Wing Commander George Melville-Jackson D.F.C.
Wing Commander George Melville-Jackson D.F.C.
Born: November 23rd 1919, Weston-Super-Mare. Died: March 7th 2009 Age: 89
Wing Commander George Melville-Jackson, who has died aged 89, was a successful fighter pilot who flew in support of Operation Pedestal, the crucial convoy that resupplied the beleaguered island of Malta in 1942; in later life he urged the Home Secretary to grant a pardon to Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Melville-Jackson joined the Beaufighters of No 248 Squadron in July 1942. The squadron was assigned to Coastal Command to provide long-range fighter support to the anti-submarine aircraft operating against U-boats in the Western Approaches and the Bay of Biscay.
By July 1942, however, the situation in Malta was becoming critical. Plans were made to force a crucial convoy through to the island, and No 248 flew there, via Gibraltar, to reinforce the local fighter force. After entering the Mediterranean on August 10, the escorted convoy – which included 13 fast freighters and the oil tanker Ohio – came under prolonged attack.
Melville-Jackson was soon in action. Flying in a formation of six aircraft, he attacked enemy bomber airfields in Sardinia, where he encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. On one airfield two aircraft were destroyed and others damaged; complete surprise was achieved when they attacked a second at Decimomannu, where eight large aircraft were set on fire and a further 16 damaged. Over the next few days the Beaufighters provided support for the convoy as the enemy air forces redoubled their efforts to sink Ohio.
Left: We were contacted by a Mr. John Ollerton who’s Uncle served with him. Understood to have been taken at No2© OTU Catfoss in February 1942 – if any relative would like a higher resolution copy of this please dont hesitate to contact us.
Before returning to Britain, Melville-Jackson was in action off the island of Paxos. His squadron was flying in support of a force of Beauforts attacking a German convoy when he sighted two enemy aircraft. He immediately climbed to attack one of them and opened fire, scoring a hit on the aircraft, which dived into the sea. Melville-Jackson’s Beaufighter was damaged during the attack, and he was forced to make a crash landing on his return to Luqa airfield. The squadron returned to its base in Pembrokeshire a few days later.
George Holmes Melville-Jackson was born on November 23 1919 at Weston-super-Mare and educated at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate. He joined the RAFVR in June 1938 to train as a pilot.
In July 1940 he joined No 236 Squadron, a fighter squadron equipped with the Blenheim. Throughout the Battle of Britain he flew convoy patrols and escort sorties over the Channel and Western Approaches.
On his return from Malta, No 248 resumed its patrols over the Bay of Biscay. On October 13 Melville-Jackson was on patrol with two other aircraft when they intercepted a Junkers 88 over the Bay, and their combined fire shot it down. His aircraft was hit by return fire, which blew a 2ft-square hole in the aircraft’s wing, but he managed to return to base. After many more patrols he was involved in a fierce action on February 9 1943, when three Beaufighters encountered four Junkers 88 long-range fighters flying at 100ft. The enemy formed a defensive circle and the Beaufighters moved in for individual combat. Melville-Jackson closed to 50 yards to engage one and scored hits with his cannons. The enemy’s fuel tank exploded and the aircraft crashed into the sea; meanwhile, two others were shot down. In April, Melville-Jackson was awarded a DFC.
On April 1 he helped to form a new squadron, No 618, equipped with the Mosquito. The scientist Barnes Wallis had designed a smaller version of the Dam Busters’ “bouncing bomb”, and the aim was to use this “Highball” bomb against shipping, in particular the Tirpitz; but the huge battleship moved out of range of the Mosquitos before the trials (many of them flown by Melville-Jackson) had been completed. It was decided to make the squadron a special minelaying unit for the Pacific war.
Melville-Jackson and his fellow pilots trained to land their Mosquitos on aircraft carriers and sailed for the Far East aboard the carrier Striker. By the time No 618 arrived in Australia in January 1945, there was a shortage of Japanese shipping in the area, and no operational use could be found for the squadron. Melville-Jackson took command of No 47 Squadron which, after the Japanese surrender, left for Java, where he saw action against the Indonesian rebels.
Melville-Jackson was released from the RAF in 1946 and spent the next three years studying at Cambridge University before becoming co-headmaster of St Felix School, Felixstowe. He rejoined the RAF in 1952 and flew night fighters in Germany and England before commanding the All-Weather Development Squadron flying Javelins.
After three years in the United States he was the sector controller at the Uedem air defence radar site in Germany, retiring from the service as a wing commander in 1968.
Late in his life, Melville-Jackson wrote to Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, calling on him to pardon Anne Boleyn because she was “obviously innocent” of the crimes of adultery, incest and witchcraft that led to her being beheaded in 1536. He also wanted her remains moved from a traitor’s grave in the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey to lie alongside those of her daughter, Elizabeth I. He gained the support of a number of eminent historians and members of an Anne Boleyn Fan Club but, despite media interest, the Home Office refused to act.
Melville-Jackson was a keen supporter of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association and was present at London’s Victoria Embankment in September 2005 when the Prince of Wales unveiled the monument in commemoration of “The Few” – a monument financed without government or National Lottery support but entirely by private donation.
When asked what was the story behind the DFC on his chest, Melville-Jackson politely replied that he “couldn’t really remember”.
Over the years he had five offshore boats, doing most of his sailing off France and Spain.
George Melville-Jackson died on March 7. He married, in 1946, Elizabeth Whyte. She predeceased him. He is survived by their son, a former RAF pilot, and daughter.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.