain Target   Report
14 July TCM

Capodichino LG 

nr Naples

Identified Vesuvius and roads in target area.  Bombs dropped in one stick and aimed at S end of airfield where about 12 fires were burning on approach giving off explosions and thick smoke.  Own bursts seen slightly to E side of existing fires.
18 July TCM Metropolitan Rome Identified Tiber mouth and flew over city itself.   Dropped special Rome leaflets from 4,000/6,000  feet.
19 July TCM

Aquino Airfield

E Monte Cassino

Ran straight to target from Ponza [island],   identifying roads, River Liri.  Bombs dropped in one  stick and bursts seen across two fires amongst hangars in NW corner of airfield, increasing their size and intensity.  These fires visible for 40 miles.
23 July TCM  Salerno Railway Junction Harbour of Salerno clearly visible and target well illuminated.  Bombs dropped in 2 sticks and aimed at marshalling yards.  Bursts seen.
1 Aug. TCM  Marshalling yards  Naples  Harbour and town not actually distinguished owing  to haze.  Illumination late, first batch opening about 2215.  Bombs aimed at rectangular fire in two lines  which might have been trains.   Exact position not certain.  Incendiaries seen to fall between two lines of fires.
4 Aug. S/L H E Turner  Battitpaglia marshalling yards near Eboli   Sele River picked up and flares seen over wide area.   A village was seen illuminated under bunch of flares.   Bombs dropped in 2 sticks.  First stick dropped on this village.  Second dropped in large reddish fire.
6 Aug. TCM  Naples marshalling  yards First flares dropped about 2139 NW of city.  While  investigating, flak and searchlights opened up from Target.  Bombs dropped in one stick and bursts seen across N end of marshalling yards.  One fire seen near aiming point after bombing.  Second fire seen in yards
9 Aug. TCM Beaches Capo Peloro to Messina, Sicily Identified long-shaped lake.  Bombs dropped in 4 sticks on this lake, beaches and road.  Bomb bursts seen but visibility poor as far as Pace. 
12 Aug. TCM  Beaches Capo Peloro to Messina, Sicily Pinpointed by lakes and the light of the moon and Messina.  Two sticks across Torre Di Farro town and the last stick E of Ganzirri.  Bomb bursts seen -  smoke and dust from last stick.  One master searchlight on high ground inland from Paradiso and three master searchlights from mainland.
15 Aug. TCM Enemy forces at Sapri (SE Salerno) Pinpointed Infreschi and whole coastline, harbour  etc.    Fires on approach.  Inspected beaches for 20 minutes, found nothing so planted all three sticks across existing fires.  No claims owing to pall of smoke obscuring.  [3 weeks later the allied armies would land on the beaches S of Salerno.]
20 Aug. TCM Villa Litterno  marshalling yards Ponza island and pinpointed on Gaeta, following  coast down to River Volturno.  From bend in river  railway followed south.  No marshalling yards seen.   36 flares dropped over believed target area, opening at 2201.  [Again TCM was illuminating the target.]
28 Aug. TCM Marshalling yards  Taranto Coast followed and outer harbour clearly identified.   First main flares opened at 0238 slightly to E of target followed at 0239 by second bunch illuminating target well.   Bombs dropped at W end of marshalling yards.  Bursts seen.  No other results.
3 Sept. TCM Capua Landing Ground N Naples Found target from Ischia island and lake N of target.   Good illumination of target made bombing of LG easy.   6 bombs at NE corner  of LG along main airfield boundary.  Large fires seen in northern hangar and 3 smaller fires in same area.  Aircraft seen to be dispersed chiefly in SE corner of LG.
Italy surrendered on 3 September.

The Allies landed at Salerno, South of Naples, on 3 Sep and at Taranto on 9 September


7 Sept, TCM Viterbo Landing Ground NW Rome   Pinpointed on Lake Bracciano.  Was late on take off thus late on arrival.  Identified target by light of other flares.  Buildings seen.   All dropped in one stick to N of airfield.
9 Sept. TCM

Marshalling yards, Grosseto

SE Livorno on main W coast railway

Identified Orbatello Isle and then town and yards.   Bomb on railway line immediately W or roadbridge N end of yards.  Bursts seen.
11 Sept. TCM  Frosinone airfield, SE Rome Very difficult to locate as flares and incendiaries were lighting up a wide area.   Finally located target.  Many fires burning with much smoke.   Bombed in one stick across believed SE dispersal area close to hangars.
13 Sept. TCM Nickelling Florence, Pisa and Leghorn  Areas Targets easily identified in excellent visibility except Florence where leaflets were dropped on ETA.  Remainder dropped over Pisa on 4 miles radius and 2 miles N of Leghorn. 


