Donald MacIntosh was born in Glasgow in May 1922. He was the son of Donald (a policeman) and Janet McIntosh. He later changed the spelling of his surname. Leaving school at 14, he became a telephone operator for the Clydebank Police and subsequently a police cadet. Donald MacIntosh’s first real taste of WW2 was as an 18-year-old police cadet caught up in the Clydebank Blitz in 1941. This experience of the Clydebank Blitz spurred him on to join the RAF and he asked to be released from his reserved occupation.
After Clewiston, he was posted to No 9 Squadron at Bardney in Lincolnshire. From there he led his crew, with great courage, on missions including raids on a destroyer in Poland’s Gydnia harbour, on dams, oil refineries, viaducts and bridges, flying bomb sites and cities. But he admitted that his first experience on operations – a night raid in a 600-strong stream of bombers over Stuttgart – left him a changed man, as he witnessed the city ablaze, while fighting to survive himself, evading the searchlights and repeatedly corkscrewing to dodge enemy fighters. “As dawn lit the cockpit, I became aware that I was not the same person as the one who took off in the twilight the day before. All the reading, all the talk, all the training was one thing. Now I knew”. That night, 65 aircraft failed to return, and although Donald made it safely back to base he knew, logically, that the chances of surviving the experience another 30 times – the usual length of an operational tour – were pretty poor and that the odds were stacked against him; however, he had faith that somehow he would survive the war unscathed. That self-belief, aided by generous doses of courage, skill and luck, was prophetic and “Mac”, as he was known to hiscrew, went on to complete more than 40 missions, including the successful raid that sank the Tirpitz in November 1944, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
His final target, on 25 April, 1945, was Berchtesgaden, home of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat. On the way back he noted the ruins of Munich and Stuttgart lay “peaceful and shattered beneath us, all their terrors gone”.
After WW2, he wanted a career in civilian flying and headed to Group HQ at Coningsby. There he found the WAAF in charge of postings and asked to be put on the next Transport Command conversion training course at Dishforth, Yorkshire and gave her a pair of nylon stockings “to help her remember”. Two weeks later he left for Dishforth. He then spent another 30 years as a civilian pilot, “some of which was almost as lethal as wartime”, he said.
Based in the Bahamas, he flew for British South American Airways and married his first wife, Brigid, in Nassau on Armistice Day 1948. They had four daughters and a son. He went on to fly the world’s first passenger jet, Comet 1, to Africa and the Far East. Divorced, he had a brief second marriage to a model and lived for a time in Australia, before finding renewed happiness with his third wife Joan. Together, they spent spells in Los Angeles working as personal assistants for Miles Copeland, manager of The Police and Sting, where Joan arranged dinners for Hollywood guests, and he drove Copeland to the Oscars. He and Joan (who predeceased him) lived in Crieff for many years and he worked for some time in Scone instructing young pilots, his strong work ethic and love of flying forever with him. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur in 2016 for his help to the French civilians during the war.
Units served with
The 'Arnold Scheme' (1941-43) and the British Flying Training Schools (1941-45), with the co-operation of Squadron Leader Mills DFC and President Roosevelt, enabled the setting up of flight training in the USA for RAF pilots to train alongside American...
Military site : airfield
Opened as civil Prestwick Airport with a grass airfield in 1936, it was also an RAF training, fighter and Coastal Command base during 1936 to 1941. Scottish Aviation established an assembly and maintenance facility there in 1938, developed during the...
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