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The Airmen's Stories - P/O J A P McClintock

John Arthur Peter McClintock, known by his third name, was born in Birchington, Kent on 25th April 1920, the son of Ronald St. Clair McClintock (1892-1922) and Mary Gordon McClintock (nee Laird 1895-1993).

His father was killed when he was two years old.

Ronald St. Clair McClintock was a pilot in the RFC and was awarded the Military Cross (gazetted 21st June 1918), the citation read:

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion he shot down two enemy machines, and on the following day he attacked and shot down a hostile two-seater machine at a height of 100 feet. He has led upwards of forty patrols and has performed much valuable work on low-flying reconnaissance and bombing patrols. As a flight commander he has been untiring in his care of personnel and machines, and as a patrol leader he has displayed the greatest courage and resource'.

Postwar McClintock was granted a permanent commission in the RAF, with the rank of Captain, on 1st August 1919. From 1920 he served at No. 3 School of Technical Training at RAF Manston, while living in Birchington-on-Sea.

On 22nd June 1922, while serving with No.1 School of Technical Training in Middlesex, he took off in Sopwith Snipe F2409 to take part in a practice run for the RAF Pageant (his family recorded that he had been asked at short notice to replace a pilot whose wife was about to give birth).

There was severe turbulence and either the aircraft broke up in the air or McClintock was thrown from it, he fell from a considerable height and was killed.


Peter McClintock was educated at Eaton House School in Belgravia, London and attended Wellington College from 1933 to 1937. He was expected to go on to Oxford University, as most of his friends did, but he chose not to.

However he was highly influenced by the 1933 Oxford debate 'This House would not in any circumstances fight for King and Country' and he was certainly a pacifist leading up to the outbreak of war.

A tutor recorded:

'He had hated the idea of war and he hated still more the reality. His two best friends had just been killed flying but his gaiety was still there, though tempered by the seriousness of his thought and his concern for the future of the world'.

He was an incredibly popular and glamorous figure. One of his closest female friends was Diana Barnarto, the famous Air Transport Auxilliary pilot (below)



At some point in 1939 he joined 615 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force at Kenley and was called to serve with them full-time on 24th August 1939.

His closest friend on the squadron was Alexander Obolensky, a White Russian prince turned British citizen who on 4th January 1936 scored two tries on his England debut in a 13-0 victory over the All Blacks, the first time England had beaten New Zealand. His first try, beating several All Blacks in a run of three-quarters of the length of the field, is still regarded as one of the greatest tries ever scored by England.

On 29th March 1940 Obolensky was killed when his Hurricane L1946 crashed at Martlesham Heath.

After completing his training at 3 FTS McClintock rejoined 615 in late July.

He became friendly with the CO, S/Ldr. Anthony Phillip Gray, who at 28 was known as the 'Old Man' by the generally much younger pilots.

McClintock introduced Gray to his younger sister Pamela during a leave break in Scotland, the two would later marry.



On 12th August he attacked and damaged a Me109 forcing it down at Selmeston, east of Lewes. This was from 5./JG52 and flown by Unterofficer Leo Zaunbrecher, who was made PoW.

Above: this aircraft was the subject of a painting by the war artist Paul Nash.


On the 24th he shared in destroying a He111 but two days later was himself shot down in Hurricane R4121. He baled out and was rescued unhurt from the sea off Sheerness.

His sister recorded the incident in her daily diary (which she stopped on the day he died):

Peter came up this evening with incredible news. He had been forced to bail out when a Messerschmitt cannon burst in his engine. He was thrown out and battered by the aircraft. By incredible luck his parachute was ripped open on the tail as he never could have pulled the rip cord.

He landed in the sea and swam about for an hour till some trawlermen reached him. By this time he had abandoned his trousers and the men almost fought to give him theirs. He chose the captains as he had long pants on!

They were all very kind and thrilled to have picked up a Hurricane pilot. Soon he was transferred to a larger ship whose captain insisted on his trousers being worn. But the climax of the story was that a blonde Wren was sitting waiting to drive him to the doctors in an Admiralty car!

By a little fixing she drove Peter to Kenley and no one went near the doctor. Actually he only had a cut chin and that looked like a shaving cut and a lot of bruises and I have never known him in such good form looking so well. He got a nights leave and we spent the air raid in the cinema. It’s a remarkable episode and now he will be a member of the exclusive Caterpillar Club.

On 25th November 1940 his sister Pamela and their mother were visiting friends in Sunningdale. Peter and his squadron colleague John Truran* decided to borrow the squadron Magister N3976 and do a fly past. Everyone was on the lawn playing croquet when the aircraft made some 'wing waggling' passes.

After setting off to return to Northolt a wing broke away at 200 feet. McClintock and Truran were killed.

They were both cremated at St John's Crematorium, Woking.


* see





The news of the crash was broken to Pamela McClintock by the 615 CO and her future husband S/Ldr. Gray.



Above: after his death a poem in tribute was published in Punch magazine.





Additional research and all images courtesy of Jocelyn Hayden (niece).



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