At the end of his first tour McNamara was awarded the DFC, promoted to Flight Lieutenant and posted to HQ 231 Wing, which consisted of three Wellington squadrons (37, 40 and 70).  During McNamara’s year there they began to convert to Liberators.  The Wing was part of 205 Group, which was commanded by Air Cdre John H T Simpson DSO.


 DFC Citation:

This Officer has carried out a most successful tour of operations, comprising 37 night sorties amounting to 228 hours and 35 minutes flying, during which time he has shown the most praiseworthy dash and determination, pressing home his attacks no matter what opposition was encountered from enemy defences. He has been detailed to attack a variety of targets, ranging from M.T. and troop concentrations to heavily defended strategic targets on the mainland of Italy and Sicily. The excellent photographs he has taken are ample proof of the care he has taken to locate and accurately bomb the target.

On one occasion, when attacking the docks and marshalling yards at Messina, regardless of the fact that he was continually being picked out by a cone of many searchlights and subjected to concentrated anti-aircraft fire, he continued and held his bombing run so that his Bomb Aimer was able to release a stick of bombs which fell across the marshalling yards and caused a very violent explosion, which in itself must have caused considerable damage in the target area.

On 14-15 July 1943, during an attack on Capodichino aerodrome in the face of concentrated anti-aircraft fire and searchlights, his bombing caused a number of fires and explosions, which from their descriptions must certainly have been dispersed enemy aircraft.

During an attack on enemy troops landing on the beaches at Sapri, he came down to 300 feet to investigate the coast and his Rear-Gunner fired over 3000 rounds at buildings which may have been harbouring enemy troops recently evacuated from Sicily.

From the very beginning of his tour he has set a very high operational standard, attacking every target in a most determined and courageous spirit. This outstanding spirit of aggression, coupled with his undoubted ability as a Captain, has been a source of inspiration to every member of his Flight and I have no hesitation in recommending that Flying Officer McNamara’s determination, courage and devotion to duty be recognised by the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

London Gazette, 30.11.1943


In September 1944 F/Lt McNamara joined 178 Squadron (in 240 Wing in 205 Group) at Amendola in the Foggia Basin.  178 Squadron was commanded by W/C J C Millar and flew Liberators.  At this stage most of its operations were directed at disrupting railway and road communications in Northern Italy and Yugoslavia, and dropping supplies to partisans in Yugoslavia (now Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzevona).   All but two of McNamara’s 29 operations were in these categories, the exceptions being in Northern Hungary when he attacked Szombathely aerodrome on 20 Oct 44 and delivered ammunition to Harsani on 20 December.  

In July 1948 McNamara was granted a permanent commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant and promoted Squadron Leader on 1 January 1949.


He served in the Far East in the mid-1950s during the 12-year Malaya emergency and retired in the rank of Wing Commander on 18 November 1957.


 Christopher Jary 



Further Biographical Details

My father came from an Irish Catholic family of which he was the youngest of five children.  He was born in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, on the 4th of January 1918. 

His father, Francis, was a sergeant of the RIC who found it prudent to move his family to England in 1922.   By the time my father was in his early teens, two of his older brothers were working and were able to send money regularly back to the family.   This "extra" money enabled my father to be the first in the family to enjoy a decent education.   He was sent to St. Edmund's College at Ware in Hertfordshire where for a time he considered entering the seminary to become a priest.  When the war broke out, he enlisted in the RAF and trained to become a pilot. The first part of his training took place in England (possibly at White Waltham) and for completion, he was sent to North Battleford in Saskatchewan.


I was born in May 1946 and some of my earliest memories are from 1948/9 when we were sent to Scotland.   My father at that time (Squadron Leader) became the commander of the St. Andrews University Air Squadron.   He instructed undergrads to fly first Harvards, and then Chipmunks from the RAF station at Leuchars.   After that, in 1952 he was promoted to the rank of Acting Wing Commander and was posted to Djakarta in Indonesia where he became the Air Attaché to the British Embassy.


We sailed from Liverpool on the 24th of December 1952 on the MV Laertes and arrived in Djakarta some five weeks later.   He served in Indonesia for approximately two years and in 1955 after a short spell at the Air Ministry, he was posted to RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland as Wing Commander of the admin. section.  In late 1957, he took the opportunity to retire.


Although he was awarded the Malaya medal, he did not actually serve in Malaya and it is my guess that this is because there was no such thing as an Indonesia medal.

I believe that at the time, the British only had an "unofficial military presence" in Indonesia although, there were attachés there from all three branches of the service.

His duties however, did take him up to Changi and Seletar from time to time, mostly for aircraft maintenance and to fly the ambassador around.


Rory McNamara

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