Remembered by: Christina Wright
Date added: 2 Nov 2011
James Richard Andrew DFM F/O 172188 RAF No 1126043
Posted missing by the O/C 607 Squadron on 25th June, 1945
Born in Sheffield 31st August, 1922
Jim worked in a reserved occupation in the laboratories at J Beardshaw & Sons Ltd, Baltic Steel Works, Sheffield but in early 1941 he joined the RAF. His initial training wing was near Bournemouth then he went to Tuscalossa, Alabama, USA to gain his RAF and American wings. He came back to be posted to 93 Squadron in 1942, accompanying the unit to North Africa in the November. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant and gained a number of successes over Sicily and Italy.
His aerial acrobatics with the Spitfire, were closely followed by the local press who ran such lines as “50 Huns fled from eight Spitfires”. He gained the Distinguished Flying Medal for six victories but did not live to receive it from King George.
During his early flight years he was injured when he had to do a forced landing with his Spitfire and was taken to Stoke Mandeville. At that time many of the RAF had dreadful facial injuries; shattered bones and horrific burns as the planes were liable to engine failure.
Jim had a badly fractured mandible (jaw) and had the good luck to be treated by Archibald McIndoe at the plastic surgery and jaw injuries centre at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. Thus Jim became a member of the famous Guinea Pig Club. Plastic surgery was developed by A McIndoe. The Guinea Pigs were the first trials he did to develop facial repairs. McIndoe had a holistic approach to medicine. He encouraged the airmen to frequent the local hostelries so they could acclimatise themselves to being studied with aversion. Many doctors of the time thought that the airmen would be better encapsulated on the ward, not leaving until they were ‘cured’.
William Hickey wrote on the 13th December 1945, “On my desk the first issue of the Guinea Pig magazine of the Disfigured Airman’s Club. The club was founded over a bottle of sherry one Sunday in June 1941 in Ward 3 Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead by RAF burn cases, many of whom were to spend two years getting repaired. Membership is tripartite – Guinea Pigs who lay on the slab, scientists who wielded the knife and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Guinea Pigs those who visited and helped. Archibald McIndoe, the plastic surgeon, is the permanent life president. He sent Jim an invitation to the annual dinner on July 28th 1945 but Jim never lived to accept the invitation.
Dictionary definition quoted to explain the choice of name Guinea Pig is “a short legged rodent having no tail and of various colours. They are hardy, of more nocturnal habits, popular as a pet and of number breeds. Guinea Pigs smile though it is sometimes painful”.
Jim’s older sister, Marjorie, had the good fortune to nurse at East Grinstead. She saw the many wives/girlfriends who on seeing their partner so badly burned, just peeped around the ward door at the patients, then walked away, cutting all contact with their injured airmen.
In 1945 the war in Europe was over, but war with the Japanese was not over. Airmen were paid a Post War credit of 6d a day (5p today) to stay and do more Ops.
Jim was commissioned and posted to Burma where he joined 607 Squadron. He was sent on flying Ops over the river Sittang on the 25th June 1945. Spitfires had a knack of developing engine trouble, so this was not an area to have problems in! Unfortunately his luck ran out. He parachuted out successfully and was last seen walking towards a village that was occupied by the Japanese on that day. The following day the village was taken over by English troops, but no trace could be found of Jim. No trace of any will was found in his effects.