Force History – Vignettes

Squadron Leader Archie McKellar


Archie McKellar was born in Paisley, Scotland, on 10 April 1912. After school, he worked in the family business on a five-year apprenticeship as a plasterer. He joined the Scottish Flying Club at his own expense and quickly acquired a pilot’s licence. His flying skills earned him the attention of Lord Clydesdale, later Duke of Hamilton, Commanding Officer of No 602 Squadron and he was invited to join the Auxiliary Air Force. He was commissioned as a pilot officer on 8 November 1936, joining No 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron AuxAF.

At the outbreak of war McKellar flying a Spitfire was involved in shooting down the first German aircraft attacking Royal Naval shipping around the Firth of Forth on 16 October 1939. Following this success, the Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, Air Marshal Hugh Dowding sent word to 602 Squadron; “Well done, first blood to the auxiliaries”.

Above: 602 Squadron Spitfire

In early 1940, McKellar was promoted to flight lieutenant and joined 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron and was appointed flight leader. Now fully engaged in the Battle of Britain McKellar intercepted a Heinkel raid on Tyneside on 15 August and was with shooting down three aircraft. For this amazing action McKellar was awarded the Distinguished Flying credited Cross (DFC). McKellar scored a further three victories in a single mission on 9 September. He attacked head on with the sun at his back and destroyed three Heinkel 111s with a single 12 second burst. The first aircraft exploded. It damaged a second which rolled over and dived down into the ground. McKellar then moved his aim to a third and its port wing snapped off. Later on the same day McKellar destroyed a Bf 109 giving him a fourth success in one day. His tally was increasing rapidly and a further attack on 15 September accounted for a further three and yet another destroyed one hour past midnight on 16 September. McKellar was immediately awarded a bar to his DFC. More was to come and McKellar shot down five Bf 109s on 7 October becoming an ‘Ace’ in a day. Yet another Bf 109 and possibly two were destroyed by McKellar on 20 October as the Battle of Britain was drawing to a close.

Above: 605 Squadron Hurricane

Sadly McKellar was shot down and killed on the early morning on 1 November with 21 kills to his tally. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) posthumously on 8 November and later a further recognition with a ‘Mention in Despatches’.

The Battle of Britain officially ended at midnight on 31 October, just hours before McKellar died in combat and as a result his name was never added to the official Roll of Honour something that his family have lobbied for ever since without success.

Nevertheless, McKellar remains one of the true heroes of the Battle of Britain.


For further information, go to