Biography

Birth date: 04 April 1894
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Rushworth
Death date: 02 November 1961
Death place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Final rank: Air Vice Marshal
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • 1 Squadron AFC
  • 5th Wing No 67 Squadron Royal Flying Corps
  • No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps

Frank McNamara was the first Australian airman to be awarded the Victoria Cross. He was born at Rushworth, Victoria, on 4 April 1894. Having completed his secondary schooling in Shepparton, McNamara studied teaching at the Teachers Training College and the University of Melbourne.

He taught at a number of Victorian Schools and joined the Senior Cadets in 1911. The following year he transferred to the Brighton Rifles and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1913. In the early months of the First World War he served at Queenscliff and then Point Nepean before attending the Officers Training School at Broadmeadows. Between February and May 1915 he instructed at the AIF Training Depot at Broadmeadows.

In August 1915 McNamara was selected to attend the Point Cook Flying School, graduating as a pilot in October that year. He was posted to No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, as an adjutant in January 1916 and sailed for Egypt. In May 1916 he left for an attachment to No. 42 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps to attend the Central Flying School at Upavon, England. Upon completing his course he was attached to No. 22 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps as an instructor in Egypt before returning to duty with No. 1 Squadron.

By March 1917, No. 1 Squadron was making regular bombing raids against Gaza. On 20 March McNamara, flying on one such operation, 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.

McNamara retired in England and died in London on 2 November 1961.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Date of embarkation: 16 March 1916
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Recommended for: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 5th Wing No 67 Squadron Royal Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 5th Wing No 67 Squadron Royal Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 5th Wing No 67 Squadron Royal Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 5th Wing No 67 Squadron Royal Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Order of the Bath
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Royal Australian Air Force
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Commander of the Order of the British Empire

Photograph

Digitised Collection

Timeline

Date of birth 1894-04-04 Rushworth, VIC.
Other 1911 Joined the Senior Cadets.
Other 1912 Transferred to the Brighton Rifles, 46th Infantry Battalion.
Date commissioned 1913-07 Appointed to 2nd lieutenant.
Other 1914-12 Attended the fourth course at the Officers Training School at Broadmeadows.
Other 1915-02 - 1915-05 Instructed at the AIF Training Depot.
Other 1915-08 Selected to attend the third course in military aeronautics at the Point Cook Flying School.
Date graduated 1915-10 Graduated as a pilot.
Other units 1916-01 Posted to No. 1 Squadron Air Flying Corps as Adjutant.
Date of embarkation 1916-03-16
Other units 1916-05 No. 42 Squadron, RFC.
Other units 1917 Returned to No. 1 Squadron Air Flying Corps.
Date of honour or award 1917-03-20 Awarded Victoria Cross for "most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during an aerial bomb attack upon a hostile construction train, when one of our pilots was forced to land behind the enemy's lines. Lieutenant McNamara, observing the pilots predicament and the fact that hostile cavalry were approaching, descended to his rescue. He did this under heavy rifle fire and in spite of the fact that he himself had been severely wounded in the thigh. He landed about 200 yards from the damaged machine, the pilot of which climbed on to Lieutenant McNamara's machine, and an attempt was made to rise. Owing, however, to his disabled leg, Lieutenant McNamara was unable to keep his machine straight, and it turned over. The two officers, having extricated themselves, immediately set fire to the machine and made their way across to the damaged machine, which they succeeded in starting. Finally, Lieutenant McNamara, although weak from loss of blood. flew this machine back to the aerodrome, a distance of seventy miles, and thus completed his comrade's rescue."
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-03-26
Date promoted 1917-04-10 Appointed captain and flight commander.
Date returned to Australia 1917-08-23 Invalided but to Australia due to his leg wound.
Date of discharge 1918-01-31 His appointment with the Australian Flying Corps ended.
Other 1918-09-09 Reappointed to the Air Flying Corps and became an aviation instructor.
Other 1921-03 Transferred to RAAF with the rank of flight lieutenant.
Date promoted 1924-03 Appointed squadron leader.
Date promoted 1931-10 Appointed wing commander.
Date promoted 1936 Appointed group captain.
Date of honour or award 1938-01-01 Created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Date promoted 1939 Appointed air commodore.
Date promoted 1942 Appointed air vice marshal.
Date of honour or award 1945 Companion of the Order of the Bath.
Other 1946 Became Director of Education at the headquarters of the British Occupation Administration in Germany.
Date of discharge 1946-07-11 Resigned from RAAF.
Date of death 1961-11-02 London, England.