Obituary: Gp Capt Stuart Wilson-MacDonald

The Battle of Britain was fought nearly 46 years ago and the few who survived become fewer and fewer. Among them was Group Captain Stuart Wilson-MacDonald (he acquired the Wilson when he married his cousin Rosemary after the war).

Stuart Wilson-MacDonald survived not only the battle but a long series of combat tours, thereafter flying and commanding operationally until almost the end of the war. This five-year record was by no means unique among Second World War pilots, indeed it was not even all that unusual.

Initially Stuart MacDonald's prospects of a flying career were diminished by a series of boyhood illnesses, largely respiratory. However a period spent in Kenya probably contributed to his recovery, and by 1935 he was fit enough to win a short service commission in the RAF. Thereafter his time was spent almost exclusively on fighter aircraft and he was particularly associated with number 213 Squadron, which he led during the Battle of Britain, in the Middle East, and later had under overall command in the Balkan Air Force. Such close association with an individual squadron is rarely attained in the RAF, which for that reason has something to envy in the regimental system of the Army.

In September 1940, operating from Tangmere, the most geographically exposed of all front-line airfields, MacDonald led the squadron in the final hectic month of the Battle of Britain and proved himself not only an effective fighter pilot but an inspirational leader whose flew in combat more often than any other of his pilots. He personally destroyed at least three enemy aircraft while his own Hurricane was often severely damaged by enemy fire.

When the battle was complet-ed the squadron briefly moved north; but the demands of this still most critical period of the war led to its early return to intensive operations, this time in the Mediterranean theatre. MacDonald led the squadron to the Middle East by way of a transit aboard the aircraft carrier Furious, with a refuelling stop in beleaguered Malta.

After further action which included joining as a wing leader the unhappy campaign against the Vichy French in Syria and a brief spell on the air staff, he was once again back in the heat of the action as leader of 283 wing, which included his old friends 213 Squadron and also two South African squadrons.

As always he led the wing personally, this time largely in operations over the then Yugo-slavia, and learnt the problems and lessons of flying over that difficult and hostile terrain.

Only when the war in Italy and the Balkans finally ended was he given a rest from active service. He was also given a permanent commission and a number of command appointments in the British Air Forces of Occupation in Germany and senior staff appointments in Fighter Command. He retired in 1963.

Stuart Wilson-MacDonald was a big man in every sense of the word, big but never big-headed. Handsome and powerfully built, he exuded great bonhomie and a quiet charm. After the war he married and was as happy in that marriage as he always had been in the RAF.

Duncan Stuart MacDonald, pilot: born Oban, Scotland 5 March 1912; DFC 1940; DSO 1945; married 1947 Rosemary Wilson (one son, one daughter); died 29 February 1996.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little