March 22

Air Vice Marshal Francis Hubert (Frank) McNamara, VC, CB, CBE [1894-1961]

Lieutenant F.H. McNamara, who rose to the rank of Air Vice Marshall, originally from Rushworth, Victoria, in 1917 became the first Australian airman to win a Victoria Cross for rescuing a downed comrade in Palestine.

On 20 March McNamara, flying with the Royal Flying Corps, saw a fellow squadron member Captain D.W. Rutherford, shot down. Although having just suffered a serious leg wound, McNamara landed near the stricken Rutherford who climbed aboard, but his wound prevented McNamara from taking off and his aircraft crashed.




The two men made it back to Rutherford's plane which they succeeded in starting and, with McNamara at the controls, they took off just as enemy cavalry reached the scene. For this action McNamara was awarded the Victoria Cross.

He was promoted to captain and appointed Flight Commander in April 1917, but his wound prevented further flying and he was invalided to Australia in August that year. His appointment with the Australian Flying Corps ended in January 1918 but he was reappointed in September and became an aviation instructor. In 1921 McNamara transferred to the newly established Royal Australian Air Force as a flight lieutenant. He held a number of senior RAAF appointments between the wars, and spent two years on exchange to the RAF in the mid-1920s.

At the beginning of the Second World War, McNamara was promoted to air commodore and, in 1942, air vice marshal. Between 1942 and 1945 he served as Air Officer Commanding British Forces in Aden before returning to London as the RAAF's representative at Britain's Ministry of Defence. In July 1946 he became Director of Education at the headquarters of the British Occupation Administration in Germany.

He died in London on 2 November 1961.

[Australian War Memorial]


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